Category Archives: College Preparation

Don’t expect less of low-income minority students and their families

Esther Cepeda

We’ve heard for years that when it comes to African-Americans, Hispanics and low-income minority communities in general, expectations for academic achievement are low.

Indeed, the Center for American Progress found in 2014 that 10th-grade teachers thought African-American students were 47 percent, and Hispanic students were 42 percent, less likely to graduate college than white students.

But parents and families of these students disagree. They want public schools to be rigorous and to set high expectations for their children.

According to a new nationwide survey conducted by the Leadership Conference Education Fund on the attitudes and aspirations of African-American and Hispanic parents — who were interviewed in person and via landline and cellphone, in both English and Spanish — a third of African-Americans and a quarter of Latinos do not believe that the nation’s schools are really trying to educate low-income students in their communities.

This belief goes hand in hand with these parents’ certainty that their students should be challenged more in school than they currently are to help ensure they are successful later in life.

This could be a potentially groundbreaking insight if we can get it into the heads of teachers.

You see, educators insist they have a particularly difficult time teaching low-income and minority students because these kids tend to show up in classrooms lacking the fundamentals of a stable home — reliable schedules, quiet places to study, nutritious meals, enough sleep, the ability to control impulses — that set them up for success in the classroom

If a child doesn’t do homework and does not participate constructively in class or show the adults in school respect — perhaps because the child does not have the basic routines and resources a college-educated teacher might expect at home — it becomes easy for teachers to believe that his or her parent must not care about the child’s education.

According to Wade Henderson, the Education Fund’s president, not only are minority parents (which his group calls “new majority parents,” since students of color are the new majority in schools) highly interested in their children’s education, they are “a sophisticated group of respondents who are savvy consumers of public education, want more funding for schools and more rigor for their kids.”

Interestingly, though one might have expected such a survey to confirm that African-American and Hispanic parents prioritize racial issues at school — due to news headlines about violence in schools and the school-to-prison pipeline — the parents who responded actually listed good teachers as the No. 1 important quality, by far, of a great school. Good core curricula and parental involvement rounded out the top three.

Not to say that diversity is completely unimportant to these families — it is in the eighth spot on a list of nine factors for ensuring great schools — but it certainly takes a back seat to the same qualities that white parents expect from their schools: adequate funding, low class size and high standards.

A full 90 percent of both African-American and Latino parents said that they believe expectations for low-income students should be either the same or higher than those of other students.

And both minority groups take personal responsibility quite seriously, saying that when low-income students succeed, it is mostly because of the support they receive at home. Their student’s own hard work is seen as the next biggest reason, while few parents cited schools as the driving factor in a low-income student’s success.

This is, potentially, a revelation for school systems, administrators and teachers who have for years equated poor educational outcomes for students with a lax attitude at home about academic potential.

If the results of this survey truly reflect the mindset of minority parents, then it bodes well for schools to partner with them. After all, education leaders are always talking about how crucial parents are to the task of catalyzing changes necessary to ensure low-income community schools meet their academic potential.

At a bare minimum, these findings should provide education policymakers a new lens through which to view low-income and minority students: Don’t underestimate them — and don’t expect less of their parents and families, either.

If schools endeavor to push these kids harder and expect them to achieve on par with their white peers, they are likely to find that parents, too, will rise to the challenge of helping their students succeed.

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Lawmaker wants to bill K-12 for college remediation

Alisha Kirby:

(Tenn.) As the cost and challenge of preparing college-ready students escalates and puts new burdens on higher education – one lawmaker is proposing that districts should pay for remedial courses high school graduates must take in college.

Community colleges in Tennessee spent an estimated $18.5 million last year on remedial courses such as reading, writing and math so students could catch up before taking college-level courses.

SB 526, authored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, would require districts to reimburse colleges for the catch-up courses for students who graduated within 16 months of taking a remedial course. It excludes those who returned to college after taking time off.

Some experts say it sounds reasonable but in the end it’s more a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“At face value it’s a logical argument: The high schools are not doing their jobs, so let’s hold them accountable to make sure they do a better job,” said Bruce Vandal, vice president of advocacy group Complete College America. “But it creates a dysfunctional dynamic between K-12 and higher education that I think we’re beginning to realize is really not helpful.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t serve anybody’s purpose,” he continued. “Colleges aren’t really that excited about taking money if it means that they are disinvesting in K-12.”

The Wal-Mart-ization of higher education: How young professors are getting screwed

Keith Hoeller:

In 2009, Money Magazine published a survey titled “The 50 Best Jobs in America.” Their reporters analyzed job data and conducted an online survey of thirty-five thousand people, taking into account such factors as salaries, flexibility, benefit to society, satisfaction, stress, job security, and growth prospects. The proverbial college professor sat high on the list at No. 3, with a median salary of $70,400 for nine months’ work, top pay of $115,000, and a ten-year growth prospect of 23 percent. College teaching earned “A” grades for flexibility, benefit to society, and satisfaction, and a “B” for job stress, with 59 percent of surveyed professors reporting low stress.

While acknowledging that “competition for tenure-track positions at four-year institutions is intense,” Money claimed that graduate students with only a master’s degree could find a part-time teaching job: “You’ll find lots of available positions at community colleges and professional programs, where you can enter the professoriate as an adjunct faculty member or non-tenure-track instructor without a doctorate degree.”

Similarly, the 2000 “American Faculty Poll” conducted by the academic pension giant Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) seemed to corroborate the high job satisfaction rate for professors. “The poll found that 90 percent of the faculty members surveyed were satisfied with their career choices and would probably make the same decisions again,” reported Courtney Leatherman, in her Chronicle of Higher Education story about the survey.

Senate higher ed chair wants to make colleges earn tuition increases

Benjamin Wermund:

Seliger’s bill, filed Wednesday, would allow for tuition increases only if schools meet performance measures like four- and six-year graduation rates, first-to-second year persistence rates, first-generation college graduates, and percent of lower division semester credit hours taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty members.

Institutional targets for each of these metrics are recommended by the institutions, reviewed by the Legislative Budget Board, and approved by the Legislature, under Seliger’s bill.

Seliger’s approach marries the push to regulate tuition with calls from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to create performance hurdles for schools to earn funding.

“This bill ensures that tuition increases are justified by progress and production in rigorous standards and I expect universities to perform in exceptional fashion,” Seliger said in a statement. “Performance Based Tuition reflects the diversity in missions at our colleges and universities.”

The College of Lost Arts

Amy Crawford:

Every student in the college majors in building arts, but can choose one of six specializations: architectural stone, carpentry, forged architectural iron, masonry, plasterwork, or timber framing. The college seeks to combine a traditional liberal arts curriculum with intensive crafts training, often teaching disciplines like history or math by way of the latter; for example, history is taught with an architectural history focus.

“The graduate here has learned both the art and the science of preservation and new construction,” says Colby M. Broadwater III, a retired Army lieutenant general brought in as president in 2008 to apply some military discipline to the school’s finances. “How to build a business, the drawing and drafting that underlies all of it … the language, the math that supports the building functions, the science of why materials fail—all of those things wrapped into a liberal arts and science education.”

The hidden story behind the code that runs our lives

Paul Voosen:

Magic has entered our world. In the pockets of many Americans today are thin black slabs that, somehow, understand and anticipate our desires. Linked to the digital cloud and satellites beyond, churning through personal data, these machines listen and assist, decoding our language, viewing and labeling reality with their cameras. This summer, as I walked to an appointment at the University of Toronto, stepping out of my downtown hotel into brisk hints of fall, my phone already had directions at hand. I asked where to find coffee on the way. It told me. What did the machine know? How did it learn? A gap broader than any we’ve known has opened between our use of technology and our understanding of it. How did the machine work? As I would discover, no one could say for certain. But as I walked with my coffee, I was on the way to meet the man most qualified to bridge the gap between what the machine knows and what you know.

Hacking Oklahoma State University’s Student ID

Sam Snelling:

In 2013 I took an Information Security class at Oklahoma State University. As a final project, we were broken into teams to find a security hole, and have a plan to theoretically exploit it.

I led this project, and in early 2014, gave a presentation to key faculty and IT security on campus. As I understand it, the final solution was to take down the website (https://app.it.okstate.edu/idcard/), and not worry about the rest. Fair enough.

Here are the contents of my final report.

Teacher prep programs need to be accountable, too

Robert Pianta:

As if on cue, teacher preparation organizations, college and university education schools, and teachers unions are protesting proposed federal regulations for assessing the quality and impact of teacher preparation programs.

Over the past month, my e-mail inbox has been filled with a stream of increasingly dire pleas to join the chorus. Delayed for more than a year by a firestorm of protest, the latest round of proposed regulations is subject to the same criticisms as the previous one. The primary complaints: The regulations are burdensome and would be expensive to implement; they devalue the work of graduates who teach in non-tested grades and subjects such as special education, music or art; and they rely on state test scores that lack validity as measures of a teacher’s impact. The newest critiques also go further, claiming that the regulations would cause teacher education programs to push graduates away from teaching in more challenging schools.

Related: When A stands for average.

The progressive ideas behind the lack of free speech on campus

Wendy Kaminer:

Is an academic discussion of free speech potentially traumatic? A recent panel for Smith College alumnae aimed at “challenging the ideological echo chamber” elicited this ominous “trigger/content warning” when a transcript appeared in the campus newspaper: “Racism/racial slurs, ableist slurs, antisemitic language, anti-Muslim/Islamophobic language, anti-immigrant language, sexist/misogynistic slurs, references to race-based violence, references to antisemitic violence.”

No one on this panel, in which I participated, trafficked in slurs. So what prompted the warning?

Smith President Kathleen McCartney had joked, “We’re just wild and crazy, aren’t we?” In the transcript, “crazy” was replaced by the notation: “[ableist slur].”

One of my fellow panelists mentioned that the State Department had for a time banned the words “jihad,” “Islamist” and “caliphate” — which the transcript flagged as “anti-Muslim/Islamophobic language.”

I described the case of a Brandeis professor disciplined for saying “wetback” while explaining its use as a pejorative. The word was replaced in the transcript by “[anti-Latin@/anti-immigrant slur].” Discussing the teaching of “Huckleberry Finn,” I questioned the use of euphemisms such as “the n-word” and, in doing so, uttered that forbidden word. I described what I thought was the obvious difference between quoting a word in the context of discussing language, literature or prejudice and hurling it as an epithet.

Young researchers should take the time to educate themselves on STEM career-related statistics.

Julie Gould:

Like many PhD students in their fourth year, there are two things constantly on my mind: one is my research, and the other is my post-graduation plan. I am currently a graduate student in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) PhD programme, which is designed to be 4-5 years long. The course puts a strong emphasis on developing post-graduation plans early on, so I started researching career options in my 2nd year.

I came across some statistics from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that painted a dire picture of career prospects in academia. Coincidentally, I joined CSHL’s Bioscience Enterprise Club around the same time to learn about alternative careers, and was taken aback by the abundance of career options available for PhDs: research in industry, publishing, science writing, teaching, public policy, finance, consulting, patent law, biotech startups, and more.

