Posts Tagged ‘College and Career Readiness’

NYTimes’ Ross Douthat Laments Demise of Humanities But, Like Most Conservatives, Wants to Use Earnings a Primary Metric

January 12, 2020 Comments off

In his column in today’s NY times titled “Academic Apocalypse“, Ross Douthat laments the secularization and decline of English departments at universities and colleges across the country. One of the opening paragraphs concludes with this:

“Jobs are disappearing, subfields are evaporating, enrollment has tanked, and amid the wreckage the custodians of humanism are “befuddled and without purpose.”

Why might this be happening? Could it be that our country’s obsession with earnings might be the cause? If you want to restore humanity to the humanities the first step might be to eliminate the idea that the best metric for determine the “value of a college education” colleges is the earnings of it’s graduates. This obsession about connecting dollars earned to college degrees is, alas, embraced by both political parties, most business leaders, and most editorial boards. The “endgame” in humanities is inextricably linked to our culture’s ultimate metric of success— which is earnings and accumulated wealth. As long as we view education as the means to accumulating more and more money and “success” as accumulating more and more stuff we can expect to see the arts and humanities decline.

GPA Better Predictor of Student Success Than SAT

December 22, 2019 Comments off

As this LA Times article (–RcinYNUW-aiL_w) illustrates, grades are a better predictor of college success than SAT scores, especially grades of students attending less affluent schools. If students demonstrate their perseverance and commitment by obtaining high grades in high school they should be given the opportunity to pursue higher education in a public college or university. Note that I support this “right to fail” in college only to those who apply themselves in high school, for doing so would provide high school teachers and administrators with an incentive to encourage parents and students to apply themselves with the knowledge that if they did so they would be duly rewarded. As it stands now (or at least stood back in the day when I was a high school administrator) too many students had no confidence that they would get into college if they worked hard and, consequently, many of them gave up far too easily.

College Scorecard Provides Bogus and Worthless Data to Prospective Students, Reinforces Notion that College is All About ROI, Earning Lots of $$$

December 19, 2019 Comments off

A recent Forbes article by Kristen Moon touts the benefits of the recently redesigned USDOE’s College Scorecard. The article quotes Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ praise for the valuable new tool:

Every student is unique,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a release about the updates to the College Scorecard. “What they study, as well as when, where and how they choose to pursue their education will impact their future.”

Ms. Moon then elaborates on the Scorecard’s benefits:

Finding the best program for your chosen field of study is important, but so is finding one that gives you a good return on investment for your money. This new version of the College Scorecard helps you do both.

You might ask, “How what data does the College Scorecard provide to help every unique student find their unique path?” The answer?

A few of the key additions to the College Scorecard include:

  • Median earnings and debt for graduates, categorized by field of study at a particular school, rather than for the whole institution.

  • Graduation rates for all students, including part-time and transfer students. Previously, the Scorecard focused only on first-time and full-time graduation rates.

  • The ability to filter potential schools by acceptance rate, median standardized test scores and distance from home.

But wait, there’s even more!

By using the new “Custom Search” feature, the student can input where they want to study, what field and what degree they want to earn.

Once you have gathered your data, start to think about how much your student loan payment will be after college. Ideally, it shouldn’t be any more than 10 to 15% of your monthly paycheck. If your student loans are more than 20%, you will likely have trouble paying it off in the long run.

However, it is important to note that the median earnings data given on the College Scorecard is not a complete measure of your future earnings: The statistic indicates just the graduate’s first year in the workforce. Many fields of study have earnings that can change drastically within the first 10 years of graduating. Some professions have lower starting salaries that increase rapidly over the years, whereas others start high and don’t increase as much as time goes on.

As a liberal arts graduate who aspired to become a public school teacher and administrator who married an art major and had two daughters, one of whom works in social services and one of whom is a writer, I never thought of college in terms of a return on investment as measured by earnings. I was eager to attend college where I could explore subjects beyond those spoon fed to me as a high school student and dig more deeply into areas that I became interested in. Since I attended a college with a cooperative work-study program I was able to explore careers in engineering and business and determine that those paths were not of interest to me. Moreover, those assignments paid me enough to graduate without any debt– something that would now be impossible. Once I switched my major to liberal arts I figured once I graduated I would be able to earn a living— maybe not getting the “return on investment” I would have gotten had I stayed in a field that I found uninteresting but sufficient earnings to meet my needs.

As I’ve written in previous posts, using “return on investment” as a metric for colleges is wrongheaded. And claiming that the provision of data based on median earnings and indebtedness provides information that will help every unique student make uninformed decision is misleading at best. Students will need to do their own calculations when it comes to determining the costs and debt they will incur and— most importantly— they will need to visit the campus in person to determine if the college meets their unique needs. It may be possible to purchase a car using a spreadsheet full of data, but selecting a college requires a much more wholistic approach.

And here’s what is even more problematic: the data on the College Scorecard is incomplete! Here’s more from Ms. Moon:

While the College Scorecard is a step in the right direction for transparent data, it isn’t perfect. For example, graduates who didn’t receive federal financial aid like grants or loans were excluded. This could mean that some students were excluded based on their socioeconomic background. In addition, students who didn’t earn an income in the first year after graduating were not included in the dataset. 

