Archive | November, 2011

The International Baccalaureate program and vocational students

29 Nov

There is an “arms race” going on in American Education. More people are asking whether college is the right choice for many. The U.S. has de-emphasized high quality vocational and technical training in the rush to increase the number of students who proceed to college in pursuit of a B.A. Often a graduate degree  follows. The Harvard paper, Pathways to Prosperity argues for more high quality vocational and technical opportunities:

The implication of this work is that a focus on college readiness alone does not equip young people with all of

the skills and abilities they will need in the workplace, or to successfully complete the transition from adolescence

to adulthood. This was highlighted in a 2008 report published by Child Trends, which compared research on the competencies required for college readiness, workplace readiness and healthy youth development. The report found significant overlaps. High personal expectations, self-management, critical thinking, and academic achievement are viewed as highly important for success in all three areas. But the report also uncovered some striking differences. For instance: while career planning, previous work experience, decision making, listening skills, integrity, and creativity are all considered vital in the workplace, they hardly figure in college readiness.

There is a reluctance to promote vocational opportunities in the U.S. because the is a fear of tracking individuals into vocational training and denying certain groups access to a college education. The comprise could be a combination of both quality technical training with a solid academic foundation. Individuals may have a series of careers over the course of a career and a solid foundation which provides a degree of flexibility is desired for survival in the future. See, Why go to college?

Michael Alison Chandler is reporting in the Washington Post story, New college-prep IB program could be offered to technical students about giving vocational students the opportunity to participate in the International Baccalaureate program.

America’s high schools have historically separated students who learn technical skills from those studying the liberal arts, preparing them for distinct futures.

Education reform over the past three decades has centered on undoing such tracking and strengthening the academic foundation for everyone, thanks to an economy that demands ever higher education for almost any job. Still, experts say there remains too wide a gulf between many career-oriented programs and a broader degree.

A new college-preparatory International Baccalaureate curriculum designed for students pursuing career or technical education aims to bridge the gap. Rockville High has applied to the Geneva-based IB organization to offer an “IB career-related certificate” in future years. If the application is approved, Rockville will become one of the first high schools in the country to offer what some educators are calling a cutting-edge fusion of college and career preparation….

The new program could produce more articulate and creative engineers and computer scientists, its proponents say. The rigor and prestige of IB also could lend esteem and an inroad to college for occupational training programs not typically associated with higher learning, such as cosmetology or construction.

Traditionally, students in vocational training programs have not been afforded access to intensive academic programs like the International Baccalaureate while they are pursuing vocational training.

The International Baccalaureate Organization designs the international baccalaureate diploma

The curriculum

IB Diploma Programme students study six courses at higher level or standard level. Students must choose one subject from each of groups 1 to 5, thus ensuring breadth of experience in languages, social studies, the experimental sciences and mathematics. The sixth subject may be an arts subject chosen from group 6, or the student may choose another subject from groups 1 to 5.

In addition the programme has three core requirements that are included to broaden the educational experience and challenge students to apply their knowledge and understanding.

The extended essay is a requirement for students to engage in independent research through an in-depth study of a question relating to one of the subjects they are studying.

Theory of knowledge is a course designed to encourage each student to reflect on the nature of knowledge by critically examining different ways of knowing (perception, emotion, language and reason) and different kinds of knowledge (scientific, artistic, mathematical and historical).

Creativity, action, service requires that students actively learn from the experience of doing real tasks beyond the classroom. Students can combine all three components or do activities related to each one of them separately.

Read more on the Diploma Programme curriculum

Tamar Lewin has a great article in the New York Times which describes the International Baccalaureate program. In International Program Catches On In U.S. Schools Lewin reports:   

The alphabet soup of college admissions is getting more complicated as the International Baccalaureate, or I.B., grows in popularity as an alternative to the better-known Advanced Placement program.

The College Board’s A.P. program, which offers a long menu of single-subject courses, is still by far the most common option for giving students a head start on college work, and a potential edge in admissions.

The lesser-known I.B., a two-year curriculum developed in the 1960s at an international school in Switzerland, first took hold in the United States in private schools. But it is now offered in more than 700 American high schools — more than 90 percent of them public schools — and almost 200 more have begun the long certification process.

Many parents, schools and students see the program as a rigorous and more internationally focused curriculum, and a way to impress college admissions officers.