Researching career options early on has given me ample time to identify rewarding career paths, and to get involved in extra-curricular activities. Having done the research, I plan on applying the data science skills that I have developed over the course of my PhD to a career in industry.

As I get closer to graduation, I find myself much more prepared for what’s to come and strongly believe that considering career options early on is crucial for any PhD student. Therefore, I would urge all graduate schools to insist that their students do the same, especially in the current academic climate. For those who haven’t been introduced to the stats, I’ve put together a short summary for you.

Educating school teachers (2006)

Arthur Levine (PDF):

This report, the second in a series of policy reports on the results of a four-year study of America’s education schools, focuses on the education of classroom teachers, the people who have the greatest impact on our children’s learning in school.

Teacher education has taken on a special urgency because the United States needs to raise both the quantity and quality of our teacher force. The country is experiencing an acute shortage of teachers. At the same time, we are asking teachers to increase student achievement to the highest levels in history in a new standards-based, accountability-driven system of education. To address both demands simultaneously is an enormous challenge, made even more difficult because the nation is deeply divided about how to prepare large numbers of high-quality teachers.

We don’t agree about what skills and knowledge teachers need or how and when teachers should learn them. This is the context for the second report. The first report focused on the education of school administrators.

The third report will examine the quality of education research and the preparation of the scholars and researchers who conduct it. The final report will be an overview of America’s schools of educa- tion, where the overwhelming majority of our school leaders, teachers, and scholars are educated.

Economists say millennials should consider careers in trades

Chris Arnold:

As the economy continues to recover, economists are seeing stark differences between people with high school and college degrees. The unemployment rate is nearly twice as high for Americans with a high school diploma as for those with a four-year college degree or more.

But economists say that doesn’t mean everybody needs a four-year degree. In fact, millions of good-paying jobs are opening up in the trades. And some pay better than what the average college graduate makes.

Learning A Trade

When 18-year-old Haley Hughes graduated from high school this past summer, she had good grades; she was on the honor roll every year. So she applied to a bunch of four-year colleges and got accepted to every one of them. But she says, “I wasn’t excited about it really, I guess.”

How bad is age discrimination in academia?

Tyler Cowen:

I believe it is very bad, although I do not have data. I believe that if a 46-year-old, with an excellent vita and newly minted Ph.D in hand, applied for academic economics jobs at the top fifty research universities, the individual would receive very few “bites.” Unless of course he or she managed to cover up his or her age. (I am very pleased with the openness of my own university, I will add in passing.)

Perhaps there are not many examples of this kind of age discrimination (do you know of any?). In part that is because older individuals are so discouraged from going down that path in the first place. Furthermore it is likely harder for older individuals to go down that path. In addition to life-cycle considerations, there may be age discrimination at the stage of graduate admissions.

I rarely hear complaints about age discrimination in academia, though I often hear complaints about gender and race discrimination. I believe all of these phenomena are real (and unfortunate), and I wonder what exactly this discrepancy indicates. If anything, I suspect age discrimination is far more extreme, at least when it comes to the final stage of the process, namely the actual interview and hiring decisions.

Former admissions director: Parents, calm down. Let Harvard go.

Susan Svrluga:

Like many who have worked in college admissions, she has heard it: All the worries from parents about “what they can do” to get their kids into Ivies.

And she has read about a cluster of suicides that some attribute to stress, pressure on achievement.

As a former admissions officer for some top schools, she has some cutting advice for parents:

Forget the top schools. Forget formulas to ace admissions. Forget achievement at all costs.

“Since 2004, student loan balances have more than tripled, at an average annualized growth rate of about 13 percent per year, to nearly $1.2 trillion, in 2014.”

Meta Brown, Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klaauw:

Our data indicate that both increased numbers of borrowers and larger balances per borrower are contributing to the rapid expansion in student loans. Between 2004 and 2014, we saw a 74 percent increase in average balances and a 92 percent increase in the number of borrowers. Now there are 43 million borrowers, up from 42 million borrowers at the end of 2013, with an average balance per borrower of about $27,000.

The heterogeneity of borrower indebtedness is very pronounced. As shown in the chart below, nearly 39 percent of borrowers owe less than $10,000, and the median balance is about $14,000. At the high end, more than 4 percent of borrowers, about 1.8 million people, owe more than $100,000.

Why do MOOCS have low completion rates?

Hacker News:

Two reasons similar/in addition to the ones already mentioned:

The obvious one: MOOCs usually involve small or no payment and are not typically part of a degree program. Everyone who has attended a traditional college has taken one or several classes where they disliked the material, the format, or the faculty but kept taking it anyway because it was a required course, they needed the credit hours to stay in good standing, or they had already paid nontrivial tuition and/or fees for it. For most MOOCs, if you are even mildly disappointed, you can just drop out with little remorse.

The second, less obvious one: on Coursera, I bookmark courses (including ones I have only tenuous interest in) months ahead by enrolling in them. Then when the course starts, I judge whether I still have the time or interest (I usually don’t), and if not, drop out. I don’t know if this is common, but if it is, then it would have an impact.

I’d also be curious to know how pacing impacts completion rates. Personally, while some platforms treat it as a selling point, I find it very difficult to complete self-paced courses.

On the other hand, some people may miss one or two deadlines in a non-self-paced MOOC and simply give up.

High-fliers in the classroom Programmes that place bright and ambitious graduates in poor schools are spreading around the world—and show what it takes to make a difference

The Economist:

“IT’S not enough to have a dream”, reads a banner over the whiteboard in Nancy Sarmiento’s Baltimore classroom. Most of her 12-year-old pupils qualify for a free or cheap lunch. About 70% of the school’s new arrivals last September had reading and mathematical skills below the minimum expected for their grade. Americans call such schools “disadvantaged”. Whatever the label, most countries have schools where most children are from poor families, expectations are low, and teachers are hard to recruit. And in most, the falling prestige of the teaching profession makes matters worse.

But Ms Sarmiento, who graduated from a four-year biology degree course a year early, had to see off fierce competition to win her teaching spot. Teach for America (TfA), the scheme that placed her, accepts just one in six applicants. It looks for a stellar academic record and evidence of traits that distinguish the best teachers in tough schools, including leadership, resilience and motivation to help the poor. Recruits get five weeks’ training and pledge to work for two years in a disadvantaged school.

Disabilities and online education

Tamar Lewin:

Advocates for the deaf on Thursday filed federal lawsuits against Harvard and M.I.T., saying both universities violated antidiscrimination laws by failing to provide closed captioning in their online lectures, courses, podcasts and other educational materials.

“Much of Harvard’s online content is either not captioned or is inaccurately or unintelligibly captioned, making it inaccessible for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing,” the complaint said, echoing language used in the M.I.T. complaint. “Just as buildings without ramps bar people who use wheelchairs, online content without captions excludes individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Jeff Neal, a spokesman for Harvard, said that while he could not comment on the litigation, Harvard expected the Justice Department to propose rules this year “to provide much-needed guidance in this area,” and that the university would follow whatever rules were adopted.

Contract teaching at a Canadian University

Andrew Robinson:

Today, I had a perfectly reasonable request from a student who wanted to review an exam from last term. I was unable to comply with this request because to do so would be to give my employer more of my time for free. As a dedicated teacher, I am extremely sad about this, because I would like to give my students the very best learning experience that I possibly can.

So what makes a mild-mannered Physics instructor turn into a seething rebel? The blunt answer is that I, along with many of my colleagues in Higher Education in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia are being shamelessly exploited by our employers. We do not have permanent jobs, we have to eke out an existence by patching together many temporary contracts to try and earn enough to survive on. We go by many different names — in Canada we are Contract Instructors or Sessional Lecturers. In the US, Adjunct Professors. We are highly qualified, I have a PhD, and often have experience outside academia. I have worked as a scientist or scientific programmer in the nuclear engineering industry and in the biosciences sector. This counts for little.

Study: Even for college-educated blacks, road to full-time work is rocky

Lolly Bowean:

Months before he graduated from college, Jeramey Winfield was sending out resumes and applying for jobs online in Chicago.

The media studies major hoped to jump from Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire right into the Chicago workforce, in marketing or event planning, so he could get his own apartment and begin helping his family financially. But after more than a year of networking, sending out applications and asking mentors for help, Winfield still doesn’t have a full-time job. In fact, he said, he’s rarely been called back for an interview.

“I had this picture in my mind of working downtown, taking the train in and contributing to my profession,” said Winfield, who often wears dapper, fitted business suits. “I had this vision of helping my mom out, since she struggled to raise five of us. I wanted to give her some relief.”

Your lifetime earnings are probably determined in your 20s

Danielle Paquet:

Ah, your 20s: A decade of self discovery, smartphone dating and shopping for IKEA coffee tables — right?

A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York sends a more sobering message to millennials: Your first 10 years in the labor market likely shape your lifetime earning potential.

“Across the board, the bulk of earnings growth happens during the first decade,” wrote economists Fatih Guvenen, Fatih Karahan, Serdar Ozkan and Jae Song, who studied the career paths of about 5 million workers over nearly 40 years.

The jump in pay could be largely driven by the steep learning curves early in your career, said Guvenen, an economics professor at the University of Minnesota.

Why Scott Walker’s allegedly mistaken attempt to change the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement is an omen for big changes to higher education in America

Alia Wong:

Last Wednesday, Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker released a biennium budget plan that had a strange twist nestled inside. This line item didn’t have much, if anything, to do with how he intended to spend the state’s money; it had no numbers, dollar signs, nor provisos. It did, however, deal ever-so-vaguely with Wisconsin’s economy—at least, what Walker envisioned it would look like down the line and how higher education would make that happen.

Walker proposed to rewrite the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement. He apparently wanted to strip out its frills (stuff like “extended training,” “public service,” improving “the human condition,” and “the search for truth”) and inject it with a more practical goal: meeting “the state’s workforce needs.”

Change is inevitable.

Was Larry Summers Right about Women in Science and Math?

Richard Bradley:

As NPR reports, a childhood friend of his, Eileen Pollack, a former scientist and now a teacher of creative writing at the University of Michigan, has written a book exploring why there are so few women in STEM fields relative to men.

After Summers’ infamous 2005 speech on the subject—a watershed in his disastrous Harvard presidency—Pollack, who knew Summers in high school, sat down to write him a long email explaining why he was wrong to suggest that women had less genetic aptitude for math and science than men do. Pollack, who says that she always considered Summers an admirer of smart women, thought he had gone very wrong on this one. The email grew into the book, The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boys Club. (The book is blurbed, by the way, by MIT prof Nancy Hopkins, who stood up and walked out of that Summers speech, one of the main reasons why it got as much attention as did.)

Pollack argues that the primary reason for the lack of women in STEM is still a lack of support from more senior figures in those fields, and from their own peers—an explanation that certainly sounds much more credible than the idea that male and female brains are hardwired differently. (As I recall, Summers also suggested that those fields are so competitive, many women would have trouble succeeding at their highest levels because of greater family obligations, whether due to choice or social mores.)

