Structure leads to speedy degree

While most community college students spend years pursuing a credential — and often fail to complete one — accelerated students at Indiana’s Ivy Tech complete a two-year degree in 11 months. The program is designed for first-generation students from low-income families.

Is college worth it for everyone?

Is college worth it for everyone? The college premium is increasing, but only for those who earn a degree. And not every degree is a ticket on the gravy train.

Why teens drop out — and come back

Abusive or absent parents, unsafe schools, gangs, homelessness and teen pregnancy make school a low priority for some high school students, concludes a GradNation report, Don’t Call Them Dropouts. Many of the “interrupted-enrollment students” interviewed in 16 cities said “nobody cared” if they stayed in school.

A “caring connection” with an adult who can help with problem solving could keep many of these teens on track, the report said. It also recommended “fewer exit ramps” from school and easier re-entry.

The college ladder is broken


College is supposed to be a ladder to the middle class, but it’s not working very well that way, writes New York Times columnist Frank Bruni. After watching a new documentary, Ivory Tower. he’s worried about social mobility.

“The good news is that more and more kids are going to college,” said Anthony Carnevale, the director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “The bad news is that higher education is becoming more and more stratified.”

. . .  since 1994, 80 percent of the white young men and women in this country who have headed off to college have gone to schools ranked in the top 500 by Barron’s. But 75 percent of the black and Latino young men and women who have entered college over the same period have gone to two-year or open-admissions schools outside the top 500.

Graduation rates are low at unselective four-year colleges and community colleges.

Credit recovery goes online

As high schools struggle to raise graduation rates, many have turned to online credit recovery programs, writes Hechinger’s Sarah Carr on Education Next. Are students learning — or just being moved along? It’s not clear, but many are dubious.

“There’s a political motivation,” says David Bloomfield, professor of educational leadership, law, and policy at Brooklyn College. “It’s an end run around higher standards.”

Oceanside Unified in California improved graduation rates after opening three centers that offer online credit recovery. Superintendent Larry Perondi believes “the centers have improved the life prospects of students who would have dropped out otherwise, including young parents and teens battling drug addiction.”

Perondi “encourages the district’s best teachers to work” in the centers and assigns extra counselors and social workers to support students.

Three New Orleans charters enroll only students who’ve fallen behind in coursework.

Their supporters argue that the schools provide a much-needed safety valve for students who don’t work well in conventional settings and prefer to move through courses at their own pace; critics worry about the quality of the online courses and fear they take the onus off of traditional high schools to meet the needs of all students.

At the Jefferson Chamber Foundation Academy, the average student is an 18-year-old sophomore. “Some of the students failed the same classes multiple times; others dropped out for a period of months, or years,” writes Carr. “The school supplements the online courses with in-person tutorials and small-group instruction.”

The NET, another charter for high-risk students, combines online courses with traditional in-person classes and “advisories.”

Students and teachers say the online courses have some universal benefits: the teenagers can move at their own pace and get instant feedback on how they are doing.

. . . The biggest drawback, however, is that many of the courses are either too easy or too hard. . . . stronger schools and teachers are increasingly figuring out how to use the online courses as a jumping-off point to address individual students’ needs, supplementing easy courses with more challenging material, for instance, or harder courses with extra in-person tutorials.

But some schools rely exclusively on the online courses.

Graduation is just the beginning

San Jose’s Downtown College Prep — the charter school in my book — is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its first graduating class at commencement ceremonies for the class of 2014.  Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, will be the  keynote speaker.

DCP now has three middle and high schools — the fourth will open in the fall — and more than 500 alumni. Nearly all are Latinos from low-income families. Eighty percent of incoming students are 2+ years below grade level in English and/or math. Ninety-six percent will be the first in their family to go to college.

All DCP seniors apply to four-year universities and 96 percent go directly to college

DCP students are 4 times more likely than all California Latino high school graduates to enroll in a state university

DCP students are four times more likely to complete college in six-years than their low-income peers nationwide

DCP was ranked #36 out of 2,000 schools in California by U.S. News in 2013 and 2014.

