A refreshing new book chronicles how teachers are made—not born–and what it will take to move the U.S. into the next frontier of education reform.
If you have time to read only one chapter of one book this fall, consider the first pages of Building A Better Teacher, a new book by journalist Elizabeth Green. It opens with you—the reader–temporarily cast as the protagonist. You’re a teacher walking into a 5th grade classroom. It sounds contrived, I know, and yet it works.
“Your job, according to the state where you happen to live and the school district that pays your salary,” Green writes, “is to make sure that, sixty minutes from now, the students have grasped the concept of ‘rate.’”
What do you do?
In this way, we walk through the hundreds of micro-decisions a teacher must make in a single hour. Do you call on Richard, a new African-American student who says he hates math but has his hand raised anyway? If he’s wrong, will he shut down for the rest of class?
You call on Richard. His answer makes no sense to you. Do you correct him yourself right away? Or do you call on the white girl next to him who has the right answer more often? You decide to ask the rest of the class if anyone can explain what Richard was thinking. No one responds. You feel the dread creep in. But then Richard speaks up. “Can I change my mind?”
For the average graduate, going to college is a wonderfully profitable investment. The evidence is unambiguous. Even after subtracting tuition and all the years of foregone salary, the pay boost from a degree will still pay for itself, and then some. The problem is that the “average” college student doesn’t really exist; she’s an imaginary amalgam of state school grads and Ivy League alums, of education majors and engineering nerds.
Once you ignore averages, and start looking across the entire earnings spectrum, the question of whether higher education is financially worthwhile for everybody becomes more complicated. Recently, researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York noted that the bottom 25 percent of college degree holders basically earn no more than the median worker who ended his or her education after high school.
“HARD work might pay off after time,” says the adage, “but procrastination will always pay off right now.” While inherently plausible, it would be unwise to adopt this advice as a lifestyle guide. The possible consequences of such a strategy have been spelt out in a paper just released by the University of Warwick in Britain.
David Arnott, a professor at the university’s business school, says he long believed that late submissions were reflected in lower grades. With a colleague, he devised a study looking at 777 undergraduate marketing students over a five-year period. It tracked the submission of online essays for end-of-term assignments for two modules: one from the first-year, the other the third-year (no students were included in both groups).
The pair were concerned that students’ study habits, particularly a tendency towards procrastination, could have a detrimental impact on their grades. This would mean that tests were, in effect, not only a measure of their marketing knowledge, but also of their propensity to put things off. If true, simple interventions like varying the nature of submissions or simply warning students of the perils of procrastination could raise grades.
This summer, Chad Mason signed up for online general psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This spring, Jonathan Serrano took intro to psychology online at Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey.
Though the two undergraduates were separated by more than 600 miles, enrolled in different institutions, and paying different tuitions, they were taking what amounts to the same course. That’s because the course wasn’t produced by either school. Instead, it was a sophisticated package devised by publishing giant Pearson PLC and delivered through a powerful online platform called MyPsychLab.
In a study that preceded the one to be described here, my colleague Gina Riley and I surveyed parents in unschooling families—that is, in families where the children did not go to school and were not homeschooled in any curriculum-based way, but instead were allowed to take charge of their own education. The call for participants for that study was posted, in September, 2011, on my blog (here) and on various other websites, and a total of 232 families who met our criteria for participation responded and filled out the questionnaire. Most respondents were mothers, only 9 were fathers. In that study we asked questions about their reasons for unschooling, the pathways by which they came to unschooling, and the major benefits and challenges of unschooling in their experience.
I posted the results of that study as a series of three articles in this blog—here, here, and here—and Gina and I also published a paper on it in the Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning (here). Not surprisingly, the respondents in that survey were very enthusiastic and positive about their unschooling experiences. They described benefits having to do with their children’s psychological and physical wellbeing, improved social lives, and improved efficiency of learning and attitudes about learning. They also wrote about the increased family closeness and harmony, and the freedom from having to follow a school-imposed schedule, that benefited the whole family. The challenges they described had to do primarily with having to defend their unschooling practices to those who did not understand them or disapproved of them, and with overcoming some of their own culturally-ingrained, habitual ways of thinking about education.
Here’s what makes strong, happy families:
1) Create a family mission statement
I asked Bruce what he would recommend if he could only give one piece of advice.
He said: “Set aside time to talk about what it means to be a part of your family.”
Ask: “What are your family values?” In business-speak: Develop a mission statement for your family.
Favorite books are something friends like to share and discuss. A Facebook meme facilitates this very interaction. You may have seen one of your friends post something like “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard. They do not have to be the ‘right’ books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.” If not great works of literature, what are the books that have stayed with us?
The following analysis was conducted on anonymized, aggregate data.
To answer this question we gathered a de-identified sample of over 130,000 status updates matching “10 books” or “ten books” appearing in the last two weeks of August 2014 (although the meme has been active over at least a year). The demographics of those posting were as follows: 63.7% were in the US, followed by 9.3%in India, and 6.3% in the UK. Women outnumbered men 3.1:1. The average age was 37. We therefore expect the books chosen to be reflective of this subset of the population.
Teachers are some of our most dedicated public servants. Many inspiring educators have changed lives for the better in Madison’s public schools. But their union is a horror.
Madison Teachers Inc. has been a bad corporate citizen for decades. Selfish, arrogant, and bullying, it has fostered an angry, us-versus-them hostility toward parents, taxpayers, and their elected school board.
Instead of a collaborative group of college-educated professionals eager to embrace change and challenge, Madison’s unionized public school teachers comport themselves as exploited Appalachian mine workers stuck in a 1930s time warp. For four decades, their union has been led by well-compensated executive director John A. Matthews, whom Fighting Ed Garvey once described (approvingly!) as a “throwback” to a different time.
From a June 2011 Wisconsin State Journal story:
[Then] School Board member Maya Cole criticized Matthews for harboring an “us against them” mentality at a time when the district needs more cooperation than ever to successfully educate students. “His behavior has become problematic,” Cole said.
For years, Madison’s school board has kowtowed to Matthews and MTI, which — with its dues collected by the taxpayer-financed school district — is the most powerful political force in Dane County. (The county board majority even rehearses at the union’s Willy Street offices.)
Joe Zepecki, Burke’s campaign spokesman, said in an email Wednesday that he couldn’t respond officially because Burke has made clear that her campaign and her duties as a School Board member are to be kept “strictly separate.” However, on the campaign trail, Burke says she opposes Act 10’s limits on collective bargaining but supports requiring public workers to pay more for their benefits, a key aspect of the law.
John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., said the contracts were negotiated legally and called the legal challenge “a waste of money and unnecessary stress on district employees and the community.”
The lawsuit came a day after the national leader of the country’s largest union for public workers labeled Walker its top target this fall.
“We have a score to settle with Scott Walker,” Lee Saunders, the union official, told The Washington Post on Tuesday. Saunders is the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. A spokeswoman for Saunders did not immediately return a call Wednesday.
AFSCME has seen its ranks in Wisconsin whither since Walker approved Act 10. AFSCME and other unions were instrumental in scheduling a 2012 recall election to try to oust Walker, but Walker won that election by a bigger margin than the 2010 race.
“When the union bosses say they ‘have a score to settle with Scott Walker,’ they really mean Wisconsin taxpayers because that’s who Governor Walker is protecting with his reforms,” Walker spokeswoman Alleigh Marré said in a statement.
Kenosha School District over teacher contracts after the board approved a contract with its employees.
In Madison, the School District and School Board “are forcing their teachers to abide by — and taxpayers to pay for — an illegal labor contract with terms violating Act 10 based upon unlawful collective bargaining with Madison Teachers, Inc.,” a statement from WILL said.
Blaska, a former member of the Dane County Board who blogs for InBusiness, said in addition to believing the contracts are illegal, he wanted to sue MTI because of its behavior, which he called coercive and bullyish.
“I truly believe that there’s a better model out there if the school board would grab for it,” Blaska said.
MTI executive director John Matthews said it’s not surprising the suit was filed on behalf of Blaska “given his hostile attacks on MTI over the past several years.”
“WILL certainly has the right to challenge the contracts, but I see (it as) such as a waste of money and unnecessary stress on district employees and the community,” said Matthews, adding that negotiating the contracts “was legal.”
In August, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Act 10 constitutional after MTI and others had challenged its legality. At the time, union and district officials said the contracts that were negotiated before the ruling was issued were solid going forward.
Under Act 10, unions are not allowed to bargain over anything but base wage raises, which are limited to the rate of inflation. Act 10 also prohibits union dues from being automatically deducted from members’ paychecks as well as “fair share” payments from employees who do not want to be union members.
Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said Wednesday the district has not yet received notification of the suit being filed.
“If and when we do, we’ll review with our team and the Board of Education,” she said.
School Board vice president James Howard said the board “felt we were basically in accordance with the law” when the contracts were negotiated and approved.
A lawsuit targeting the Madison School District and its teachers union is baseless, Madison School Board member and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said Thursday.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday by the conservative nonprofit Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty on behalf of well-known blogger David Blaska alleges the school district, School Board and Madison Teachers Inc. are violating Act 10, Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s signature law that limits collective bargaining.
The union has two contracts in effect through June 2016. Burke voted for both of them.
“I don’t think there is a lot of substance to it,” Burke said of the lawsuit. “Certainly the board, when it negotiated and approved (the contracts), it was legal then and our legal counsel says nothing has changed.”
At any rate, Esenberg said, he doesn’t consult with Grebe, Walker or anyone else in deciding what cases to take on.
“The notion that we think Act 10 is a good idea because it frees the schools from the restraints of union contracts and gives individual employees the right to decide whether they want to support the activities of the union — that shouldn’t surprise anyone,” Esenberg said.
WILL is not likely to prevail in court, Marquette University Law School professor Paul Secunda told the Wisconsin State Journal. “They negotiated their current contract when the fate of Act 10 was still up in the air,” said Secunda, who also accused Esenberg of “trying to make political points.”
Esenberg contends the contract always was illegal.
The school board, district and union knew they could not negotiate anything more than wage increases based on inflation under the law, the lawsuit alleges. Despite the institute’s warnings, they began negotiations for a new 2014-15 contract in September 2013 and ratified it in October. What’s more, they began negotiating a deal for the 2015-16 school year this past May and ratified it in June, according to the lawsuit.
Both deals go beyond base wage changes to include working conditions, teacher assignments, fringe benefits, tenure and union dues deductions, the lawsuit said.