There are two models of online education

Sam Gerstanzang:

1. Preparatory knowledge, in the form of course-based video-delivered teachings: Coursera, Udacity, Thinkful, etc.

2. On demand knowledge: Wikipedia, StackOverflow, Genius, etc.

Of the two, the latter has been much more widely spread and far more influential.

What works about on demand knowledge is that it is pull based (the knowledge you need, when you need it) and comes in digestible chunks. Unlike MOOCs, which are consumed far in advance of the knowledge being applied, Wikipedia and StackOverflow are the knowledge you need, now. Humans are lazy and working ahead requires discipline and foresight, which makes on demand knowledge far more appealing to most.

How to Raise a University’s Profile: Pricing and Packaging

Kevin Carey:

One day in 2013, I sat down in a Starbucks in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington with Hugh Moren, then a junior at the nearby George Washington University. I asked him how much money he was borrowing to go to college.

“Eighty-two thousand dollars,” he said. “By the time I graduate, a hundred ten.”

The number shocked me, but not as much as the way it didn’t shock him.

Hugh Moren was born in Warwick, R.I., and like generations of smart young people raised in the country’s decaying industrial towns, he spent his adolescence plotting to leave. He wanted to study international relations and get a degree from a university with a good reputation. But his family didn’t have any money, and tuition, fees and room and board at George Washington ran almost $60,000 a year. So he borrowed as much as the federal government would lend him and went to private lenders like Sallie Mae to borrow more.

“I was given an institution and told, ‘Make this place better, and by the way, be embarrassed that you’re not Georgetown,’” says Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, former president of the George Washington University.
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Thoughts on the Technical Track

Dan McKinley:

My views on the merits of having a technical track align with those of many people in our industry. Management is a different job, with different skills. They’re not necessarily more difficult skills, they’re just different. By and large they’re unrelated to the day-to-day labor of the people who build technology products.

It doesn’t make any sense to divert your technical talent into a discipline where they will need to stop doing technical work. (That’s in the event that they intend to be effective managers, which I concede might be an unrealistic expectation.)

Other people have made this case, so I’ll just proceed as if we agree that there must be a way forward for people that are great programmers other than to simply graduate into not programming at all.

How Elementary School Teachers’ Biases Can Discourage Girls From Math and Science

Claire Cain Miller:

We know that women are underrepresented in math and science jobs. What we don’t know is why it happens.

There are various theories, and many of them focus on childhood. Parents and toy-makers discourage girls from studying math and science. So do their teachers. Girls lack role models in those fields, and grow up believing they wouldn’t do well in them.

All these factors surely play some role. A new study points to the influence of teachers’ unconscious biases, but it also highlights how powerful a little encouragement can be. Early educational experiences have a quantifiable effect on the math and science courses the students choose later, and eventually the jobs they get and the wages they earn.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The College Loan Bombshell Hidden in the Budget Obama’s new repayment program comes with a record $22 billion shortfall.

Michael Grunwald:

In obscure data tables buried deep in its 2016 budget proposal, the Obama administration revealed this week that its student loan program had a $21.8 billion shortfall last year, apparently the largest ever recorded for any government credit program.

The main cause of the shortfall was President Barack Obama’s recent efforts to provide relief for borrowers drowning in student debt, reforms that have already begun to reduce loan payments to the government. For more than two decades, budget analysts have recalculated the projected costs of about 120 credit programs every year, but they have never lowered their expectations of repayments this dramatically. The $21.8 billion revision—larger than the annual budget for NASA, or the Interior Department and EPA combined—will be tacked onto the federal deficit.

“Wow,” marveled Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “Whether or not it’s good policy to help borrowers with their payments, it’s obviously costly for taxpayers.”

The 40 million Americans with student loans are now saddled with more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding debt. And with higher education costs rising much faster than inflation, the already massive program has been growing at a spectacular clip; direct government loans alone increased 44 percent over the last two years despite an aura of austerity in Washington. The Obama administration has tried to ease the burden for some borrowers by reducing their payments to 10 percent of their income and forgiving their loans after 20 years; this year, the Education Department plans to make all borrowers eligible for that “pay-as-you-earn” relief.

College Marketing Madness

Laura Pappano:

What is college? To Madison Comer, a confident 6-year-old, it is a very big place. “It’s tall,” she explained, outlining the head of Tuffy, the North Carolina State mascot, with a gray crayon. “It’s like high school but it’s higher.”

Elizabeth Mangan, who plans to be a veterinarian because she loves her puppy, pointed out that she, too, would attend North Carolina State. “Me and Madison are going to the same college,” she said.

And what is college? “It’s someplace where you go to get your career.”

Political Posturing

Karen Herzog:

UW System leaders also lobbied for up to $200 million in one-time state money “until we have full tuition authority.” That would have reduced the cut to $100 million over two years, instead of the $300 million Walker will propose when he releases full details of his budget Tuesday.

In mid-November, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank contacted a top Walker donor and friend of UW-Madison to seek his help, according to an email she sent Nov. 15 to the UW System’s key communications and political strategist, Jim Villa, Vice Chancellor for University Relations.

Blank referred to the donor, Mike Shannon, as “one of our best friends and donors” and said she planned to fly with him and “other UW-Madison folks” to the Packers game the next day, adding “Scott and Tonette Walker are supposed to be along on the trip as well.”

Shannon is founder of KSL Capital Partners LLC in Denver,

and a board member for the University of Wisconsin Foundation.

“As he said to me, ‘I’ve been a really big donor to the Wi Republican party, but I’ve never asked anything of them since I live outside the state,'” Blank recounted to Villa.

In another email exchange between Villa and UW System President Ray Cross on Jan. 8, Villa outlined budget projections, the political landscape and strategies and options intended to be used as “notes for regent phone calls.”

“Our political strategies over the decade have varied in style and purpose from collaborative to hostile,” Villa said in the email. “We have tried to engage, cajole, prod, threaten, beg, and even initiate a statewide marketing effort. Yet, we have lost influence and suffered continuous budget cuts.”

Villa noted that UW over the past year had worked “to more tightly connect some aspects of the university to the state economy.” While those efforts received positive comments, he said, “when the state’s budget projections became dismal, our request to invest in and help to rebuild the economy of the state was tossed aside… We need a new strategy!”

Teacher Evaluation Plan Draws New Support

Caroline Porter:

A coalition of teacher-preparation groups came out at the last minute to support a controversial federal plan to track how well new teachers fare as they start teaching in the classroom.

While the groups represent a small segment of the teaching profession—only about 80,000 teachers out of millions—the move sets up a showdown with traditional players in the field.

Teachers become certified in a variety of ways, often at undergraduate- and graduate-level colleges of education. Educators and administrators at such schools have raised questions about federal overreach, the practicality of trying to keep track of every teacher’s pathway after finishing training and the accuracy of relying on metrics to grade the programs.

Urban Teacher Center, Teach For America and seven additional alternative-certification programs planned to say on Monday that proposed rules by the U.S. Education Department, intended to weed out poor teacher-training programs, are essential to improving schools.

Much more, here.

Lessons for higher education reformers

:

In response to growing concerns about the US higher education system, policymakers have launched a range of efforts to improve the system’s quality. But this
is easier said than done. The system is populated with a diverse array of programs offered through a mix of public, nonprofit, and for-profit providers. Further- more, the outcomes that students and the public care about are frequently difficult to measure and are integrally tied to the characteristics and behavior of students themselves. All these factors confound efforts to improve quality.

In reality, however, numerous sectors suffer from these challenges in one way or another. Policymakers should, therefore, look to learn from efforts to ensure quality, accountability, and consumer protection in these other sectors. In that spirit, this paper examines four sectors that face many of these same challenges: health care (with a focus on transparency efforts), workforce development (specifically, the system’s long-standing emphasis on outcome measurement and accountability), charter schools (a model of deregula- tion and delegated oversight), and housing finance (an example of risk sharing).

Sign up now for the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technologies online course

Arvind Narayanan:

At Princeton I taught a course on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technologies during the semester that just ended. Joe Bonneau unofficially co-taught it with me. Based on student feedback and what we accomplished in the course, it was extremely successful. Next week I’ll post videos of all the final project presentations.

The course was based on a series of video lectures. We’re now offering these lectures free to the public, online, together with homeworks, programming assignments, and a textbook. We’ve heard from computer science students at various institutions as well as the Bitcoin community about the need for structured educational materials, and we’re excited to fill this need.

We’re using Piazza as our platform. Here’s the course page. To sign up, please fill out this (very short) form.

The first several book chapters are already available. The course starts February 16, and we’ll start making the videos available closer to that date (you’ll need to sign up to watch the videos). Each week there will be a Google hangout with that week’s lecturer. We’ll also answer questions on Piazza.

Free speech? Not at four in five UK universities

Louise Tickle:

When Professor Thomas Scotto, of Essex University’s department of government, invited Israel’s deputy ambassador to give a talk to political science students, he hoped for “lots of disagreement: that the speaker would express his views and that the students would challenge him”.

Instead, a noisy protest outside the venue ramped up into an attempt to storm the building, students in the lecture theatre heckled the Israeli diplomat, and it became impossible for him to begin. With feelings running high, university security said they could no longer guarantee the speaker’s safety. The event had to be abandoned.

Plan for national UK college of teaching gains widespread support

Richatd Adams:

The creation of a national college of teaching – a long-held dream for bolstering the credibility of the teaching profession – has moved a step closer after unions and pillars of the education establishment announced they were backing a proposal.

Claim Your College, the coalition behind the plan, published a list of supporters that included the general secretaries of the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers, as well as prominent educators, schools, organisations such as UCL’s Institute of Education, and the Independent Schools Council, which represents private schools.

U.S. students improving – slowly – in math and science, but still lagging internationally

Drew Desilver:

Scientists and the general public have markedly different views on any number of topics, from evolution to climate change to genetically modified foods. But one thing both groups agree on is that science and math education in the U.S. leaves much to be desired.

In a new Pew Research Center report, only 29% of Americans rated their country’s K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as STEM) as above average or the best in the world. Scientists were even more critical: A companion survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that just 16% called U.S. K-12 STEM education the best or above average; 46%, in contrast, said K-12 STEM in the U.S. was below average.

Standardized test results appear to largely bear out those perceptions. While U.S. students are scoring higher on national math assessments than they did two decades ago (data from science tests are sketchier), they still rank around the middle of the pack in international comparisons, and behind many other advanced industrial nations.

Is College Worth it?

Danielle Paquette:

Earlier this month, after announcing his plan to make community college free, President Obama lauded a college degree as “the surest ticket to the middle class.”

New research in the prolific field of “Is College Worth It?” suggests it’s not that simple.

“‘Ticket’ implies a college degree is something you can just cash in,” said Alan Benson, assistant business professor at the University of Minnesota. “But it doesn’t work that way. A college degree is more of a stepping stone, one ingredient to consider when you’re cooking up your career. … It’s not always the best investment for everyone.”

Benson, along with M.I.T.’s Frank Levy and business analyst Raimundo Esteva, co-authored a new paper, released this week, examining the value of public university options in California. Factors like how long it takes to complete a degree — often longer than four years — and whether students make it to graduation, he learned, can significantly diminish the value of pursuing higher education.

