Uneducated grads may get tutoring

For years, Muskegon Heights (Michigan) students were denied a quality education, says the failed district’s emergency manager, Dr. Donald Weatherspoon. He hopes to provide free educational support services to graduates in the last six  classes in hopes they can improve their reading and math skills. It’s not clear what sort of help will be offered or how Muskegon Heights will pay for it.

Nearly all ninth-graders at Muskegon Heights High School started at least three grades behind in reading and math, according to Mosaica Education, the charter company that’s taken over the district’s low-performing schools.

Ninety-two percent of ninth graders tested at a sixth-grade level or lower in math; 82 percent were three or more years behind in reading.

“It’s a hard realization because those kids will go out in the world and not be prepared,” Weatherspoon said during a discussion of the scores with the Muskegon Heights Public Schools board.

High school teachers are struggling to figure out the best curriculum for students who are so far below grade level in skills and knowledge, he said.

The problem gets worse in middle school and much worse in ninth grade. After that, the least-successful students are likely to drop out.

Percentage of Muskegon Heights students at least three grades behind

Grade Reading Math
Fifth 23% 12%
Sixth 43% 34%
Seventh 42% 46%
Eighth 53% 57%
Ninth 92% 82%
10th 77% 81%
11th 84% 83%
12th 73% 80%

Career tech keeps boys in school

Structured vocational education keeps boys from dropping out of high school, said James Stone III, director of the National Research Center of Career and Technical Education at the University of Louisville, at a conference.

 Earning three or more CTE credits within a focused sequence of courses was second only to 9th grade students’ grade point average as the strongest variable affecting high school survival for boys. While CTE “did no harm” to girls’ high school engagement, it did not produce a similar positive effect on females.

Stone describes the effect of career tech as “stunning,” reports Ed Week.

“We have a boy problem,” Stone said. “Boys are less likely to finish high school, go to college, finish college, go to graduate school, or finish grad school.” Seventy-five percent of D’s and F’s are given to male students, he said. “We are driving them out. We are not giving them things that engage them.”

“College for all” is narrowing the curriculum, squeezing out courses that motivate many boys, Stone said.

Many ‘dreamers’ will need GED, college access

Young illegal immigrants began applying this week for two-year stays on deportation and renewable work permits. High school drop-outs can qualify by enrolling in a GED or job training program. That sets the bar low: Enrolling is easy; completion is hard.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Half the jobs lost in the recession have been recovered, according to a Georgetown report, but virtually all new jobs require college credentials — a certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s.

Financial aid helps neediest students

Financial aid significantly boosts persistence rates for the neediest students, but doesn’t make much difference for average students.

Also on Community College Spotlight: To qualify for financial aid, college students must declare they’re seeking a degree. People who enroll to learn some English or brush up on basic skills will be counted as drop-outs.

A second chance for drop-outs

Drop-outs  get a second chance to finish high school and earn community college credits — but are they aiming at realistic goals?

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Promising approaches to improving success rates for remedial students.

College drop-outs cost billions

Billions of tax dollars are wasted on college drop-outs who never make it to their second year, concludes an American Institutes for Research study which looked at four-year college students who don’t make it to their second year. The bill for first-year drop-outs came to $9.1 billion in federal, state and local funds from 2003-08.

AIR used Education Department data, which counts only full-time students remaining at the same institution. Transfers count as drop-outs.  However, by excluding part-time students, who are less likely to complete a degree, the report could underestimate the cost of  college drop-outs.

Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economics professor, thinks the cost is higher, including lost income for the drop-outs’ year in college.

Robert Lerman, an American University economics professor who, like Vedder, questions promoting college for all, said the report fleshes out the reality of high dropout rates. But he said it could just as easily be used to argue that less-prepared, less-motivated students are better off not going to college.

“Getting them to go a second year might waste even more money,” Lerman said. “Who knows?”

The study is flawed, but useful, writes Michael Kirst on College Puzzle. He also thinks counting only full-time students underestimates the cost of drop-outs.

‘Food for Singles’ or French?

California students must take an arts class or a foreign language to graduate from high school, but a bill on the governor’s desk would let students choose a career course instead. The sponsor, Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, hopes the option will engage students who might otherwise drop out.

Common Core, which strongly opposes the idea, looks at Granada High School, where vocational options include:

* Hospitality to “learn grooming and proper work ethic.”

* Fashion Apparel to “learn sewing machine basics.”

* Landscape Design to “grow flowers, ornamental plants and vegetables.”

* Food for Singles to learn culinary “short cuts, new techniques, budgeting their food dollars, and multiple uses of appliances.”

“Education is about more than workforce preparation,” Common Core argues. “It’s about building creativity, wonder, cultural literacy and citizenship, for starters.”

California’s college-prep curriculum includes arts and a foreign language. However, the students who’d prefer “Hospitality” are not planning to apply to a state university.

The problem I see is that the bill includes no funding to develop high-quality  classes that would prepare students for real careers, most of which will require some additional training at a community college or in an apprenticeship program. Potential drop-outs might be motivated by Cooking for Chefs. It’s hard to believe anyone sees Food for Singles as a reason to stay in school.

Students, you are adults in my class

On Community College Spotlight, a veteran professor shares his first-day welcome to students: You are adults in this class. Act like adults.

Also, two major for-profit education companies are denying enrollment to high school drop-outs, even if they’re able to pass a basic-skills test. These students are twice as likely to default on student loans as high school graduates or GED holders.

Education vs. unemployment

More Americans are jobless. The unemployment rate is 3.8 percent for college graduates, 6.2 percent for those with some college or a two-year degree, 8 percent for high school graduates and 12 percent for drop-outs.

The numbers show the importance of postsecondary education, writes Eduwonk.

Joblessness is rising for every group, counters Sherman Dorn. The link between education and employment hasn’t changed significantly.