Subprime college

“Many parents and the children they send to college are paying rapidly rising prices for something of declining quality, ” writes George Will in Subprime college educations.

Quoting Glenn Reynolds” new book, The Higher Education Bubble, Will writes that colleges has become a “status marker” for many people, “signaling membership in the educated caste, and a place to meet spouses of similar status.”

Since 1961, the time students spend reading, writing and otherwise studying has fallen from 24 hours a week to about 15 — enough for a degree often desired only as an expensive signifier of rudimentary qualities (e.g., the ability to follow instructions). Employers value this signifier as an alternative to aptitude tests when evaluating potential employees because such tests can provoke lawsuits by having a “disparate impact” on this or that racial or ethnic group.

Just as the government pumped money into mortgages, it’s pumped money into student loans ”with the predictable result that housing prices/college tuitions soared and many borrowers went bust.”

Tuitions and fees have risen more than 440 percent in 30 years as schools happily raised prices — and lowered standards — to siphon up federal money.

Twenty-nine percent of borrowers never graduate, and many who do graduate take decades to repay their loans.

A Forbes writer’s smart, nonconformist son skipped college: At 27, he’s earning as much as friends with a college degree, owns his home and has started a retirement fund.  Of course, your mileage may vary.

Study: Group discussion lowers IQ

Many people can’t express their intelligence in group discussions, concludes a Virginia Tech study.

If we think others in a group are smarter, we may become dumber, temporarily losing both our problem-solving ability and what the researchers call our “expression of IQ.”

Women and people with higher IQs are the most likely to clam up, according to the report.

I wonder if this holds true for students in middle and high school, when kids are conscious of their status within a group.

Report: Raise teachers’ status, pay

Raise U.S. teachers’ status by recruiting only high-performing college graduates, training and mentoring them well and paying them more, advises a new report (pdf) by Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the PISA international achievement test. In top-scoring countries like Korea, Singapore and Finland, teaching is a high-status occupation, Schleicher says. From the New York Times:

“Despite the characterization of some that teaching is an easy job, with short hours and summers off, the fact is that successful, dedicated teachers in the U.S. work long hours for little pay and, in many cases, insufficient support from their leadership.”

The report was released to kick off an Education Department conference on teaching that included education ministers and leaders of teachers’ unions from 16 countries as well as state superintendents.

“In South Korea, teachers are known as ‘nation builders,’ and I think it’s time we treated our teachers with the same level of respect,” Mr. Obama said in a speech on education on Monday.

Schleicher, an official at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, wrote, “What the U.S. Can Learn from the World’s Most Successful Education Reform Efforts,” with Steven L. Paine, a CTB/McGraw-Hill vice president and a former West Virginia schools superintendent.

The report lists “five things U.S. education reformers could learn” from the high-performing countries, including raising the status of teachers, adopting common academic standards, developing better tests to diagnose students’ day-to-day learning needs and training more effective school leaders.

The average salary of a veteran elementary teacher in the U.S. is higher than the OECD average, but U.S. teachers earn 40 percent less than other college graduates here, while teachers elsewhere are closer to the median.

In an interview, Mr. Schleicher said the point was not that the United States spends too little on public education — only Luxembourg among the O.E.C.D. countries spends more per elementary student — but rather that American schools spend disproportionately on other areas, like bus transportation and sports facilities.

“You can spend a lot of money on education, but if you don’t spend it wisely, on improving the quality of instruction, you won’t get higher student outcomes,” Mr. Schleicher said.

Linda Darling-Hammond expresses a similar vision — top students, excellent training, higher pay — in a piece that calls for melding Teach for America’s recruitment expertise with training for career teachers.