Taxpayers will be irreparably harmed if the contracts are allowed to stand because they’ll have to pay extra, the lawsuit went on to say. It demands that a Dane County judge invalidate the contracts and issue an injunction blocking them from being enforced.
“The Board and the School District unlawfully spent taxpayer funds in collectively bargaining the (contracts) and will spend substantial addition(al) taxpayer funds in implementing the (contracts),” the lawsuit said. “The (contracts) violate the public policy of Wisconsin.”
“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).
WEAC (Wisconsin Teacher Union Umbrella): 4 Senators for $1.57M.
Understanding the current union battles requires a visit to the time machine and the 2002 and the Milwaukee County Pension Scandal. Recall elections, big money, self interest and the Scott Walker’s election in what had long been a Democratic party position.
The 2000-2001 deal granted a 25% pension “bonus” for hundreds of veteran county workers. Another benefit that will be discussed at trial is the controversial “backdrop,” an option to take part of a pension payment as a lump-sum upon retirement.
Testimony should reveal more clues to the mysteries of who pushed both behind the scenes.
So what does it mean to take a “backdrop?”
“Drop” refers to Deferred Retirement Option Program. Employees who stay on after they are eligible to retire can receive both a lump-sum payout and a (somewhat reduced) monthly retirement benefit. Employees, upon leaving, reach “back” to a prior date when they could have retired. They get a lump sum equal to the total of the monthly pension benefits from that date up until their actual quitting date. The concept was not new in 2001, but Milwaukee County’s plan was distinguished because it did not limit the number of years a worker could “drop back.” In fact, retirees are routinely dropping back five years or more, with some reaching back 10 or more years.
That has allowed many workers to get lump-sum payments well into six figures.
Former deputy district attorney Jon Reddin, at age 63, collected the largest to date: $976,000, on top of monthly pension checks of $6,070 each.
And, Jason Stein:
The Newsline article by longtime legal writer Stuart Taylor Jr. alleges that Chisholm may have investigated Walker and his associates because Chisholm was upset at the way in which the governor had repealed most collective bargaining for public employees such as his wife, a union steward.
The prosecutor is quoted as saying that he heard Chisholm say that “he felt that it was his personal duty to stop Walker from treating people like this.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has requested to speak with the former prosecutor through Taylor and has not yet received an answer.
In a brief interview, Chisholm denied making those comments. In a longer statement, an attorney representing Chisholm lashed out at the article.
“The suggestion that all of those measures were taken in furtherance of John Chisholm’s (or his wife’s) personal agenda is scurrilous, desperate and just plain cheap,” attorney Samuel Leib said.
U.S. News & World Report published its influential annual list of the nation’s best colleges earlier this month, with Princeton University topping the 2014 rankings. Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the methods and metrics used by the magazine:
Step 1: Schools are weighed on a scale
Step 2: Researchers calculate each campus’ student-to-student ratio
Step 3: Any college whose colors are maroon and gold is immediately eliminated
Step 4: Analysts aggregate incoming freshmen’s SAT, ACT, and COWFACTS test scores
Step 5: Number of library books probably factors in somewhere around here
Step 6: Quick visit to colleges to see who has “We Love U.S. News & World Report” banners up
The tech course enrolled almost 820 students for the current fall semester to become the school’s largest class in at least a decade.
The college campus that once (briefly) hosted future tech luminaries Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg as students is now overrun with tech-curious scholars.
The most popular fall-semester course at Harvard is “Introduction to Computer Science I,” according to data put out by the school’s registrar’s office, with almost 820 undergraduates enrolled in the class this semester. That total is the highest in the three decades the course has been offered and it’s the biggest class offered at Harvard in at least a decade, according to The Harvard Crimson.
Vassar has taken steps to hold down spending on faculty and staff. Amherst and the University of Florida have raised new money specifically to spend on financial aid for low-income students. American University reallocated scholarships from well-off students to needy ones. Grinnell set a floor on the share of every freshman class – 15 percent – whose parents didn’t go to college.
Over the last decade, dozens of colleges have proclaimed that recruiting a more economically diverse student body was a top priority. Many of those colleges have not matched their words with actions. But some have.
These colleges have changed policies and made compromises elsewhere to recruit the kind of talented poor students who have traditionally excelled in high school but not gone to top colleges. A surprising number of such students never graduate from any college.
This past June, I graduated from the University of Waterloo’s Software Engineering program. After 5 long and difficult years, I’m extremely proud to say that I’m a Waterloo grad, and very proud of my accomplishments and experiences at the school. Somewhat surprisingly, myself and most of my classmates were able to graduate from a top-tier engineering school with zero debt. (I know this might sound like a sales pitch – stick with me here.)
Waterloo is home to the world’s largest cooperative education programs — meaning that every engineering student is required to take at least 5 internships over the course of their degree. Most take six. This lengthens the duration of the course to five years, and forces us into odd schedules where we alternate between four months of work and four months of school. We get no summer breaks.
One of the most important parts of Waterloo’s co-op program is that the school requires each placement be paid. Without meeting certain minimum requirements for compensation, a student can’t claim academic credit for their internship, and without five internships, they can’t graduate. This results in Waterloo co-op students being able to pay their tuition in full (hopefully) each semester. In disciplines like Software Engineering, where demand is at an all-time high and many students are skilled enough to hold their own at Silicon Valley tech giants, many students end up negotiating for higher salaries at their internships.
It’s easy to be cynical about government surveillance. In recent years, a parade of Orwellian disclosures have been making headlines. The FBI, for example, is hacking into computers that run anonymizing software. The NSA is vacuuming up domestic phone records. Even local police departments are getting in on the act, tracking cellphone location history and intercepting signals in realtime.
Perhaps 2014 is not quite 1984, though. This course explores how American law facilitates electronic surveillance—but also substantially constrains it. You will learn the legal procedures that police and intelligence agencies have at their disposal, as well as the security and privacy safeguards built into those procedures. The material also provides brief, not-too-geeky technical explanations of some common surveillance methods.
I teach theory and practice of social media at NYU, and am an advocate and activist for the free culture movement, so I’m a pretty unlikely candidate for internet censor, but I have just asked the students in my fall seminar to refrain from using laptops, tablets, and phones in class.
I came late and reluctantly to this decision — I have been teaching classes about the internet since 1998, and I’ve generally had a laissez-faire attitude towards technology use in the classroom. This was partly because the subject of my classes made technology use feel organic, and when device use went well, it was great. Then there was the competitive aspect — it’s my job to be more interesting than the possible distractions, so a ban felt like cheating. And finally, there’s not wanting to infantilize my students, who are adults, even if young ones — time management is their job, not mine.
Kimberley Ellis Hale has been an instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., for 16 years. This summer, while teaching an introductory course in sociology, she presented her students with a role-playing game to help them understand how precarious economic security is for millions of Canadian workers.
In her scenario, students were told they had lost their jobs, their marriage had broken up, and they needed to find someplace to live. And they had to figure out a way to live on just $1,000 a month.
Imagine that on Day 1 of a difficult course, before you studied a single thing, you got hold of the final exam. The motherlode itself, full text, right there in your email inbox — attached mistakenly by the teacher, perhaps, or poached by a campus hacker. No answer key, no notes or guidelines. Just the questions.
Would that help you study more effectively? Of course it would. You would read the questions carefully. You would know exactly what to focus on in your notes. Your ears would perk up anytime the teacher mentioned something relevant to a specific question. You would search the textbook for its discussion of each question. If you were thorough, you would have memorized the answer to every item before the course ended. On the day of that final, you would be the first to finish, sauntering out with an A+ in your pocket. And you would be cheating
A group of Camden public school advocates and parents has filed a lawsuit against the state education commissioner, saying he did not properly assess the “financial and segregative impact” of approving two Renaissance schools to open in the city.
Mastery and Uncommon Schools were approved July 7 by acting Commissioner David Hespe and opened elementary schools earlier this month.
Save Our Schools New Jersey, a group that has frequently been critical of the new administration of the state-run district, has asked Hespe to rescind his approval of the schools.
The lawsuit claims the Renaissance schools would drain traditional public schools of needed funds and exclude disabled and minority students – an impact they say the commissioner failed to consider in his one-page approval.
Mastery and Uncommon, along with KIPP, which was approved in 2012, have contracts with the district to collectively serve more than 9,000 students in the district of 15,000 by 2024.
Of the 15,000 students, 11,500 currently are in traditional public schools and 3,500 are in charter schools.
“The schools must not be allowed to open . . . under a cloud of constitutional and statutory uncertainty,” said Princeton-based attorney Richard E. Shapiro in a letter to Hespe days before the suit.
The lawsuit was filed Aug. 21, but Save Our Schools member and Camden mother MoNeke Ragsdale, one of three people named as complainants in the suit, said the group wanted to wait until after the school year started to announce the legal action.
I can’t say it was the stress-induced puking that caused my wife and I to finally pull our son from his brick-and-mortar charter school. We’d been contemplating yanking him from a classroom setting for the past year or so. Over the summer, we ran him through a battery of academic tests and encouraged him to study math and Spanish online. The results were enlightening, but we thought he might be a little young for a full online education. And then the nervous tic developed as the start of school approached. That decided us well before he barfed at the thought of the next day’s schedule of classes.
Anthony’s (he started insisting on his full name) charter school is a good effort of the type. During a July meet-and-greet, the school principal and his teacher were amenable to a flexible approach—especially one that takes into account the flawed math genes I handed off to him. He grasps some lessons about math, while others on exactly the same concepts might as well be written in Sanskrit. They said they’d work with him. And they tried.
But a classroom is fundamentally a classroom. It has a structured day, and a bunch of kids requiring the divided attention of a teacher. The kids are part of a group, and mostly they’re taught as part of that group.
And my kid is now twitching and puking at the thought of school. This does not work for me.
“The great irony is that Act 10 has created a marketplace for good teachers,” said Dean Bowles, a Monona Grove School Board member.
Fellow board member Peter Sobol said though the law was billed as providing budget relief for school districts and local government, it could end up being harder on budgets as districts develop compensation models that combine their desire to reward good teachers and the need to keep them. Knowing how many teachers each year will attain the leadership responsibilities and certifications that result in added pay will be difficult.
Monona Grove is developing a career ladder to replace its current salary schedule. The new model is still being drafted by a committee of district administrators, school board members and teachers, but its aim will be to reward “increased responsibility, leadership, ‘stretch assignments’ and other contributions to the district and school missions,’ ” according to the district.
“We thought we could do better,” Monona Grove School District superintendent Dan Olson said, adding that the message to parents is that with the new model, “we’ll be able to keep our good teachers.”
