California bill seeks $10,000 degree

Following Texas and Florida, California could be the next state to try to develop a $10,000 bachelor’s degree. A bill in the state legislature would tell high schools, community colleges and California State University campuses to collaborate on low-cost degrees in science, math and engineering fields.

Texans choose ‘brown jobs’ over college

Community college enrollment fell by 2 percent in Texas — and much more in areas with “brown jobs” in natural gas and oil, such as the Eagle Ford Shale region.

“It’s hard to keep a student in school to get their associate’s when they can go make $65,000 a year as a truck driver,” said Dominic Chavez, spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

 

Pre-K works for at-risk kids in Texas

Texas’s pre-kindergarten program for disadvantaged students raises math and reading scores through third grade and reduces the likelihood students will repeat a grade or need special education services, according to a CALDER Working Paper. The study followed children from 1990 to 2002.

Instead of universal pre-K, Texas targets limited resources at high-need children, notes Education Gadfly. The Pre-K Early Start program cost less than half the cost of Head Start, which produces gains that begin to fade after first grade.  What is the PKES program doing differently? “In Texas, even pre-K has standards and curriculum—and they’re aligned with those of the K–12 system,” writes Gadfly.

Compare college costs: $3,300 vs. $32,000

A Missouri community college is taking on for-profit competitors with an ad campaign that urges students to do the math: It costs $3,300 for a year at Ozarks Tech vs. $32,000 at Bryan College, a Christian for-profit. The cheaper for-profits in the area cost $14,000.

Texas universities are offering bachelor’s degrees for $10,000 or less to well-prepared students with clear goals. But it’s more of a scholarship for students than a productivity campaign, so far.

On-time high school grad rate is 72%

Only 72 percent of students in the class of 2011 earned a diploma in four years, according to the U.S. Education Department.

Iowa had the highest graduation rate at 88 percent with Wisconsin and Vermont at 87 percent and Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas at 86 percent.

The District of Columbia’s four-year graduation rate was 59 percent, the lowest in the country, notes Dropout Nation. Only 60 percent of black, Latino, and Native American students graduated on time. In Nevada, the black on-time graduation rate was 43 percent, the worst in the nation. Montana and Texas are “the only states in which four out of every five black freshmen in their respective Classes of 20111 graduated on time.” Minnesota had the largest racial achievement gap with a 49 percent on-time graduation rate for blacks and 84 percent of whites

Nationwide, 79 percent of Asian-American students and 76 percent of non-Hispanic whites finished high school in four years.

If a student needs five years to earn a high school diploma — and really earns it — that’s OK by me. I worry that “portfolio review” and “credit recovery” scams will pump up graduation rates.

Maine likes laptops, but do kids learn more?

Ten years after Maine started giving a tax-funded laptop to every public school student in grades 7 and 8, teachers and students are enthusiastic, but it’s not clear students are learning more, writes Ricki Morell of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting on the Hechinger Report.

FREEPORT, Maine — At Freeport Middle School, students in algebra class play “Battleship” on their laptops as they learn to plot coordinates on a graph. At Massabesic Middle School, eighth-graders surf the web on their laptops to create their own National History Day websites. And at King Middle School, students carry their laptops into the field as they chronicle the civil rights movement through eyewitness interviews.

Laptops “revolutionized the classroom,” says Raymond Grogan, principal of Freeport Middle School, who was a teacher when the program started. Teachers stop lecturing and started individualizing lessons, Grogan says.

Middle school teachers said “the laptops have helped them teach more, in less time, and with greater depth, and to
individualize their curriculum and instruction more,” according to an August 2011 report. However, the program has been implemented unevenly.

“The benefits are difficult to quantify,” says David Silvernail, the report’s author and co-director of the nonpartisan Maine Education Policy Research Institute. “So many other things are going on in schools, it’s difficult to classify what makes the difference. The laptop is a tool, just like a pencil.”

Students can use the laptops at school and at home. There have been problems with “distraction from unrestricted access to the Internet,” educators say. Breakage problems have improved over time.

The free laptop idea spread to other states and school districts, but has faded because of funding pressures and mixed results, Morrell writes.

Beginning in 2004, the nonprofit Texas Center for Educational Research compared the test scores of students at 22 Texas middle schools where students and teachers received laptops with the scores of students at 22 middle schools where they did not. The study concluded that laptops had a positive effect on some math scores but generally not on reading scores.

In Maine, statewide evidence of how laptops affect achievement is scarce. Test scores for Maine from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card, show that the percentage of students scoring proficient or above in eighth-grade mathematics rose from 30 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2011, but that was part of a national trend of rising math scores and can’t be linked directly to laptop use. Between 2002 and 2011, the percentage of Maine’s eighth-graders scoring at or above proficient on the national reading test barely changed, rising from 38 to 39 percent.

 Angus King, who pushed through the laptop program as governor, is now running for U.S. Senate. His opponent charges the free laptops have been a waste of money. The state pays Apple a discounted rate of $242 per laptop per year, which adds up to $10 million this year, less than half a percent of the state’s $2 billion education budget.

Dual enrollment boosts college success

Texas students who completed even a single college class in high school were significantly more likely to attend college and eventually graduate, compared to similar students not in dual enrollment programs, reports a Jobs for the Future study.

New York City’s P-Tech is drawing students willing to spend six years in high school to earn a diploma and an associate degree in computer information systems or engineering technology. IBM worked with city colleges to develop the program.

School funding: Quietly unequal

The rich districts get richer in Illinois, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and North Carolina, according to a new Center for American Progress report, The Stealth Inequities of School Funding. In these states, schools in higher-poverty districts receive less state and local dollars than low-poverty districts, the report finds.

On the state level, there’s no relationship between education spending and results, according to a State Budget Solutions study, which analyzed state spending from 2009 to 2011. Spending more didn’t raise graduation rates or ACT scores. Spending less didn’t lower performance.

Massachusetts, which has the strongest academic performance in almost every subject area and the highest ACT scores, spend less of its state budget on education than 45 other states, SBS reported.

Reverse transfers need help to graduate

Reverse transfers — students who go from four-year to two-year schools — need help to graduate.

Texas community colleges will continue a campaign to increase graduation rates, despite losing Gates Foundation funding.

Unready in Texas

To improve college readiness and accelerate remediation, Texas will adopt a statewide college placement exam to be developed by College Board. Currently, more than half of the state’s high school graduates do not test as ready for college.

The state’s higher education agency wants to link 10 percent of undergraduate funding to student success rates, a controversial idea that’s failed to gain traction in the past.