Work habits separate thrivers, divers

Why do students who did well in high school fail in college? Good work habits distinguish “thrivers” from “divers,” concludes a University of Toronto study reported in the Washington Post.

Image result for bellyflopNew college students predicted they’d earn grade-point averages of 3.6, but averaged only 2.2 at the end of their first year.  Students with similar high school records had very different college outcomes.

Researchers analyzed “thrivers,” who did much better than their high school grades predicted, and “divers,” who did much worse. Most had been average students in high school: In college, the thrivers got A’s while the divers got F’s.

Divers were short on “conscientiousness.”

Compared with the average student, divers were less likely to describe themselves as organized or detail-oriented, less likely to say that they are prepared, that they follow a schedule or that they get work done right away. Divers were also more likely to say they crammed for exams and more likely to score highly on measures of impatience.

. . . Compared with the divers, the thrivers planned to study three additional hours a week, on average.

Some “personality traits, such as agreeableness (being kind and empathetic toward others), openness to new ideas (being imaginative and curious) or emotional stability (not being anxious or easily upset), did not appear to matter much in determining whether people were thrivers or divers,” writes Jeff Guo.

Work and study habits mattered a lot.

When Mom and Dad supervise schedules, homework and bed times, and teachers enforce attendance, students may earn decent grades without learning how to manage their time. Then they go to college and they’re lost.

Too much homework? Or too little?

Kids have three times too much homework,” reported CNN, citing a study in Providence, Rhode Island. In kindergarten through third grade, children spend more than the recommended 10-minutes per grade level.

The story was misleading, responds Tom Loveless at Brookings.

First, the sample — parents visiting pediatrician’s offices — was not random, he writes. It appears to be skewed toward large, Spanish-speaking families.

Beyond that, the report ignores the apparent fact that fourth through 12th graders do too little homework, writes Loveless.

“High school students (grades 9-12) spend only about half the recommended time on homework,” according to the study, he points out. Twelfth graders, most of whom will go to college in a year, spend less an hour of homework per night. That could explain why so many never earn a college degree.

Can’t fail 

New York City gave me a ­diploma I didn’t deserve,” 18-year-old Melissa Mejia told the New York Post.

She frequently cut her first-period government class at a Queens high school, didn’t turn in homework and skipped the final. To her surprise, she earned a passing grade and a diploma.

Teachers are under pressure to pass students and keep up their school’s graduation rate, said Andrea McHale, who taught Mejia at Bryant High in Queens.  “If we don’t meet our academic goals, we are deemed failures as teachers. . . . I thought it was in her best interest and the school’s best interest to pass her.”

A Virginia mother in an affluent Virginia suburb is complaining that her chronically truant daughter passed English, reports Jay Mathews in the Washington Post. The girl skipped the final exam,  but earned an A for the fourth quarter, bringing her F average up to a D.

The teacher admitted the girl hadn’t earned an A, but said she “participated in several class discussions and demonstrated that she understood the bulk of the material throughout the year,” despite poor attendance and lack of effort. The final counts only if it raises the student’s grade.

“I complained recently about D.C. schools’ giving D’s for no work to get as many uncooperative students as possible graduated so the schools wouldn’t have to deal with them anymore,” writes Mathews. It’s an issue in the suburbs too.

The Fairfax student was delighted with the results, telling her parents she might hold the world record for getting passing grades despite doing nothing. Her parents want her to grow up. They wonder why the school system won’t help.

“If she still hasn’t mastered the skills or tackled the assumed requirements for a high school diploma — such as writing a paper, exploring historical periods, reading the classics and presenting a project — she will never succeed in college,” the mother said.

The mother is planning to send this kid to college? The girl sounds like a good candidate for a competency-based alternative program. If she’s so smart that she already knows it all, let her prove it. Or she could try to get a job that doesn’t require showing up.

Profs: Few high school grads are ready for college

collegereadiness-1

Most high school graduates aren’t prepared for college or work, according to a survey of professors and employers by Achieve. Three-quarters of  graduates say their high school did not set high academic expectations.

Among faculty members who teach at four-year colleges, 88 percent reported at least some gaps in their students’ preparation, including 34 percent who reported large gaps in preparation. At two-year colleges, instructors felt 96 percent of students had some gaps (including 34 percent with large gaps), according to the Achieve poll results released July 22.