Bowles said the process should result in a district being a place that might not offer the highest pay in the state, but be a place teachers want to work.
“ ‘Attract and retain’ is one of the goals on that list, and in my judgment that does not boil down to” just salary, he said. “It’s also, ‘This is a place I hope you want to be,’ and our kids will benefit from it.”
Ironically, Madison rates not a mention….
Amanda Ripley talked about her book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. In her book she followed three American high-school students who each spent a year in a high-scoring foreign school system, in Finland, South Korea, and Poland.
She spoke in the Science Pavilion of the 2014 National Book Festival, which was held August 30 by the Library of Congress at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. close
Ripley mentioned that in her observation principals spend up to half their time on sports matters.
Getting more kids to code has been a cause célèbre for the technology industry for some time. Teaching programming skills to children is seen as a long-term solution to the “skills gap” between the number of technology jobs and the people qualified to fill them.
From this month, the UK is the guinea pig for the most ambitious attempt yet to get kids coding, with changes to the national curriculum. ICT – Information and Communications Technology – is out, replaced by a new “computing” curriculum including coding lessons for children as young as five.
By the way, Turner’s daughter is trying out the walk to school because the 18-block journey, which takes six to eight minutes in a car, takes 55 minutes on the school bus. She’s the first on and the last off, commuting two hours a day to get 18 blocks. It takes half an hour to walk it. Last year, her parents drove her every day, but now they’re trying the walk.
“This morning was my first on walking duty,” Turner wrote. “Spent the entire walk explaining to our 9yo all the different ways cars had been prioritized. Because I want her to have plenty of ammo for future therapy.”
Two blocks from Turner’s house on a walkable street with a sidewalk they come face to face with the car-centric, ped-hostile design he was talking about: this “outsized intersection” with “gas station sliplanes, ped markings beyond faded.”
Kentucky State University said that it had no other choice but to drop 645 students for not making their required tuition payments.
The school said the unpaid money had added to the college’s $7 million deficit.
According to the university, some students’ balances were as high as $40,000 and had stretched over a two-year period.
Interim President Raymond Burse said KSU had tried to contact and counsel students over the past 18 months for not meeting their financial obligations.
In the spring of 2008, William Deresiewicz taught his last class at Yale. In the summer of 2008, he published an essay explaining how an Ivy League education had messed up his life, and the lives of his students.
Elite schools, Deresiewicz argued, give their students an inflated sense of self-worth. They reward perfectionism and punish rebelliousness. They funnel timid students into a handful of jobs, mostly in consulting and investment banking (and now Teach for America). For a real education, he went on to suggest, you might want to head to one of the wonkier liberal arts colleges, or to a state school.
For those sensitive to the advantages of Deresiewicz’s pedigree (a B.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia, followed by 10 years on Yale’s English faculty), this might sound like a rarefied form of whining. But Deresiewicz’s essay took off. Then an undergraduate at Yale, I remember reading it with a quiet mix of amazement and horror. A former professor could say this stuff? About us?
In his new book, “Excellent Sheep,” Deresiewicz expands his argument into a full-on manifesto about the failures of the meritocracy. His timing is good. Ambitious families continue to arm their children with APs, SAT prep courses and expensive admissions advisors. At the same time, despite big financial aid packages, the student bodies at elite schools remain staggeringly affluent.
WITH the news dominated by stories of Americans dying at home and abroad, it might seem trivial to debate how history is taught in our schools. But if we want students to understand what is happening in Missouri or the Middle East, they need an unvarnished picture of our past and the skills to understand and interpret that picture. People don’t kill one another just for recreation. They have reasons. Those reasons are usually historical.
Last month, the College Board released a revised “curriculum framework” to help high school teachers prepare students for the Advanced Placement test in United States history. Like the college courses the test is supposed to mirror, the A.P. course calls for a dialogue with the past — learning how to ask historical questions, interpret documents and reflect both appreciatively and critically on history.
To the Los Angeles juvenile authorities in 1923, Edward Dmytryk was an ordinary runaway trying to escape a vicious father who tore up his schoolbooks and clubbed him with a two-by-four. Mr. Dmytryk wanted his 14-year-old son back — if only, as the caseworker suspected, because Edward brought home vital income.
While the authorities deliberated, a letter arrived from Professor Lewis Terman, the nation’s most famous psychologist and the man who had planted the term “IQ” in America’s vocabulary. He wasn’t a relative or family friend; he had never even met the boy. But the Stanford professor believed Edward deserved a break because he was “gifted” — a word Terman coined to describe the bright kids he devoted his life to researching.
Edward’s high score on an IQ test had qualified him for Terman’s pathbreaking Genetic Study of Genius. Terman, who had grown up gifted himself, was gathering evidence to squelch the popular stereotype of brainy, “bookish” children as frail oddballs doomed to social isolation. He wanted to show that most smart kids were robust and well-adjusted — that they were, in fact, born leaders who ought to be identified early and cultivated for their rightful roles in society.
Though the more than 1,000 youngsters enrolled in his study didn’t know it at the time, they were embarking on a lasting relationship. As Terman poked around in their lives with his inquisitive surveys, “he fell in love with those kids,” explains Albert Hastorf, emeritus professor of psychology. To the group he always called “my gifted children” — even after they grew up — Terman became mentor, confidant, guidance counselor and sometimes guardian angel, intervening on their behalf. In doing so, he crashed through the glass that is supposed to separate scientists from subjects, undermining his own data. But Terman saw no conflict in nudging his protégés toward success, and many of them later reflected that being a “Terman kid” had indeed shaped their self-images and changed the course of their lives.
Philosopher John Locke warned that children should not be given too much “unwholesome fruit” to eat. Three centuries later, misguided ideas about child-rearing are still rife. Many parents fret that their offspring will die unless ceaselessly watched. In America the law can be equally paranoid. In South Carolina this month Debra Harrell was jailed for letting her nine-year-old daughter play in a park unsupervised. The child, who had a mobile phone and had not been harmed in any way, was briefly taken into custody of the social services.
Ms Harrell’s draconian punishment reflects the rich world’s angst about parenting. By most objective measures, modern parents are far more conscientious than previous generations. Since 1965 labour-saving devices such as washing machines and ready meals have freed eight hours a week for the average American couple, but slightly more than all of that time has been swallowed up by childcare. Dads are far more hands-on than their fathers were, and working mothers spend more time nurturing their sprogs than the housewives of the 1960s did. This works for both sides: children need love and stimulation; and for the parents, reading to a child or playing ball games in the garden is more fulfilling than washing dishes.
AS 16 million young adults set off for college this fall, they are looking at some frightening statistics. Despite the ever-rising cost of getting a degree, one number stands out like a person shouting in a campus library: According to a recent poll conducted by AfterCollege, an online entry-level job site, 83 percent of college seniors graduated without a job this spring. Even when these young people finally do get jobs, the positions are often part time, low wage or not related to their career interests. The problem isn’t the quality of higher education in the United States, so what’s missing?
Two years ago, in a full-blown panic, I asked myself this exact question when I realized that my eldest daughter, a recent college graduate, had no idea what the world was about to demand of her. She had gone to a good school and done well as a student, but had never thought about her future in a structured way, and I realized what she was missing — an education in career training.
THE Liceo Bicentenario San Pedro is a modern secondary school in Puente Alto, a gritty district of Santiago in Chile. Opened in 2012, the school nestles amid the vestiges of a shantytown where urban sprawl meets the vineyards of the Maipo valley. Most of its pupils are drawn from families classed as “vulnerable”. Yet in national tests it ranks fourth among municipal (ie, public) schools in Chile.
The school has done well by hiring committed young teachers and by offering them more time for preparation and in-service training, according to Germán Codina, the mayor of Puente Alto. When Bello strolled around the liceo recently, he saw teachers who visibly commanded the attention of their pupils. Sadly, it is far more common in Latin American schools to see inattentive children talk among themselves while a teacher writes on the blackboard. It is schooling by rote, not reasoning. And it imposes an unacceptable handicap on Latin Americans.
Inhale. Exhale. Jeff Buttars looked around the tiny pre-surgical room and reminded himself to keep breathing. As his chest rose and fell, so did his spirits. His wife, Tiernae, appeared calm, confirmation that this decision was the right one. His infant son, William, stirred and beamed, a soft expression that landed hard. I’m leading a lamb to slaughter, Jeff thought. Inhale. Exhale. The sound of his measured breaths drowned out the room’s ambient beeping and buzzing but could not hush the ripple of doubt.
Jeff gathered the baby in his arms, and the family made its way toward a set of swinging metal operating-room doors. On the ground a few feet in front of the doors, a swath of yellow tape marked the threshold to the unknown. In the days leading up to William’s surgery, the choice the yellow line represented had seemed clear, but as they walked forward, it now appeared blurred.
Are you praying hard enough? Jeff’s brother had asked, meaning well. Are you listening for the answer? The prayers—are they the right ones? As though there existed a combination Jeff had not yet considered. A financial professional who worked in the home-loan sector, Jeff made it his business to eyeball numbers, size-up odds, and foresee outcomes. Probability begat prophecy in his world. Now little of that mattered. The decision he was making with his wife affected not a stranger but their baby, and the potential outcomes (slow death, fast passing, a medical miracle), he believed, were in the hands of God.
spent the majority of this summer at Middlebury College, studying at l’École Française. I had never been to Vermont. I have not been many places at all. I did not have an adult passport until I was 37 years old. Sometimes I regret this. And then sometimes not. Learning to travel when you’re older allows you to be young again, to touch the childlike amazement that is so often dulled away by adult things. In the past year, I have seen more of the world than at any point before, and thus, I have been filled with that juvenile feeling more times then I can count—at a train station in Strasbourg, in an old Parisian bookstore, on a wide avenue in Lawndale. It was no different in Vermont where the green mountains loomed like giants. I would stare at these mountains out of the back window of the Davis Family Library. I would watch the clouds, which, before the rain, drooped over the mountains like lampshades, and I would wonder what, precisely, I had been doing with my life.
I was there to improve my French. My study consisted of four hours of class work and four hours of homework. I was forbidden from reading, writing, speaking, or hearing English. I watched films in French, tried to read a story in Le Monde each day, listened to RFI and a lot of Barbara and Karim Oullet. At every meal I spoke French, and over the course of the seven weeks I felt myself gradually losing touch with the broader world. This was not a wholly unpleasant feeling. In the moments I had to speak English (calling my wife, interacting with folks in town or at the book store), my mouth felt alien and my ear slightly off.
