Posts Tagged ‘College and Career Readiness’

Replacing Final Exams with Capstone Projects: Another Potential Positive from the Pandemic

April 2, 2020 Leave a comment

Tom Vander Ark has offered many potentially positive ideas on how the Covid 19 pandemic could change the landscape of public education. In this Forbes article he suggests that capstone projects might be a better means of measuring student learning than the traditional final exams given to students at the end of the school year. And what does Mr. Vander Ark mean by a Capstone project? He suggests an interdisciplinary undertaking that requires the student to show the relevance of his studies to the real world, a project that requires that they work with classmates as a team. He writes:

Big integrated projects build agency—the knowledge and confidence that you can contribute. It teaches project management, research, problem solving, writing, and presentation skills. Team projects develop collaboration skills and learners will have the opportunity to gain experience in remote working and the use of modern tools.

Mr. Vander Ark offers several examples of how this is already happening in school districts and describes various resources that are available to teachers who are interested in pursuing this direction. Now might be the time to broaden this initiative!

Do We Want to Emulate South Korea? I Don’t Think So!

March 30, 2020 Leave a comment

This article describes the obsession that South Korean parents have with a national exam that determines whether their children will be able to attend the universities or not. It strikes me that if we continue to use standardized tests as our primary metric, especially TIMMS scores, we will soon find our parents emulating the South Korean parents and our country becoming explicitly stratified based on one test. NYC is there already. There must be a better way forward!

Some Positive Consequences of Covid 19: SATs and State Standardized Tests Cancelled

March 17, 2020 Comments off

CNN reported today that the College Board announced it is cancelling the May administration of the SAT and that the ACT, which also administers college placement exams in the US, announced similar measures regarding its April test. This won’t necessarily mean the end of the use of SATs and ACTs as screening for college entry, but if students are unable to take the tests and report their scores to colleges it might accelerate the movement away from their widespread us.

And SATs are not the only standardized tests to go by the boards. Both Texas and Washington State announced that they were cancelling the administration of their standardized tests. And Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post suggests that more cancellations of tests may be in the offing:

At least 33 states and the District have closed schools, many in the middle of spring standardized testing season. States use the results for different purposes, including to meet a federal testing mandate designed to assess how schools are helping students learn. There are other tests, too, including for high school graduation, third-grade retention and school voucher eligibility.

As with the SATs and ACTs, this won’t necessarily mean the end of the use of these tests for “…high school graduation, third-grade retention and school voucher eligibility” forever… but it will allow legislators to pause and MAYBE hit the reset button on their use.


“Employer U Innovation” Reflects Diminishment of Corporate Training, Consequences of Unpaid Internships

February 23, 2020 Comments off

Brandon Bustead, the President of University Partners at Kaplan and former Executive Director of Education & Workforce Development at Gallup, wrote an op ed for Forbes magazine breathlessly describing a new innovation he calls “Employer U”. There are (at least) three problems with this article.

First is that the description of “Employer U” describes cooperative work study programs that have been in place for generations at colleges like Drexel (my alma mater), Northeastern, and Cincinnati to name a few. When I attended Drexel in the late 1960s I earned enough to pay my tuition, room and board and have enough left over to get married and begin a family…. which brings me to the second problem with Mr. Bustead’s article.

Second, corporations have side-stepped cooperative work study programs by “offering” unpaid internships to students, especially students from “brand” colleges and universities who can afford to work during the summer for free. These unpaid internships favor the children of extraordinarily wealthy families thereby eliminating an opportunity for equally talented but less affluent children to benefit from the programs.

Third, and most crucially, Mr. Bustead fails to point out that a generation ago corporations had their own training programs, programs they abandoned in the name of efficiency and reducing costs to provide shareholders with more money. Unsurprisingly, the elimination of employer-provided training coincided with the national outcry for more employment-ready high school and college graduates.

Many business-minded individuals want schools and colleges to provide better trained graduates while at the same time avoiding the payment of taxes to fund those kinds of programs AND while shedding employees in their own company who would offer such training. That kind of thinking created the problems we now have where there is a “mismatch” between graduates’ skills and corporate needs. The fix isn’t just an overhaul of post-secondary education: it’s also an increase in the wages paid to trainees in cooperative work-study programs and the willingness of corporations to pay individuals in their enterprises to train incoming workers.

Bloomberg’s Post-Secondary Blueprint is Outstanding… If Only his K-12 Thinking Changes

February 21, 2020 Comments off

I view myself as a progressive independent when it comes to politics. As such, I believe that the government should ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed in schools, which, in turn, envisions a world where all public schools are funded as robustly as those in the most affluent communities in our country. If that were the case, by the time a student has completed his or her K-12 studies, they would be capable of making an informed choice about what they want to do next with their lives. At that point, the government should ensure that every child leaving high school has an opportunity to pursue whatever additional studies are needed to take that next step.