The Dance of the Disrupted: Observations from the education front lines

Aswath Damodaran:

Each option has its pluses and minuses. My site will include everything I offer my regular class, including emails and announcements but it is an online site without any bells and whistles. The iTunes U site is the most polished in terms of offerings, but there is no forum for interaction and requires more work if you don’t have an Apple device. Yellowdig is a new add-on to my menu and it is a site where you will be able to access the classes and material and hopefully interact with others in the class. (You will have to register on Yellowdig and it is restrictive on what email addresses it will accept.) YouTube is the least broadband-intensive forum, since the file size adjusts to your device, but you will be able to get only the class videos (and not the material).

If you are wondering why I would disrupt businesses that I am part of, I have three responses. The first is that, with four children, I am a consumer of the products/services of these businesses and I am sick and tired of paying what I do for textbooks, college tuition and minor financial services. The second is that it is so much more fun being a disruptor than the disrupted and being in a defensive posture for the rest of my life does not appeal to me. The third is that with Asia’s awakening, we face a challenge of huge numbers and the systems (education, public and financial services) as we know them don’t measure up.

University of Texas Endowment Tops $25 Billion, Passing Yale

Michael McDonald & Lauren Streib:

The University of Texas endowment surpassed Yale University’s as the second-wealthiest in U.S. higher education, according to an annual survey released Thursday by Commonfund and the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

The value of the Texas System’s fund grew 24 percent to $25.4 billion in the year ended June 30, the biggest after Harvard University’s $35.9 billion. Yale’s endowment, which had ranked second since at least 2002, increased 15 percent to $23.9 billion.

FT’s 2015 MBA Rankings

Poets & Quants:

The year-over-year changes in MBA programs at the best business schools tend to be minuscule, if there are any changes at all. MBA experiences never undergo revolutionary change. Truth is, they evolve over time, little by little.

So it may come as a surprise when an annually published ranking that purports to measure the quality of these programs shows dramatic, if not shocking, changes in a single 12-month period.

That’s the case yet again with The Financial Times’s 2015 ranking published today (Jan. 25). Nearly one in every three–or exactly 33 of 100–experienced double-digit gains or falls. Unexplainably, the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business plunged 30 places to 85th this year from 55th only a year ago. What happened? The school got a new dean who hasn’t had time to change anything in the MBA program.

Students to Receive Free Bitcoin in McGill University ‘Airdrop’

Yessi Bello Perez:

Six hundred students at Canada’s McGill University are set to receive 30 mBTC ($7) each as part of a joint initiative to promote bitcoin adoption.

The event, launched by the McGill Cryptocurrency Club and Montreal’s Bitcoin Embassy, is due to take place in the spring and is seeking donations from the public that will be held in a multisig wallet.

The McGill Cryptocurrency Club said:

“Our hope is that by running an airdrop, we will bring more students from the informational and communal fringe into the heart of the [bitcoin] community. “

College Admissions Racket: They’re Not Going to Let You In Anyway

Janet Lorin:

After losing interest in attending the University of Chicago, high school senior Sarah Schmoller didn’t bother to apply before the Jan. 1 deadline. The university, though, wouldn’t take no for an answer. Over winter break, the school offered to extend the deadline to Jan. 5 so that Schmoller could “sleep in, and eat cookie after delicious cookie” and “take these extra days to relax a bit.” When she didn’t respond, an e-mail signed by admissions director Daniel Follmer popped up in her inbox on Jan. 7, giving her two more days. “We’re Missing Your Application,” the subject line read.

This year, at least a dozen elite colleges, including Chicago, Duke, Dartmouth, and Columbia, have offered extensions of once-sacrosanct January admissions deadlines. The University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt, and Bates are among schools whose admissions deans said they were doing so for the first time, aside from individual hardship cases or such emergencies as storms and major website failures.

Is There Money to Be Made in Oil? New Grads Don’t Think So

Zain Shauk:

Six months ago, a degree in petroleum engineering was a ticket to a job with a six-figure salary. Now it’s looking like a path to the unemployment office.

The oil crash that’s forcing companies to slash billions from their budgets and cut tens of thousands of workers is derailing an industry campaign to attract top college graduates. It comes at a time when the future of drilling is increasingly tied to new technology that lets companies pull more oil and natural gas from the ground, faster and cheaper.

University Of Texas Looks To Limit Administrative Bloat

Tom Lindsay:

Bill McRaven, the new Chancellor of the University of Texas System, has announced his intention to take a “hard look” at administrative expenses on the System’s fifteen campuses. Given the research demonstrating the decades-long explosion in administrative personnel and expenses nationwide, McRaven’s hard look promises to expose some even-harder truths about the phenomenon commonly referred to as university “administrative bloat.”

Benjamin Ginsberg’s 2011 book on the subject, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters, came as a thunderclap to the world of higher education. Forty years ago, reports Ginsberg, “U.S. colleges employed more faculty than administrators. But today, teachers make up less than half of college employees.” “Forty years ago, the efforts of 446,830 professors were supported by 268,952 administrators and staff. Since then, the number of full-time professors increased slightly more than 50 percent, while the number of administrators and administrative staffers increased 85 percent and 240 percent, respectively.” Adjusting for inflation, from 1947 to 1995, “overall university spending increased 148 percent. Administrative spending, though, increased by a whopping 235 percent. Instructional spending, by contrast, increased only 128 percent, 20 points less than the overall rate of spending increase.” Senior administrators have done particularly well under the new regime. From 1998 to 2003, deans and vice presidents saw their salaries increase as much as 50 percent, and “by 2007, the median salary paid to a president of a doctoral degree-granting institution was $325,000.”

More than 25% of students at Minnesota’s colleges must take remedial classes

Beth Hawkins, Tom Nehil and Alan Palazzolo:

In high school, Latasha Gandy was an academic star. She had a GPA of 4.2 and graduated second in her class from St. Paul Public Schools’ now-defunct Arlington High School.

But when Gandy went to enroll in college, she got a rude surprise. She needed to retake classes she’d aced in high school. She needed a costly year and a half of English and more than a year of math — for no credit.

“I remember feeling when I made it there like, ‘How can this happen?’ ” says Gandy. “I had all these thoughts about did I belong here? And everything I was hearing from my community about black people didn’t go to college.”

Not only would Gandy have to pay for the remedial, or “developmental,” classes, she wouldn’t get any credit. So there’d be no chance she could graduate in four years — especially problematic since she has two daughters to support.

Gandy eventually made it through, earning an associate’s degree as a paralegal at Inver Hills Community College and a B.A. in legal studies at Metropolitan State University. But at tremendous expense.

China Communist Party magazine blasts professors who spread ‘Western values’

Minnie Chan:

The Communist party’s influential magazine Qiushi Journal yesterday lashed out at university professors for defaming China by spreading Western values, raising concerns about academic freedom on the mainland.

A commentary by Xu Lan, an official with the publicity office of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, and posted on Qiushi’s website, criticised Peking University legal professor He Weifang for defaming the mainland’s legal system through promoting “the rule of law” on Weibo.

Xu also assailed well-known painter Chen Danqing, who also uses his Weibo account to criticise the current state of civil society on the mainland while glossing over US culture. Chen appeared to be “inducing Chinese people to go to the US”, Xu wrote.

Chen, a former art lecturer at Tsinghua University, is well-known for lampooning the differences between the legal and civil systems of the mainland and Western countries.

“It will be a disaster if we fail to set up standards and a bottom line to prevent high school and university teachers spreading Western values through internet platforms to defame our communist ideology,” Xu wrote.

He Weifang said that compared with former leaders like Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, who keenly promoted the concept of rule of law and constitutional government before the party came to power in 1949 after the civil war.

The children of the rich and powerful are increasingly well suited to earning wealth and power themselves. That’s a problem

The Economist:

“MY BIG fear,” says Paul Ryan, an influential Republican congressman from Wisconsin, is that America is losing sight of the notion that “the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life.” “Opportunity,” according to Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, “is slipping away.” Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida, thinks that “each element” of the sequence that leads to success “is eroding in our country.” “Of course you have to work hard, of course you have to take responsibility,” says Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, senator and secretary of state, “but we are making it so difficult for people who do those things to feel that they are going to achieve the American dream.” When discussing the chances of ordinary Americans rising to the top, politicians who agree about little else sound remarkably similar.

Before the word meritocracy was coined by Michael Young, a British sociologist and institutional entrepreneur, in the 1950s there was a different name for the notion that power, success and wealth should be distributed according to talent and diligence, rather than by accident of birth: American. For sure, America has always had rich and powerful families, from the floor of the Senate to the boardrooms of the steel industry. But it has also held more fervently than any other country the belief that all comers can penetrate that elite as long as they have talent, perseverance and gumption. At times when that has not been the case Americans have responded with authentic outrage, surmising that the people at the top are, as Nick Carraway said, “a rotten crowd”, with bootlegging Gatsby better than the whole damn bunch put together.

The Cobweb: Can the Internet be archived?

Jill Le Pore:

Two weeks before the crash, Anatol Shmelev, the curator of the Russia and Eurasia collection at the Hoover Institution, at Stanford, had submitted to the Internet Archive, a nonprofit library in California, a list of Ukrainian and Russian Web sites and blogs that ought to be recorded as part of the archive’s Ukraine Conflict collection. Shmelev is one of about a thousand librarians and archivists around the world who identify possible acquisitions for the Internet Archive’s subject collections, which are stored in its Wayback Machine, in San Francisco. Strelkov’s VKontakte page was on Shmelev’s list. “Strelkov is the field commander in Slaviansk and one of the most important figures in the conflict,” Shmelev had written in an e-mail to the Internet Archive on July 1st, and his page “deserves to be recorded twice a day.”

On July 17th, at 3:22 P.M. G.M.T., the Wayback Machine saved a screenshot of Strelkov’s VKontakte post about downing a plane. Two hours and twenty-two minutes later, Arthur Bright, the Europe editor of the Christian Science Monitor, tweeted a picture of the screenshot, along with the message “Grab of Donetsk militant Strelkov’s claim of downing what appears to have been MH17.” By then, Strelkov’s VKontakte page had already been edited: the claim about shooting down a plane was deleted. The only real evidence of the original claim lies in the Wayback Machine.

Princeton Is Teaching a Free Online Course About Bitcoin

Jason Koebler:

​It’s probably safe to bet that there are lots of people out there who use Bitcoin, but who don’t really know how it works. And really, why would you? There are primers and forums and news stories out there, sure, but the underlying technology and mechanisms behind cryptocurrencies aren’t exactly common knowledge yet. And that’s why ​Princeton University is offering its Bitcoin and cryptocurrency course online, for free, to anyone.

​The class, taught by Princeton’s Arvind Narayanan, Joseph Bonneau, Edward Felten, and the University of Maryland’s Andrew Miller, will be a version of a very popular course taught last year by Narayanan and will consist of 11 video lectures, various homework questions and readings, and a full-fledged textbook.