In 1996, Richard Freeland looked across the sea of crumbling parking lots that was Northeastern University and saw an opportunity few others could. As the school’s new president, he had inherited a third-tier, blue-collar, commuter-based university whose defining campus feature was a collection of modest utilitarian buildings south of Huntington Avenue, with a sprinkling of newly plant.
The university had been a victim of many things, most notably federal cutbacks—rolled out in the mid-’80s—that had left many colleges scrambling for money to close their budget gaps. These cutbacks, combined with dwindling enrollment, had forced Northeastern’s previous president, Jack Curry, to slash the budget and cut 875 jobs in the early 1990s. When he announced the layoffs to his staff, Curry burst into tears. “To say it was an institution in turmoil would be an understatement,” says a vice provost from that time.
But Freeland, the man who had helped successfully launch UMass Boston over the previous two decades, had a plan. Freeland believed that if Northeastern could justify its increased costs to students and parents, it could be saved. And one gauge consistently determined a college’s value: its position on the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” rankings. Freeland observed how schools ranked highly received increased visibility and prestige, stronger applicants, more alumni giving, and, most important, greater revenue potential. A low rank left a university scrambling for money. This single list, Freeland determined, had the power to make or break a school.
I’m not yet qualified to give general life advice to kids, but I would like to share one simple piece of advice that I would’ve liked to hear when I was a kid:
Find something you genuinely enjoy doing for its own sake, stick with it, keep learning more about it, and after a decade or so, you can’t help but get good at it and feel proud of yourself.
This is my own personal take on the popular 10,000-hour rule, which claims that it takes around 10,000 hours of intense practice to become an expert in a particular topic. For instance, top-notch musicians, artists, athletes, scientists, and other experts in their respective fields all share a common experience: They practiced consistently and with high intensity for over 10,000 hours, often starting at a young age. That amounts to practicing for 4 hours every weekday for a decade straight, which takes tremendous passion and perseverance.
Students heading into their first year of college this year were generally born in 1996.
Among those who have never been alive in their lifetime are Tupac Shakur, JonBenet Ramsey, Carl Sagan, and Tiny Tim.
On Parents’ Weekend, they may want to watch out in case Madonna shows up to see daughter Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon or Sylvester Stallone comes to see daughter Sophia.
For students entering college this fall in the Class of 2018…
1. During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center.
2. Since they binge-watch their favorite TV shows, they might like to binge-watch the video portions of their courses too.
In China, it takes blood, sweat and months of studying dictionaries to become a Character Hero.
Millions tune in every week to watch teenagers compete for the title. Character Hero is a Chinese-style spelling bee, but in this challenge, young contestants must write Chinese characters by hand.
Every stroke, every dash must be in the correct spot.
After two tense rounds, Wang Yiluo is bumped from the contest. She bows to the panel of celebrity judges and quickly exits the bright lights of the television studio.
Backstage, she admits that she spent months studying dictionaries to prepare for the contest. The stakes were high; at 17, this was the last year she could appear on the show.
“I wanted to compete before I was too old,” she explained.
Today the Washington Monthly releases its annual College Guide and Rankings. This is our answer to U.S News & World Report, which relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige for its rankings. Instead, we rate schools based on what they are doing for the country — on whether they’re improving social mobility, producing research, and promoting public service. This fall, the Obama administration will release its plan to rate America’s colleges and universities based on measures of access, affordability and outcome, similar metrics to those used by Washington Monthly for years.
The Washington Monthly’s unique methodology yields striking results.
* Only two of U.S. News’ top ten schools, Stanford and Harvard, make the Washington Monthly’s top ten. Yale, Columbia, Brown and Cornell don’t even crack our top 50.
* Instead, the University of California – San Diego (our #1 national university for the fifth year in a row) and the University of Texas – El Paso (unranked by U.S. News but #8 on our list) leave several members of the Ivy League in the dust.
* While all the top twenty U.S. News universities are private, 14 of the top twenty Washington Monthly universities are accessible, affordable, high-quality public universities.
All my classes were getting ready to take their first quiz later in the week. My second period class was the second-year Algebra 1 class. We were working on systems of linear equations covering the various ways of solving two equations with two unknowns.
I was preparing for my second period class by looking over the upcoming quiz and identifying the questions that most students would likely get wrong. As I reached the disturbing conclusion that this would be almost all the questions, Sally, the District person who talked to the math teachers about Common Core the day before school began, stuck her head in the door and asked if I had done any of the activities she had talked about that day. These were discovery-oriented projects that lead students to explore certain topics (specifically: probability, repeating decimals, and solving systems of equations) while allowing teachers to do formative assessments. Which means evaluating students by observing them “communicate and defend their thinking”.
University of Wyoming professor Peter Thorsness didn’t used to pay much attention to how much the introductory biochemistry textbooks on his syllabus cost. He knew they were expensive, but he expected that students would use them over and over as a reference.
Then his daughter went to college. Since then, “I know what things cost,” Thorsness said. And that’s changed how he thinks about his own textbook assignments.
Recently, Thorsness and other faculty members picked one textbook — Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry — that students could use for three courses in sequence, so they wouldn’t have to spend more each semester. And Thorsness knows the exact bookstore price: $277.
The price of college textbooks has been rising rapidly for decades — much faster than consumer prices:
In a finding sure to inflame the math wars, a team of neuroscientists has revealed the crucial role played by rote memorization in the growing brains of young math students.
Memorizing the answers to simple math problems, such as basic addition or the multiplication tables, marks a key shift in a child’s cognitive development, because it helps bridge the gap from counting on fingers to complex calculation, according to the new brain scanning research.
The progression from counting on fingers to simply remembering that, for example, six plus three equals nine, parallels physical changes in a child’s brain, in which the hippocampus, a key brain structure for memory, gradually takes over from the pre-frontal parietal cortex, an area of higher order reasoning.
Related: Math Forum.
Few magazine editors—myself included—can resist a dash of apocalypse in a cover line, which is why I don’t fault writer Graeme Wood for the question on the front of this month’s Atlantic: “Is College Doomed?” I’ll answer that question anyway: no. The appetite for college is huge. A larger percentage of Americans are pursuing some sort of post-high-school degree than ever before—70 percent in 2009, compared to 45 percent in 1960—and that number keeps rising. Undergraduate education isn’t going away any time soon.
Wood’s article, actually titled “The Future of College?,” is a profile of the Minerva Project, a new, low-cost, for-profit university that offers intensive seminars on a cool new online “proprietary platform.” It’s Ben Nelson, Minerva’s 39-year-old founder and CEO, who says that colleges as we know them are doomed, because his half-online, half-bricks-and-mortar university is going to disrupt and replace them. Wood is seduced by the prospect, although ultimately he doubts that Nelson could or even should succeed. In describing what makes Nelson’s pitch appealing, however, Wood accepts several premises about the dismal state of higher education that are now so widely held that perhaps he didn’t feel it necessary to defend them. If the following three premises are true, then it is indeed possible that “a whole category of legacy institutions” will have to be liquidated, in Wood’s phrase. But they are not true.
But after Tyson made his offer, an MPS teacher who also is a teachers’ union employee submitted a plan to reopen Lee as a district-run charter school.
The School Board was said to be considering both options. It was scheduled to discuss the potential sale or lease of several empty buildings, including the Lee building, in closed session Tuesday night.
Despite enrollment declines of 1,000 or more students each year for nine years — before an increase in 2013-’14 — the School Board and district administration have been averse to selling their public property to nondistrict school operators. Voucher and nondistrict charter school operators compete with the district for students, and more students attending those schools means potentially fewer students — and less state aid money — coming to MPS.
Supporters of successful private voucher and independent charter schools believe there shouldn’t be so many roadblocks to those schools obtaining building space to expand. St. Marcus’ state achievement test scores are some of the highest in the city for schools with predominantly low-income, minority students.
St. Marcus will be paying around $80,000 a year to lease the Aurora Weier site, which will be called the St. Marcus Early Childhood Center, North Campus. Tyson said they may eventually buy the building.
Up to 250 young children could be served at the new site by next year, Tyson said.
This year, even with the new early childhood site opening, Tyson said about 200 children remain on the waiting list to get into St. Marcus.
Easing the long years in college is the fact that students aren’t required to pay tuition. The state also provides grants of as much as 500 euros ($670) a month plus meal support and loans of as much as 400 euros a month. While education is a safe haven for students, the economy suffers when they put off joining the job market and don’t have skills the labor market needs, said Hannu Kaseva, an economist at ETLA research institute in Helsinki.
“Our education system is generating more bums for us,” he said by phone. “Think about the wasted investment when just half of all graduates find work suitable for their education.”
Encouraging universities to cooperate with potential employers would reduce the theoretical nature of studies and help bridge the skills gap, he said. The country doesn’t train enough doctors, nurses and dentists, according to the Economy Ministry. Finland has an oversupply of office workers and IT engineers after Nokia’s success making mobile phones in the early 2000s soured, culminating in the sale this year of its flagship handset unit to Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)
I remember the talk. (The Talk? It certainly carried the psychological weight of a proper noun.) I guess it was never actually one Talk — it was more that I heard a series of smaller talks from my parents, both of whom are Caribbean immigrants. They’d couch it in the language of difference, and it now occurs to me that they were trying to instill in me a sense — a niggling unease, maybe, or a vague nausea — of when situations might not be safe for me, as a young black male growing up in small town East Texas.
“Don’t stay out too late. Nothing good happens after midnight,” my mom would say. “You have to protect yourself! When the police show up, who do you think is going to get in trouble — you or those little white girls you’re hanging around with?”
I’d always argue with her when she said things like that. Not because she was wrong; because she was right, and her rightness hurt me somewhere deep and inarticulate. American society has indelibly marked my body as exotic, as dangerous, as uncontrollably lustful, as rage-filled, as a symbol of every single societal ill. Black. Nigger.
“There are three types of mathematicians, those who can count and those who can’t.”
Bad joke? You bet. But what makes this amusing is that the joke is triggered by our perception of a paradox, a breakdown in mathematical logic that activates regions of the brain located in the right prefrontal cortex. These regions are sensitive to the perception of causality and alert us to situations that are suspect or fishy — possible sources of danger where a situation just doesn’t seem to add up.
Many of the famous etchings by the artist M.C. Escher activate a similar response because they depict scenes that violate causality. His famous “Waterfall” shows a water wheel powered by water pouring down from a wooden flume. The water turns the wheel, and is redirected uphill back to the mouth of the flume, where it can once again pour over the wheel, in an endless cycle. The drawing shows us a situation that violates pretty much every law of physics on the books, and our brain perceives this logical oddity as amusing — a visual joke.
