Online ed’s success gap narrows

Online enrollment is growing at community colleges, even as traditional enrollment declines, reports the Instructional Technology Council. “The retention gap” between online and traditional students  ”has narrowed dramatically” in the past nine years, according to ITC.

‘Grit’ helps teachers too

Grit isn’t just for students. Gritty teachers are more effective in high-poverty schools, concludes a new study in Teachers College Record, by Penn researchers Claire Robertson-Kraft and Angela Duckworth. New teachers with higher levels of “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”  (aka “grit”) were less likely to quit and more likely to be rated effective, notes Ed Week.

Raters scored 461 novice teachers’ resumes to evaluate multi-year persistence.

The highest score of 6 might go to a gritty teacher who was a “member of the cross-country team for four years and voted MVP in senior year” and was also  “founder and president for two years of the university’s Habitat for Humanity chapter.” The unnamed teacher-training organization that provided the data for the study is now using a version of this rating system as one of multiple tools to help make hiring decisions.

The study used the teacher-training group’s assessment of effectiveness, which was based on several different measures of student achievement.

Teacher retention is up in reform era

Teachers are staying in the classroom, despite education reforms some said would create rapid turnover, according to a U.S. Education Department survey.

In the past, half of teachers would leave in their first five years, write Kaitlin Pennington and Robert Hanna of the Center for American Progress. But 70 percent of teachers who started five years ago have stayed in the profession.

The Great Recession started in 2009, which may have discouraged job switching, they observe. With many experienced teachers retiring, new teachers may have expected more opportunities.
Still, the new research should “give pause” to reform critics, write Pennington and Hanna.

Some claimed that teachers would react strongly to teacher evaluations that are based in part on student test-score growth and that the stress would drive many of them out. Bob Sullo, an education consultant and author, called it a “recipe for disaster.” And education historian Diane Ravitch predicted that “many will leave teaching, discouraged by the loss of their professional autonomy.”

Over the course of President Obama’s first term, about two-thirds of teachers said that if they “could go back to college and start over again,” they would “probably” or “definitely” still become teachers.

Full-time college isn’t for everyone

Student retention has improved for “ASAP” students at New York City community colleges. The program requires students to enroll full-time and accept “intrusive” advising. But many nontraditional students can’t drop everything to go full-time.

President Obama’s college plan should include 45 million peanut-butter sandwiches a week for Pell Grant recipients, argues a community college professor. 

Retention’s up, enrollment’s down

Determined to raise retention rates, an Oregon community college mandated orientation and advising and eliminated late registration. That’s lowered enrollment by 20 percent, lowering state funding by 7 percent. However, graduation rates are likely to rise.

A “scorecard” for California community colleges will show progress and success rates for students who start in remedial classes, college-ready students, career-tech students and those in non-credit classes, such as English as a Second Language.

Ohio: Third graders must read or repeat

Ohio’s “third grade guarantee” — students who don’t read on grade level will be held back – is the subject of a PBS report.

Retention — and remediation — can help students

Is Retaining Students in the Early Grades Self-Defeating? asks a Brookings policy brief by Harvard Professor Martin West. Probably not.

Two years after retention at the end of third grade, Florida students who just missed being promoted do better academically than slightly higher-performing classmates who went on to the next grade.

The positive impact of retention on reading achievement is as large as 0.4 standard deviations, an amount which exceeds a typical year’s worth of achievement growth for elementary school students. The impact of retention on math achievement is roughly half as big, perhaps because the remedial services provided to students before and during the retention year focus primarily on reading.

While the benefits fade out by seventh grade, “the retained students continue to perform markedly better than their promoted peers when tested at the same grade level,” West writes. “Although it is too soon to analyze the policy’s effects on students’ ultimate educational attainment and labor-market success,” he thinks “retention and remediation of struggling readers can be a useful complement to broader efforts to reduce the number of students reading below grade level.”

In an earlier post on Florida’s retention policy, I wrote that I wanted to know more about what schools do for students repeating a grade. As it turns out, Florida requires schools to do quite a bit.

First, retained students must be given the opportunity to participate in their district’s summer reading program. Schools must also develop an academic improvement plan for each retained student and assign them to a “high-performing teacher” in the retention year. Finally, retained students must receive intensive reading interventions, including ninety uninterrupted minutes daily of research-based reading instruction (a requirement that has since been extended to all students in grades K-5).

Retention doesn’t seem to help in middle school. In a Chicago study, retention helped third graders, had no effect on sixth graders and increased the likelihood that eighth graders would drop out, adds West.

Study: Social promotion hurts students

Florida students who repeated a grade in elementary school outperformed similar students who were promoted, even after five years, according to a new study in Education Finance and Policy by Jay Greene and Marcus Winters.

The benefits of ending social promotion “diminish, but they remain statistically significant and educationally substantial through middle school,” Greene writes.

Where did all the college men go?

Men are less likely to enroll in college and more likely to drop out. A Denver community college is targeting retention efforts at male students.

Colleges try performance incentives

Community colleges are using performance incentives to motivate students, faculty and staff.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Helping low-income students with their finances and jobs can boost retention.