We’re running low on 18-year-olds

The U.S. is running low on adolescents: The number of young people graduating from high school will plateau or fall in coming years, according to the new Knocking at the College Door report.

The racial/ethnic mix of public high school graduates will shift: The number of Hispanic graduates is expected to increase by 50 percent and and Asian/Pacific Islander grads by 30 percent through 2025, while fewer whites and blacks will be going through school.

More graduates are expected to come from lower-income families.

Colleges and universities, already under pressure to raise graduation rates, will have to compete for fewer students from needier backgrounds, writes Hechinger’s Mikhail Zinshteyn.

According to one respected tally, just under 55 percent of students who entered college in 2010 had earned degrees after six years – an increase of two percentage points since 2009.

For higher education institutions to continue at that pace or boost it, they’ll need to find new ways of educating a student body increasingly composed of people who are the first in their family to enter college.

With fewer 18-year-olds whose parents can pay for a private residential college, I predict many second- and third-tier colleges will fold. They’re very expensive, they don’t graduate a high percentage of their students and young people are becoming wary of college debt.

More kids, more elders

“The United States faces a staggering demographic challenge over the next two decades,” writes Matthew Ladner on redefinED.

It will hit first in Florida. “The state will need to find a way to educate far more than one million additional students each year by 2030.” At the same time, Florida’s elderly population will more than double between 2010 and 2030, from 3.4 million to almost 7.8 million people 65 and older.

Building more schools and providing more care for the elderly will put a heavy burden on working-age Floridians.

Kindergarten demographics

Of 3.5 million kindergartners in 2010-11, 25 percent came from families living below the poverty level, according to a demographic snapshot from a U.S. Education Department study.

Fifty-three percent were white, 24 percent were Hispanic, 13 percent were African-American, 4 percent were Asian, 4 percent were two or more races, 1 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native, and less than 0.5 percent were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

. . . Eighty-four percent lived in homes where English is the primary language.

Economic, racial and ethnic achievement gaps are evident even at the start of kindergarten, researchers say. They’ll track a cohort of children through 2016, when they should be finishing fifth grade.

In a few years, kindergartners could be taking ACT’s “next generation” career and college readiness tests, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. The tests are supposed to help teachers identify students’ learning needs, not identify future doctors, lawyers, butchers and bakers.

How reformers can’t stop alienating teachers

Education reformers are alienating teachers needlessly, writes Roxanna Elden, a Miami teacher and author of See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, who’s guest-blogging for Rick Hess. She lists Five School Reform Sound Bites That Hurt Teacher Buy-In.

“There is a growing assumption that education reformers are anti-teacher and teachers are anti-reform,” Elden writes. She thinks “most reformers became reformers for the same reasons that most teachers became teachers: a hope that we can provide a higher quality education to a greater number of children in a fairer and more equal way.”

But she wishes reformers would stop saying things like “We know what works.”

Teachers . . .  recognize this claim as an exaggeration used to introduce short-term fixes that in many cases don’t work. We also know that teaching is complex. Even in the same room, a successful lesson from first period might bomb after lunch. Likewise, instructional strategies may work for teachers who use them by choice, but lose their benefit when special-ops teams of non-teachers are deployed to mandate them throughout the district. In most cases, this approach leads to dog-and-pony shows that let observers walk away thinking their mandates “work” as advertised. At worst, it damages instruction by taking away teachers’ autonomy to make judgment calls about what really does work in our own classrooms. On the other hand, teachers are happy to hear about what has worked well for other teachers–as long as it is presented as such, not oversold by the same presenter who pushed a contradictory foolproof formula last year… using many of the same Power Point slides.

Also on her list of teacher-alienating sound bites:  “Demographics don’t determine destiny! (You lazy racist!),” “Measurable results,” “If grocery stores were run like public schools…” and “We need transformational change!”


Similar schools, similar results

Most California schools perform about as well as expected over a three-year period when student characteristics are factored in, concludes a new similar schools measure developed by the California Charter Schools Association.  From California Watch:

Using a complex regression analysis, the measure takes a number of characteristics of the school’s student population into account. These include the socioeconomic background of the student body, the average education level of their parents, the number of students with disabilities, the percentage of English language learners, and the racial and ethnic makeup of the students.

Researchers say the measure is more accurate than the state’s “similar schools” ranking, which don’t include small schools and fluctuates from year to year.

Seventy-eight percent of schools performed within 5 percent of their predicted level on state tests, according to the CCSA’s analysis. Nearly 10 were just below and 10 percent just above the prediction.  That left only 2 percent of schools far below their level, and 1.6 percent far above.

California charter schools are four times more likely to be among the top 5 percent of schools that exceed their predicted test scores – and twice as likely to be among the bottom 5 percent across the state, said Samantha Olivieri,  CCSA’s accountability manager.