If last year’s numbers hold steady, the 4,100 teachers in San Francisco, on average, will each be absent about 11 times this school year, about once every three weeks. That’s four to five days more than a typical student, out of 180 days total.
About seven of those days were for sick or personal leave, and the rest were training days offered or required by the district.
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wants the jobs of college athletics directors at the state’s public schools to be tied to athletes’ academic performance.
In letters this week to the chief executive officers of the University of California and the California State University system, Newsom that AD’s contracts “should stipulate aggressive benchmarks for improvement in graduation and academic progress rates” and make the AD’s subject to dismissal if those benchmarks aren’t met.
An “athletic director’s contract should stipulate aggressive benchmarks for improvement in graduation and academic progress rates or face termination, period,” the letter said
The letters went out as three Division I schools in the state — Cal-Berkeley, Fresno State and Sacramento State — are looking for new athletics directors. Andrea Koskey, a spokeswoman for Newsom, said he is seeking to have this stipulation included in the contracts of the new hires, then added to other deals as deals are renewed or vacancies occur.
Middle schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District have become caring environments for students, but aren’t rigorous enough to prepare them for high school academic work, says Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
“We know there are quite a few things that highly effective schools do that we have not been doing in both our middle and our high schools,” Cheatham told Madison School Board members Monday during a review of a district report on coursework in the high schools.
“We haven’t established a coherent approach to instruction, as you’ve heard me say again and again, but we are making progress. We’ve all spent quality time in our middle and high school classrooms, and in middle schools in particular, we’ve made tons of progress in creating very caring environments, but the level of rigor and academic challenge isn’t where it needs to be,” Cheatham said.
Too often, American college students face a one-question test, one based not on facts, but on ideology. The test: “Are you a liberal, or conservative?”
The correct answer is, “I’m a liberal, and proud of it.” That concerns me.
However, the nature of my concern may surprise you. I’m not worried much about the students who get it wrong; for the most part, they actually get a pretty good education.
I’m worried about those who get it right. The young people that our educational system is failing are the students on the left. They aren’t being challenged, and don’t learn to think.
In early September, in a clapboard house situated on 43 acres just outside a small town in northern Vermont, two boys awaken. They are brothers; the older is 12, the younger 9, and they rise to a day that has barely emerged from the clutches of dark. It is not yet autumn, but already the air has begun to change, the soft nights of late summer lengthening and chilling into the season to come. Outside the boys’ bedroom window, the leaves on the maples are just starting to turn.
The same message — that the personal touch is crucial — comes from community college students who have participated in the City University of New York’s anti-dropout initiative, which has doubled graduation rates.
Even as these programs, and many others with a similar philosophy, have proven their worth, public schools have been spending billions of dollars on technology which they envision as the wave of the future. Despite the hyped claims, the results have been disappointing. “The data is pretty weak,” said Tom Vander Ark, the former executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an investor in educational technology companies. “When it comes to showing results, we better put up or shut up.”
While technology can be put to good use by talented teachers, they, and not the futurists, must take the lead. The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate. Small wonder, then, that the business model hasn’t worked in reforming the schools — there is simply no substitute for the personal element.
Thinking different in Oconomowoc.
In Germany, a scheme that roughly translates as ‘adopt a grandparent’ has been running with great success.
It pairs older people with children who may not have or see grandparents of their own.
How much of a difference does it make whether a student of a given academic ability enters a more or a less selective four-year college? Some studies claim that attending a more academically selective college markedly improves one’s graduation prospects. Others report the reverse: an advantage from attending an institution where one’s own skills exceed most other students. Using multi-level models and propensity score matching methods to reduce selection bias, we find that selectivity, measured by a college’s average SAT score, does not have an independent effect on graduation. Instead of a selectivity effect we find relatively small positive effects on graduation rates from attending a college with higher tuition costs. We also find no evidence that students who do not attend highly selective colleges suffer reduced chances of graduation as a result, all else being equal.
President Obama wants to rate colleges’ “value.” Higher ed leaders hate the idea, writes Libby Nelson on Vox. When the feds tried to rate colleges by quality — in 1911 — college leaders lobbied so vigorously they got the Babcock report quashed.
The U.S. Bureau of Education’s Kendric Babcock, a former college president, rated 600 colleges and universities by how well they prepared students for graduate work. Class 1 graduates would need only a year of graduate school to finish a degree, he estimated. In Class 2 and 3, students would need more time. Class 4 graduates would start out two years behind, he predicted.
via Joanne Jacobs.
Yuuki Takano, an athletic sixth grader, hopes to attend a private junior high school with a strong soccer team after he graduates from his Tokyo public elementary school next year.
To help him pass the junior high school’s notoriously difficult entrance exams this winter, Yuuki’s mother, Asuka Takano, decided to place him in a traditional Japanese preparatory school, made up of big classes with dozens of students. The schools are often called cram schools, or juku in Japanese.
Mrs. Takano assumed her son would do well there, as she had attended a big cram school herself when she was preparing to enter a private high school.
The government’s free schools programme has proved to be popular with non-white families, according to the first academic analysis of the policy, which also found free schools attracted brighter and slightly better-off primary-aged pupils compared with the national average.
“Free schools have emerged most strongly in neighbourhoods with high proportions of non-white children, compared with the national average, and that within those neighbourhoods they have admitted even higher proportions of non-whites,” the report’s authors, led by Prof Francis Green of the Institute for Education, said.
The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, looked at the neighbourhoods and enrolments of 88 primary and 63 secondary mainstream free schools that opened between 2011 and September 2013.
In primary schools, researchers found that white children made up only a third of the free school population, which is less than half the national average in England and well below the proportion of the white ethnic population in the neighbourhoods where the schools were sited.
More Americans than ever live in multigenerational households, and the number of millennials who live with their parents is rising sharply, according to a study released Thursday.
A record 57 million Americans, or 18.1% of the population, lived in multigenerational arrangements in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s more than double the 28 million people who lived in such households in 1980, the center said.
A multigenerational family is defined as one with two or more generations of adults living together.
Moving in with parents becomes more common for the middle-aged
The sluggish job market and other factors have propelled the rise in millennials living in their childhood bedrooms.
About 23.6% of people age 25 to 34 live with their parents, grandparents or both, according to Pew. That’s up from 18.7% in 2007, just prior to the global financial crisis, and from 11% in 1980.
School officials who hire teachers who aren’t properly credentialed for their positions often cite a lack of suitable candidates, in part because of teacher shortages in certain areas. But the most current state data available show that most fields actually had a surplus of newly licensed candidates available for hire. A higher ratio means fewer newly qualified teachers were hired.
It isn’t easy to be a disadvantaged high school student anywhere, but the U.S. education system appears to be particularly unkind to its less privileged youth.
Poor students have a tougher time overcoming their socioeconomic odds in the U.S. than in Canada, France, Russia, and 33 other countries, according to a new global report by the OECD. Only about 20 percent of disadvantaged students in the U.S.—those in the bottom 25th percentile of the PISA index of economic, social and cultural status— show academic performance that’s in the top 25th percentile internationally. In Russia and France, that percentage is only slightly higher; in Canada it’s nearer to 35 percent. In a handful of East Asian countries, including Singapore, Vietnam, and several provinces in China, well over 60 percent of disadvantaged students rank in the top quarter of international students. The average among all OECD member countries is roughly 25 percent.
Reed College rates No. 1 in the nation for professors who rate high in the eyes of their students, according to a survey of 130,000 college students released Monday by the Princeton Review.
The publisher of college guides asked students to complete a detailed survey covering all aspects of their college experience. Questions included a five-level rating of whether professors are accessible and “interesting and bring their material to life,” plus open-ended questions including “comment on your professors and your overall academic experience” and “what are the greatest strengths of your school?”
At no U.S. college were students more effusive about their professors than at Reed, the most selective college in Oregon, where super-smart students learn at an intellectually curious, lushly green campus in Southeast Portland.
Perhaps as a result, Reed students were No. 4 in the nation in the average amount of time they reported studying outside of class. (Harvard students were No. 11.) Reed students also enjoy the No. 3 best classroom experience, Review officials report.
Yum Brands Inc’s disappointing Pizza Hut and Taco Bell results, along with other data, suggested the U.S. fast-food business remained weak in the second quarter and that industry leader McDonald’s Corp continues to struggle.
The U.S. fast-food segment has lagged the broader restaurant sector, due to weak job growth and stagnant pay among the lower-wage diners who frequent such restaurants. The sector also is struggling to remain relevant as more consumers move away from decadent food like cheeseburgers and french fries to fresher, healthier fare.
Like a zombie, Sami—one of my fifth graders—lumbered over to me and hissed, “I think I’m going to explode! I’m not used to this schedule.” And I believed him. An angry red rash was starting to form on his forehead.
Yikes, I thought. What a way to begin my first year of teaching in Finland. It was only the third day of school and I was already pushing a student to the breaking point. When I took him aside, I quickly discovered why he was so upset.
Throughout this first week of school, I had gotten creative with my fifth grade timetable. Normally, students and teachers in Finland take a 15-minute break after every 45 minutes of instruction. During a typical break, students head outside to play and socialize with friends while teachers disappear to the lounge to chat over coffee.
I didn’t see the point of these frequent pit stops. As a teacher in the United States, I’d spent several consecutive hours with my students in the classroom. And I was trying to replicate this model in Finland. The Finnish way seemed soft and I was convinced that kids learned better with longer stretches of instructional time. So I decided to hold my students back from their regularly scheduled break and teach two 45-minute lessons in a row, followed by a double break of 30 minutes. Now I knew why the red dots had appeared on Sami’s forehead.
Come to think of it, I wasn’t sure if the American approach had ever worked very well. My students in the States had always seemed to drag their feet after about 45 minutes in the classroom. But they’d never thought of revolting like this shrimpy Finnish fifth grader, who was digging in his heels on the third day of school. At that moment, I decided to embrace the Finnish model of taking breaks.
About six weeks ago, Amanda Ripley published an article suggesting that it be made more difficult to become a teacher. I’ll add one story.
My colleague at the University of Virginia, Shige Oishi, is, without exaggeration, a brilliant and highly accomplished man. I recently learned that he briefly thought about a career in teaching in Japan. I asked why he didn’t pursue it.
He told me “I wasn’t sure I could do it. The entrance examination is very very difficult. I knew I would have to study at least a year, and then I wasn’t sure I could pass.”