Yep, a textbook. As part of this, Narayanan says he’s working on the world’s first Bitcoin textbook, and is in talks with a publisher to release it so that other colleges can use it.

Commentary on Indefinite Tenure

Dan Subotnik:

A specter haunting the academy today is of an intellectually wizened white male professoriate refusing to step aside for au courant, energetic, ambitious, and of course diverse younger faculty. Part of a larger concern with tenure itself, the fear in question is that tenured old-timers, of which I am one, are holding fast to financial and administrative perks, limiting institutional control and stifling institutional development in the process.

Sometimes the fear is expressed openly. Intractable seniors, according to a recent, widely debated Chronicle Review post (“The Forever Professors”) often “crush the young” through their “selfish[ness].” A law school colleague argues that, having enjoyed our share of university bounty, responsible seniors should facilitate succession by quickly and gracefully exiting the stage. Such a development might be contrasted with what is actually happening today: seniors in effect extorting rich buyouts to retire.

More of the time, of course, the critique is not explicit. Yet who among us seniors has not felt the sting of “what are you still doing here, gramps” looks from junior law faculty and deans?

A visceral response to critics may be tempting here, but we must show our maturity. Beating up the young for impertinence would show both ignorance and hypocrisy. Inter-generational, oedipal struggle, we have learned, is the way of the world, and, it must be admitted, many of us felt the same way 30 years ago about our predecessors in law. They would never have gotten their jobs in the competitive environment of 1985, we self-righteously told ourselves, just like we would not get ours in today’s environment, when two good law review articles are required just for a job interview.

Education and class: America’s new aristocracy

The Economist:

WHEN the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination line up on stage for their first debate in August, there may be three contenders whose fathers also ran for president. Whoever wins may face the wife of a former president next year. It is odd that a country founded on the principle of hostility to inherited status should be so tolerant of dynasties. Because America never had kings or lords, it sometimes seems less inclined to worry about signs that its elite is calcifying.

Thomas Jefferson drew a distinction between a natural aristocracy of the virtuous and talented, which was a blessing to a nation, and an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, which would slowly strangle it. Jefferson himself was a hybrid of these two types—a brilliant lawyer who inherited 11,000 acres and 135 slaves from his father-in-law—but the distinction proved durable. When the robber barons accumulated fortunes that made European princes envious, the combination of their own philanthropy, their children’s extravagance and federal trust-busting meant that Americans never discovered what it would be like to live in a country where the elite could reliably reproduce themselves.

Now they are beginning to find out, (see article), because today’s rich increasingly pass on to their children an asset that cannot be frittered away in a few nights at a casino. It is far more useful than wealth, and invulnerable to inheritance tax. It is brains.

America is one of only three advanced countries where the government spends more on schools in rich areas than in poor ones. Its university fees have risen 17 times as fast as median incomes since 1980, partly to pay for pointless bureaucracy and flashy buildings. And many universities offer “legacy” preferences, favouring the children of alumni in admissions.

Many schools are in the grip of one of the most anti-meritocratic forces in America: the teachers’ unions, which resist any hint that good teaching should be rewarded or bad teachers fired. To fix this, and the scandal of inequitable funding, the system should become both more and less local. Per-pupil funding should be set at the state level and tilted to favour the poor. Dollars should follow pupils, through a big expansion of voucher schemes or charter schools. In this way, good schools that attract more pupils will grow; bad ones will close or be taken over. Unions and their Democratic Party allies will howl, but experiments in cities such as battered New Orleans have shown that school choice works.

Familiar themes in Madison, where one size fits all reigns, while spending double the national average per student.

Why lowering (UK) tuition fees is more complicated than you think

Chris Cook:

Labour is toying with the idea of fiddling with the English university tuition fees system, but doing so may have counterintuitive effects.

Early in the parliament, Labour said their preferred policy was to introduce a £6,000 upper limit on what universities in England can charge students each year – not £9,000, as it currently stands. But they haven’t committed to it – and there are a range of good reasons why they might not.

First, it would rile the universities. Labour has sought to soothe their concerns by promising university vice-chancellors it would make up the difference in their institutions’ income.

But this is probably not a good deal for the universities, who have no guarantee that this money – which could eventually increase the usual measure of public spending by around £2bn a year – would not be taken from their other state-backed budgets. Nor do they know how it would be distributed.

The College of Teaching: if not now, when?

Tom Bennett:

The drums of possibility are beating a hopeful tattoo – three words: College of Teaching. It’s been floating in the background for a few years now, ever since the Education Select Committee first speculated on whether such a body could work. You might not have been heard much about it, but it’s been brewing, sometimes underground, sometimes visible.

Tonight I spent my evening at the Wellcome Trust HQ (which makes the DfE seem modest and cramped) in their underground hollow volcano in Euston Square. It was host to a college consultation meeting; last Saturday, there was a consultative event for teachers in Birmingham, but today was invite only. Maybe 70 people over 13 tables; perhaps reassuringly, there were many teachers (at least one per table I heard) – albeit often management – including me, you could have rounded up the classroom teachers and quite comfortably twerked in a fridge together. Still, we’ll always have Birmingham. (The representative from the SSAT boldly described Birmingham as “like something from Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, and I’m thinking, “What the bit where John Candy wakes up in bed with Steve Martin?”)

The Goals of a Liberal Education

William Cronin:

What does it mean to be a liberally educated person? It seems such a simple question,
especially given the frequency with which colleges and universities genuflect toward this well- worn phrase as the central icon of their institutional missions. Mantra-like, the words are endlessly repeated, starting in the glossy admissions brochures that high school students receive by the hundreds in their mailboxes and continuing right down to the last tired invocations they hear on commencement day. It would be surprising indeed if the phrase did not begin to sound at least a little empty after so much repetition, and surely undergraduates can be forgiven if they eventually regard liberal education as either a marketing ploy or a shibboleth. Yet many of us continue to place great stock in these words, believing them to describe one of the ultimate goods that a college or university should serve. So what exactly do we mean by liberal education, and why do we care so much about it?

In speaking of “liberal” education, we certainly do not mean an education that indoctrinates students in the values of political liberalism, at least not in the most obvious sense of the latter phrase. Rather, we use these words to describe an educational tradition that celebrates and nurtures human freedom. These days liberal and liberty have become words so mired in controversy, embraced and reviled as they have been by the far ends of the political spectrum, that we scarcely know how to use them without turning them into slogans—but they can hardly be separated from this educational tradition. Liberal derives from the Latin liberalis, meaning “of or relating to the liberal arts,” which in turn derives from the Latin word liber, meaning “free.” But the word actually has much deeper roots, being akin to the Old English word leodan, meaning “to grow,” and leod, meaning “people.” It is also related to the Greek word eleutheros, meaning “free,” and goes all the way back to the Sanskrit word rodhati, meaning “one climbs,” “one grows.” Freedom and growth: here, surely, are values that lie at the very core of what we mean when we speak of a liberal education.

For parents, now begins the anxious waiting game for college financial aid

Jeffrey Selingo:

For the many high-school seniors who already have submitted their college admissions applications, the season of waiting for an acceptance letter has begun. For their parents, there’s a different anxiety-ridden waiting game: For the financial-aid offers that will spell out just how much this is all going to cost.

Paying for college is now a lot like buying a plane ticket. You have no idea how much the person sitting next to you is paying because most schools discount their tuition to maximize their enrollment numbers and revenue. It’s no different than the airlines trying to fill as many of their seats at the highest prices.

The average discount for first-year students at private colleges is now a staggering 46 percent. But who gets a discount and how big of one a student gets is less straightforward than ever before. It used to be that colleges awarded their own aid dollars based mostly on a student’s finances: the more your family made, the more you usually paid, unless you were an exceptional student the school really wanted.

But with more and more colleges widely employing the practice of “enrollment management” during the past three decades, the distribution of financial aid has become a lot less predictable. Now everyone, regardless of income, believes they deserve some sort of financial help. Half of colleges “front-load” their aid, meaning they give more to students the first year of college than in the subsequent years, hoping an emotional attachment will keep students enrolled.

Teacher of the Year: Consider What Children Need Most When Rewriting Our Nation’s Education Law

Lee-Ann Stephens:

As federal legislators spend the next few months battling over the provisions of the education law known as No Child Left Behind, I want them to consider this:

I am a veteran teacher and I want to be accountable. I want my school to be accountable. Not for some of our students. For all of them. Not for certain grades and select years. For every year and every grade currently required.

That means we can’t abandon the federal mandate that requires all states to administer one standardized test every year for all students in grades three to eight and at least once in high school. That means we can’t walk away from teacher evaluation systems that consider, in part, how much students learn in a given year from a given teacher.

Test Finds College Graduates Lack Skills for White-Collar Jobs

Douglas Belkin:

Four in 10 U.S. college students graduate without the complex reasoning skills to manage white-collar work, according to the results of a test of nearly 32,000 students.

The test, which was administered at 169 colleges and universities in 2013 and 2014 and released Thursday, reveals broad variation in the intellectual development of the nation’s students depending on the type and even location of the school they attend.

On average, students make strides in their ability to reason, but because so many start at such a deficit, many still graduate without the ability to read a scatterplot, construct a cohesive argument or identify a logical fallacy.

“Even if there is notable growth over four years, many students are starting at such a low point they may still not be proficient at the point of graduation,” said Jessalynn K. James, a program manager at the Council for Aid to Education, which administered the test. The CAE is a New York-based nonprofit that once was part of Rand Corp.

Collegiate Learning Assessment.

Students gain access to Stanford Admissions files

Richard Perez-Pena:

The Fountain Hopper started in September and gained a widespread following with an irreverent take on campus news, sent out two or three times a week by e-mail to most undergraduates. The students who run it soon turned their attention to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law known by the acronym Ferpa that was passed in 1974 and amended several times since. It stipulates that students have a right to see their educational records.

Not quite knowing what to expect, the Fountain Hopper leaders got several students, including some who are not involved in the newsletter, to request every record the university had on them. At least one student has received the records, and said he was surprised by what he got back: several hundred pages, including a log of every time his electronic identification card had been used to unlock a door, and those admission records.

On Thursday night, the Fountain Hopper sent messages to its subscribers, urging them to request their records and describing the process, with a set of links to click on, showing them where to send the request and how to word it. A Fountain Hopper staff member said that in less than 24 hours, more than 700 people had clicked on all of the links.

Here’s the New Way Colleges Are Predicting Student Grades

Jon Marcus:

Data algorithms cover millions of grades from thousands of students

Dupaul, the associate provost for enrollment management at Southern Methodist University, is one of a growing number of university administrators consulting the performance data of former students to predict the outcomes of current ones. The little-known effort is being quietly employed by about 125 schools around the U.S., and often includes combing years of data covering millions of grades earned by thousands of former students.

It’s the same kind of process tech behemoths like Amazon and Google employ to predict the buying behavior of consumers. And many of the universities and colleges that are applying it have seen impressive declines in the number of students who drop out, and increases in the proportion who graduate. The early returns are promising enough that it has caught the attention of the Obama Administration, which pushed for schools to make heavier use of data to improve graduation rates at a White House higher education summit last week.

