Building a ‘completion culture’

A community college honor society is trying to build a “culture of completion” on campuses where graduation rates are low.

An online tool helps students track their progress toward their goals at a California college with limited counseling staff.

Where the poor go to college

“Higher education is divided into high-poverty and low-poverty colleges,” an analysis finds. Low-income students are concentrated in community colleges and for-profit four-year colleges. Graduation rates are low.

Obama college plan needs reality check

President Obama’s plan to link financial aid to college “value” will penalize lower-income students for attending colleges with low graduation rates and low earnings for graduates, argue two analysts, who call for a “reality check.”

Comparing college graduation rates is meaningless, unless students’ academic ability and other characteristics are taken into account.

Why college costs so much

Growing federal subsidies have inflated the cost of college, economist Richard Vedder tells the Wall Street Journal.  “It gives every incentive and every opportunity for colleges to raise their fees.”

Colleges build luxury dorms and recreation centers, says Vedder, an Ohio University professor and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. They hire “administrators to manage their bloated bureaucracies and proliferating multicultural programs.”

“Every college today practically has a secretary of state, a vice provost for international studies, a zillion public relations specialists,” Mr. Vedder says. “My university has a sustainability coordinator whose main message, as far as I can tell, is to go out and tell people to buy food grown locally. . . . Why? What’s bad about tomatoes from Pennsylvania as opposed to Ohio?”

Federal spending hasn’t made college more accessible for low-income students or improved graduation rates, says Vedder. Only 7 percent of recent graduates come from the bottom-income quartile compared with 12 percent in 1970 when federal aid was scarce.

President Obama’s proposal to tie federal aid to graduation rates, and other performance metrics, will spur grade inflation, Vedder predicts.

“I can tell you right now, having taught at universities forever, that universities will do everything they can to get students to graduate,” he chuckles. “If you think we have grade inflation now, you ought to think what will happen. If you breathe into a mirror and it fogs up, you’ll get an A.”

Online education could reduce costs, says Vedder, but don’t expect the government to take the lead.

“First of all, the Department of Education, to use K-12 as an example, has been littered with demonstration projects, innovation projects, proposals for new ways to do things for decades. And what has come out? Are American students learning any more today than a generation ago? Are they doing so at lower cost than a generation ago? No.”

Government can help by getting out of the way, Vedder says.

Many professors are “disappointed” by President Obama’s higher ed plan, reports Inside Higher Ed.

. . . the plan focuses on certain measurable student outcomes – such as graduation rates – but would do little to ensure actual student learning.

Some called it a No Child Left Behind for higher education.

Linking student aid to graduation rates and earnings would encourage colleges to reject disadvantaged students and humanities majors with low earning potential, writes Tyler Cowen on Marginal Revolution.

Obama: Link student aid to college value

President Obama proposes rating colleges on tuition, student loan debt, graduation rates and graduates’ earnings so students can shop for the best value. Eventually, Congress will be asked to reward higher-performing colleges with larger Pell Grants and lower-cost loans for their students.

College costs will continue to rise, predicts an economist.

Massachusetts ties college $ to results

Massachusetts will link 50 percent of community college funding to improvements in graduation rates, workforce development and minority and low-income student success. That’s one of the most ambitious performance-funding programs in the nation.

Rich student, poor student

“The higher education system is . . . a passive agent in the systematic reproduction of white racial privilege across generations,” concludes a new report. Latino and black students — even those with high grades — are more likely than whites to go to community colleges, where their odds of graduation are lower.

Linking financial aid to graduation rates will penalize colleges that enroll low-income students, two new research papers warn.

The immigrant advantage

In some racial and ethnic groups, children of immigrants are outperforming children of U.S.-born parents, according to Diverse Children, a Foundation for Child Development study.

For example, black children of immigrant parents do better then their native counterparts in income level, parent education and employment and high school graduation.

Overall, children of immigrant families are more likely to be poor and to do poorly in school than are children of native families, notes Ed Week‘s Inside School Research. However, immigrant families have some advantages.