Many parents believe their children must get a college degree—especially if they want to have at least as comfortable a lifestyle as their parents had; yet the price of a college degree has been rising rapidly over the past three decades. As costs have risen, more and more students and their families have turned to education loans for financing. This trend, combined with the strong propensity for households to form among individuals of similar education levels, has led to much larger student loan debt burdens for households headed by young adults who have attended college. In the 1989 Survey of Consumer Finances, real (inflation-adjusted) average student loan debt for young households (those headed by someone between 22 and 29 years of age) with a college degree was $3,420. In 2010, the same average was $16,714, nearly a 400 percent increase. For households with some college, but without a college degree, average student loan debt rose about 270 percent.
David Boies, the star trial lawyer who helped lead the legal charge that overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban, is becoming chairman of the Partnership for Educational Justice, a group that former CNN anchor Campbell Brown founded in part to pursue lawsuits challenging teacher tenure.
Mr. Boies, the son of two public schoolteachers, is a lifelong liberal who represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore and prosecuted Microsoft in the Clinton Administration’s antitrust suit. In aligning himself with a cause that is bitterly opposed by teachers’ unions, he is emblematic of an increasingly fractured relationship between the Democrats and the teachers’ unions.
As chairman of the new group, Mr. Boies, 73, will join Ms. Brown as the public face of a legal strategy in which the group organizes parents and students to bring lawsuits against states with strong tenure and seniority protections.
“It seems reasonable to attribute a good share of the improvements to the specific and focused strategies we have pursued this year,” Hughes writes. The process of improvement will become self-reinforcing, he predicts. “This bodes well for better results on the horizon.”
Not so fast, writes Madison attorney Jeff Spitzer-Resnick in his Systems Change Consulting blog, the results are not all they’re cracked up to be upon closer examination.
At Madison East High School, for example, the results reveal significant academic problems and huge racial disparities, but no information about school discipline issues, Spitzer-Resnick writes.
The number of East High 9th graders failing two or more courses dropped to 33 percent last school year from 38 percent the year before, the report says.
“This is still a very high rate of failure,” Spitzer-Resnick says and points out the significantly more troubling breakdown for African-American (49 percent) and special education (45 percent) 9th graders who failed two or more courses.
Spitzer-Resnick plots out other disparities in student achievement and argues that the lack of data on school discipline means there are no goals or accountability for the implementation of a new behavior plan the school district will launch next year.
Tim Slekar, education policy activist and dean of the School of Education at Edgewood College who blogs at The Chalk Face, says that the gains in the MMSD report “are so small that attributing a cause and effect relationship between the scores and the improvement plan is way too premature.”
Much more on Madison and nearby Districts use of the MAP assessment, including results from 2011-2012.
It would be useful to compare results over the past few years, rather than just the current school year.
Cost-conscious families “are not going to write a blank check” for college, Ms. Ducich said. “They are making a lot of decisions to control the cost.”
For one thing, more students attended a two-year public college, and many such students live at home. The 34% of students using two-year public schools was the highest in the seven years the study has been conducted.
“You can save an enormous amount of money” at a two-year school, said Christopher Russo, 22, of Bridgewater, N.J., who received an associate degree in May from nearby Raritan Valley Community College.
Because of medical and financial issues, his family was unable to contribute to college costs. Still, Mr. Russo is debt-free, with summer earnings combined with grants and scholarships having covered Raritan Valley’s full cost—$4,600 in 2013-14 for local-county residents taking 15 credits a semester.
Mr. Russo will incur a limited amount of debt when he continues his education this fall at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. While some of his friends attending private colleges will end up with huge debt burdens, he said, “I’ll be out of debt incredibly fast,” probably a few years after graduation, thanks to his in-state tuition at Rutgers and spending the first two years at a community college.
As a Princeton professor, I really ought to love college rankings. The most famous of them, by U.S. News and World Report, currently places my employer first among national universities, nudging out Harvard and Yale. Forbes’s list of “America’s Top Colleges” has us at a respectable third. While Money’s brand-new “Best Colleges” ranking takes us down a notch to fourth, it still puts us ahead of the other Ivies. Go, Tigers!
In fact, as with most of my colleagues, what was once mild amusement at this Game of Lists is fast turning into serious annoyance. Far too many Boards of Trustees fixate on their school’s rankings, and a college president whose school drops sharply in the U.S. News list now has about as much job security as a Big Ten football coach after a third consecutive losing season. As a result, far too many schools design their policies explicitly with U.S. News in mind. Among the most nefarious consequences has been the shift of precious financial aid dollars away from students with real financial need, toward affluent ones who can boost a school’s average SAT and “yield” (the percentage of admitted students who actually matriculate). Stephen Burd filed an excellent report on this trend last year in The Washington Monthly, but it is all too obvious to anyone who, like me, has teenage children at an affluent high school (I know several families with “one-percent” level annual incomes whose offspring receive substantial merit scholarships).
Is the problem simply the way the rankings are designed? If this were so, in one respect the Money list might offer a welcome corrective. Unlike U.S. News, which gives the most weight to academic reputation and student retention rates, Money takes “affordability” as one of three equal factors, and within this category places significant emphasis on debt. Money will grade down colleges that offer merit scholarships to the affluent while skimping on aid to needy students, forcing them to take out higher loans.
We develop a theory that focuses on the general equilibrium and long-run macro- economic consequences of trends in job utility. Given secular increases in job utility, work hours per capita can remain approximately constant over time even if the income e§ect of higher wages on labor supply exceeds the substitution e§ect. In addition, secular improvements in job utility can be substantial relative to welfare gains from ordinary technological progress. These two implications are connected by an equation áowing from optimal hours choices: improvements in job utility that have a significant e§ect on labor supply tend to have large welfare effects.
Keywords: Labor supply, work hours, drudgery, income e§ect, substitution e§ect, job utility.
A couple of themes we explore here at The Watch are the increasing criminalization of just about everything and the use of the criminal justice system to address problems that were once (and better) handled by families, friends, communities and other institutions. A few examples from recent headlines show those themes intersecting with parenthood.
The first story comes from South Carolina, where a mother was jailed and charged with “unlawful conduct toward a child” for . . . leaving her 9-year-old daughter alone to play in a park. Lenore Skenazy of “Free Range Kids” comments:
Here are the facts: Debra Harrell works at McDonald’s in North Augusta, South Carolina. For most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her, playing on a laptop that Harrell had scrounged up the money to purchase. (McDonald’s has free WiFi.) Sadly, the Harrell home was robbed and the laptop stolen, so the girl asked her mother if she could be dropped off at the park to play instead.
Harrell said yes. She gave her daughter a cell phone. The girl went to the park—a place so popular that at any given time there are about 40 kids frolicking—two days in a row. There were swings, a “splash pad,” and shade. On her third day at the park, an adult asked the girl where her mother was. At work, the daughter replied.
Eye-catching research on private schools has come out strongly in favour of a scheme that would lead to the state funding places at top private schools for the children of less well-off parents. It would certainly be a scheme popular with the winners – if not those who miss out – but do the numbers in the report really bear out the case that the Social Market Foundation is making?
Please note: Quality of education greatly influences IQ scores, i.e. a lower average IQ is more indicative of lower access to wide-scale quality education rather than innate intelligence (see my explanation of the issue). Also, testing conditions influence results; wealthier countries are more likely to be able to afford better testing conditions for participants.
The data may be outdated for some countries (not all up-to-date statistical data was available for all countries). Because of inevitable statistical errors, isolated figures must be taken with a grain of salt.
Before using strong words in the comments, please consider:
Anyway, this big company that now employs me is rumoured to hire the smartest people in the world.
Question number one: how true is that?
Answer: I think it’s really true. A suprisingly large fraction of the smartest programmers in the world *do* work here. In very large quantities. In fact, quantities so large that I wouldn’t have thought that so many really smart people existed or could be centralized in one place, but trust me, they do and they can. That’s pretty amazing.
Question number two: but I’m sure they hired some non-smart people too, right?
Answer: surprisingly infrequently. When I went for my job interview there, they set me up for a full day of interviewers (5 sessions plus lunch). I decided that I would ask a few questions of my own in these interviews, and try to guess how good the company is based on how many of the interviewers seemed clueless. My hypothesis was that there are always some bad apples in any medium to large company, so if the success rate was, say, 3 or 4 out of 5 interviewers being non-clueless, that’s pretty good.
WHERE does creativity come from? For centuries, we’ve had a clear answer: the lone genius. The idea of the solitary creator is such a common feature of our cultural landscape (as with Newton and the falling apple) that we easily forget it’s an idea in the first place.
But the lone genius is a myth that has outlived its usefulness. Fortunately, a more truthful model is emerging: the creative network, as with the crowd-sourced Wikipedia or the writer’s room at “The Daily Show” or — the real heart of creativity — the intimate exchange of the creative pair, such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney and myriad other examples with which we’ve yet to fully reckon.
Historically speaking, locating genius within individuals is a recent enterprise. Before the 16th century, one did not speak of people being geniuses but having geniuses. “Genius,” explains the Harvard scholar Marjorie Garber, meant “a tutelary god or spirit given to every person at birth.” Any value that emerged from within a person depended on a potent, unseen force coming from beyond that person.
TEENAGERS who struggle to get out of bed in the morning could soon have an excuse. The first experiment to test whether pupils perform better after a lie-in is expected to be approved this week.
The £1m project would involve more than 20 British schools and 30,000 pupils. Schools willing to allow pupils aged 11-16 to start class anytime from 10am onwards — and from 11am or 11.30am for sixth-formers — are being recruited by Professor Russell Foster, director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at Oxford University. His team will learn tomorrow whether its application for funding from the Wellcome Trust has been successful.
More than two decades ago, Smith and Welch (1989) used the 1940 through 1980 census files to document important relative black progress. However, recent data indicate that this progress did not continue, at least among men. The growth of incarceration rates among black men in recent decades combined with the sharp drop in black employment rates during the Great Recession have left most black men in a position relative to white men that is really no better than the position they occupied only a few years after the Civil Rights Act of 1965. A move toward more punitive treatment of arrested offenders drove prison growth in recent decades, and this trend is evident among arrested offenders in every major crime category. Changes in the severity of corrections policies have had a much larger impact on black communities than white communities because arrest rates have historically been much greater for blacks than whites.