The payoff for schools goes beyond graduation rates: tracking data in this way keeps tuition coming in from students who stay, and avoids the cost of recruiting new ones, which the enrollment consulting firm Noel-Levitz estimates is $2,433 per undergraduate at private and $457 at four-year public universities.

“It’s a resource issue, it’s a reputational issue, it does impact — I’ll say it — the rankings” by improving graduation rates, Dupaul says.

Predicting Educational Attainment Using Survey Item Response Rates and Coding Speed Tests as Measures of Conscientiousness

Colin Hitt & Julie R. Trivitt:

Leading research shows the importance of non-cognitive skills for educational attainment, but advances in this research have been slowed by a common data limitation: most datasets do not contain explicit measures of non-cognitive skills. We examine a new proxy for non-cognitive skills, survey item response rates. Using a detailed national survey of American adolescents, we find that the percentage of questions left unanswered is a significant predictor of educational attainment. The fewer questions left unanswered, the higher the likelihood overall that respondents will enroll in college. We replicate our analysis using a more rudimentary dataset, of the kind typically used in program evaluations, and again find that item response rates are predictive of educational attainment. We posit that survey item response rates capture conscientiousness, a personality trait that is not explicitly measured in most surveys. Thus item response rates provide a convenient measure of non-cognitive skills. We also examine another proxy for non-cognitive skills, results on a coding speed test. Coding speed is also predictive of educational attainment, independent of cognitive ability. Our results suggest coding speed also captures conscientiousness, albeit different facets of conscientiousness than item response rates. We conclude that coding speed and item response rates can both be used to measure the impact of public policy on important non-cognitive skills.

Colleges ratchet up recruiting of applicants — just to turn them down

Laura Colarusso:

When Tel Kelley began his college search, he knew he wanted to go to a big school with a top-notch sports medicine program and big-time intercollegiate teams.

But as his senior year began at Alamosa High School in Alamosa, Colorado, Kelley started hearing over and over again from about a dozen schools he’d never contacted and in which he had no interest. He estimates that each school sent him two to three emails a week, plus letters and brochures encouraging him to apply.

It’s been “overwhelming,” said the 18-year-old Kelley, an A student who has already been accepted to Oklahoma State and Arizona State universities. Now, as the emails keep pouring in, he said, “I just delete them immediately so I don’t have to deal with it.”

As college-admissions season kicks into high gear, Kelley is a target of a little-known practice among colleges and universities called “recruit to deny,” under which they try to make their admissions process look more selective by boosting their number of applicants — then turning many of them down — through hard-sell marketing techniques.

One major reason for this is that the more selective an institution appears to be, the higher it ends up in the college rankings, said David Hawkins, executive director of education content and policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, or NACAC.

“The rankings drive this,” Hawkins said. “But if the rankings went away tomorrow, you would still have college presidents, trustees, alumni, students and all sorts of other stakeholders who care about how selective their college is.”

Cracking Down on Skipping Class

Douglas Belkin:

Skipping class undetected for a game of ultimate Frisbee might become a thing of the past as more universities adopt mandatory-attendance policies and acquire high-tech trackers that snitch when students skip.

At Villanova University, student ID cards track attendance at some lectures. Administrators at University of Arkansas last semester began electronically monitoring the class attendance of 750 freshmen as part of a pilot program they might extend to all underclassman. And at Harvard, researchers secretly filmed classrooms to learn how many students were skipping lectures.

The moves reflect the rising financial consequence of skipping too many classes and, consequently, dropping out. More than four in 10 full-time college students fail to graduate in six years. Many are stuck with crippling student debt and no credentials to help them pay it back. Graduation rates also figure into closely watched school rankings.

The missing piece to changing the university culture

Maximiliaan Schillebeeckx, Brett Maricque & Cory Lewis:

As graduate students, we have become disillusioned with our academic training. We began graduate school full of ambition, drive and optimism but have long since come to realize that we have joined a system that does not meet our diverse interests. We yearn for a community that supports creativity and the expression of future career goals instead of one with a narrow, focused interest.

Current PhD training programs are focused primarily on the academic career track despite its disheartening outlook: the number of awarded PhDs is significantly outpacing the available positions1, 2, fiscal pressures have slowed the growth of available independent research jobs3 and the time it takes to earn a PhD has not improved over the past two decades4. Each year, there are seven times more PhDs awarded in science and engineering than there are newly available faculty positions (Fig. 1). As a result, only about 25% of biomedical sciences PhD recipients are in tenure-track positions five years after earning their degree4, 5. The percent of PhDs starting postdoctoral fellowships, however, has not changed, with close to 70% of life science PhDs pursuing a postdoc after graduation in 2010 (ref. 4), which suggests that PhD students are unsure of their career goals or unequipped for a nonacademic career. In addition to the discouraging job prospects, the time required to complete a PhD adds to the bleak outlook. Despite a downward trend, the average time to degree in life sciences and engineering is still high, with half of PhD candidates requiring seven years or more to complete their degree; one-third of candidates who begin will never finish1, 4. With over 40% of graduate students indifferent or unsatisfied to some degree with their graduate school experience6, it is clear that initiatives must be taken to revamp the research training paradigm.

What Students in China Have Taught Me About U.S. College Admissions

Terry Crawford:

I talk to more Chinese high school students than anyone else in the world.

At least I think I do: I operate — along with my wife — a company in China that interviews students on behalf of selective U.S. colleges and boarding schools. Instead of taking a standardized language test, a prospective student can participate in an unscripted conversation with one of our interviewers. We videotape the interview and then provide it “as-is” to admission officers. Admission officers like our interviews because they provide a trustworthy and unfiltered look at an applicant’s communication skills.

A fascinating aspect of this job is that we have a front-row seat to one of the greatest migrations of talent in history. Our thousands of conversations with students often include some variation of the question, “Why do you want to go to the U.S. for school?” Almost every interviewee responds with a version of the following: They don’t like the gaokao (the national college entrance exam), and even more they dislike the prospect of their major being determined by their gaokao score.

College Ratings and Affordable Education

Rafiq Dossani:

On Friday, December 19, 2014, the Department of Education released its much-awaited “College Ratings Framework” paper. One key goal of the proposed ratings system is to help students, particularly those who are underprivileged, make better, more affordable college choices. Will the new ratings system help achieve this goal?

There are reasons to believe that students from the middle- and lower-income tiers of society are not making affordable college choices. College debt has been rising sharply over the past several years, with $33,000 now being the average amount owed by a graduating student. For poorer students, college debt is even higher, even with financial aid factored in. Furthermore, this figure does not account for the nearly 50 percent of freshmen who will never graduate, in many cases because high college debt forced them to drop out.

Such debt seems high compared with what it should be, especially for lower-income students. The national average for annual college tuition at a four-year public college is a little less than $7,500. At a public community college, it is $3,000. However, the “net price” (i.e., including living costs and supplies), for a stay-at-home, in-state, low-income student, after considering grants and scholarships and living costs, is substantially lower. For example, while tuition at San Jose State University (which, incidentally, is the single largest source of engineers who work in Silicon Valley) is $7,500, equal to the national average, the net price for a stay-at-home student with a family income of $40,000 is $5,500. And the net price for such a student at Foothill College, a community college from which students may transfer to San Jose State University, is $3,300. In such a case, over a four-year period, a student who spends two years at the community college and then transfers to the four-year college will accumulate debt of $17,600, even if the student and his family are unable to contribute anything.

The Tyranny of Meritocracy

Lani Guinier:

The term “meritocracy” was coined by the British sociologist Michael Dunlop Young as a spoof. In his 1958 satire, The Rise of Meritocracy, 1870-2033, Young gave an imaginary account of a smug elite: Instead of ancestry, ability had determined their social position. Rule by this select few appeared both benign and bountiful because of a talent-based formula for assigning status. Test scores (or other suitable substitutes for innate talent or aptitude) mattered the most. Because those who had risen in the status hierarchy had attained their positions through talent and effort, they were better able to justify their continued rule—they had earned it.

To Young, such a testocracy was not a shining vision but a nightmare. And more than 40 years after the publication of his book, he was “sadly disappointed” at how the word he coined has “gone into general circulation, especially in the United States.” He intended to warn society about what might happen if, in assigning social status, it continued to place formal educational qualifications over all other considerations. In Young’s fictional world, anyone unable to jump through educational hoops would be barred from a new, exclusive social class as discriminatory as older ones based on inheritance.

(Homeschooled) King of Clickbait

Andrew Marantz:

When Emerson Spartz was a child in La Porte, Indiana, he had the highest batting average on his Little League team. “I quickly started seeing patterns,” he told me. His coach instructed only the fastest players to steal bases. Spartz was not fast, but he noticed that the catchers were unpracticed at throwing to second base, allowing runners to advance. “I started stealing pretty much every time,” he said. “It worked extremely well, but that wasn’t what the coach cared about, apparently.” To punish Spartz for disobedience, the coach batted him eighth. “I gave him a statistical explanation of why it made no sense to put your best hitter at the bottom of the order,” Spartz said. “You can imagine how that went over.”At school, he was a precocious student who chafed at classroom structure.

A few weeks into seventh grade, he asked his parents if he could be homeschooled. His mother, Maggi, was the breadwinner, working at a local philanthropic foundation. His father, Tom, became Emerson’s teacher.

Wisconsin saw far fewer GED graduates in 2014

Tim Damos:

The number of Wisconsinites who received a high school equivalency certification plummeted by 92 percent this year, in part due to more rigorous standards and an increase in testing fees.

Officials say the switch to a new General Education Development test this year was necessary to better prepare graduates for today’s workforce, and that there already are signs that the downward trend in graduates is beginning to reverse.

As the year came to a close, only 912 people have graduated from Wisconsin’s GED program, according to the state Department of Public Instruction. That’s a dramatic decline from 2013, when 11,378 people got their GEDs.

Madison’s Omega School, which has provided free one-on-one GED test preparation for 42 years, saw the number of graduates drop from about 139 two years ago to 15 in 2014, executive director Oscar Mireles said. In a typical year, the school has 100 graduates, half of whom are minorities.
“Students are getting frustrated,” Mireles said. “It just appears to be more daunting and they say, ‘Why should I even try.’ That’s probably the worst aspect of the change.”

Wisconsin wasn’t alone. Many other states saw a similar drop this year in the number of people seeking high school equivalency degrees, according to GED Testing Service, which contracts with states to provide the course.

The Hidden Student-Debt Bomb

Jason Delisle:

It is time to re-evaluate how we measure the performance of student-loan programs—particularly whether borrowers are or are not meeting their obligations. The traditional measures of nonrepayment—delinquencies and defaults—might be fine for most types of loans, but not for outstanding student loans, nearly all of which are held or backed by the federal government. Lawmakers have provided students with options that let them punt on repayment without triggering delinquency or default. Lately, students have been availing themselves of those options at rising levels.

The forbearance benefit, for example, lets borrowers postpone payments for up to three years. By law, loan-servicing companies have a lot of discretion to grant forbearances, and getting one usually takes only a phone call on the part of the borrower. Some borrowers might have to complete a simple form and meet a payment-to-income test. But overall it is the easiest and fastest way for a borrower to suspend student-loan payments.

