In the News

The One Question Most Americans Get Wrong About College Graduates

The New York Times, 6-5-2016

This is the question: What do you think the unemployment rate is for 25-to-34-year-olds who graduated from a four-year college?

There is some evidence that having a college degree doesn’t guarantee a good job, but the alternative is much worse. Young people who have earned a college degree have substantially lower unemployment rates than those who haven’t. Since 2000, young college graduates, on average, have an unemployment rate that is 5.5 percentage points lower than those of nongraduates. And this gap typically widens during recessions; it expanded to 10 percentage points at the depths of the Great Recession.

College graduates also make more money. A typical college graduate can expect to make over half a million dollars more than a nongraduate over a lifetime. Much of this has to do with differences in wage growth during the midcareer of a college graduate versus a nongraduate.

Closing the ‘Honesty Gap’ in North Dakota

Interview, Grand Forks Herald, 5-28-16

Education leaders must communicate accurately to teachers, parents and schools, says North Dakota State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler on efforts to close the Honesty Gap. Twenty-seven percent of North Dakota’s college-bound students require remediation.

“It’s systemic. And if we’re waiting to identify student needs until the student’s 11th grade year, we’re pretty late in the game…That’s why honest assessments are so important,” Baesler explains. Multiple reports find that states are raising expectations and providing more accurate information about student readiness by implementing high standards and high-quality assessments.

This month, Baesler announced North Dakota will review its education standards and continue to build on the Common Core framework.

Is the ‘math myth’ holding back students who don’t need it?

The Oklahoman, news interview, 5/26/2016

Are high school algebra requirements a needless stumbling block or a necessary bridge to success? The answer depends on who you ask.

If you ask advocates of the new common core standards, more algebra is better. Common Core, now adopted by 46 states, requires high school students to pass Algebra II.

Ironically, one of the states that won’t be participating is Texas, which dropped its Algebra II graduation requirement in 2014, after being one of the first states to adopt the requirement in the early 2000s. Texas dropped its requirement under pressure from local industry groups, who argued that career readiness did not require higher math, and that the Algebra 2 requirement was preventing kids from graduating.

Andrew Hacker, a retired political science professor who spent most of his career at Queens College in New York City, has become the leading national spokesman for the controversial notion that we ask our high school students to do too much math.

PARCC’s ‘College-Ready’ Score Reflects Rigor of College Work, Study Finds

Education Week, 5-17-2016

A first-of-its-kind study has found that students who score at the “college-ready” level on the PARCC exam are well-positioned to earn good grades in college. The findings provide early evidence that the assessment does what it was designed to do: measure college readiness.

The Massachusetts Department of Education commissioned Mathematica Policy Research to do the study last year, as it was considering whether to use PARCC in 2017 or keep using its longtime test, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS. Massachusetts decided to create a hybrid of the two tests. A summary of the study, which compares PARCC and MCAS, was published Tuesday in a peer-reviewed journal, Education Next.

Researchers at Mathematica wanted to know how closely a “college-ready” score on PARCC and a “proficient” score on MCAS correlate with a good grade-point-average in freshman-year college study, and with the need to take remedial courses. They had freshmen in Massachusetts state colleges and universities take the PARCC and the MCAS in the spring of 2015 and examined how those scores, from 847 students, correlated with their grades and remediation patterns at the time.

Retired North Dakota prof asks: Where does need for college remedial work begin?

Grand Forks Herald, commentary, 05/16/2016

Around one-fourth of the students appearing on campuses aren’t ready for college-level work and must enroll in no-credit remedial courses, resulting in a number of consequences.

Remedial courses waste student resources because the students have to pay tuition for courses that do not count toward graduation.

When confronted with remedial coursework, students are discouraged from pursuing careers requiring a college education and are the most likely to drop out of college completely.

Remedial courses divert college faculty from teaching the courses for which they were hired.

The sad truth is that many students who need remedial courses are not aware of their deficiencies until faced with college entrance exams or other measurements used in the junior and senior years of high school.

CA Board of Education is missing mark on college readiness

San Diego Union Tribune, editorial, 5-11-2016

The California State Board of Education grudgingly adopted measures to gauge student progress — forced to do so to ensure California receives federal education aid.

Under the proposal before the State Board of Education, beginning in fall 2017, schools will be evaluated on high school graduation rates; student results in English and math Common Core tests; gains made by English-language learners; and student suspension rates. Test scores in third-grade reading and eighth-grade math would be given additional emphasis.

Eight education reform groups consider this inadequate at best. They wrote a joint letter to the board last week depicting the standards as putting far too much emphasis on high school graduation and having no emphasis on college and career readiness, contrary to a 2012 state law.

But the board is unlikely to heed the reformers. Too bad. The California education status quo may not be impressive — but it is resilient.

Guess Who’s Taking Remedial Classes

New York Times, Editorial, 5/10/2016

Affluent communities often assume that their well-appointed schools are excellent and that educational malpractice affects only the children of the poor. Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who stepped down in December, was widely criticized when he debunked this myth three years ago and went on to suggest that well-to-do parents who rebelled against the rigorous Common Core learning standards were part of the problem.

The idea that schools in privileged communities are failing to prepare significant numbers of students is borne out in a striking new study showing that nearly half of the students who begin their college careers taking remedial courses come from middle- and upper-income families.

Not only do remedial courses add more than $1 billion each year to students’ bills for tuition, but students who start out in these classes take longer to graduate and are far more likely to drop out. The study, by Education Reform Now, a nonprofit think tank, analyzes cost and course data collected by the Education Department for students who entered college in 2011.

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