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.

The remedial PhD

Remedial classes usually are taught by adjuncts, but doctoral programs in remedial and developmental education are in the works to produce specialist instructors and researchers.

Also on Community College Spotlight: City University of New York will offer education, job training and mentors to help young black and Latino men get off the poverty-and-prison cycle.

Student teaching done wrong — and right

Student teachers don’t work with excellent classroom instructors in many cases, concludes a report by the National Council on Teacher Quality, which analyzed and rated 134 colleges and universities. Almost 75 percent of education programs don’t require the student teacher’s mentor to be an effective classroom instructor.

Programs are “begging” for student-teacher placements and can’t afford to be choosy, the report finds. In part, that’s because programs admit too many students, says NCTQ President Kate Walsh.

 “Right now, far too many institutions accept anyone and everyone, including many who have no intention of ever teaching.  Some students enter the program because it has the reputation for being the easiest program on campus to complete, while others discover that teaching is not for them, yet they have to student teach in order to graduate.  The teaching profession needs much higher standards.”

Schools of education, often considered “cash cows” for their universities, turn out more than twice as many graduates as schools hire, NCTQ estimates. The surplus is greatest for would-be elementary teachers. The report suggests requiring a fallback major so students who leave the teaching track can graduate on schedule.

In addition, working with a student teacher should be a more attractive proposition for exemplary classroom teachers, the report suggests, calling for “monetary incentives, prestige for being selected and assurance that the student teacher is qualified for the experience.”

NCTQ did find 10 model programs: Key Ingredients for Strong Student Teaching offers suggestions.

NCTQ’s analysis is controversial, writes Inside Higher Ed.  Most schools of education aren’t happy about the methodology NCTQ developed for U.S. News & World Report‘s upcoming teacher-education program rankings.

Do everything — except fixing schools

David Kirp’s soon-to-be-published book, Kids First: Five Big Ideas for Transforming Children’s Lives makes the “broader, bolder” case for reforming urban education without changing schools, writes Paul Peterson on Education Next.

According to Kirp, the best way to improve America’s urban schools is to ignore them. Instead, attention should be focused on parents, pre-schooling, reshaping neighborhoods, finding mentors for the kids, and giving kids money to go to college. In other words, do everything except fix the disastrous state of the big city school system, shaped by court decisions, federal regulations, professional bureaucrats, collective bargaining agreements, and a progressive philosophy that expects little in instruction from teachers.

It’s nice to see the importance of good parents recognized, writes Peterson,  even though Kirp “puts his chips on professionals telling mothers what to do rather than suggesting ways to keep parents married and families intact.”

Nurturing preschools, mentors and college savings plans are desirable. But good schools matter too.