Rachel Jeantel: ‘I have a 3.0′

“I am educated. Trust me, I have a 3.0,” Trayvon Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel told a Miami TV station.

Jeantel has been offered multiple scholarship opportunities, including one from morning radio talk show host Tom Joyner, who has offered her a tutor to help her graduate and to prep for the SAT and four years of tuition to any Historically Black College or University.

This doesn’t make Miami schools look good, but I suspect it’s inaccurate. If Jeantel really were a B student, she wouldn’t be a 19-year-old about to start 12th grade.

Michigan bill: Let students choose districts

Michigan will consider letting students choose their school district, reports the Detroit Free Press.  Per-pupil funding would follow students to their public schools of choice.

The proposed Michigan Public Education Finance Act would  provide for learning at “any time, any place, any way and at any pace,” said Richard McLellan, who developed the proposal for Gov. Rick Snyder.  Districts would not “own” students.

The bill would:

• Allow students to access online learning from across the state, with the cost paid by the state. Districts that provide online courses would receive public funding based on performance.

• Provide a framework for funding based on performance, once the proper assessment and testing mechanisms are in place.

• Give scholarships of $2,500 per semester, to a maximum of $10,000, to students who finish high school early.

• Encourage year-round schooling by having a 180-day school year spread over 12 months instead of nine, with a break of no more than two weeks.

Naturally, there’s lots of opposition. Don Wotruba, deputy director for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said the state already is pursuing online learning and school choice. “But it’s monitored,” he said. “The answer is not to say, ‘Here’s the money. Make your own choices.’ ”

Tennessee is considering vouchers for low-income students, reports Ed Week.

The Riley Firing Controversy

If you’re not aware about the little kerfluffle that erupted and then quickly went away regarding the Chronicle Of Higher Education’s firing of blogger Naomi Schaeffer Riley, go read this.  Then come back.

I’m not writing this post to take substantive sides in the controversy.  I want to respond to a very particular sort of argument that has been leveled against Riley — that of “picking on students.”  Ann Althouse is the best example of this line of argument:

This reminds me of the big Sandra Fluke controversy, which got traction because an established media professional took aim at a student. Riley made fun of dissertation titles and breezily threw out the opinion that the entire field of Black Studies was left-wing crap. Maybe it is. I don’t know. I’m not reading the dissertations. It’s tempting to riff on intuition and to speak provocatively, and that’s what bloggers do. If the Chronicle wants bloggers — readable bloggers, bloggers who spark conversation and debate — they need to get that.

But combining that blogging style with an attack on named, individual students, where you are speaking from a high platform in the established media… that’s the problem, and I don’t see Riley stepping up and acknowledging it.

Liam Goldrick at EducationOptimists says something similar:

That’s right. This dust-up isn’t much about ideas at all, or freedom of speech, as some have contended. The dispute is fundamentally about journalistic standards in the realm of social media and about the specific personal attacks lobbed by NSR through the Brainstorm blog.

But I don’t think they’re right about this, for two reasons.

First, the Chronicle of Higher Education started it.  (Subscription required.)  The Chronicle featured these dissertations as part of a feature on Black Studies.  Riley didn’t call these students names — she insulted their work, work that had been brought into the light of public view by the Chronicle itself in an attempt to say nice things about their work.

Second, and far more importantly, these “private citizens”, these “individual students”, aren’t faceless undergrads writing papers for grades.  They are graduate students who are working on their dissertations.  That is, they are preparing what is likely their first official forays into the public exchange of ideas.    That’s what scholarship is.

Just because their scholarly work is arcane, esoteric, and inconsequential — just because it is only going to be read by 15 or 20 people — does not make it any less scholarship.  And scholarship is a public act.  And when you attack someone’s scholarship — you’re not attacking them in their capacity as a private citizen, and you’re not picking on some poor, individual student.

Of course, it might help to read the stuff first.  I will be the first to admit that titles can be pretty laughable, sometimes.  And a lot of scholarship is crap, and deserves to be called crap.  The problem is that you can’t tell from the titles.

  • Lisa Delpit has a piece called The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people’s children.
  • Lisa Mazzei has a piece called Desiring Silence: Gender, Race and Pedagogy in Education

One of these two pieces is profoundly better than the other (at least in my opinion).  But you’d not be able to tell from the titles, because both the titles are sort of laughably bad.

But — and this is really my point — they’re both pieces of scholarship.  They’re fair game for public comment, whether you want to say nice things or not-so-nice things.

From 11th grade to college

Indiana will encourage students to skip senior year and go straight to college, the Hechinger Report notes. Under Gov. Mitch Daniels’ plan, high school students who complete their core requirements by the end of their junior year can go straight to college with a scholarship based on how much money the state would have spent — $6,000 to $8,000 for most — on their 12th-grade education.

