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%

Colbert: Grads ‘owe the previous generation nothing’

Satirist Stephen Colbert gave the commencement speech at the University of Virginia, telling graduates the baby boomers “have given you a gift, a particular form of independence . . .  because you do not owe the previous generation anything. Thanks to us, you owe it to the Chinese.”

Tennessee: 2-year degree pays off

New associate-degree graduates in Tennessee average higher earnings than four-year graduates. Health care, construction and technology are top-earning fields for two-year graduates.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Community colleges will get $500 million in federal grants to fund job training.

Computer lab replaces math class

A giant math lab staffed by tutors has replaced entry-level math classes taught by professors at Virginia Tech. More students are passing math at a lower cost to the university.

The U.S. needs to invest more in higher education to increase the number of graduates, argues The Credential Differential.

Report: College pays for taxpayers

California reaps $4.50 in benefits — higher taxes and less social welfare spending — for every $1 invested in the state’s universities, concludes California’s Economic Payoff: Investing in College Access & Completion, a Berkeley report for The Campaign for College Opportunity. The study did not look at the state’s investment in community colleges.

The return for college graduates is $4.80, twice the return for those who complete some college but don’t earn a degree.

In 20105, relative to those with only a high school degree, those completing at least a Baccalaureate of Arts (BA) can expect to spend an additional seven years working. While working, they will earn more; between the ages of 25 and 64 they can anticipate earning an additional $1.3 million in wages and salary, and receive more than an additional $1.5 million in total personal income, which includes all other income from sources such as rentals, investments, or transfer programs.

These college “completers” will also put fewer demands on the state’s safety net. On average, they are likely to spend two fewer years receiving aid, four fewer years in poverty, and will spend 10 fewer months incarcerated. As might be expected, the recession has widened the gulf between the more highly educated and those with only a high school degree (or less).

Of course, there’s a big difference in academic performance and motivation between people who never enroll in college, those who start but don’t finish and those who earn a bachelor’s degree.  If more low-achieving students enrolled in college or more marginal students completed a degree, they wouldn’t be likely to do as well as the high achievers.

NYC tracks grads’ college progress

New York City is telling high schools how well their graduates are doing at public colleges, including how many need remedial classes and how many drop out after the first semester, reports the New York Times. High schools are judged on graduation rates, in part, but not on graduates’ skills.

Illinois, Denver and Philadelphia also are tracking high school graduates to see how they do in college, reports the Times. Studies show many high school graduates falter in college because they lack basic reading, writing and math skills.

New York, like other cities, has made a considerable effort to improve its high school graduation rate — now 59 percent, up from 47 percent in 2005 — and push more of its students to enroll in college. But many of those students are stumbling in basic math and writing: 46 percent of New York City public school graduates who enrolled in one of the City University of New York two-year or four-year colleges in 2007 needed at least one remedial course, and 40 percent of them dropped out within two years.

At a third of the city’s 250 high schools, at least 70 percent of the graduates who went on to CUNY needed remedial help.

This is nothing new, community college instructors told the Times.

Elizabeth Clark teaches remedial writing at LaGuardia Community College to high school graduates who are unprepared to write a college essay.

“They don’t know how long it should be; they don’t know how to develop an argument,” Ms. Clark said. “They have very little ability to get past rhetoric and critically analyze what is motivating the writer, and you have to push them past simple binaries.”

There are also more basic problems, Ms. Clark said, such as students not knowing that each sentence must begin with a capital letter or using “u” instead of “you.”

. . . Susan L. Forman said that many of the issues have remained the same for the four decades she has taught remedial math at Bronx Community College, including students easily confused by fractions and negative numbers and becoming paralyzed when they are told they cannot use calculators.

What has changed, she said, is that students are often overly confident.

They don’t understand how much they don’t understand, she said.

Update: Chicago City Colleges can’t afford remedial classes, said Mayor Richard Daley, who called for limiting admissions to students prepared to do college-level work. Daley envisions offering remedial classes at alternative high schools. This would be a dramatic change, if it happens.

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.