Donations made today here will be matched by the Sobrato Foundation.

Graduation rate hits 80%

The high school graduation rate hit 80 percent in 2012, according to the U.S. Education Department. If progress continues, the four-year graduation rate could reach 90 percent by 2020.

Graduation rates increased 15 percentage points for Hispanic students and 9 percentage points for African American students from 2006 to 2012, with the Hispanic students graduating at 76 percent and African-American students at 68 percent, the report said.

Fewer students attend “dropout factories” — schools that graduate less than 60 percent of students.

Study: Tracking 9th graders prevents dropouts

Tracking ninth graders’ progress reduced dropout rates in Chicago schools, reports Education Week. Teachers intervened — calling home to report missed classes, helping with homework and other strategies — before students fell too far behind, according to Preventable Failure, a study by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.

The number of students deemed to be “on-track” for graduation has risen from 57 percent in 2007 to 82 percent in 2013. Grades have improved for low, average and high achievers.

Following  the graduation rates of students at 20 schools, the study found that student gains in the 9th grade continued through the 10th and 11th grades, resulting in increases in the graduation rate ranging from 8 to 20 percentage points in schools that saw early improvements, to up to 13 percentage points in schools that showed improvements later.

African-American males and students with the weakest skills improved the most.

An “on-track” ninth grader has failed no more than one core subject and earned enough credits to be promoted to the 10th grade.

Graduation rates are climbing in Chicago, notes Ed Week. “Last year the city trumpeted its 65.4 percent graduation rate, a figure that surpassed 2013′s 61.2 percent rate and was significantly higher than the 44 percent rate of nearly a decade ago.”

Ninth grade is the “make-it-or-break-it” year for high school students, concludes a second University of Chicago Consortium study, Free to Fail or On-Track to College.

All students struggle with the transition from middle school to high school, the study found. Grades decline significantly, often because students cut school more and study less. But closer monitoring makes a difference, researchers found.

 (One) school rearranged the school day, scheduling the advisory period as the first class of the day so that tardiness would not become an issue. A teacher also called home every time a student missed class. And the school implemented a discipline policy that relied less on suspensions. Another school reached out to students who received Fs during the semester to find out why they were failing and craft a plan to get them back on track.

It’s easier for small schools to keep track of all students, but Chicago is doing it in larger schools too.

Success paths for all

How can high schools ensure graduates are college- and career-ready, asks an Education Next forum.

Students need multiple pathways, writes Robert Schwartz, a Harvard professor emeritus who coleads the Pathways to Prosperity Network. “We have allowed a very important idea—that all students need a solid foundation of core academic knowledge and skills—to morph into a not-so-good idea: that all students need to be prepared to attend a four-year college,” he writes.

If we follow a cohort of 8th graders, roughly 2 in 10 will drop out before high school graduation, and another 3 will graduate high school but choose not to enroll in postsecondary education. Of those who do go on and enroll in four-year institutions, nearly 4 in 10 will drop out before attaining a degree. Of those who enroll in community colleges, roughly 7 in 10 will drop out. The bottom line: by age 25, only 33 percent of the cohort will have attained a four-year degree, and another 10 percent will have earned a two-year degree.

Many good jobs require some education beyond high school but not a four-year degree, Schwartz writes. He likes the northern European model: “All students pursue a common curriculum up through grade 9 or 10, and then choose between an academics-only pathway leading to university and a more applied-learning pathway leading to a vocational qualification.”

Instead of letting students choose their path, we “force march all students” through a math sequence leading to calculus, a goal few will achieve and even fewer will need, he writes.

Yet most community college students and many university students aren’t prepared for college algebra. “In my view, the vast majority of students in two- and four-year institutions would be much better served by getting a solid grounding in data, statistics, and probability in high school,” he writes.

Common foundational skills are essential, writes Cynthia G. Brown, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. All students should take a college-prep curriculum, but high school students could choose “curricular options that fit their interests, skills, and plans for the future.”

‘New majority’ has low graduation rates

Older and part-time students are the “new majority” on college campuses, but they have low graduation rates. Do we over-invest in non-traditional students? asks an economist.