As readers of this blog know, I do not support school choice for K-12 students as a means of creating equity. Any choice plans require full engagement of parents many of whom are working multiple jobs to make ends meet and do not have the wherewithal to engage in the complicated processes that invariably accompany choice plans. Children who are born into such families are effectively penalized because of their parents economic challenges, many of which are the result of under-education. Choice, then, reinforces the vicious circle that creates inequality. When Mike Bloomberg was mayor of NYC, he went all in on school choice the same way he went all in on stop-and-frisk.

When I read that Mike Bloomberg had a plan to address the inequities in post secondary education, I expected more of the same: maybe some kind of choice or voucher plan that would paper over the inequities that exist in college the same way his “choice” plan papered over the inequities in K-12 education. But I was wrong. Bloomberg’s framework for reforming post-secondary education is very fair and forward thinking. Here’s the Executive Summary:

Ensure that no one is denied a chance to get ahead because of the cost of college

Mike believes that college should be available to all Americans, regardless of income. Mike’s plan will enact this idea by doubling the size of Pell grants and removing current barriers of access to Pell Grants for DREAMers and formerly incarcerated students. He’ll combat the crippling student debt crisis that has handicapped a generation, cutting the cap on student-loan payments by 50% and forgiving loans tax-free after 20 years. Mike will make public college debt-free for the lowest-income students by funding the cost of attendance including real costs of college beyond tuition — including expenses for books, meals, transportation, and child care that often present barriers to degree completion.

Level the playing field so every student can achieve a high-quality higher education

Mike will end admissions legacy preferences and strengthen fairness in the college-admissions process. He’ll increase college graduation rates for low- and middle-income students by making the real costs of college more affordable, investing in evidence-based strategies to improve completion and success rates, and help more students attend and graduate from selective colleges with high graduation rates. His plan also expands direct investments into Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUS) and institutions serving students from low-income backgrounds and underrepresented groups.

Help students complete degrees and equip them to succeed

Mike will ensure graduates are equipped with skills needed for good-paying jobs while closing gaps for low-income students and underrepresented minorities. At the same time, he’ll combat food insecurity on campuses by facilitating SNAP benefits and covering all meals for low-income students through expanded Pell grants and federal and state funding. He’ll also encourage programs to re-enroll and graduate adults who have some college but no degree, then help connect those students to good-paying job opportunities. Mike will build and strengthen career-training programs and facilities at community colleges working with employers. He will also help one million students annually enroll in work-based college degree programs where students participate in paid apprenticeships and internships along with relevant courses equipping students with the skills required for good-paying jobs.

The detailed ideas he has for encouraging states to restore funding for STATE post-secondary programs is especially promising. Mike Bloomberg seems to “get” what is needed to create a level playing field for students who want to get more training and education AFTER they graduate from high school. MAYBE he will “get” the message that his plans for choice at the K-12 level are not getting it done in terms of providing equity and re-think his approach to funding at that level so that every child entering Kindergarten has the chance to avail themselves of the plans he aspires to when they graduate. My sense is that Bloomberg is stubborn when it comes to holding onto ideas (see his unwillingness to change his thinking on stop-and-frisk) but at his core he will change his thinking if he is presented with data that undercuts his position. Here’s hoping someone is preparing reams of data that show that the “choice” plan he put in place is not providing an equal opportunity for all.

Reagan National University, Approved by Accrediting Agency Closed Down by Obama, Is Now Approved. One Problem: It Has No Students, No Campus, No Faculty—

February 15, 2020 Comments off

Two USA Today reporters, Chris Quintana and Shelly Conlon, looked into Reagan National University, a for-profit college recently accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools, and saw an immediate problem: “By all appearances, at present it has no students, no faculty and no classrooms.

The article goes on to describe how Betsy DeVos restored capacity of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools to grant approval to for-profit schools after the Obama administration shut it down because of it’s lax oversight. It also describes the checkered history of “Reagan National University”, which was formerly called Northern Virginia University before that state’s accrediting board shut it down and the college relocated to South Dakota. Why South Dakota?

In some ways, South Dakota was the ideal place for Reagan. The state has among the laxest rules for colleges in the country. State officials merely ask colleges whether an accrediting group has approved them — they don’t independently hold universities accountable.

It is perversely humorous that a college named for a POTUS who championed deregulation is in existence because another POTUS who operated a flimflam college restored an inept accreditor who approved a college that intentionally sought a location in the state with the most lax regulations… It isn’t funny, though, to any of the students who enrolled in this college and took out loans to attend classes. But in the Social Darwinist world that libertarian deregulators live in caveat emptor is the rule and government should stay out of the way of the marketplace.

No Surprise Here: GPA Better Predictor of College Success Than ACT Scores

February 6, 2020 Comments off

University of Chicago reported the result of research they did on HS students who graduated from HS in 2006-2009 and then enrolled in college. Their unsurprising findings: the students‘ GPA was a better predictor of college success than their. ACT scores. One of the researchers offered this cogent explanation on why this is the case and what the impact of the findings SHOULD be;

The more that middle and high school educators can support strong engagement in school – helping students overcome barriers to engagement in class, helping them succeed at different types of academic tasks, so that they earn strong grades – the better these educators are supporting academic skills broadly and preparing students for college.