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Posts Tagged ‘College and Career Readiness’

Looking for an Alternative to the Mother of All Standardized Tests, the SAT? Try GPA!

June 25, 2018 Leave a comment

When it comes to standardized testing, no test has a better reputation for fairness and equity than the SAT. Yet, as Diane Ravitch reported in a recent blog post:

There is an emerging consensus among researchers that high school grade point average is a better predictor of success in college than scores on the SAT or ACT.

Many colleges assign greater weight to the SAT because it presumably predicts how well student from an obscure high school will do in a competitive environment better than any other metric. But if the predictive value of the SAT is vanishingly small and the value of the GPA is higher, it begs the question of why parents spend millions of dollars per year to upgrade their child’s score on the standardized test.

Hopefully studies like the ones completed by Education Northwest, one of 10 regional educational laboratories that do applied research to improve academic outcomes for students, will get the attention of college admissions officers, guidance counselors, high school teachers and administrators, and— most importantly–= parents and the use of standardized tests as an entry into college will become a thing of the past. More likely, though, is the probability that the last ones to learn about this reality will be the politicians who see standardized tests like the SATs as an objective means of assessing “performance” and knowledge” which means students will continue to be subjected to multiple choice tests for the foreseeable future.

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Betsy DeVos’s Message to Bilked College Students: Caveat Emptor

June 13, 2018 Leave a comment

As noted in earlier posts, the USDOE under Betsy DeVos’ leadership seems ready, willing, and capable of throwing those students who enrolled in fraudulent degree programs under the bus in the name of the free market. Evidence of this reality was presented earlier this week when Ms. DeVos reinstated the so-called “watchdog” agency that accredited bogus educational enterprises. As reported in an article by Erica Green in yesterday’s NYTimes, Ms. DeVos used a flimsy bureaucratic procedural argument to distance herself from the decision to reinstate the formerly discredited “watchdog” group, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, or Acics. As Ms. Green reported, this agency was stripped of its power in the waning months of the Obama administration:

Acics was stripped of its powers in December 2016 amid the collapse of two for-profit university chains, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, where students were encouraged to take on debt based on false promises, including jobs after graduation. The accrediting body was held responsible for allowing the schools to employ predatory recruitment practices.

The scandal rocked the for-profit college industry, which became a target of the Obama administration. And taxpayers are still covering the fallout as the DeVos Education Department manages more than 100,000 applications for debt relief totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. On Monday, a judge in San Francisco was set to hear arguments that the department should grant full loan relief to Corinthian students. On Wednesday, an Indianapolis court is set to approve a $1.5 billion settlementfor aggrieved ITT students.

But, according to her spokesperson, Ms. DeVos is powerless in this case because of a procedural snafu in the Obama administration’s decision to suspend Acics:

Education Department officials said that despite the March report (which condemned Acics), Ms. DeVos was obligated to reinstate Acics as an accrediting body for colleges and universities because of a federal court order that had faulted the process the Obama-era department had used to terminate its recognition. A federal judge sent the decision back to Ms. DeVos for reconsideration.

“The secretary did not make the determination to reinstate Acics,” Liz Hill, a department spokeswoman, said in a statement. “This department can’t operate on or enforce a decision that was found invalid by the court.”

Many critics strongly disagree with this assertion:

Advocates say that Ms. DeVos is using the court order as a convenient excuse.

They note that the judge did not vacate the 2016 decision, and that Ms. DeVos was not compelled to reinstate Acics. The report provides the most up-to-date evaluation of the organization, which still oversees dozens of colleges. In March, Acics was accused by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, of accrediting “visa mills,” used by foreign students to come to the United States with minimal scrutiny.

“This report makes clear that Acics is a wholly unfit and unreliable evaluator of higher-education institutions,” said Robert Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a former Obama Education Department official. “Betsy DeVos may be content with ignoring the overwhelming outside consensus on Acics’s performance, but she cannot deny the expert opinions of her own staff.”

If this was the only time Ms. DeVos saw fit to overlook experts it might be possible to accept her decision. But like her predecessors, she has ignored evidence that VAM is invalid, that test-and-punish reforms have not improved public education, and that equitable funding is needed to close the performance gap between students attending affluent schools and those attending poverty-wracked schools. In this case, Ms. DeVos appears to be acting in the best interest of for-profit diploma mills that issue worthless degrees. It may just be coincidental that the man who appointed her led such an enterprise.