Daniels said he came up with the idea after years of asking seniors he met across the state what they were up to and too often being told “not much.”

“I kept bumping into seniors who said, ‘Well, I’m done,’ ” he said. “They’d laugh and tell me they were having a good time. We are spending thousands of dollars on students who are eligible to move on.”

Senior year is a time for “drift and disconnection,” concludes the National Commission on the High School Senior Year.

Solutions over the past decade have trended toward mixing college and high school courses through dual-enrollment programs or early-college high schools, where students can earn an associate degree and a diploma.

But Daniels’ preferred strategy — shortening high school altogether — also is catching on.

In Idaho, 21 districts will give early-graduation scholarships. Kentucky is thinking about it. In the fall, eight states will begin a program that lets students test out of the last two years of high school and go directly to community college. The National Center on Education and the Economy and the Gates Foundation are backing the idea.

One of my best friends in high school left after 11th grade for college. She was impatient to get on with it. (She dropped out after a year to organize the proletariat for the revolution.)

My daughter’s half-sister skipped high school entirely. Now 18, she will earn a bachelor’s in classics, summa cum laude, on Saturday from the University of Santa Clara and go on to Berkeley for her PhD. It was a challenge to buy her a graduation card. Nothing seemed to fit quite right.

Update: Ed Next looks at high school students who attend college part-time.

A scholarship for white males

Texas State students are raising money to offer scholarships to white males, reports the Austin American-Statesman. “If everyone else can find scholarships, why are we left out?” asks Colby Bohannan, a communication major and Iraq war veteran, who is president of the Former Majority Association for Equality in San Marcos.

Non-Hispanic whites aren’t a majority in Texas; they make up about 45 percent of the population.

To qualify for a $500 scholarship, applicants must have a GPA over 3.0, demonstrate financial need and be at least 25 percent Caucasian and male.

The nine-member scholarship board includes three women, one Hispanic and one African-American, Bohannan told the American-Statesman.

A white guy is a terrible thing to waste, writes Darren.

Money isn’t everything

Money isn’t everything. Five years ago, donors offered to pay college tuition for all graduates of public schools in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Students can use the offer at any public college or university in the state. While 81 percent of graduates receive a scholarship, only 54 percent have earned a degree or remain on track to graduate, according to the Hechinger Report.

College-funding programs exist in 15 to 20 cities, including Denver, Pittsburgh, New Haven, Connecticut and Hammond, Indiana.

In Pittsburgh’s program, the percentage of scholarship recipients who return to their public four-year colleges after freshman year trails the state average by nearly three points, said Saleem Ghubril, executive director of the Pittsburgh Promise, which launched in 2007 with a $100 million commitment by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The picture for community college students on Pittsburgh Promise scholarships is brighter: 70.3 percent return for their second year, about 10 points above the national average. Graduation data are not yet available because the program is so new.

In Denver, half of the 199 students in the first class eligible for that city’s promise-style program came back for their fourth year of college, said Rana Tarkenton, director of student services at the Denver Scholarship Foundation.

Most promise-style scholarships reward residency in a school district, city or state, rather than academic merit, though some set minimum grade-point averages or college-entrance exam scores. The effect is to encourage less-prepared students to try college.

To keep their scholarships, Kalamazoo Promise students must be enrolled full time in a two-year or four-year college and maintain a C average. The program’s graduation rates are lowest at two-year colleges, as they are in the rest of the U.S: only a third of the Class of 2006 who attended community college had graduated by the fall of 2010, program statistics show. The following year’s class didn’t do much better. Nationally, just 11.6 percent of students at public two-year colleges complete degrees within six years.

Many students aren’t prepared for the academic or social challenges of higher education, said Stan Jones, president of Complete College America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.

“It’s especially hard for students who come from poor areas and don’t have support networks,” said Jones, one of the founders of Twenty-First Century Scholars, a promise-style program founded in Indiana in the 1990s. “Just giving them the opportunity to go to college isn’t enough. They need support once they get there – mentoring, ways for students to connect.”

Students who are the first in their family to attend college have to learn how to navigate the system, said University of Michigan freshman Adwoa Bobo, a pre-med student on a Promise scholarship. While her tuition is covered, she has to pay for room, board, books and other expenses.

“The hardest adjustment for me is being able to manage my time, and being able to study effectively,” Bobo said. “In high school, I was able to pass through without studying too much. In college, you cannot get good grades without taking notes and studying every night for each class and reading your books thoroughly. You must work hard. I’ve been told that college was harder than high school, but you never know what they mean until you’re here.”

