Stop pretending college is for everyone

“College for all” sets low achievers up for “almost certain failure,” argues Fordham’s Mike Petrilli. “High-quality career and technical education” would enable some to succeed.

But if students aren’t “college material,” will they be “blue-collar material?”

Is college worth it for C students? Check out Robert VerBruggen’s graph of ability, education and income.

Better high schools for low achievers

“New York City’s lowest-achieving students are, on average, attending higher quality high schools than in years past, and graduating in higher numbers, concludes  High School Choice in New York City, a new report by the Research Alliance for NYC Schools. But it’s not clear whether the city’s policy of universal high school choice is responsible.

Ed Sector: High standards help low achievers

High Standards Help Struggling Students, argues Education Sector in a new report. Using NAEP data, Connie Clark and Peter Cookson Jr. compare “below basic” students in states with low and high standards in 2003 and 2011.

In fourth-grade math, the percentage of below basic students, on average, declined 26 percent among high-standards states and 20 percent in low-standards states. In reading, the decline was narrower, with a 10 percent reduction in high-standards states, and 9 percent in low-standards states.

In eighth-grade math, the reduction in the percentage of below basic students was 23 percent in high-standards states. In low-standards states, the decline was 14 percent. In eighth grade reading, the decline was 10 percent in both cases.

A state’s economic health had no effect on the achievement gap, Clark and Cookson found.

States do not need to dilute Common Core State Standards or set lower expectations to help low achievers, the report concludes.

Surprise! Early algebra doesn’t help weak students

Hold on to your hats: Low-performing students don’t learn much from middle-school algebra according to new research. From Ed Week:

Separate studies of urban middle schoolers in California and in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., schools suggest that placing struggling math students in algebra class does not improve their test performance on state math tests, and significantly hurts their grade point averages and the likelihood of their taking and passing higher math courses in high school.

Algebra is a gateway course to college, so reformers have pushed students to take it as soon as possible. Some 31 percent of students take algebra in eighth grade compared to 16 percent in 1990 to 2007. California’s standards call for students to learn algebra in eighth grade: 54 percent take the course, though many have to repeat it in ninth grade. And sometimes tenth and 11th.

Should low achievers be held back?

Should low-achieving kids be promoted or held back?  The research isn’t clear, writes Daniel Willingham.

Until recently, comparisons of kids who were promoted and kids who were retained indicated that retention didn’t seem to help academic achievement, and in fact likely hurt. So the best practice seemed to be to promote kids to the next grade, but to try to provide extra academic support for them to handle the work.

But new studies indicate that academic outcomes for kids who are retained may be better than was previously thought, although still not what we would hope.

I wonder if anyone’s studied the effects of social promotion on teachers.

Florida vouchers draw lowest achievers

Voucher schools don’t “cherry pick” the best students, writes Jon East on redefinED.  Students who use the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship are among the lowest performers at the low-performing public schools they leave behind, according to a new study (pdf) by Cassandra Hart, a UC-Davis education professor.

Compared to other low-income students at their public schools, voucher students are poorer and earn lower test scores. They’re more likely to be black. They’ve left schools with low scores and high rates of violence. In addition, voucher-using students tend to have few public school choices nearby, but a variety of accessible private schools.

Parents have to go to effort and some expense to qualify for a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, so these are the children of committed parents. However, that commitment hasn’t translated into academic success, Hart finds.

Reformers fail the ‘Tiffany Test’

In stressing the achievement gap above all else, education reformers are failing the “Tiffany Test,” writes Robert Pondiscio on Core Knowledge Blog. As a fifth-grade teacher in the South Bronx, he met Tiffany Lopez.

Walk into any classroom in any struggling urban school and you will spot someone like Tiffany almost immediately. Her eyes are always on the teacher, paying careful attention and following directions. She is bright and pleasant, happy to help and eager to please. Her desk is clean and well-organized; homework always complete. She grew up hearing every day how important education is. She believes it, and her behavior in class shows it. She does well in school. She gets praise and she gets good grades.

She also gets screwed.

Her teachers are told to focus on the low achievers. Tiffany isn’t a problem, so she gets ignored.

Rick Hess’s essay on “Achievement Gap Mania” is right on target, writes Pondiscio. Achievement gap mania is denying bright, hard-working students the help they need to reach their “full academic and life potential.”

When you have a Tiffany in your class in the age of gap-closing you understand that despite her good grades and rock steady performance on state tests, she is subsisting on starvation rations in history, geography, science, art and music. You understand that her finish line—read on grade level; graduate on time—is the starting line for more fortunate children. Tiffany and the numberless, faceless multitude of children like her, represents the low-hanging fruit the typical inner city school leaves drying on the vine.

Giving every child a mediocre, minimum-competency education is not the route to social justice, writes Pondiscio.

Thanks to her own grit, Tiffany has started her freshman year at a state university.



College for low-achieving 11th graders?

College classes for low-achieving 11th graders? It’s a hot idea, writes Community College Dean. And a bad one.

Also on Community College Spotlight: First, he earned an associate degree. Next he’ll graduate from  high school.