Colleges design self-paced, ‘competency’ courses

Community colleges are designing self-paced courses that will give credits for demonstrated competence — not “seat time.”

Also on Community College Spotlight: A bridge to trade skills.

California transfer plan helps, but not much

California community college students still have trouble transferring credits to state universities, despite a plan to streamline transfers.

Earning credits is a challenge, complains an honors student who hopes to transfer to Berkeley to earn a neuroscience degree. She can’t get into the science classes she needs at her community college.

Some students graduate with too many credits, paying in time and money for poor advising, poorly structured programs and unclear transfer policies.

Counting transfers will raise completion rates

Hit for low graduation rates, community colleges will will more than double completion counts by including transfers.

“Tuning” college courses will help students transfer their credits, it’s hoped. First, faculty at different colleges and universities have to agree about what students should learn in specific courses.

The transfer students are coming!

The transfer students are coming! As hard times push more bachelor’s-seeking students to community colleges, universities must prepare for a savvier group of transfer students. Universities that arbitrarily reject transfer credits will lose students to online options.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Lettering in rodeo at a community college.

What’s in a college credit?

What’s in a college credit? The Education Department’s proposed definition relies on a “butt in chair” standard instead of learning outcomes, writes Julie Margetta Morgan, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress.

Linking credits to learning instead of seat time is important for students learning online.

Summer time and the credits are cheaper

On Community College Spotlight: For an increasing number of university students, summer is the time to earn low-cost community college credits, reports the Washington Post. Sean Daly, 20, earned nearly a semester’s worth of credit at Montgomery Community College this summer for $1,600.  That means he can spend one less semester at Loyola Marymount, saving more than $26, 000.

Also, Miami Dade Community College students in a special program graduate with a degree, a hard hat and a job at a nuclear power plant.

Time to drop seat time?

On Community College Spotlight: It’s time to drop “seat time” as the way to award credits, writes a community college dean. Virtual education changes the equation.

Also, at City College of San Francisco, where the majority of classes are remedial, a trustee pushes for an intensive remediation track.  Fewer than 10 percent of entry-level remedial English students go on to pass any college-level English course.

The 2-credit senior

Basketball stars who don’t have the grades for college can try the NBA’s Development League. In a New York Times’ story on D-Leaguers with a shot at the pros, we meet Latavious Williams, who spent four years in high school in Starkville, Mississippi. As a senior, he’d passed only two of 16 core courses required by the NCAA for an athletic scholarship. “I didn’t go to school a lot,” Williams told the Times.

When asked how he got to be a senior in high school with only two core courses, Williams said: “You know when you’re at a school and you’re the best player, they’re going to work something out. It was just like that.”

He earned 14 credits in one year at Christian Life Center, a private school in Texas, but the NCAA wasn’t likely to accept those credits, so Williams went to the D-League, skipping the college-student pretense.

Via Eduwonk.

Des Moines eyes 'fast-track' diploma

To graduate more students, Des Moines schools may offer a “fast-track” diploma, reports the Des Moines Register. Instead of the 23 credits now required, fast=trackers could earn a diploma with 18 credits. Yet they’d “meet all state and district requirements as well as the entrance criteria at Iowa’s three state universities,” according to Superintendent Nancy Sebring.

Many school districts have increased the number of credits required to graduate from high school, the Register notes. The extra credits typically are in arts, world culture, economics, foreign language and other electives. However, students who don’t have enough credits to graduate usually are lagging in core courses: They’re flunking English or math or history, not P.E. or music or “international foods” (meets Dubuque’s world culture requirement).

If “fast-track” graduates are eligible for college, why not lower the credit requirements for all students? Strong students might prefer to graduate early and work or travel  (or play music or cook international foods) before going to college.

Teachers on ed degree's value

Teachers discuss an education degree’s value (or lack thereof) on the NY Times’ Room for Debate blog. From Mark:

I am a 21-year veteran teacher who took a whole boatload of education courses in furtherance of my BA and MS degrees. They were utterly useless. The only thing that actually prepared me for teaching was student teaching. All of the other courses taught theory, but nothing practical.

Mark has mixed feelings on merit pay.

I am a very successful teacher, and parents and students alike have sought me out over my career. I make the same salary as another teacher who does nothing but shows movies in class all day. I spend my summers revising my work, creating new and interesting facets to the course. I make the same as the teacher who spends the summer not thinking one iota about the next school year.

Merit pay has some merit, it encourages certain behaviors and discourages others. What I am afraid of is that it will be used to reward the wrong people. If a teacher is mediocre, it is because they have been allowed to get away with it, their behavior empowered by administration. There is a great deal of cronyism in the business, and it skews the playing field.

A “frustrated early-childhood education teacher” calls for combining “pedagogy and a strong apprenticeship” program. What she doesn’t want is to sit through time-wasting professional development classes, such as a “five-hour session that culminated in making a caterpillar from an egg carton.”

Update: After qualifying for National Board certification, a veteran teacher was told he lacks enough credits for certification, reports WashPost columnist Jay Mathews. One phone call from Mathews got the bureaucrats to decide the teacher, who’s also a lawyer and Army vet, is qualified to teach.