Citizenship 101: Too many Americans are ignorant of the basics of democracy

Los Angeles Times:

But a growing number of critics charge that education in good citizenship is being shortchanged by an American educational system that is focused on other “core competencies.” The result is that too many products of that system are ignorant of the basics of how American democracy functions, and lack the knowledge to participate fully in the society it sustains. One of the most prominent spokespeople for this view is retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the last member of the court to have held elected office.

In a 2008 article written with former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, O’Connor argued that “civic education has been in steady decline over the past generation, as high-stakes testing and an emphasis on literacy and math dominate school reforms. Too many young people today do not understand how our political system works.”

Finland is not a fan of standardization in education. However, teacher education in Finland is carefully standardized

Pasi Sahlberg:

In the United States, for example, there are more than 1,500 different teacher-preparation programs. The range in quality is wide. In Singapore and Finland only one academically rigorous teacher education program is available for those who desire to become teachers. Likewise, neither Canada nor South Korea has fast-track options into teaching, such as Teach for America or Teach First in Europe. Teacher quality in high-performing countries is a result of careful quality control at entry into teaching rather than measuring teacher effectiveness in service.

In recent years the “no excuses”’ argument has been particularly persistent in the education debate. There are those who argue that poverty is only an excuse not to insist that all schools should reach higher standards. Solution: better teachers. Then there are those who claim that schools and teachers alone cannot overcome the negative impact that poverty causes in many children’s learning in school. Solution: Elevate children out of poverty by other public policies.

20 years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower

AEI interview with Bill Gates:

“Software substitution, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses … it’s progressing. … Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set. … 20 years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”

Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the ‘right to be comfortable’

Brendan O’Neil:

Have you met the Stepford students? They’re everywhere. On campuses across the land. Sitting stony-eyed in lecture halls or surreptitiously policing beer-fuelled banter in the uni bar. They look like students, dress like students, smell like students. But their student brains have been replaced by brains bereft of critical faculties and programmed to conform. To the untrained eye, they seem like your average book-devouring, ideas-discussing, H&M-adorned youth, but anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in their company will know that these students are far more interested in shutting debate down than opening it up.

I was attacked by a swarm of Stepford students this week. On Tuesday, I was supposed to take part in a debate about abortion at Christ Church, Oxford. I was invited by the Oxford Students for Life to put the pro-choice argument against the journalist Timothy Stanley, who is pro-life. But apparently it is forbidden for men to talk about abortion. A mob of furious feministic Oxford students, all robotically uttering the same stuff about feeling offended, set up a Facebook page littered with expletives and demands for the debate to be called off. They said it was outrageous that two human beings ‘who do not have uteruses’ should get to hold forth on abortion — identity politics at its most basely biological — and claimed the debate would threaten the ‘mental safety’ of Oxford students. Three hundred promised to turn up to the debate with ‘instruments’ — heaven knows what — that would allow them to disrupt proceedings.

The Changing Framework of Online Learning

Janet Burns:

The online learning landscape has long been dominated by Blackboard, Pearson, and other large corporate platforms, which have provided virtual classrooms, hosted online course content, and supported discussion features for various on- and off-line colleges and universities. In the past several years, however, many new platforms — some reinventing the traditional pay model, and others providing free content — have arrived on the scene, taking root in their own right and changing the face of web-based education.

As higher-education writer Justin Pope noted in MIT’s Technology Review, options for online learning are forever expanding; for-profit platform Coursera and edX, the Harvard- and MIT-led nonprofit consortium, for example, “are up to nearly 13 million users and more than 1,200 courses between them.” Content from free online platform Khan Academy — borne of humble beginnings as a YouTube series — is now being incorporated into classroom learning worldwide, and made Lifehack’s list of its top 25 preferred sites for free online courses alongside Udemy, which also offers material from various sources, and Harvard Extension, one example of institution-specific course platforms. The New York Institute of Finance (NYIF), too, recently announced its plans to transition all of its test-prep courses into an online-only format as of January 2015 using the Open edX platform, making it one more in a long line of traditional institutions to take the online learning plunge.

It’s time parents accept not all kids should go to college

Dustin McKissen:

“Not every kid is meant for college.” That statement, or some close variation of it, is something I hear and read more and more. It’s usually followed by a comment on the debt associated with a degree, the need for kids to learn a trade, and the role schools should play in identifying and directing those kids toward job training, so they can be equipped to go to work out of high school.

There is no data showing that the average person stands a better chance in the employment market without a degree than with one. There are multiple studies that demonstrate the lifetime value of a bachelor’s degree—or put another way, the cost of not being meant for college.

The Cost of Higher Ed: How Changing Staffing and Compensation Impact Tuition

American Institute for Research:

Colleges and universities increasingly rely on part-time faculty to meet instructional demands and rein in costs, but that hasn’t led to lower tuitions for students.

In this video interview, Donna Desrochers, a researcher at AIR, explains how rising benefit costs and increased hiring for other types of positions has undercut those savings and what that means for rising college tuitions. Desrochers is the co-author of the report by the Delta Cost Project at AIR called Labor Intensive or Labor Expensive? Changing Staffing and Compensation Patterns in Higher Education.

The Changing Selectivity of American Colleges

Caroline Hoxby:

If one spends time at certain colleges’ events, one is likely to hear alumni exclaim that their college is so selective today that they would not be admitted were they to reapply. Similarly, one might hear parents worry that their children are forced into excessive resume polishing because American colleges are increasingly selective. These alumni and parents often assume that rising selectivity is a pervasive phenome- non, and they often also assume that it is caused by colleges’ not having expanded sufficiently to accommodate the ever growing population of U.S. students with post- secondary ambitions. The latter assumption—that the supply of college places has been relatively inelastic despite a growing population of prospective students—would seem to explain rising tuition. Thus, rising selectivity and rising tuition would seem to be part of the same logical phenomenon affecting higher education.

The way in which students develop their skills will continue to shift away from the traditional lecture-based model

Ioanna Opidee:

What college students are learning—and how—has become a mainstream talking point across the political spectrum.

Much of this talk concerns dollars and cents—namely, cost and payoff. As a result, 2015 may be a year in which many institutions do a gut-check of their own value propositions, as pressure to increase affordability—and return on investment—pervades all of higher education. College graduates’ debt and unemployment rates also will continue to garner close attention.

“Institutions will have to do a better job of linking students and graduates to the workforce,” says Michelle Weise, a senior research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute. She predicts that more collaboration between colleges and employers will emerge, particularly in high-demand fields seeking specialized skills.

How academia’s liberal bias is killing social science

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry:

have had the following experience more than once: I am speaking with a professional academic who is a liberal. The subject of the underrepresentation of conservatives in academia comes up. My interlocutor admits that this is indeed a reality, but says the reason why conservatives are underrepresented in academia is because they don’t want to be there, or they’re just not smart enough to cut it. I say: “That’s interesting. For which other underrepresented groups do you think that’s true?” An uncomfortable silence follows.

I point this out not to score culture-war points, but because it’s actually a serious problem. Social sciences and humanities cannot be completely divorced from the philosophy of those who practice it. And groupthink causes some questions not to be asked, and some answers not to be overly scrutinized. It is making our science worse. Anyone who cares about the advancement of knowledge and science should care about this problem.

That’s why I was very gratified to read this very enlightening draft paper written by a number of social psychologists on precisely this topic, attacking the lack of political diversity in their profession and calling for reform. For those who have the time and care about academia, the whole thing truly makes for enlightening reading. The main author of the paper is Jonathan Haidt, well known for his Moral Foundations Theory (and a self-described liberal, if you care to know).

Theresa May plans to ‘send home UK foreign graduates’ met with anger and condemnation

Nigel Morris:

Plans by Theresa May to force students from outside the European Union to leave Britain and apply for new visas from abroad provoked anger and condemnation today.

The Home Secretary is pressing for the policy to be included in next year’s Conservative general election manifesto. It will be opposed by Labour and the Tories’ Lib Dem Coalition partners and will cause dismay in the Treasury and the Business Department because of the revenue generated overseas students.

Yvette Cooper MP, the shadow Home Secretary, said: “Theresa May is flailing around with her immigration policy in chaos. Her net migration target is in tatters, illegal immigration and exploitation are getting worse, she’s given citizenship to serious criminals and the only answer she can come up with is a few more restrictions on the overseas University students who bring billions of pounds of investment into Britain.

December 22, 2014 11:39 am Thunderbird terminates MBA degrees as part of ASU takeover

Della Bradshaw:

Thunderbird, the Arizona business school that is widely regarded as the most international school in the US, is to terminate all its MBA programmes following its takeover by Arizona State University. Programmes at ASU’s Carey school of business will be unaffected by the moves.

The deal between the two institutions was finalised last week, following months of negotiations. Former IMD professor Allen Morrison has been named chief executive and director-general of Thunderbird.

Thunderbird will now concentrate on masters degrees in international management, according to ASU President Michael Crow. “We are restoring the historical focus,” he says. In addition, Thunderbird will be able to draw on the resources of the wider university for its executive education programmes in areas such as sustainability, according to Prof Crow.

Students lose out in University numbers game

Los Angeles Times:

If you thought the deluge of holiday catalogs and charitable solicitations this season was overwhelming, consider what high school seniors confronted this fall: hundreds of mailers from colleges and universities suggesting that they apply and implying they might have a shot, even if they haven’t met the schools’ high standards.

UC’s Muslim student regent tackles Bill Maher, tuition and more
UC’s Muslim student regent tackles Bill Maher, tuition and more
Why so much marketing? It is largely the result of the college rankings compiled by publications, most notably U.S. News and World Report, that offer extra weight in their listings to schools with low “admit rates” — those that offer admission to relatively few of the students who apply. There was a time when this sort of selectivity may have been an indicator of actual educational excellence, at least in part. But thanks to the rankings-driven race among colleges to appear increasingly choosy, it’s no longer so clear what the admit rate means.

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Schools are now lowering their admit rate by inveigling more students into applying — thus the shower of mailers, as well as hundreds of emails and the occasional telemarketing call. And it works, to the detriment of parents’ wallets. Today, partly because of all the marketing and recruitment, students are applying to about twice as many colleges as they did 15 years ago. As admission rates have dropped to as low as 5% among the most elite colleges, students have applied to even more of them. It’s no longer very unusual for a student to file applications to 15 schools, at $80 or so a pop. (Though a few colleges are upping the number of applicants further by making the process free and pushing their deadlines later.)

2015: Reimagine College

Stuart Butler:

In 2015 we are likely to see such a full-blown invasion and transformation of higher education. This will have profound and beneficial consequences for the education and finances of millions of young Americans and their parents.

Pressure for change and the signs of radical reorganization of college and universities have been gathering in recent years, with such things as the growth of online course, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and upstart colleges offering low-cost degrees. The higher-education establishment has ignored or tried to dismiss the warning signs – just as travel agents and the old phone companies did.