Employers, too, believe students leave high school without the skills needed for typical jobs at their companies (82 percent believe there are some gaps and 48 percent report large gaps in readiness), the Achieve survey showed.

More than three-quarters of college instructors were dissatisfied with students’ abilities in critical thinking, comprehension of complicated materials, work and study habits, writing, written communication, and problem-solving.

Sixty-one percent of employers “request or require new hires to get more training in math, reading or writing — nearly a 20 percentage point increase from what employers surveyed said 10 years ago,” reports Caralee Adams for Ed Week.

Employers used to do more on-the-job training. Now they require more years of schooling, expect workers to be ready to be productive, get disappointed and blame colleges.

Students need early counseling about the need to take challenging courses in high school, said survey respondents.

Charter grads go farther, earn more

Charter high school students go farther in school and earn more as adults, concludes a Mathematica study. Researchers followed Florida and Chicago charter eighth graders for 11 years, comparing those who attended a charter high school and classmates who went to a traditional high school.

Charter students don’t earn higher test scores, on average, unless they attend “no excuses” charters, previous research has found. However, they’re significantly more likely than similar students to complete high school and enroll in college. 

. . . students attending Chicago and Florida charter high schools were 7 to 15 percentage points more likely to graduate and 8 to 10 percentage points more likely to enroll in college than comparison groups of students who attended charter middle schools but matriculated to traditional public high schools.

The former charter high students earned more at age 25 than the control group, Mathematica found. That suggests charter high schools “are endowing students with skills, knowledge, work habits, motivation, and values that are important for long-term success but are not fully captured by test scores.”

College readiness isn’t just academic

Even if they’re prepared academically for college, many students don’t understand college expectations, behaviors and attitudes, researchers say. What does it mean to “study hard” or “come prepared” to class? Students are used to high school teachers who tell students exactly what to do — and let them slide if they don’t do it.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again—for free

If at first you don’t succeed, try again—for free –at Missouri State University-West Plains.  “We’re telling students that if they go to all of their classes, do all of their assigned homework, communicate with their instructors and advisors and use our free tutoring services, they will earn acceptable passing grades,” said Chancellor Drew Bennett. “If, however, they faithfully do all of these things and still earn below a 2.0 grade point average, we will let them, for one time only, retake courses where they earned a D or F grade tuition free the next regular semester.”

Enrolling in community college raises the odds students will earn a bachelor’s degree, says a new study. Most don’t make it. But for most, the alternative to community college isn’t a four-year college or university. It’s no college at all.

To pass or not to pass

Elena drifted into sophomore English class without any materials and spent class time texting or socializing. She didn’t complete assignments.  Yet she reads and writes — when she bothers to do so — at grade level.  Occasionally, she made intelligent comments in class discussions. Her average is just below 60 percent. Should she fail?

She remained blissfully unconcerned as I cajoled, teased, chided, scolded, and threatened her into completing work. Calls home were unproductive, and other teachers indicated that English was not the only cause for academic concern. The school year was maddening.

Now, as the grades are totaled in June, I wonder: Do I hold her accountable for work left incomplete? Can she be exempted from the assignments that all her classmates completed? What is the minimum number of assignments that are the most important to determining student performance? If I exempt her from less important assignments, am I reinforcing her lack of responsibility? Finally, is passing her fair to the students who did complete the assigned work?

Elena doesn’t really need another year of 10th-grade English. She needs to learn to be a responsible student. But how?

B students need remedial classes

B students in high school are finding themselves in remedial classes at community colleges, Community College Spotlight reports.

Ninety-four percent of Chicago Public Schools graduates who go to city community colleges need remediation in math. Most also need to work on basic reading and writing skills. Many thought they were doing well in high school.

Eighty-five percent of California’s incoming community college students aren’t prepared for college math and 70 percent aren’t ready for college English. Four out of five remedial students had a B average or higher in high school. Instructors are experimenting with accelerated remediation to get students into college-level classes quickly.

If high school students realized the odds of having to pay for no-credit classes in college, would they work harder and learn the skills earlier? You’d think so.

Update: In Pennsylvania, a B+ student finds himself in remedial reading and writing. Unlike most remedial students, he earns an associate degree, but it takes six years.