I generally am quite an optimistic person. I tend to believe that everything will work out for the best unless the evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not prone to drama. That’s why when I say that modern parenting is in serious trouble — crisis, even — I hope you’ll listen, and listen carefully. I’ve worked with children and their parents across two continents and two decades, and what I’ve seen in recent years alarms me. Here are the greatest problems, as I see them:
1. A fear of our children.
Think women can’t do math? You’re wrong—but new research shows you might not change your mind, even if you get evidence to the contrary. A study of how both men and women perceive each other’s mathematical ability finds that an unconscious bias against women could be skewing hiring decisions, widening the gender gap in mathematical professions like engineering.
The inspiration for the experiment was a 2008 study published in Science that analyzed the results of a standardized test of math and verbal abilities taken by 15-year-olds around the world. The results challenged the pernicious stereotype that females are biologically inferior at mathematics. Although the female test-takers lagged behind males on the math portion of the test, the size of the gap closely tracked the degree of gender inequality in their countries, shrinking to nearly zero in emancipated countries like Sweden and Norway. That suggests that cultural biases rather than biology may be the better explanation for the math gender gap.
To tease out the mechanism of discrimination, two of the authors of the 2008 study, Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, economic researchers at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Illinois, and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in Illinois, respectively, teamed up with Ernesto Reuben, an experimental psychologist at Columbia Business School in New York City, to design an experiment to test people’s gender bias when it comes to judging mathematical ability.
The U.S. education policy world—the entire country, for that matter—is on a quest to increase the ranks of future innovators in science and technology. Yet the programs that get funded in K–12 education do not support students who are already good at and in love with science. These students have potential for outstanding contributions, but without public investment they will not be prepared for the rigors of a scientific career. This is especially true for those without highly educated and resource-rich parents.
This lack of investment is not a matter of chance. It is the result of two related myths about who these students are and what they need from our education system. The first myth is that all talented students come from privileged backgrounds. A second is that students who are successful at a particular time in their school career can somehow thrive on their own, unassisted and unsupervised. We argue that all children deserve to be challenged cognitively, including the most able. Many students with low socioeconomic backgrounds never get the opportunity to develop their talents beyond the rudimentary school curriculum. Jonathan Plucker of the University of Connecticut has shown that high-achieving, low-income students fall further behind their higher-socioeconomic-status peers the closer they get to graduation. Moreover, international comparison studies show science scores improving for all students except those in the top 10 percent.
We know how to identify students who are talented in science and motivated to achieve. We find them thriving in enriched environments (think math and rocketry clubs) inside and outside of school. Standardized tests identify exceptional reasoning abilities in mathematics and spatial skills. Expressing and showing interest in science in elementary or middle school are good predictors of future pursuit of career interests in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
That’s according to the Education Week Research Center, a nonpartisan group that measured indicators such as preschool and kindergarten enrollment, high school graduation rates, and higher education attainment. The yearly study also considered family income and parental employment, which are linked to educational achievement.
In almost every category, the Bay State beats the national average: More than 60 percent of Massachusetts children have a parent with a post-secondary degree, 14 points higher than average, and nearly 60 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool, more than 10 points above the national average.
No surprise, nearly half of Massachusetts fourth-graders are proficient on National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests, and more than 54 percent of eighth-graders get proficient scores on NAEP math tests — both the highest rates in the country.
The underlying reason is a bipartisan commitment to education reform. Massachusetts passed a major school reform package in 1993, increasing spending, particularly in poorer districts; raising assessment standards; and making licensure exams for new teachers more difficult. Several other states improved their standards around the same time. But when partisan priorities shifted in other places, Massachusetts Republicans and Democrats alike continued investing heavily in education.
Improving scores, particularly among low-income and minority students, is still a challenge, and Massachusetts has done no better in closing the achievement gap than most other states.
Wisconsin took a very small step toward Massachusetts’ content knowledge requirements by adopting MTEL-90 for elementary English teachers.
Wisconsin results are available here.
One afternoon in the spring of 2006, Damany Lewis, a math teacher at Parks Middle School, in Atlanta, unlocked the room where standardized tests were kept. It was the week before his students took the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, which determined whether schools in Georgia had met federal standards of achievement. The tests were wrapped in cellophane and stacked in cardboard boxes. Lewis, a slim twenty-nine-year-old with dreadlocks, contemplated opening the test with scissors, but he thought his cut marks would be too obvious. Instead, he left the school, walked to the corner store, and bought a razor blade. When he returned, he slit open the cellophane and gently pulled a test book from its wrapping. Then he used a lighter to warm the razor, which he wedged under the adhesive sealing the booklet, and peeled back the tab.
He photocopied the math, reading, and language-arts sections—the subjects that would determine, under the No Child Left Behind guidelines, whether Parks would be classified as a “school in need of improvement” for the sixth year in a row. Unless fifty-eight per cent of students passed the math portion of the test and sixty-seven per cent passed in language arts, the state could shut down the school. Lewis put on gloves, to prevent oil from his hands from leaving a residue on the plastic, and then used his lighter to melt the edges of the cellophane together, so that it appeared as if the package had never been opened. He gave the reading and language-arts sections to two teachers he trusted and took the math section home.
Last month a small national group of graduate career counselors met on the University of California at San Diego’s campus in La Jolla to discuss one of the academic world’s hottest and most vexing topics: how to help Ph.D.’s and postdoctoral scholars get jobs.
The three-day conference, which was organized by the Graduate Career Consortium, was the group’s 26th annual meeting, and its largest ever: Around 100 advisors and counselors from 80 institutions attended. One-third of this year’s attendees were new registrants, an indication that campus administrators are responding to growing calls from around the country to reform graduate education.
When the GCC formed, back in 1987, only a handful of counselors showed up to these annual gatherings. As recently as a decade ago, relatively few colleges offered career-counseling services to graduate students beyond managing their dossiers. Victoria Blodgett, the GCC’s president, attributed the uptick in attendance to this year’s conference to a confluence of factors: the recent expansion of career services for Ph.D.’s, the creation of postdoctoral-affairs offices on more campuses, the growing demand for better counseling about alternative and nonacademic careers, and the need for more transparent data on job placement for advanced degree-holders.
IN the late 1970s, in the Mississippi River town of Dubuque, Iowa, the threat of summer boredom was real. The nearest theme parks were hours away, and the best video games (Space Invaders, Asteroids) were coin guzzlers, fueled by hard-earned lawn-mowing or paper-route funds. While we had the requisite tennis courts and public swimming pools, which we used to exhaustion, our best resources were our rawest ones — hilly streets, undeveloped woods, local streams and hours of unstructured, unsupervised playtime.
As a 6- to 8-year-old, when I wasn’t searching for sticks to whittle with my collection of X-acto knives (or giving myself the scars to remember them by), I was getting lost in ragtag gatherings of kids. We played afternoon-long basketball games and twilight sessions of kick the can that could span three streets and involve 30 or more screaming kids.
America should do away with middle schools, which are educational wastelands. We need to cut the middle out of middle schools, either by combining them with the guidance and nurturing that children find in elementary school, or with the focus on adult success that we expect from our high schools.
For much as half of middle schools across the country, national statistics show substantial performance gaps, especially in math and reading achievement, between middle school and high school. It’s time to admit that middle school models do not work—instead, they are places where academics stall and languish.
via Marc Eisen.
Mr Eisen wrote “My Life & Times with the Madison Public Schools” in 2007. Well worth reading.
Were there differences by sex in the percentage of youth who watched TV or used a computer for 2 hours or less daily?
Were there differences by race and Hispanic origin in the percentage of youth who watched TV or used a computer for 2 hours or less daily?
Were there differences by weight status in the percentage of youth who watched TV or used a computer for 2 hours or less daily?
Nearly all (98.5%) youth aged 12–15 reported watching TV daily.
More than 9 in 10 (91.1%) youth aged 12–15 reported using the computer daily outside of school.
In 2012, 27.0% of youth aged 12–15 had 2 hours or less of TV plus computer use daily.
Among youth aged 12–15, girls (80.4%) were more likely to use the computer 2 hours or less daily when compared with boys (69.4%).
Fewer non-Hispanic black youth aged 12–15 (53.4%) reported watching 2 hours or less of TV daily than non-Hispanic white (65.8%) and Hispanic (68.7%) youth.
Excessive screen-time behaviors, such as using a computer and watching TV, for more than 2 hours daily have been linked with elevated blood pressure, elevated serum cholesterol, and being overweight or obese among youth (1–3). Additionally, screen-time behavior established in adolescence has been shown to track into adulthood (4). The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-supported Expert Panel and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that children limit leisure screen time to 2 hours or less daily (5,6). This report presents national estimates of TV watching and computer use outside of the school day.
When it comes to financial literacy around the world, American teens are middling.
The United States may fuel the world’s largest economy and operate its most robust financial system. But compared to the financial prowess of teenagers in 17 other countries, U.S. teens come off downright mediocre.
That’s according to a new study published Wednesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as part of its Program for International Student Assessment, conducted once every three years.
The OECD, a 34-nation organization based in Paris, surveyed 15-year-old students in 13 member nations and five other nations throughout 2012 to ascertain their level of familiarity with the financial system as they neared adulthood.
“Finance is part of everyday life for many 15-year-olds, who are already consumers of financial services, such as bank accounts,” the report said. “As they near the end of compulsory education, students will face complex and challenging financial choices, including whether to join the labor market or continue with formal education and, if so, how to finance such study.”
The OECD report.
Last September, the day before PennApps 2013f, a 48-hour, 1,000+ student hackathon at the University of Pennsylvania, I created a Facebook Group called “PennApps HS Hackers” for the dozen or so high school students who were also attending the event.
If the words “hacker” and “hackathon” evoke mental images of scary-looking criminals breaking into computers, I can assure you we’re nothing like that. Hackers, in the original spirit of the term, are programmers and designers who use technology to build things — not destroy things. Hackathons are events where hackers of all kinds come together to collaborate on new projects and compete for prizes, often on college campuses.
Turns out I picked an incredible time to start a community — the hackathon scene exploded in rhythm with my Facebook Group. In the course of a school year, the group would grow to include high schoolers from all 50 states and more than a dozen countries, organizers from nearly every major U.S. college hackathon, founders of high school hackathons and hacker meetups, and even the president of the well-known startup incubator, Y Combinator.
Today’s educational technology often presents itself as a radical departure from the tired practices of traditional instruction. But in one way, at least, it faithfully follows the conventions of the chalk-and-blackboard era: EdTech addresses only the student’s head, leaving the rest of the body out.