Regardless of ethnicity, children of immigrant parents were as or more likely than children of native families to have parents with secure jobs, and less likely to live in one-parent families. Moreover, for all groups except Asians, immigrant families tend to move less frequently than U.S.-born families; that could be a benefit, in terms of stability and school continuity, but less helpful if it signals families trapped in segregated low-income neighborhoods.

Hispanic immigrant families struggle financially: 71 percent of Hispanic children of immigrants are in lower-income families with a median income of $33,396. However, that’s higher than the median household income for black children of native parents, $29,977.

The median income of white and Asian families — regardless of immigration status — ranges from the mid- to high-$70,000s

Fourth-graders who speak English as a second language do nearly as well as native speakers on NAEP exams, but the racial/ethnic achievement gap is wide.

NAEP Below Proficient.JPG

High school graduation rates are higher for children of white and black immigrants, but lower for children of Hispanic and Asian immigrants. “Moreover, children from immigrant families were less likely to be disconnected—out of school without a diploma or a job— than students from U.S.-born parents,” the study found.

Gates put $472 million into college completion

The Gates Foundation has spent $472 million on higher education reforms since 2006 with most of it going to help low-income people complete college credentials. Gates-funded research has spurred state lawmakers to limit remedial coursework and link higher ed funding to graduation rates and other success measures. Is there pushback? Yes indeed.

Wealthy philanthropists are transforming public — but not private — higher education, warns a professor who thinks the economic elite are too powerful.

Schools vs. poverty, racism

Can Schools Overcome Poverty and Racism? Deborah Meier tackles Mike Petrilli’s question on Ed Week’s Bridging Differences.

. . .  it isn’t money “alone” (it actually rarely comes alone) that damages the children of the poor. Still, we both agree that money helps. For example, the poor are more likely to be in school while suffering from pain (e.g. toothaches, nausea, or a fever or untreated wound.) Going to the doctor, finding someone to stay home with the baby, taking a day or two off work are advantages that money buys.

It’s worse when poverty is generational, Meier writes. And it’s also about race. “There’s a difference when you know, for sure, that your poverty is not a reflection of your racial inferiority.”

For today’s poor, schools probably are better than before World War II, “but not good enough to wipe out poverty,” Meier writes.

Children need “to belong to a place that embraces them, their families, and their communities.”

 If from Day One we acknowledge their rich language (yes) and ideas and the experiences they are trying to understand we’ll do better than imagining they come to us as blank slates. We also need space so that a group doing “x” can get excited without bothering Group Y. So that “projects” don’t have to fit inside a notebook for lack of space to think bigger or get finished in an hour for lack of storage and display space.

We need quiet places and noisy places, places full of books and computers and others full of paint and clay. We need adults with the freedom to make spontaneous decisions—shifting the conversation in response to one of those “wonderful moments” and deviating from any designed curriculum. Teachers need the time to mull over what they have learned from student work (written as well as observed) and collegial time to expand their repertoires. We need feedback from trusted and competent colleagues. We need time for families and teachers to engage in serious conversations. We need settings where it seems reasonable that kids might see the school’s adults as powerful and interesting people who are having a good time.

Success should be defined “in broader ways than test scores or college completion,” Meier concludes. And “we need to also tackle poverty directly.

She recommends My Life in School by her “hero,” Tom Sobol, New York state commissioner of education in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Does it work? asks Petrilli inPoor kids need a hand up, not a hospice.

Does your vision of schooling work to help poor children gain the skills and knowledge and confidence and connections that will allow them to climb the ladder into the middle class? Does it help them do better than they otherwise would have, if they had gone to a “regular” (boring!) school?

. . . If you were seeking an “accountability waiver” for Mission Hill, or similar schools, what would you be willing to promise in terms of student outcomes? Higher graduation rates? Lower teenage pregnancy rates? Lower incarceration rates? Higher voting rates? Higher college matriculation and completion rates (including at the AA level)? Lower unemployment rates? Higher wages?

Without some way to assess student outcomes, “we’ve turned your beautiful educational vision—complete with books and computers, paint and clay—into a form of childhood hospice—a respite from life’s daily struggles, but also a surrender to the inevitable.”