An Obvious Solution to the Elite NYC High School Dilemma: Add More of Them! The Impediment? $$$$

June 11, 2018 Comments off

A recent City and State article by Tom Allon and Rafeal Espinal offers an obvious solution to the problem posed by having 30,000 applicants seeking placement in NYC’s so called “elite high schools”: Open more of them! Mr. Allon and Mr. Espinal open their article describing the problem:

Every year around 30,000 8th graders take the SHSAT, the high-stakes entrance exam for New York City’s eight coveted specialized high schools.

In March, 25,000 ambitious teenagers get the disappointing news that they will not be offered admission to any of those schools.

Recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s controversial plan to increase the paltry number of African-American and Latino students in the specialized schools has been met with much criticism, particularly from the city’s growing Asian-American community. Currently, the majority of students at Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech are of Asian descent. At Stuyvesant 73 percent of the student body is Asian-American, compared to 1 percent African-American and 3 percent Latino. The citywide public school mix is much different: 26 percent African-American, 40 percent Latino and only 16 percent Asian-American.

In the zero-sum game of balancing the racial demographics at these schools, a win for one group results in a loss for another.

There solution is an obvious one. Add “…more educational jewels to the crown in the public high school system” by expanding the number of seats available! This solution would have the effect of increasing the buyer of opportunities for bright and motivated students to enroll in academically challenging programs without watering down the content and without compromising the application process.

If every child who took the test and completed the application process was assured admission to a rigorous program who would lose? The obvious answer is those who pay taxes for schools and those who believe that “choice” and “competition” are a pre-requisite for quality. Clearly the cost/pupil would increase for the 25,000 students now left out in the cold, but if the marginal cost/pupil was $1,000 the $25,000,000 increase would be pocket change for a district with a budget of $24,000,000,000 and when that cost is spread over the tax base it would be relatively inconsequential. The benefits, on the other hand, would be huge.

And Mr. Allon and Mr. Espinal offer the experience of the expansion of Bard’s High School Early College program as evidence that such an expansion would not water down the academics if more students were admitted. There are clearly more than 5,000 students who would benefit from an “elite” education…. and it’s clearly time to move forward with an expansion plan instead of perpetuating the zero-sum mentality that adds needless stress to the lives of thousands of NYC households.

 

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….

 

Politico Recaps Legislative Action in Response to Parkland Shooting— and Good Guys With Guns Won Out

May 16, 2018 Comments off

Immediately after the shooting of innocent high school students in Parkland, Florida, politicians across the country pledged to provide more mental health services in schools and many politicians— including President Trump, changed their positions on gun laws advocated by the NRA. Since then, things changed. The NRA got most legislators and the President to back off on changes to gun regulations and most states beefed up law enforcement in schools instead of prioritizing mental health services. Indeed, the President went from a position of decrying legislators for their lack of courage in standing up to the NRA to adopting a position on school safety that only NRA hardliners believed in: arming classroom teachers.

Here is Politico’s synopsis of what transpired in legislatures since the Parkland shootings, which my emphases added:

STATES BOLSTER LAW ENFORCEMENT IN SCHOOLS: With the exception of Florida, where a gunman killed 17 people at a school shooting on Feb. 14, most states have so far rejected the Trump administration’s call to expand the number of armed teachers in schools. Many, though, are opting to add school resource officers — usually armed and specially trained officers employed by a police department or other law enforcement agency to work in one or more schools.

Legislation enacted or moving through 23 state legislatures since Feb. 14 would increase the number of law enforcement officers in schools, boost their training and allow retired officers to work in schools and carry firearms. More than 30 measures on using officers in schools have been proposed by lawmakers, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eleven have been signed into law.

Roughly two-thirds of public schools across the country already have either a law enforcement officer or a guard on campus, according to recently published federal Education Department data from 2016. That represents 43 percent of students in the U.S.

Shaken by the tragedy in Parkland, Florida lawmakers enacted a school safety package that includes $67 million to establish a program under the direction of sheriffs that would arm and train school staff to assist in active shooter situations. The package would also appropriate roughly $100 million to help districts hire school-based law enforcement and $70 million for programs to boost mental health assistance. (Let me do the math for you: $167 million for guns and good-guys-with-guns vs. $70 million for “mental health assistance”.)

In Kentucky, legislators instituted a fund to award $4,000 incentives for law enforcement officers who participate in school resource officertraining. In New York, legislators increased funding for school districts to hire law enforcement officers from just over $443,000 to $1.9 million. In Colorado, the legislature set aside $30 million for school safety, which districts can used to train school law enforcement officers.

