83% graduate — but are they educated?

The U.S. high school graduation rate has hit 83 percent, rising to a new high for the fifth year in a row. “We’ve made real progress,” said President Barack Obama at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C.

President Obama greets students at Banneker High in Washington, D.C. The District has raised its high school graduation rate, but still ranks last in the nation. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

President Obama greets students at Banneker High in Washington, D.C. The District has raised its high school graduation rate, but still ranks last in the nation. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

While 90.2 percent of Asian-American students and 87.6 percent of whites earn a diploma, that falls to 77.8 percent for Latinos and 74.6 percent for blacks.

Iowa has the highest graduation rate at 90.8 percent. Washington D.C., despite rapid improvement, is at the bottom with a 68.5 percent rate.

While graduation rates are rising steadily, there’s no evidence students are better prepared for college or careers, note Anya Kametez and Cory Turner on NPR.

. . . scores of high school students on the test known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” are essentially flat, and average scores on the ACT and SAT are down.

. . . “For many students, a high school diploma is not a passport to opportunity, it’s a ticket to nowhere,” says Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a national nonprofit that’s long advocated for higher standards and graduation requirements.

High school graduation exams often require only eighth- or ninth-grade skills. Some states have dropped the exams.

Just last month, in a major school funding ruling, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher excoriated his state for watered down graduation standards that, he says, have already resulted “in unready children being sent to high school, handed degrees, and left, if they can scrape together the money, to buy basic skills at a community college.”

There are lots of ways to raise graduation rate, an excellent NPR series revealed. Monitoring students’ progress and closing “dropout factories” have helped in some places. In others, schools have fudged the numbers or used dubious “credit recovery” schemes.

Governor rejects chocolate milk ban

Chocolate milk will not be banned in Connecticut schools. Gov. Dannel Malloy will not sign a last-minute bill that inadvertently bans chocolate milk. Lawmakers were trying to comply with new federal school lunch standards on sodium. They didn’t realize they were outlawing the most popular form of milk in school lunches.

Chocolate milk provides calcium, vitamin A, potassium and other nutrients, said Lonnie Burt, the chief nutritionist of Hartford Public Schools. “If chocolate milk is not one of the available options, then I believe students will decrease consumption of milk overall,” Burt said.

Remedial ed ban forces readiness push

Connecticut’s ban on no-credit remedial courses at community colleges goes into effect this fall. Colleges and high schools are working to help students catch up so they can pass college-level classes. The alternative is a “transitional” readiness program that’s not likely to transition many people. (Low-level remedial classes rarely lead to success either.)

Reading, ‘riting and English immersion

After years of bilingual education, most Latino third graders in New Britain, Connecticut schools haven’t learned to read, reports John Tulenko in The Language War in New Britain on PBS tonight. Kelt Cooper, the district’s new superintendent, is switching to English immersion. “While initial results seem promising, opponents say students are being shortchanged,” reports Learning Matters.

Here’s the district’s explanation of the new English Language Development program.

Connecticut decriminalizes ‘stealing’ education

“Stealing an education” by enrolling an out-of-district child in school isn’t a felony in Connecticut any more.

“Everyone agrees that enrolling a child in a school outside the district is wrong, but that doesn’t mean it should be considered a felony, meriting criminal prosecution,” said State Rep. Bruce Morris, D-Norwalk, said, who sponsored the bipartisan bill.

“Under this legislation, people who enroll children illegally in another district won’t be charged as criminals, tying up the criminal court system. Instead, the issue will be dealt with by the individual school districts, which are best equipped for deciding how an out-of-town enrollment should be handled,” Morris said. “Residency issues will be treated as civil matters.”

Two years ago, a homeless single mother who lives in a van was charged with “stealing” $16,000 of education for enrolling her kindergartener in a Norwalk school. Tanya McDowell, 33, plead guilty to felony charges of first-degree larceny — and to selling drugs. She was sentenced to five years in prison. Her son’s grandmother is raising him.

High school grad rate tops 78%

The on-time high school graduation rate hit 78.2 percent in 2010, the highest in a generation and up 2.7 points in a year.