Students who live at home while attending community college or a four-year commuter school can earn a degree at a very low cost in dollars, but those who aren’t willing to invest their time and energy aren’t going to get very far.

Competition improves public schools

Threatened with losing students to private schools, Florida public schools improved, concludes a Northwestern study by David Figlio and Cassandra Hart.

Starting in 2002, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC) has provided funding to help low-income parents pay for private school.  Corporations donate money to fund the scholarships in exchange for a tax credit.

The scholarship is quite generous; it covers approximately 90 percent of tuition and fees at a typical religious elementary school in Florida and two-thirds of tuition and fees at a typical religious high school. As a result, the program greatly increased the accessibility of private schools to low-income families. In the first year, some 15,585 scholarships were awarded, increasing the number of low-income students attending private schools by more than 50 percent. For the 2009–10 school year, the FTC program awarded scholarships to 28,927 students.

Public schools located near private schools increased reading and math scores more than public schools that had little competition.

For every 1.1 miles closer to the nearest private school, public school math and reading performance increases by 1.5 percent of a standard deviation in the first year following the announcement of the scholarship program. Likewise, having 12 additional private schools nearby boosts public school test scores by almost 3 percent of a standard deviation. The presence of two additional types of private schools nearby raises test scores by about 2 percent of a standard deviation. Finally, an increase of one standard deviation in the concentration of private schools nearby is associated with an increase of about 1 percent of a standard deviation in test scores.

Test scores rose more for elementary and middle schools than for high schools, perhaps because the scholarship made K-8 private schools affordable but didn’t cover as much of the tuition at private high schools.

New Haven promises college aid

New Haven’s public school students will get free college tuition at any public college or university in Connecticut, if they maintain a 3.0 grade point average and 90 percent attendance. Graduates will get $2,500 a year to attend an in-state private college. Students will have to maintain a 2.5 grade point average in college to continue receiving the money.

Yale University is providing most of the $4.5 million a year needed to fund the New Haven Promise. It’s open to city students who’ve attended public school — district-run or charter — since ninth grade or earlier.

Only 200 of the 1,000 graduates last year would have qualified, city officials said. About 83 percent of New Haven graduates go on to college, but more than 70 percent dropout after two years.

(Mayor John) DeStefano said the program was intended to curb a citywide high school dropout rate of 38 percent and cultivate a college-going culture, as well as to provide an economic incentive for families to move to New Haven. Students will qualify for the financial aid on a sliding scale, with those who started in city schools at kindergarten receiving the most, 100 percent of their tuition. Students who arrived in the ninth grade will receive 65 percent.

In Syracuse, New York, enrollment in city schools has grown since 2008, when Syracuse University and the Say Yes to Education foundation began offering free college tuition to public high school students. However, the graduation rate hasn’t improved.

George A. Weiss, a Wall Street financier who founded Say Yes to Education in 1987, said the foundation had paid college tuition for more than 350 students in predominantly poor schools in Hartford; Philadelphia; Cambridge, Mass.; and Harlem in New York City. He said academic enrichment programs, counseling and other services had supplemented the tuition assistance.

“You can’t just give them an offer of money,” Mr. Weiss said. “They still have their day-to-day issues, and you have to help them.”

All college scholarship programs have learned this lesson:  Disadvantaged students need mentors, tutors and counselors to get them on the college track and keep them on track. A scholarship offer isn’t enough.

I also predict students with only 90 percent attendance aren’t going to need more than one semester of college tuition.

Update:  Why isn’t Yale offering scholarships to Yale? Chad Aldeman wants to know.

Arkansas fights grade inflation

In  58 Arkansas high schools, more than 20 percent of students who got an A or B in algebra or geometry failed to score at the advanced or proficient level on the state’s end-of-course exam. Charging grade inflation, the state education department will require graduates of these schools to score proficient or higher on the state exam or at least 19 on the ACT  to qualify for a new state scholarship worth as much as $5,000 a year.

Via Curriculum Matters.

Hard luck, hard work, bright future

When Derrius Quarles was four, his father was killed in Chicago. Soon after, he was taken away from his drug-addicted mother. Growing up as a ward of the state, Quarles earned a 4.2 grade point average in high school and a 28 on the ACT.  He was offered more than $1 million in scholarships from various colleges.  He’ll go to Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he plans to pursue a career in medicine.

 Quarles credits his success to his determination to go to college, his ability to accept his past, and not use it as an excuse.

“I had to come to accept what happened. I had no part in it, in my circumstances. But it is my responsibility to. It’s all about how I’m going to overcome that,” he said.

Quarles applied for more than 40 scholarships starting as a sophomore.  He wrote an essay about his hard-luck past, but relied on another one about nearly drowning when he joined the high school swim team.