In California, legislation introduced in the state Assembly would require a school resource officer in every school, including charters. In Rhode Island, a similar bill would require an officer at every middle school and high school.

The proposals come amid concerns from civil rights groups about the potential harm of heightened law enforcement for students of color and those with disabilities. They note that more officers are already assigned to middle and high schools with mostly black students. An analysis of recent Education Department civil rights data by the nonprofit research group Child Trends found that 54 percent of black students in mostly black middle schools and high schools have school-based law enforcement or security officers. Among white students in mostly white schools, that rate is 33 percent. Mel Leonor has the full story.

At the same time as states are spending millions on security, Politico noted that in the name of “efficiency” the USDOE is scaling back it’s efforts to address civil rights litigation and consolidating departments that provide services and support to K-12 education. Meanwhile, Betsy DeVos was visiting Southern New Hampshire University and a STEM public charter school in Manchester, NH, essentially championing on-line colleges and charter schools. Something is amiss with our nation’s priorities.

Caveat Emptor Replaces Student Support at USDOE

May 14, 2018 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes has a lengthy article in today’s paper on the unwinding of a special team of USDOE investigators who were aggressively pursuing profiteers preying on unwitting students seeking to better their lot in life by getting college degrees. Among the for-profit enterprises under investigation for misleading college applicants was DeVry Education Group. Those investigations were recently suspended, which should come as no surprise since Secretary of Education DeVos has appointed a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor. But it doesn’t end there:

In addition to DeVry, now known as Adtalem Global Education, investigations into Bridgepoint Education and Career Education Corporation, which also operate large for-profit colleges, went dark.

Former employees of those institutions now work for Ms. DeVos as well, including Robert S. Eitel, her senior counselor, and Diane Auer Jones, a senior adviser on postsecondary education. Last month, Congress confirmed the appointment of a lawyer who provided consulting services to Career Education, Carlos G. Muñiz, as the department’s general counsel.

The USDOE’s decision to change it’s priorities away from aggressively investigating for profits has nothing to do with Ms DeVos’ appointments…. at least that’s what the USDOE’s communications team  reports:

Elizabeth Hill, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, attributed the reduction of the group to attrition and said that “conducting investigations is but one way the investigations team contributes to the department’s broad effort to provide oversight.” She said that none of the new employees who had previously worked in the for-profit education industry had influenced the unit’s work.

She also said the team’s deployment on student loan forgiveness applications was an “operational decision” that “neither points to a curtailment of our school oversight efforts nor indicates a conscious effort to ignore ‘large-scale’ investigations.”

As is always true in politics and life, actions speak louder than words… and the actions make it abundantly clear that a curtailment is underway and the students enticed to take out loans by false advertisements are the ones who will suffer.

If You Have a Student Loan, You Just Lost Your Watchdog

May 11, 2018 Comments off

I heard a report yesterday morning on NPR that the new acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was shutting down the student loan office of that agency, an agency that intervened on loans to unwitting veterans and first generation college students who entered into agreements that left them close to or in bankruptcy. This AP story describes the rationale for the change, which will clearly benefit only those schools  and affiliated lending agencies that offer the loans to the detriment of students who took them on. How much did the student loan office claw back from fraudulent schools and loaners?

The student loan office at the CFPB had been responsible for returning $750 million in relief.

As the story reports, most of that came from aggressive regulatory action taken on behalf of students who were bilked by Corinthian College and “…the troubled student lender Navient“. In a nation that pays lip service to the importance of a higher education and fair play, it is sad to see needed regulatory oversight reduced in the name of free enterprise. As the article indicates, tens of thousands of individuals are impacted by student loans, individuals whose spending and ability to receive credit is curtailed or imperiled:

Roughly 4.6 million Americans are in default on their student loans as of December 31, 2017, according to the Department of Education, more than double what it was four years ago. That’s more than 10 percent of the total 42.8 million Americans who currently have a student loan outstanding backed by the Department of Education.

Consumer advocates immediately denounced the change, saying the CFPB should be conducting tough oversight of the student loan industry, given its size and number of borrowers impacted, particularly young people.

“Education alone cannot stop predatory behaviors on the part of for-profit schools and servicers, nor can it help hundreds of thousands of Americans in serious debt because of these practices,” said Whitney Barkley-Denney, senior policy counsel with the Center for Responsible Lending.

Good government oversight could stop the predatory behaviors through regulation… but only if the agencies responsible for enforcement are funded. Alas, in the current administration the funds that could help underwrite the enforcement are being redirected to the profiteers.