Let adolescents grow up

Let’s give adolescents a chance to grow up, writes Ted Kolderie of the Center for Policy Studies in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  Adolescence “infantilizes” young people, he writes, citing psychologist Robert Epstein, author of Teen 2.0, on adolescent stupidity.

Deny them serious responsibilities, keep them out of real work, give them virtually no contact with adults, tell them they have no function except to be schooled (and marketed to): Why wouldn’t they behave as they do?

(Check out School punishes sober driver.)

High schools are filled with disengaged students, writes Kolderie. “Though not everyone’s aptitudes are verbal/conceptual/abstract, today only academic success is rewarded.” There are few vocational schools or opportunities to learn from experience.

Young people can do amazing things when they’re challenged, he writes. “In his history of the Battle of Britain, Michael Korda writes that by late summer 1940, more and more of those flying the British Spitfires and Hurricanes were, in our terms, high school seniors.”

How could we tap the talents of the young?

We’d begin by changing school to let young people advance as fast and as far as their efforts and abilities will take them, in every field.

In traditional school, students are sorted by age and “instructed” as a group. Most students move a grade a year, however much (or little) they’ve learned.

If learning were personalized, those who needed more time would get more time and would learn more. Those who could go faster would go faster and would learn more.

. . . Finland, much praised for its students’ success, ends compulsory education at 16. Students move to “upper secondary,” almost half of these into vocational school that leads on to postsecondary “polytechnics.”

A competency-based system would let young people “test out” of conventional schooling, Kolderie suggests. Some might start college early. (“Dual enrollment” in college classes is a growing trend for high school students.) Others might start learning a job, like young Finns.

Performance funding doesn’t boost success

President Obama’s higher education plan lauds states that link college funding to student success measures, but there’s “little evidence that performance funding improves student success,” new studies find.

Obama also praised competency-based education, but federal financial aid is based on “seat time” rather than learning.

Competency pilot produces first graduates

An experiment in online competency-based education has its first graduate:  Zach Sherman, 21, earned a self-paced associate degree from College for America in three months while working 56 hours a week at a Slim Jim plant in Ohio. The night sanitation worker has applied for a promotion to supervisor.

Educating for ‘competence’

“Competency-based” education is hot, but what does it really mean? The Christian Science Monitor looks at New Hampshire, a leader in the competency movement.

At Sanborn Regional High in Kingston, N.H, students must be proficient in four “competencies” — concepts and skills — to pass each class. They show their competence through quizzes and tests, projects, portfolios of their work and class performances.

If they fall behind, they’re expected to keep working during flex-periods, where teachers reteach key concepts. Students reflect on and revise their work until they meet expectations. “They take ownership of it,” says Aaron Wiles, an English teacher.

In a freshman Global Studies classes, competencies include understanding the role of conflict and cooperation among individuals and governments and applying knowledge of geography.

For the unit on World War I, teachers divide students into teams representing six fictional Balkan countries. Students create flags and anthems for their countries — and seek alliances covering nonaggression, right of passage, mutual defense, or mutual support.

. . . “I didn’t really know what caused wars,” Brianna (DeRosier) says. “I knew it was conflict, but I didn’t really understand why – I was like, why can’t everybody just get along? But now I understand that there are other parts to it, with the allies, and sneaking around each other’s back.”

The simulation takes several class periods and drives home lessons on nationalism, geography, economics, military strategy, and culture, so when the teachers incorporate the facts of World War I, students can take away more than just a string of events.

Playing Risk in school sounds like fun. Is it worth the time? And how does the teacher judge whether Brianna has achieved competency in understanding conflict and cooperation?

Is our college students learning?

A college degree is supposed to signify mastery of a discipline, but testing firms see a window of opportunity for measures of college learning to help graduates in the job market, reports Inside Higher Ed.

. . .  skills assessments are related to potential higher education “disruptions” like competency-based education or even digital badging. They offer portable ways for students to show what they know and what they can do. And in this case, they’re verified by testing giants.

“This is how competencies could become the currency of the land instead of the credit hour,” said Michelle Rhee-Weise, a senior research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a think tank with a focus on education and health care.

(Rhee-Weise is no relation to the ex-D.C. schools chief.)

The Collegiate Learning Assessment is being upgraded this year to include a work readiness component and more student-level data.

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) introduced two new electronic certificates for student learning, reports Inside Higher Ed. ACT Inc. offers WorkKeys skills assessment.

Americans spend over $460 billion on higher education every year, but what are college students learning?  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is trying to develop the Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes  (AHELO) to assess college students’ learning, reports Ed Week. The AHELO would be a “direct evaluation of student performance at the global level…across diverse cultures, languages and different types of institutions.”

Competency credits ‘unbundle’ college

When nearly three out of four students aren’t enrolled in full-time, four-year degree programs, it’s time to drop “seat time” credits in favor of credits for competency, writes Daniel Greenstein of the Gates Foundation. “Unbundling college will help adult students.

However, documenting students’ competency is challenging.

Credits for competency

Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America has no courses, credits or teachers. Helped by an online academic coach, students complete assignments that show their mastery of 120 “competencies,” such as distinguishing fact from opinion or conveying information through charts and graphs. Students can move at their own pace to earn an accredited associate degree, paying $1,250 every six months.

Does college pay?

Does college pay? A new web site called College Risk Report asks the collegebound to enter their prospective college or university and their major, then estimates how long it would take a graduate to pay for a bachelor’s degree and graphs lifetime earnings for a bachelor’s, associate degree and a high school diploma.

A proposed New University of California would award credits and degrees to people who prove their mastery of subject matter by passing exams, regardless of whether they attended a class, studied online, learned on the job or read a bunch of books.

Little college aid for job seekers

Federal college aid overwhelmingly goes to students pursuing degrees, while many seeking vocational certificates don’t qualify for aid. Taxpayers should support people who want to learn high-demand job skills — computer techs and nurse’s aides — not people who want to spend four years studying Shakespeare, argues a workforce researcher.

Students who earn credits for competency, not just “seat time,” will be eligible for federal student aid, if their college’s competency-based program is approved by accreditors.

3/4 say college is too costly

Higher education is critical for workforce success — and too expensive, according to respondents to a Gallup/Lumina Foundation poll. Seventy percent of those surveyed favored awarding credit based on mastery of content rather than time in class and 87 percent said students should  receive college credit for knowledge and skills acquired outside of the classroom.