Few off-track students will catch up

Eighth graders who are “far off track” for college readiness have little chance of catching up by 12th grade, ACT reports. Fewer than 10 percent hit college readiness benchmarks.

“Far off track” fourth graders rarely catch up by eighth grade.

The report focuses on at-risk students — low-income, special education, black and Hispanic — who are more likely to fall way behind and even less likely to catch up than their classmates.

To narrow achievement gaps, ACT recommends teaching a “content- and vocabulary-rich curriculum beginning in the early grades” in all subjects.

A school that puts physical education first

Physical education comes first at Urban Dove Team Charter School in a low-income Brooklyn neighborhood, reports CBS News. High school students spend the first three hours of every day working out with their team mates and coaches.

They play basketball, lift weights, jump rope, use punching bags, ride bikes, and do yoga. Students rotate sports depending on the season.

. . . When kids go to Social Studies, English and Math, their coaches go with them . . . sitting in class, helping with homework, and sorting out problems.

If a student walks out of class, coach Alana Arthurs follows to ask “What’s wrong?” She wants to know “how can I get you back in the classroom so you can continue to learn.”

Ninety-three percent of students come from low-income families; one third are in special education. The school recruits “overage/under-credited students” with poor attendance records.

Jai Nanda developed the school after running an after-school sports program for inner-city kids, Urban Dove. He saw teens who’d attend school only if they were playing on a sports team. When the season ended, they stopped showing up.

Three hours a day for sports is an awful lot, but nothing else has worked for these kids.

Ed Trust: Waivers hurt high-risk kids

The Obama administration’s No Child Left Behind waivers let states shortchange low-income, minority and disabled student, charged Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, at Senate hearings.

Although states had to set high achievement goals to get a waiver, failure to reach the goals has no consequences, Haycock said in prepared remarks.

“This means that, in a state like New Mexico, a school can get an ‘A’ grade even if it consistently misses goals for, say, its students with disabilities, its Native American students, or its English-language learners.”

. . . “This is very definitely a step backward from the civil rights commitment embedded in” No Child Left Behind, Haycock said.

In conjunction with the hearings, Education Trust released A Step Forward or a Step Back? State Accountability in the Waiver Era, which opts for “a step back,” reports Ed Week.

In addition to goals that don’t matter, most states still aren’t using multiple measures to hold schools accountable, the report said.

. . . many states are vague in spelling out how districts will be responsible for turning around the most struggling schools. They single out Maryland and Georgia (two Race to the Top states that are also struggling!) for only requiring more planning when schools persistently fail to improve.

Waivers “eviscerate” accountability, writes RiShawn Biddle on Dropout Nation.

Study: School choice prevents crime

Low-income black males admitted by lottery to better schools were more likely to stay in school and less likely to be arrested compared to similar students who lost the transfer lottery. So concludes a study in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina by David Deming, a Harvard education professor, in Education Next.

In general, high-risk students commit about 50 percent less crime as a result of winning a school choice lottery.  Among male high school students at high risk of criminal activity, winning admission to a first-choice school reduced felony arrests from 77 to 43 per 100 students over the study period (2002-2009).  The attendant social cost of crimes committed decreased by more than 35 percent.  Among high-risk middle school students, admittance by lottery to a preferred school reduced the average social cost of crimes committed by 63 percent (due chiefly to a reduction in violent crime), and reduced the total expected sentence of crimes committed by 31 months (64 percent).

The highest risk group was identified based on test scores, demographics, behavior, and neighborhood characteristics.

The study finds that the overall reductions in criminal activity are concentrated among the top 20 percent of high-risk students, who are disproportionately African American, eligible for free lunch, with more days of absence and suspensions than the average student.

All students had applied to transfer from their low-performing neighborhood school. Lottery winners moved to schools of average quality as measured by test scores, teacher experience and other factors.


A ‘blended’ option for high-risk teens

June Kronholz looks at a “blended” alternative for high-risk teens.


Colleges lack measures of success

Graduation rates alone don’t measure the effectiveness of colleges and universities that enroll many high-risk students, argues the president of Heritage University in Washington state.

Community college students who don’t start a program of study within a year of enrollment are unlikely to earn a credential, research concludes. Without clear goals or strong guidance, many students wander through a variety of classes that don’t lead anywhere. Then they give up. 

College for all = loan defaults

President Obama is calling for more college degrees and a year of postsecondary education for everyone, but his Education Department wants to cut off loan eligibility to career colleges that give high-risk students a chance to fulfill the president’s goal. What’s the policy? asks Rick Hess.

The college premium

On Community College Spotlight:  College graduates are much less likely to be unemployed than workers with only a high school diploma, but some question whether the college advantage is worth taking on debt.

Community colleges are reaching out to high-risk students — especially Hispanics — to get them from high school to community college to a four-year degree.