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.

Too many white teachers?

By fall, a majority of public school students will be non-white, while more than four in five teachers are white.


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Of 3.3 million public school teachers in 2012,  82 percent were white, 8 percent were Hispanic, 7 percent were black and about 2 percent were Asian, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

This year, 48 percent of the students in public schools are nonwhite — 23 percent Hispanic, 16 percent black and 5 percent Asian — and that percentage is increasing.

It’s not clear that minority students learn more from same-race or same-ethnicity teachers.

Schools with low-income, non-white, high-need students have trouble recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers, writes James Marshall Crotty in Forbes. “It is dispiriting to try to teach young people who do not want to be there.”

He recommends paying “the best teachers a dramatically increased salary to take the most difficult assignments, including teaching in schools with a high percentage of special needs students or where the learning culture is weak.”

Elevating the status of the teaching profession by raising quality and admissions standards would attract better teachers, Crotty argues.

Finally, volunteer mentors — ideally retired teachers — could observe novice teachers for their first year in the classroom in an apprentice-master model.

Showing up

What Does It Take to Get Kids to Stop Skipping School? asks Emily Richmond in The Atlantic

In New York City public schools, one in five students missed a month or more of school last year. However, an intensive, community-wide initiative is raising attendance, according to new report by Johns Hopkins’ Everyone Graduates Center.

New York City’s pilot program includes “mentors, support services, staff training, better tracking and sharing of data of individual student attendance, and community outreach—particularly to parents,” writes Richmond. It’s expanded to 100 schools with more than 60,000 students.

Low-income students were 15 percent less likely to be absent at pilot schools, compared to similar students at similar campuses. Absenteeism fell 31 percent for students living in homeless shelters.

Assigning mentors to work one-on-one with students was the most successful intervention, with kids adding an average of nine days (nearly two full school weeks) of attendance per school year. High school students working with mentors were 52 percent more likely to be enrolled the following academic year than their comparison peers, suggesting the program also contributed to dropout prevention.

Some mentors are AmeriCorps volunteers, social work students, retired professionals, etc. Others are teachers, coaches, security officer and other school staffers. Twelfth graders also serve as peer mentors for younger students.

Raising attendance lowers the dropout rate, the report found. Students who’d been chronic absentees before the pilot started were 20 percent more likely to be enrolled three years later if they attended pilot schools, compared to similar students at non-pilot schools.

How to succeed at community college

Community colleges are finding ways to engage students and raise their odds of success, a new study finds. One college warns students they must show up for class or be kicked out.

In Tennessee, volunteer “success coaches” help first-generation students fill out college forms, apply for financial aid and navigate the system.

In Shanghai, all teachers have mentors

In high-scoring Shanghai, all teachers have mentors — not just novices — and teachers collaborate in lesson and research groups, writes Marc Tucker in an interview with Ben Jensen, of Australia’s Grattan Institute, in Ed Week‘s Top Performers blog. (A longer version is here.)

Every teacher has a mentor and new teachers have two, one for subject matter and one for teaching, says Jensen. The mentors observe and provide feedback.

Only .2 percent of teachers reach the “master teacher” level and then they don’t have mentors, but they will still work together and have their work evaluated and appraised.

In Shanghai, you will struggle to get promoted if you receive poor feedback from the people you mentored. That means the people who get promoted are collaborative and committed to helping teachers, and they have a proven track record in this area.

In most schools in Shanghai, teachers form lesson groups that discuss students’ progress and research groups that explore new strategies, says Jensen.

In Shanghai, you don’t get promoted as a teacher unless you are also a researcher. You have to have published articles, not in academic journals but in professional journals or even school journals. In fact, one of the first stages in a promotion evaluation is to have one of your articles peer reviewed. Every teacher will work in a research group with about half a dozen other teachers, often of the same subject area but not always. If there is a young teacher, that teacher’s mentor will often be in that group as well. They will meet for about 2 hours every 2 weeks.

At the start of the year, the group choses a topic—a new curriculum or pedagogical technique or determining how to help out a particular student—and the principal will approve that topic. The first third of the year is spent on a literature review. The second third of the year is spent trying out strategies in the classroom that the group identified as promising during the literature review. As they try these strategies in the classroom, other members of the research group will observe.

Senior teachers with strong research experience serve as leaders.