Treating mind and body as separate is an old and powerful idea in Western culture. But this venerable trope is facing down a challenge from a generation of researchers—in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, even philosophy—who claim that we think with and through our bodies. Even the most abstract mathematical or literary concepts, these researchers maintain, are understood in terms of the experience of our senses and of moving ourselves through space.
This perspective, known as “embodied cognition,” is now becoming a lens through which to look at educational technology. Work in the field shows promising signs that incorporating bodily movements—even subtle ones—can improve the learning that’s done on computers.
James H. Simons likes to play against type. He is a billionaire star of mathematics and private investment who often wins praise for his financial gifts to scientific research and programs to get children hooked on math.
But in his Manhattan office, high atop a Fifth Avenue building in the Flatiron district, he’s quick to tell of his career failings.
He was forgetful. He was demoted. He found out the hard way that he was terrible at programming computers. “I’d keep forgetting the notation,” Dr. Simons said. “I couldn’t write programs to save my life.”
After that, he was fired.
I want to be clear at the outset: I love literature. I was an English major, and I’ve never regretted it for a moment. I seriously considered pursuing a Ph.D. in English. I could not have a deeper faith in the liberal arts as a path to the betterment of all mankind.
So imagine my dismay at some recent reportage in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Graduate programs in languages and literature are suffering troubles all too familiar to the readers of these pages: In these straitened times, the tenure-track academic appointments for which a doctoral degree is the traditional and necessary preparation are available for only about 60% of the recipients of doctorates in language or literature (a number chillingly reminiscent of the 56%-57% of the last two law-school graduating classes who managed to find a full-time, long-term job requiring a law license within 9-10 months of graduation, though when you exclude school-funded and self-employed positions as well as a few other confounders and irrelevancies, that number is closer to 53%). The Modern Language Association (a trade group for college and graduate educators and scholars in language and literature analogous to AALS) recently released a report conceding “[w]e are faced with an unsustainable reality.”
The solution? Simple—dismiss the “reality” as “wrong”:
This spring, more college students than ever received baccalaureate degrees, and their career prospects are brighter than they were for last year’s graduates.
Employers responding to this year’s National Association of Colleges and Employers’ “Job Outlook 2014 Survey” said they planned to increase entry-level hiring by almost 8 percent. But what they may not realize is that these seemingly techno-savvy new hires could be missing some basic yet vital research skills.
It’s a problem that we found after interviewing 23 people in charge of hiring at leading employers like Microsoft, KPMG, Nationwide Insurance, the Smithsonian, and the FBI. This research was part of a federally funded study for Project Information Literacy, a national study about how today’s college students find and use information.
Nearly all of the employers said they expected candidates, whatever their field, to be able to search online, a given for a generation born into the Internet world. But they also expected job candidates to be patient and persistent researchers and to be able to retrieve information in a variety of formats, identify patterns within an array of sources, and dive deeply into source material.
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries have been characterized by a massive decline in fertility, beginning in rich Western countries and spreading all over the world. It is a transformation that is still underway in poor countries today.
Technological advances have, over the same period, radically decreased child mortality and increased life span. Modern parents need not have many children to ensure that one or two survive; almost all children survive to reproductive age. But Darwinian genetic interests cannot explain the modern decline in fertility (if Darwinian interests dominated, fertility should increase with increased survival, as observed in many historical elites). Rather, the fertility decline to present levels is mostly an economic response to the changing value of children, and to the changing economic relationship of parents and children. The economic transformation is not spontaneous, but the product of cultural transformation through education.
The economic value of children has decreased, but this is not the most important cause of the fertility decline. The transformation of countries from predominantly agricultural to predominantly urban reduced the value of children, especially where the industrial employment of children was restricted. Each child’s labor contributed positive value to a family farm or cottage industry, but in an urban setting, children began to have negative economic value. Indeed, the fertility decline correlates somewhat – though not perfectly – with the transformation from agrarian to city life.
But the fertility decline is not merely the product of a price effect – of people having fewer children because children are more costly. Children are not normal goods (or even inferior goods, as might be surmised from low fertility among the highest income groups): they become not goods at all, but rather bundles of claims on their parents. This transformation is a culturally-controlled change in direction of the flow of resources. Before the fertility decline, resources flowed from children to parents (and even up to grandparents and kin); after the transformation, resources flowed from parents to children. In Mass Education as a Determinant of the Timing of the Fertility Decline, John Caldwell argues that the vector of this cultural transformation has been mass education. He characterizes it as the replacement of “family morality,” in which children are expected to “work hard, demand little, and respect the authority of the old,” with “community morality,” in which children are dependent on their parents to become future productive citizens (perhaps even upwardly mobile) for the good of the country.
It was, of course, a popular mean girl who made my life miserable in middle school.
She made a point to ask me, in front of whatever audience she could rally around her, if I had attended the big party from the weekend. (I never had.) If I had found a boyfriend. (Nope.) If even I had a clue about the fantastic life she and her friends led. (Not really.)
While her needling seemed like the end of the world when I was 11 and 12, it taught me to have a great deal of compassion for the marginalized as I grew up. I’ve wondered what happened to my young tormentor as the years passed. A new study out of the University of Virginia suggests she should have been nicer.
Published last month in the journal of Child Development, it followed the “cool kids” from middle school for a decade. It’s true what they say about peaking too young. The socially precocious teens in middle school fell lower on the social hierarchy by high school. And in their early 20s, they had more problems with drugs and alcohol, more trouble with the law and were less competent in their friendships.
What’s surprising is that the middle school “fast-track,” as measured in this study, seems tame compared to the images put forth in current pop culture. One of the markers identified middle schoolers who reported becoming seriously romantically involved at this age, as in making out with a boyfriend or girlfriend but not going further than that.
It’s surprising how many house pets hold advanced degrees. Last year a dog received his MBA from the American University of London, a non-accredited distance-learning institution. It feels as if I should add “not to be confused with the American University in London,” but getting people to confuse them seems like a pretty basic feature of the whole AUOL marketing strategy.
The dog, identified as “Peter Smith” on his diploma, goes by Pete. He was granted his degree on the basis of “previous experiential learning,” along with payment of 4,500 pounds ($7,723). The funds were provided by a BBC news program, which also helped Pete fill out the paperwork. The American University of London required that Pete submit evidence of his qualifications as well as a photograph. The applicant submitted neither, as the BBC website explains, “since the qualifications did not exist and the applicant was a dog.”
I have wavered back and forth on the decision to go get an MBA for years. It has always appeared so prestigious and valuable to me. But I have always wondered, is it really that valuable? I have even gone through the trouble of thoroughly researching schools that I would go to, weighed the pros and cons and even spoken to friends who have gotten their MBAs from local state schools all the way up to Ivy League. Every time I venture into those deep waters I come out with the same conclusion; as valuable as it may seem from afar an MBA is not worth the money. Today I was having coffee with an entrepreneur who has those three letters after their name and they confirmed my thoughts.
Their perspective was that starting a business or helping build one early on is just as good and most likely better, than getting an MBA.
Ultimately it boils down to practicality versus theory. Working on a brand new business, such as a startup, is real life hard knocks business school and experience is the best professor. The resounding answer I hear from people who went to business school is that theory can only teach you so much but the network you gain is invaluable. I have a hard time ponying up $100,000+ for a network, some theory and a lot of times a stigma that you don’t deserve. People, unfairly, tend to turn their noses up at those three letters.
There are cases where getting an MBA is worth it, but they are increasingly becoming edge cases. One of my friends who went to Harvard Business School specifically stated that getting an MBA didn’t make sense unless you own a balance sheet. That helps move past theory into the realm of practicality.
Figuring out how to pay in-state college tuition for a college student who grew up elsewhere is the ultimate money hack.
At desirable flagship universities in states like Michigan and Colorado, the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for students who get no financial aid can now approach $100,000 per undergraduate degree. And some families may also enjoy thumbing their noses at state legislators who expect affluent parents’ out-of-state tuition to subsidize the ever-lower budget allocations those representatives provide to higher education.
So it should come as little surprise that a service like In-State Angels has emerged to help high school graduates establish residency in another state. This is legal, though complicated, so once the company succeeds, it asks for roughly 10 to 15 percent of the ultimate savings as a fee.
Children who qualify for free school meals for just one year become “invisible underachievers” who receive little government support but achieve similar results to those who remain on free school meals during their entire school career.
Research from education data analysts FFT found that the group makes up around 7% of year 11 pupils, meaning that almost 40,000 students suffer similar levels of deprivation but receive fewer of the benefits, in most cases because their household income is just above the £16,000 threshold.
Those who received FSM for only one year average a D grade at GCSE – only slightly above those who are on the meals continuously, but almost a grade lower than pupils who have never received them.
Locally, Madison plans to expand its “free meal” program. Will this address Madison’s long standing disastrous reading results?
Despite its relatively small size, the private school sector plays a prominent role in British society. This paper focuses on changing wage and education differentials between privately educated and state educated individuals in Britain. It reports evidence that the private/state school wage differential has risen significantly over time, despite the rising cost to sending children to private school. A significant factor underpinning this has been faster rising educational attainment for privately educated individuals. Despite these patterns of change, the proportion attending private school has not altered much, nor have the characteristics of those children (and their parents) attending private school. Taken together, our findings are consistent with the idea that the private school sector has been successful in transforming its ability to generate the academic outputs that are most in demand in the modern economy. Because of the increased earnings advantage, private school remains a good investment for parents who want to opt out, but it also contributes more to rising economic and social inequality.
The Chancellor of UC Berkeley, Nicholas Dirks, formerly spent years as a professor at Columbia University. In an Aspen Ideas Festival* panel on the state of the humanities, he summed up the difference between Ivy Leaguers in New York City and graduates of the institution he now runs. “You know, the tradition at Columbia is that you read Aristotle and then you go to Goldman Sachs,” he said. “And the dream at Berkeley is to do social work and then go work for Google or Facebook.”
He added, “All the stereotypes have a lot of truth to them. What I do find interesting is that at Berkeley, about 70 percent of students are taking some computer science across the curriculum. And this, I think, is a national phenomenon. At Stanford I think it’s 90 percent, but that’s Stanford. But we’re actually trying to introduce data science and data analytics into the core arts and sciences curriculum.”
He also noted the decline in English majors at his rival institution:
IS A university degree a good investment? Many potential students are asking the question, especially in countries where the price of a degree is rising, as a result of falling government subsidies. Recent research suggests that the conventional wisdom remains true: a university degree pays handsomely. In America and the euro zone, for example, unemployment rates for graduates are far below average. Yet the benefit of university varies greatly among students, making an investment in higher education a risky bet in some circumstances.