Employers: Grads aren’t prepared for work

Most employers say college graduates aren’t prepared for work, reports a new survey. College students tend to be overconfident about their readiness.

“College for all” — or even job training for all — won’t revive the economy, argues a new book. We don’t lack skilled workers. We lack skilled jobs.

Can our students compete?

U.S. athletes will go for gold in the Olympics, but U.S. students aren’t competing well in the global arena, argues Michelle Rhee in promoting a new Students First video.

The U.S. never has scored well on international exams, notes Gary Rubenstein.

In the 1964 FIMS test, we were 11th out of 12. These tests are not predictors of future economic strength, obviously since our students from 1964 have helped make the U.S. economy very strong.

U.S. schools score well when compared to schools in countries with similar poverty levels, he adds.

The lifetime costs of college debt

College graduates tell The Atlantic they’re afraid to buy homes because they can’t handle more debt. That will affect baby boomers trying to sell their homes to the younger generation, writes Walter Russell Mead.

Surprising Side Effects of Rising College Costs
Courtesy of: Online College News

Does college pay?

On Community College SpotlightCollege still pays for students and for the economy.

No, Obama’s international college race makes no sense.

Obama: U.S. needs more college grads

Economic recovery will require more college graduates, said President Obama in a speech today at the University of Texas in Austin, reports the Washington Post.

“Lifting graduation rates. Preparing our graduates to succeed in this economy. Making college affordable. That’s how we’ll put a higher education within reach for anyone who wants it.”

The president did not announce any new initiatives, but recast his goal of making the U.S. first in the world in college degrees as “the economic issue of our times.”

“It’s an economic issue when the unemployment rate for folks who’ve never gone to college is almost double what it is for those who have,” he said. “It’s an economic issue when nearly eight in 10 new jobs will require workforce training or a higher education by the end of this decade. It’s an economic issue when we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan called leading the world in college graduates “the North Star for all of our educational initiatives.”

Currently, 40 percent of Americans between 25 and 34 have completed a two-year or four-year degree; Obama wants to boost that to 60 percent by 2020.

That would mean adding 11 million more college graduates to the ranks of that age cohort. Even assuming some additional graduates just from population growth, officials predicted the country will have to find a way to add more than 8 million new college graduates.

While 70 percent of high school graduates go directly to college, only 57 percent earn a degree within six years, reports the New York Times.

Education reformers have shifted the focus from sending more students to college to raising the completion rate, which includes vocational certificates as well as two-year and four-year degrees.

On Community College Spotlight, I’ve got a piece by George Leef, who challenges the idea that the economy will demand more college-educated workers. College is “worth it” for academically capable students, he writes, but how valuable is college for mediocre and marginal students?

The economy is not clamoring for more C- students who’ve majored in Beer Studies at Fratmore College or West Nowhere State U. There should be a demand for workers who’ve learned job skills at low-cost community colleges.

Increasing educational attainment is not a magic bullet for economic growth,” writes Russ Whitehurst of Brookings

A growing body of research suggests that policymakers should pay more attention to the link between job opportunities and what people know and can do, rather than focusing on the blunt instrument of years of schooling or degrees obtained.  In international comparisons, for example, scores on tests of cognitive skills in literacy and mathematics are stronger predictors of economic output than years of schooling.  Within the U.S. there is evidence that for many young adults the receipt of an occupational certificate in a trade that is in demand will yield greater economic returns than the pursuit of a baccalaureate degree in the arts and sciences.

“One size does not fit all nations or all young adults,” Whitehurst writes.

Ben Wildavsky wonders: Do we have to be number 1?

Blaming teachers

Stop blaming teachers for America’s education problems, writes Bob Herbert in the New York Times, citing a speech by American Federation of Teachers leader Randi Weingarten.

Ms. Weingarten was raising a cry against the demonizing of teachers and the widespread, uninformed tendency to cast wholesale blame on teachers for the myriad problems with American public schools. It reminded me of the way autoworkers have been vilified and blamed by so many for the problems plaguing the Big Three automakers.

That’s a straw man, responds Eduwonk. Most people sympathize with teachers’ challenges.

. . . saying teachers are the most important within school factor in student learning, and that public policy does not respect that today, is not the same as blaming them for today’s problems.

I don’t think skilled teachers and unskilled auto workers have much in common.  Auto unions pushed up costs, especially for retirees, making U.S. cars uncompetitive.  In education, the problem isn’t excessive pay, it’s the fact that salaries aren’t linked to teacher effectiveness, the difficulty of their jobs or the market demand for their skills.

That may be changing. Weingarten said the AFT is willing to consider changes in tenure, teacher assignments and merit pay, Herbert pointed out.