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.

Ohio bill ‘guarantees’ third-grade reading

Ohio will “guarantee” that third graders can read well before being promoted under an education reform bill that Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign. Poor readers could be held back for one or two years.

This year, more than 22 percent of the state’s third-graders tested at the lowest reading level — “limited” — in October and another 19 percent scored at the basic level.

The bill also makes way for greater use of technology across public education and creates state report cards for vocational and career programs that are tied to Ohio’s job needs. The schools will work in consultation with career-technical education groups to set standards for the report cards.

In addition, the bill begins the process of building a statewide birth-to-third-grade literacy education strategy, requires eye exams for special needs students, and adjusts training and retesting requirements for teachers who are deemed ineffective for two of the previous three years.

Kasich a first-term Republican, championed many of the bill’s reforms.

House Democratic Leader Armond Budish called the reading guarantee an “unfunded mandate that could actually harm children.”

Good news, ugly truth on pre-k ‘savings’

Michigan will save $39,000 in public costs for every high-risk child in pre-kindergarten — $100,000 in Detroit — according to a Fisher Foundation report. These “investment” claims should  be taken with a grain of salt, writes Sara Mead, who links to Lisa Guernsey’s analysis of the claim that preschool saves $10 for every $1 spent.

Very high-quality programs — which are not the norm — can improve outcomes for high-risk kids, Mead writes. But only 3 percent of savings from improved school readiness flow to K-12 schools, the report estimates.

. . . the really flashy high-value savings come from benefits far down the road, such as reduced crime and prison costs, (that) are hard to capture to pay for pre-k. And when early childhood advocates cite such diffuse and distant benefits to claim that the “value of investing in school readiness for just one child at risk of academic failure in Detroit, Michigan, is…about $100,000,” I worry that the perception such claims are oversold may actually increase skepticism about the value of pre-k investments, rather than building support.

It’s more persuasive to cite immediate savings to the school system, Mead argues. The Fisher researchers estimate pre-k saves $2,374 per child in reduced special education and grade retention costs, $3,376 in Detroit.  Michigan spends about $4,453 per child in pre-k. If that’s true, pre-k isn’t free but it’s awfully cheap.

Study: Retention works in Florida

Flunking works in Florida, concludes Marcus Winters, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. To pass from third to fourth grade, students must pass a test. Those who are held back “eceive a rigorous remediation regime aimed at improving their long-term performance.”

By studying the long-term performance of children who just barely passed the test, as well as those who were just barely left behind, it was possible to compare two essentially identical populations: one set of students who moved forward despite only borderline understanding of the material; and another set who stayed behind a year and received tutoring, mentoring, and other remedial interventions.

On average, the students who were remediated did better academically, in both the short and long term, than those who were promoted. Tellingly, the benefits of the remediation were still apparent and substantial through the seventh grade (which is as far as the data can be tracked at this point).

Previous research has found “strong negative consequences” for retention, Winters concedes. He thinks prior studies have used flawed methods.

I’d like to know more about what Florida does for kids who are held back.

I’m tutoring a first grader who’s having a lot of trouble with reading. The teacher thinks she should repeat the grade — she’s one the younger kids — but school policy forbids it because English is the girl’s second language.

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.

More ‘reach’ for excellent teachers

One in four U.S. classrooms has an “excellent teacher,” asserts Public Impact. “Bold efforts to recruit more top teachers and remove the least effective teachers” won’t be enough to put an excellent teacher in every classroom. So let’s expand the reach of highly effective teachers by redesigning teaching roles and using technology. The education policy group plans to identify five sites to pilot expand-the-reach models.

OpportunityCulture describes possible models:

(The) teacher can work in person, teaching face to face in a school and/or leading other teachers. Or, when not enough excellent teachers are available in person, excellent teachers can work remotely, with on-site monitors’ help. Remote, excellent teachers can reach students via webcam, online whiteboard, email, and other methods that let the teacher communicate personally—live, but not in person—and at times convenient for all.

Willing, excellent teachers can have larger classes (within reason!), or they can specialize in the most crucial subjects and most difficult teaching roles, while other team members take on the rest. Or they can swap technology—online digital instruction—for some of their teaching time, enough time that the teacher can teach more students. Or they can lead other teachers, and co-teach with them, with authority to: select, assign roles, develop, and evaluate the team.

If we pursue reach extension, retaining high-performing teachers, recruiting talented new teachers and dismissing the least effective, “87 percent of classes could be taught by gap-closing, bar-raising teachers—in a mere half-decade,” Public Impact believes.

That seems very ambitious. Or perhaps I mean unrealistic.


The crucial first semester

The first semester is make-or-break time for many community college students. “Freshmen academies” try to get new students on track.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  More firefighters are getting college degrees to get a job or advance in their career. Is it credentialism or professionalization?

CCs need middle-class students

Community colleges should recruit white, middle-class students to build political capital and financial support, argues Richard Kahlenberg, a Century Foundation fellow.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Looking for ways to get students to stay in college.

Subway of (false) hope

“Start here, go anywhere,” say the college ads in the subway.  “But more likely nowhere,” adds a professor.

Also on Community College SpotlightFirst Year Experience programs try to keep students enrolled for a second year.