“If you drop out of high school, how many good jobs are there out there for you? None,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told AP.

While 93.5 percent of Asian-American students and 83 percent of whites complete high school in four years, that drops to 71.4 percent for Hispanics and 66.1 percent for blacks.

State graduation rates ranged from 57.8 percent in Nevada to 91.4 percent in Vermont.

Comparing graduation rates to any year before 1992 is impossible, writes RiShawn Biddle. The data collection method changed significantly. Some states and districts are reporting very dodgy data. Connecticut reported a 98 percent graduation rate for the class of 2010, which NCES refused to accept. The District of Columbia claimed “only one percent of students officially drop out over a four-year period.”  The key word is “officially.”

Competency vs. the credit hour

Instead of earning credits for “seat time,” colleges are offering degrees based on showing competency — usually by doing well on a test. Southern New Hampshire University is partnering with employers on a $5,000 online, competency-based associate degree.

Connecticut’s community college presidents are worried about a new state law that lets unprepared students skip remediation and take college-level classes. Those who resist — or all 12 presidents, depending on who you believe —  have been told to apply for “expedited termination” by the end of the month.

Remedial classes: the end is closer

Many readers will remember Joanne’s post some time back about a proposal to end remedial classes at community colleges that was working its way through the legislature.

Well, that bill has now passed both houses of the CT legislature.  Connecticut is that much closer to one of the most bizarre things I’ve heard of in a while.

What I wanted to focus on today, though, was two quotes from from the most recent news article which I think perfectly set forth the ridiculousness of the discussions on this issue.

First…

Bye, the co-chair of the General Assembly’s Joint Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee, said she came to support to measure after hearing that some students could pass high school classes and be placed in remedial college courses after failing to do well on college placement tests.

Let me ask a hypothetical question.  Let’s say you’ve got a bakery.  There’s a guy who mixes the dough, a guy who kneads it, and a guy who rolls and cuts it.  You notice that the guy who rolls and cuts it is working more slowly than you’d like.  So you ask him, “What’s going on?”  He looks at you and shrugs.  “I try to roll it, but it’s not ready to be rolled.  We were getting thin, hard rolls instead of fluffy, scrumptious rolls.  So I’m doing a little kneading on each batch before I start rolling.”

In such a hypothetical situation, does it make sense to tell your roller that what he needs to do is stop kneading, and incorporate more kneading into his rolling?

Maybe instead you kick the kneader in the pants and say, “Do your damn job and stop telling him the dough is ready when it’s not.”

Second…

Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Lakeville, said students who take remedial courses incur debt and do not have anything to show for it. “At the end of day (these students) are walking out the door without certificate or degree,” she said.

Hmmm.  What exactly are you supposed to get for taking and passing a remedial course, other than the knowledge and skills that you’re already supposed to possess?

I get the feeling that the Honorable Roberta Willis doesn’t quite understand what remedial means.  It doesn’t mean building new things or making advances.  It means fixing problems… getting back to (what should be) the status quo.

If I pay $100 for a hard drive, then I break it, and I pay $50 to get it fixed (laughable, I know), I don’t “get” anything for my $50 that I didn’t have already.  I don’t get one-and-a-half hard drives.  I just get the one hard drive that I paid $100 for.

When you take remedial classes, you’re not paying to get a degree.  You’re paying to remedy your ignorance — ignorance which makes you unprepared for handling college-level coursework.

If we have to give students something in return for their remedial efforts, maybe we could give them a sticker to put on their high school diploma that says something like, “And this is actually worth something now.”

There are two causes for “remedial problems” in college.

[Read more…]

Is remedial ed necessary?

Connecticut colleges would stop requiring unprepared students to take remedial courses by 2014, under proposed legislation. All students could take college-level classes with “embedded” remedial support.

Remedial courses are holding students back instead of helping, said participants in a Georgia conference.

Online learning expands access, cuts costs

An Arizona community college that pioneered online courses has expanded access and success while cutting costs substantially.

Massachusetts community college leaders don’t like a report calling for more state control of the system to facilitate job training. Connecticut is creating a state board to run both the community colleges and state universities.