The College Scorecard also uses different samples of students to calculate the median loan debt and earnings, so you should use caution when trying to compare schools accurately. Data about median earnings came from 2015 and 2016, while data regarding debt were calculated based on students graduating in 2016 and 2017.

How Forbes can tout a system that omits key information and is full of mismatched data is hard to fathom… unless the principle behind the data confirms the beliefs of those who write for Forbes and Forbes readers… all of whom evidently believe that college is all about return on investment and an imperfect metric based on that principle is better than something “soft” like learning for the sake of learning.

Time to Abandon SAT and ACT

November 26, 2019 Comments off

No surprises in this article, which indicates that the gap between children of affluent families and those raised in poverty are widening while the correlation between college success and test scores is diminishing. Time to abandon these tests!

Oregon Teachers Leaving Classrooms Over Lack of Resources… NOT “Disruptive Learning”

November 24, 2019 Comments off

My niece who teaches school in suburban Columbus OH recently posted a report from KHOU, a TV station in Houston Texas, that was reporting on the decision of many Oregon teachers to leave the classroom early. The headline of the May 2019 posting and the subhead read:

Classrooms in Crisis: Teachers retiring, resigning over disruptive learning

Teachers say they’re leaving a profession they love because of an increase in classroom disruptions.

The headline is misleading. After reading the article it is clear that the problem isn’t disruption: it’s a lack of resources. This sentence in the middle of the article says it all:

“It wasn’t the kids that made him want to stop teaching, it was the lack of resources to help them.

Teachers know what children need… and it has nothing to do with getting higher test scores, teaching coding, or spending money on guards, surveillance cameras, and “hardening” of schools. It has to do with providing help for children who show up each day distraught over the problems they face.

In our country, where we seem to feel that because SOME children can rise from adversity it is “soft” to cushion any of them when they are in school, we “harden” children the same way we harden schools. Providing visible safety measures like surveillance cameras, armed guards, wands to check students for guns, and protective fences and doors is far more appealing that spending money on invisible safety measures like more counselors, mental health professionals, and— yes– classroom teachers. Students get the message early and it is reinforced throughout their school years: the adults think it is more important to get high test scores and learn how to use technology than it is to learn how to get along with each other and to cope with stress. When students act out in school they are often acting out of frustration; out of a sense that no one cares about them and no one knows them. Time to give schools the resources they need to show students that they DO care.

Networking with Mentors COULD Offer Opportunities for Equity

November 18, 2019 Comments off

The kind of networking described in this article mirrors the kind of networking Ivan Illich envisioned in Deschooling Society. I’m glad to see technology being used for this kind of initiative.

Is the SAT About to be Abandoned? If So, Will Standardized Tests Follow?

October 15, 2019 Comments off

A recent PBS New Hour segment reported that many colleges are giving serious consideration to abandoning the use of the SAT as a primary metric for admissions. Why? Here’s one reason:

Critics of the tests have long argued that they reflect income more than ability, a chorus that is growing louder. And this year’s notorious Varsity Blues admission scandal — in which parents, through an intermediary, bribed test administrators to change test scores or let students cheat — reinforced the idea that the tests can be gamed, legally or illegally, by families with enough money.

My hunch is that there is another reason: the SAT score, viewed as a proxy for “academic excellence”, is the basis for lawsuits contending that colleges who use the test as the basis for entry are screening out many Asian-American students who attain higher scores on the tests than either African-American or legacy students.

The so-called “competitive colleges” have many high scoring students to choose from and, in some cases, more than ten times as many applicants as they need in order to sustain themselves. These schools have the luxury of picking and choosing who they want and, consequently, they select based on “diversity”. In many cases “diversity” provides a means for the colleges to avoid affirmative action challenges from African-Americans by accepting students-of-color with SAT scores that are below those of rejected Asian Americans. But “diversity” also provides a means of appeasing graduates who are large donors and whose children SAT scores are middling, a means of fleshing out orchestras, athletic teams, and a means of “creating” geographic and economic diversity in each class.

As the PBS report indicates, when “competitive colleges” ignore SAT scores it does not dilute the academic strength of the school. It DOES, however, undercut any argument that these schools are denying access to “less qualified” students at the expense of one group who consistently scores high on those tests. For Asian-Americans this abandonment of tests is, arguably, bad news. But for those who are born into poverty, who attend public high schools outside the affluent suburbs or college towns the abandonment of the SAT as a basis for entry is good news… for it forces college admissions officers to look at their applications and determine if they have what it takes to succeed in higher education.

From where I sit, the faster SATs are abandoned the better… and with any luck at all those who measure the “quality” of public schools based on standardized test scores will follow suit. If that happens, instead of defining individual “excellence” based on a single test 8th grade students seeking entry to NYC’s “competitive” public schools will be examined in a more wholistic fashion. If that happens, instead of schools receiving a “grade” based in any way on a standardized test they will be carefully assessed using a wholistic accreditation process, one that involves a self-assessment as well as an external one. Would such a system cost more money? Yes— but it would be fairer, more focussed on each student’s individual needs, and would greatly expand the opportunity for students to engage in creative activities. Here’s hoping it happens soon!