Archive for May, 2018

NYT’s David Leonardt Continues to Promote “Failing Public Schools” Meme, Misses Opportunity to Support Free College for All

May 26, 2018 Comments off

Yesterday’s NYTimes David Leonardt’s column described “A New Dropout Crisis“: the accelerating rate of dropouts in college. How bad is the problem?

About a decade ago, the number of college dropouts exceeded the number of K-12 dropouts, and the two have continued to move in opposite directions since then. And if you focus only on high-school dropouts — excluding people, many of whom are immigrants, who dropped out earlier and never reached high school — there are now about twice as many college dropouts as high-school dropouts.

And why is this happening? Here’s Leonardt’s synopsis:

There are multiple causes of the college-dropout boom. K-12 schools certainly deserve a substantial amount of blame, because they produce too many ill-prepared students. But colleges — and policymakers — deserve a lot of blame, as well. For years, higher education paid far too little attention to results. That’s starting to change, as Tina Rosenberg has described in several Times Op-Eds, but there is still an enormous amount of work to do.

Alas, Mr. Leonardt overlooks the source of the highest dropout rates: for profit colleges! As Christina Cauterucci wrote in Slate in September 2017, these colleges prey on the most vulnerable population– single moms and first generation students who struggled in high school– promising them high paying jobs if they take out student loans and attend their school. The promise is far too often hollow and baseless. Ms. Cauterucci offers these sad results:

The average six-year graduation rate among for-profit colleges is 23 percent, compared to 59 percent at public institutions and 66 percent at private nonprofit schools. And because for-profit degrees usually cost far more than comparable degrees from community colleges and public universities, students who attend for-profit schools are more likely to have to take out loans to afford their education. They are also far more likely to default on those loans than those who attended nonprofit or public institutions, in part because the economic benefits conferred upon those with other college degrees don’t transfer to graduates from for-profit schools.

59% and 66% rates are problematic to be sure, but 23% is scandalous… but unsurprising given that for-profit colleges are not competitive in who they accept which means that students with weak academic backgrounds can enroll with impunity.

If post-secondary schooling was free to all, it would greatly benefit PK-16 systems because publicly funded institutions could create seamless mechanisms that would allow students to proceed at a rate of speed that matches the mastery of the content. Instead of setting an arbitrary benchmark of 12 years to master the material needed to enter post-secondary schools they could provide course offerings that would prepare students for the rigors of college and thus lower the drop out rate.

But… if post-secondary schooling was free to all it would require higher taxes, eliminate the “opportunity” for profiteers to capitalize on the neediest students, and “expand the government”… all of which are deemed to be bad from the perspective of too many of our political leaders… and, sadly, our voters….


When Charter Schools Compete in an Unregulated Marketplace, Cash Incentives Unsurprising

May 26, 2018 Comments off

Intercept writer Rachael Cohen published an article last week describing the KIPP Charter Chain’s practices of issuing cash incentives to parents who enrolled in Southern California’s schools. In keeping with the Intercept’s standards, Ms. Cohen’s essay was well researched and alarming. In the introductory paragraphs she writes:

…In recent years, some charter schools have discreetly turned to a controversial recruitment strategy: offering low-income families cash stipends or other prizes in exchange for drawing new students into their schools.

The practice is a not-much-discussed part of the school choice debate, and it’s not well-known how widespread it is either. This is in large part because schools are typically under no obligation to report it. Critics say these incentives amount to unethical bribes targeting primarily low-income families, though defenders say they’re just shrewd marketing techniques.

The article does not link the bottom line on this issue: that “shrewd marketing techniques” are only needed when public schools are thought of as commodities instead of public goods. Police departments and fire departments, for example, do not worry about the need for “shrewd marketing techniques”because SO FOR no one has advocated that they “compete” in an open market. But the relentless message that “schools are failing” combined with the message that “competition is the solution” is resulting in a mental formation among voters that the only way to “fix” schools is to conceive of them as a commodity that can be marketed and sold. And the results, especially when transparency disappears as it does in the private sector, is unwholesome. Ms. Cohen concludes her article with a quote that underscores this reality:

Sarah Butler Jessen, an education professor at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service and co-author of a new book, “Selling School: The Marketing of Public Education,” told The Intercept that she’s never heard of schools offering families cash incentives for recruitment, but that she’s not surprised, either.

“Part of the reason this doesn’t surprise me is because there isn’t a lot of transparency with these activities. There is no requirement that schools report practices like this,” she said, adding that charters, as privately managed organizations, are generally subject to different public reporting guidelines.

“It can be really difficult to get the inside information, even from teachers and certainly from administrators who would be able to speak to these larger policies,” Jessen said. “It’s just hard to track.”

When schools ever the marketplace, they are no longer required to retain the openness that accompanies democratic oversight… and profiteering and outright bribery follows closely behind.

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Secretary DeVos’ Latest Gaffe: Misunderstanding Public School’s Requirement to Education EVERYONE

May 25, 2018 Comments off

Earlier this week, USDOE Secretary Betsy DeVos, in her testimony to the House education committee, said it was up to schools to decide whether or not they should report undocumented students to ICE. Ms. DeVos may wish that were the case, but, as Politico noted in its daily newsletter, it is NOT so. Here’s an excerpt from today’s Morning Education newsletter, with my emphases added:

HISPANIC CAUCUS CALLS ON DEVOS TO CLARIFY COMMENTS ON UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS: The Congressional Hispanic Caucus wants Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to clarify comments she made earlier this week that it’s up to schools whether to turn in students they suspect are undocumented to immigration officials. The comments, made Tuesday before the House education committee, sparked an outcry from civil rights groups, which say DeVos’ statement runs counter to the Supreme Court’s 1982 ruling in Plyler v. Doe that guaranteed the rights of students to receive a public education regardless of their immigration status.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), the caucus chairwoman, said in a statement that DeVos’ “attempt to walk back” the comments isn’t enough. Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill told HuffPost on Wednesday that DeVos’ position is that “schools must comply with Plyler and all other applicable and relevant law.” Lujan Grisham on Thursday called on DeVos to clarify her remarks. “The Secretary showed a sophomoric understanding of the law and at minimum used her bully pulpit to recklessly send a mixed signal to school districts across the nation that complying with federal law and longstanding legal precedent is optional,” Lujan Grisham said. “Instead she should have quickly defended the rights of children, regardless of their immigration status, to a public K-12 education and defended a child’s right to be safe while at school.”

Hill told Morning Education in an email that “the Secretary has said repeatedly, we are a nation of laws and we are also a nation of compassion. The Secretary’s position remains that schools must comply with Plyler and all other applicable law and regulation. She has also maintained that all children, regardless of immigration status, are guaranteed access to a K-12 public education.” Hill also pointed to a November letter that the department’s Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs Peter Oppenheim sent to then-Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) that says: “The Department of Education and the Department of Justice remain fully committed to the continued implementation of this fundamental decision from the highest Court in the land…”

Ms. Hill can correct Ms. DeVos’ mis-statements, but this blogger believes that these mis-statements reflect the true feelings of Ms. DeVos, who, like her boss Mr. Trump and his base supporters, would be happy to see  all immigrant children deported. Kudos to those elected officials who listen carefully to Ms. DeVos’ statements and call her out when she runs astray of the constitution.

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