About 30 percent of Shanghai teachers’ salary is performance pay, reports the New York Times. “Teacher salaries are modest, about $750 a month before bonuses and allowances — far less than what accountants, lawyers or other professionals earn.”

Can gaming close the high-tech gender gap?

To close the high-tech gender gap, “encourage your daughters to play video games,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told Dana Goldstein.

. . .  childhood gaming and hacking experience has motivated many computer programmers to enter the field, including Sandberg’s boss, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The leap toward more advanced computing comes not only from playing games—today, 94 percent of girls are gaming, compared with 99 percent of boys—but in becoming curious about how they work and then beginning to tinker with code in order to modify game results. Boys are still much more likely than girls to explore this type of simple computer programming, and not every young girl who is curious about how computers work has an encouraging parent at home or the hardware she needs.

So it’s not just the gaming. It’s the tinkering. My nephew just got hired (first paying job out of college!!!) by a company that makes “pink market” fashion design games.  Girls might learn about fashion design, but I don’t think they’ll learn programming. That’s Alan’s job. (He may know less about fashion than anyone on the planet.)

K-12 educators are trying to hook girls on the “computational thinking” that makes programming possible, writes Goldstein.

The Academy for Software Engineering, a public school whose curriculum will be built around computer programming and Web development, will open in New York City this September. Just one-quarter of the incoming freshman class is female, but the school’s founders, who are closely tied to the New York tech community, have ambitious plans for pairing female students with women mentors working in the field, in order to tamp down on attrition, direct girls into meaningful careers, and recruit more female students to the school in future classes.

In Pajaro Valley, Calif., south of Santa Cruz, researcher Jill Denner launched a program that teaches low-income Latina girls and boys, in gender-segregated classrooms, to create their own computer games.

I’m skeptical that mentors or “pink” games will turn girls into programmers, but I guess it’s worth a try.

More than just a car

Missouri students and volunteer mentors are building a lightweight all-electric vehicle, but it’s more than just a car, Wired reports.

The car is the creation of Minddrive, an after-school program in Kansas City, Missouri that mentors students performing below their grade levels in traditional school environments. The kids meet every other Wednesday and on Saturday mornings and learn about automotive design and contemporary communications with mentors who work in the students’ fields of study. The auto-design students learn computer-aided design, welding and electrical engineering, while the communications students learn to promote the car as if the design studio was a client.

The team plans to drive the car  2,400 miles from Jacksonville, Florida to San Diego during spring break.

“We’re trying to take kids who haven’t been engaged in school and hook them to an expanded vision of what their future might be,” said Steve Rees, the program director.

Last year, students worked on a wrecked Lola Champ Car, even testing it out at Bridgestone’s Texas proving grounds. Those students are now learning advanced 3D modeling and Solidworks, while a new crop of kids — equal numbers of boys and girls — are working on the Reynard. So far, four kids have graduated from the program and each one is employed or in school.

“Our kids do this because they’re inspired to be there every week, to work with adults and do hands on things,” said Rees.

 

 

With no mentor, 16% of new teachers quit

Mentoring a first-year teacher halves the attrition rate, according to a National Center for Education Statistics analysis. Overall, nearly 10 percent of new teachers quit after their first year, reports Teacher Beat.  However,  16 percent of first-year teachers who were not assigned a mentor were not teaching the following year, compared to 8 person of teachers with a mentor.

One quarter of new teachers moved to another school in their second year of teaching, NCES reports.

Flipping teacher education

Let’s flip teacher education, proposes Justin Baeder.  Now education schools take in $20,000 per teacher candidate for providing classes, while school-based mentors are paid $50 to $500 per intern.

 What if teacher education were done by master teachers who currently work in schools (perhaps part-time, perhaps full-time with assistance), who could supervise all aspects of the teacher’s internship?

Say a master teacher obtains accreditation to take on three interns at a time, and charges them $10,000 or $20,000 each (or better yet, charges a third party such as a school district or foundation). Over the course of the year, this master teacher supervises their teaching, reviews and provides feedback on their academic work, and ensures that they emerge from the program ready to teach.

All of the content that’s currently taught on college campuses could be delivered online, Khan-Academy style, and the candidates’ work could be scored by the mentor teacher, who can make better connections to their daily teaching practice.

Teachers, what do you think?

Spark apprenticeships start early

What’s your dream job? Spark, which connects disadvantaged middle-school students with professionals in their dream job, is expanding from California to Chicago.

I think it makes sense to motivate students before they reach high school.