But 2015 could open the floodgates. If you have a child in middle or high school, here are four things you can expect to see when you are planning for their college in the next few years:

K-12 cannot be far behind.

Distribution of results of the Matura (high school exit exam) in Poland in 2013. The minimum score to pass is 30%. (

Data is Beautiful:

[–]captainskybeard 1752 Punkte 6 Monate zuvor
I love how, with a simple visualization, it’s immediately and completely obvious what is happening in the data.

To those who don’t get it: graders are bumping up students who are just below the 30% pass line. Essays are subjective so they have some grading flexibility.

I’ll never forget failing a class with 49% and then finding out a few weeks later that one of the other students (and likely many more) had been bumped up to 50% despite having an even lower grade.

The reason I failed? I wanted to learn the actual subject but the teacher had an agenda and was using all of the class time to show anti-racism videos so I complained to the principal. So how did she justify giving me 49%? Arbitrary grading criteria on essays. My mark went from an 86% at mid-term to a 49% by the end of the term as every single essay handed it was failed with no explanation other than she thought “I could do better.”

Now, I’m not opposed to anti-racism, but when it’s the focus of every single class in a class that has nothing to do with racism and I’m not learning the subject itself because we’re too busy watching anti-racism videos, that’s a problem. That was two decades ago and I still get annoyed when the subject comes up.

Err, as true as all of it may be, why did you have such a low grade? I understand her not bumping you up because she’s a bitch and you were a pain in her ass (rightfully so, sure), but why was your score so low that such a situation would be possible?

If you were smart enough to be aware of the problems with the teacher, why couldn’t you get a higher grade? Did she fail you on purpose or something, I mean I get you would never get a 100% on that class but why didn’t you have a 70 or 80?

“In 2014, only 39.1 percent of student who had entered community colleges six years before had completed a degree or certificate”

Stacy Teicher Khadaroo:

A number of colleges have made changes that are starting to lead more students to degrees, but states need “integrated reform strategies” to scale up promising new approaches, the report concludes.

“We know that colleges can redesign themselves in ways that … improve student success … [but] there is no silver bullet,” says Lara Couturier, JFF’s program director. “We need to look more holistically at the environment in which the colleges are operating,” she says.

Eight to 10 states already have a group of community colleges that are creating new “structured pathways” for students, Ms. Couturier estimates. These include elements such as counseling about which courses will help them earn the degree they seek, faster tracks to credit-bearing courses while they catch up on academic skills, and easier ways to transfer credits to four-year institutions.

Percentage of Bachelor’s degrees conferred to women, by major (1970-2012)

Randall Olson:

One oft-cited problem with Computer Science is its glaring gender disparity: In a given Computer Science class, men will outnumber women as much as 8 to 2 (20% women). This stands in stark contrast to most other college majors, which have women outnumbering men 3 to 2 on average (60% women). This observation made me wonder: Are other STEM majors suffering the same gender disparity?

To get at that question, I checked into the NCES 2013 Digest of Education Statistics and looked at the gender breakdown from 1970-2012 for every major they report on. I charted the data below to offer a bird’s eye view of the trends. You can download the cleaned data set here.

College ratings draft light on details

Alie Grasgreen:

The highly anticipated draft release issued Friday morning was delayed twice before officials settled on an “end of the fall” deadline. (The winter solstice is Sunday.) It’s largely a list of things the department is considering in its analysis of which institutions offer students and families the biggest bang for their buck.

And half the metrics — all of which aim to measure accessibility, affordability and outcomes — can’t even be measured right now. All told, it could be at least a few years before the system that the Obama administration envisions will be in place, though the plan is to rate more than 4,000 two- and four-year colleges by the start of the next academic year. And it will have to survive any challenges by Congress or the next administration.

“The question is, will we actually see ratings for the 2015-16 school year,” said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University and expert on college ratings. “I’d be surprised … to be honest.”

But in the draft, the department didn’t back down from that schedule. Officials want more input on the ratings framework, which they say was “based on extensive consultation with stakeholders and experts,” and are taking comments through Feb. 17.

Should the Government Rate Our Colleges?

Robert Kelchen:

Should the federal government be in the business of rating colleges? And can it do them right?

That’s been a question ever since the summer of 2013, when President Obama announced the Department of Education’s new plan to score American colleges—a source of intense controversy in the world of higher ed that could explode again in the days ahead, as the department gets set to release a draft of the metrics that will be used to calculate federal college ratings.

A poll released by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed last year found that only 16 percent of 675 surveyed college presidents said the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS), as it’s called, is a good idea, compared to 65 percent who said it is not. The powerful American Council on Education, a professional association representing much of the nonprofit higher education community, said in a statement earlier this year that “many question whether rating colleges is an appropriate role for the federal government to play, and most believe it is nearly impossible for the federal government to do such a thing with any degree of reliability or validity.” And members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle have expressed concerns about the ratings’ goals.

Sizing Up the College Rating System

Kevin Carey:

Last year, President Obama announced that his administration would, by the beginning of the 2015 academic year, rate America’s colleges “on who’s offering the best value, so students and taxpayers get a bigger bang for their buck.”

Then the president charged the Department of Education with figuring out how, exactly, to build a rating system so that schools that enroll low-income students and give them a good, affordable education would be rewarded and recognized while those that don’t would be penalized and shamed.

This has proved to be a complicated task.

GOP gives feds’ college rating plan an F

Stephanie Simon and Allie Grassgreen:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said he sees rating colleges as “a financial and moral obligation,” meant to help families make wise choices and to ensure taxpayers’ $150 billion annual investment in student aid isn’t squandered.

But GOP critics frame the rating plan — expected Friday — as yet another example of arrogance and imperialism from the White House. They argue that it’s not just presumptuous, but logistically impossible for the Education Department to assess the quality of so many institutions, ranging from Harvard to Honolulu Community College.

And they have some powerful allies in their corner, including several higher education trade associations and numerous college presidents, some of whom have been quietly lobbying their representatives for months — not that it took a lot of lobbying to rouse opposition to the ratings. Republicans on the Hill were already up in arms over the administration’s proposed crackdown on for-profit career-training colleges, calling it an unwarranted intrusion into the free market.

The MBA is losing its magic

Terence Tse and Mark Esposito:

hat is the staying power of an MBA education? Why year after year do students sign up for the countless MBA programmes across the world? Are they after new skills? Maybe. Eager to learn about the latest academic research output? Unlikely. Keen to go through a learning experience? Possibly. In search of a networking opportunity? Most certainly.

But perhaps a principle motive is to boost their career prospects. The notion that the harder you work, the higher you will climb the corporate — and therefore social — ladder is rooted in our DNA. Very often, this also translates into the higher you are in the corporate echelons, the more successful you are. For many, an MBA degree promises to deliver this; for anyone wishing to progress in their career, just get an MBA and its magic will do the rest.

The SAT is meaningless because it’s so easy to game

Jessica Brondo Davidoff :

I scored a perfect 1600 when I took the SAT test in 2004.

A year after graduating from Princeton, I founded and ran The Edge in College Prep, an elite test preparation and admissions counseling company. Now, as the founder of Admittedly, a college advisory platform and an expert on these high stake tests, I’m convinced they shouldn’t be such a large part of the higher education decision-making game.

There are many, many reasons to take issue with these tests. But one of the reasons which resonates most with me is that it is so easy to improve someone’s score by 20%, 30% even 40%. That kind of improvement shouldn’t even be possible on a test that is supposedly designed to measure aptitude.

Matt Pommer:

The post-World War II baby boom swept into American colleges in the 1960s, driving up total taxpayer costs and sending officials looking for financial answers.

Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, was making headlines. It was enrolling thousands of students, many of them who had attended other schools and were getting second chances. At one point, Parsons College reportedly was paying the highest faculty salaries in America.

Wisconsin business leaders decided Parsons might have the financial answers for the state’s public universities. Companies dispatched their corporate planes to Madison to take officials, legislators and reporters for a junket to Iowa.

What they found was a year-round trimester program and faculty required to spend most of their time in classrooms. The college had a limited number of academic majors. Before the decade was done, Life magazine printed an expose of the college and it lost its accreditation. The college went bankrupt in 1973.

Why the Admissions Office May Be Part of the Problem of College Access

Jon Boeckenstedt:

Access to college is a hot issue these days, with policy makers and colleges looking for ways to enroll more low-income, first-generation, and minority students. Many people see the admissions office as a key part of the solution. But as a longtime admissions professional, I suspect just the opposite is true: That the admissions office, especially at highly selective institutions, is the agent that keeps these students out of college in the first place, by creating a game that is heavily skewed in favor of students from high-income, well-educated families.

I don’t believe that this is a matter of purposeful, overt discrimination, but rather a reliance on traditional means of evaluating students coming out of high school, and our own belief about what will make a student successful.

I’m a fan of digging into the numbers to better understand trends—something I do regularly on my blog, Higher Ed Data Stories. And these days the data are clear: If your parents are educated, you have a much better chance of being educated too.

A black hole for our best and brightest

Jim Tankersley:

The thing Deborah Jackson remembers from her first interviews at Goldman Sachs is the slogan. It was stamped on the glass doors of the offices in the investment bank’s headquarters just off Wall Street, the lure of the place in two words, eight syllables: “Uncommon capability.”

Jackson joined Goldman in 1980, fresh from business school and steeped in the workings of government and finance. She found crackerjack colleagues and more business than she could handle. She worked in municipal finance, lending money to local governments, hospitals and nonprofits around the country. She flew first class to scout potential deals — “The issue was, can you really be productive if you’re in a tiny seat in the back?” — and when the time came to seal one, she’d welcome clients and their attorneys to Manhattan’s best restaurants.

Can a simple algebra test predict programming aptitude?

Jenni White:

Every year since the establishment of Computer Science in the 1960s, 30-60% of CS college majors have failed their Introduction to Computer Science course because they simply could not learn to program. Despite hours of studying and tutoring, most of these underperforming students struggle with, and many ultimately give up on, programming as a career

As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up

Claire Cain Miller:

A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.

Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years — allowing machines to mimic the human mind — are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise. Even with the economy’s recent improvement, the share of working-age adults who are working is substantially lower than a decade ago — and lower than any point in the 1990s.

Americans Want Democratic Candidates Who Will “Modernize the Teaching Profession”

Laura Waters:

Third Way, a global research group, has a report today on a recent survey that asked voters what they want to hear from Democratic candidates on the American public education system. The authors note that as recently as twenty years ago, Democrats were widely trusted by voters on education issues, but that support has faltered. Currently, Democratic candidates best GOP candidates by only eight points when voters consider which party will more reliably protect and improve public education. Regard for teacher unions has fallen as well:
In addition, to the extent that the endorsement of teachers’ unions was crucial in the past to a Democratic candidate’s election, the numbers no longer tell that story. Only 20% of voters say they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who is endorsed by the national teachers’ unions—a mirror image of the 21% who say that endorsement would make them less likely to support that candidate. A solid majority of voters (54%) say it would make no difference, including 59% of Democrats, 59% of Independents, 62% of liberals, and 46% of teachers.