The athlete’s way through college

Most Division I basketball players leave college without a degree, reports the annual Academic March Madness report. At University of Connecticut, one of the Final Four teams, the graduation rate is 25 percent.

While a select handful of these players will move on the NBA, the vast majority of those that do not graduate will be left with little academic training, minimal career options, and only the fading glory of college hoops as compensation. And the schools these players “studied” at won’t shed any tears — having already made millions of dollars off their talents.  

But non-athletes do even worse, writes Andrew Rotherham on USA Today.

At the typical four-year college or university, according to federal data, fewer than 40% of students graduate in four years, and only 63% finish within six. Minority and low-income students are much less likely to graduate.

As long as athletes are eligible to play, writes Rotherham, their universities provide the support they need to meet minimal academic requirements.

The problem isn’t preferential treatment for athletes. It’s the conspicuous absence of such support for poor and minority students who would benefit from tutoring, special study halls and other programs to help them adjust to college life.

I’m not sure poor and minority students would benefit from taking easy classes, getting special privileges from instructors and letting their tutors write their papers and take their finals. When athletes lose their support systems, many are unable to pass enough classes to earn a degree. That doesn’t seem like a system to emulate.

Via Eduwonk.

Union blues

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers,  wants to be a reformer, write Ed Sector’s Andrew Rotherham and Richard Whitmire in Making the Grade.

In her (November) speech, she vowed to give ear to almost any tough-minded school reform, and, in a line that thrilled many reformers, promised that the AFT will not protect incompetent teachers: “Teachers are the first to say, ‘Let’s get incompetent teachers out of the classroom.

But Weingarten’s reform ambitions have foundered in Washington, D.C., they write.

Michelle Rhee, a hard-charging and high-profile reformer now serving as the chancellor of the city’s schools, has taken on the system with a strong hand, vowing to ramp up teacher-training and shuffle low-performing teachers out of the system. Her offer to teachers, buttressed by pledged funding from several foundations, is this: Give up tenure, and you will receive dramatic salary boosts measured in tens of thousands of dollars–or keep tenure protections, your salary increases will be far smaller, and you will still be subject to dismissal if you fail to reach performance standards.

The Washington Teachers Union (WTU) at first seemed willing to work with Rhee to craft a deal on her two-track system. But, in the end, the WTU rejected the offer without even putting it to a vote of teachers.

In New York City, UFT’s well-publicized attempt to unionize KIPP schools is in trouble.  Teachers at two KIPP schools are breaking union ties, reports Gotham Schools.  That may affect the union vote at a third KIPP school.

Eduwonk puts “the odds at one in three now that the UFT comes out of this with any KIPP schools in the city as part of their portfolio.”

More generally, while the UFT/AFT hoped this would highlight how hard KIPP teachers work and sustainability questions about  that, instead this episode now seems likely bring into stark relief some of the very real tensions between industrial-style unionism and professional work.

Look for “total war” instead of “healthy debate,” Eduwonk says.