To earn an I.B. diploma, students must devote their full junior and senior years to the program, which requires English and another language, math, science, social science and art, plus a course on theory of knowledge, a 4,000-word essay, oral presentations and community service….

Our students don’t have as much diversity as people in some other areas, so this makes them open their eyes,” said Deb Pinkham, the program’s English teacher.

The I.B. program is used in 139 countries, and its international focus has drawn criticism from some quarters.

Some parents say it is anti-American and too closely tied to both the United Nations and radical environmentalism. From its start in 1968 until 1976, the program was financed partly by Unesco. It is now associated with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and until recently it endorsed the Earth Charter, a declaration of principles of sustainability that originated at the United Nations.

When there is a program at the school with a specific agenda, which in this case is the United Nations agenda, I have a problem with it,” said Ann Marie Banfield, who unsuccessfully opposed the adoption of the I.B. program in Bedford, N.H.

Others object to its cost — the organization charges $10,000 a year per school, $141 per student and $96 per exam — and say it is neither as effective as the A.P. program nor likely to reach as many students.

We have 337 kids, and 80 of them take at least one of our 16 A.P. classes,” said John Eppolito, a parent who opposes the planned introduction of the I.B. in Incline Village, Nev. “If we switched to the I.B., the district estimates that 15 kids would get a I.B. diploma in two years.”

I.B. opponents have created a Web site,, to serve as a clearinghouse for their views.

Many schools, and many parents, see the I.B. partly as a way to show college admissions offices that students have chosen a rigorous program, with tests graded by I.B. examiners around the world….

One of the educators interviewed in the Lewin article observed that the IB program might be better suited for kids who are more creative and either are not as good or do not like to memorize.

There shouldn’t be a one size fits all in education and parents should be honest about what education options will work for a particular child. Even children from the same family may find that different education options will work for each child.


Vocational Education Myths and Realities

Vocational Education in the United States, The Early 1990s

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Bimbos, himbos, and role models

28 Nov

Miley Cyrus is sucking up publicity oxygen again. The UK’s Daily Mail is reporting in the article, ‘I’m a stoner’: Miley Cyrus confesses that she smokes ‘too much weed’ when given a Bob Marley birthday cake:

‘You know you’re a stoner when your friends make you a Bob Marley cake,’ the former Disney starlet said in video obtained by The Daily. ‘You know you smoke way too much f**king weed!’

The bash was held at Beacher’s Madhouse inside the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles on Tuesday which was attended and hosted by her friend Kelly Osbourne, 27.

The term “bimbo” comes to mind.

For parents of daughters, the Urban Dictionary defines bimbo

1. A girl who is stupid, wears lots of make up and is obsessed with boys and clothes. Generally blonde but there are exceptions. Usually hang around iwith other bimbos. You can spot them because they will be     the big group of girls that all look the same and are giggling hysterically.

2. Woman who is not attractive enough to be a model, not intelligent enough to be an actress, and not nice enough to be a poisonous snake.

3. A very stupid woman; an airhead.

Parents of sons, don’t snicker because you have sons, you too can or should be equally embarrassed by your progeny. The Urban Dictionary defines himbo

1. The male version of a bimbo, whore, or slut.
He’s such a himbo that he’d sleep with anything that has, or had, a pulse.

2. He’s hot but the conversation goes nowhere as he is a total himbo

3.. He is such a himbo, can’t talk to save his life, but what a body!

The concern for parents should be that the child overemphasizes appearance and stifles the development of other parts of their personality. Most parents want their children to be healthy and happy individuals who are balanced in their life views.

CNN ran a report on the Miss Bimbo website. In the report, Alarm As Dolls Get Breast Implants in ‘Miss Bimbo Game CNN describes some of the views expressed at the Miss Bimbo site:

Girls are encouraged to compete against each other to become the “hottest,
coolest, most famous bimbo in the whole world.”

When a girl signs up, they are given a naked virtual character to look after and
pitted against other girls to earn “bimbo” dollars so they can dress her in sexy
outfits and take her clubbing.

They are told “stop at nothing,” even “meds or plastic surgery,” to ensure their dolls win.

Users are given missions, including securing plastic surgery at the game’s
clinic to give their dolls bigger breasts, and they have to keep her at her
target weight with diet pills, which cost 100 bimbo dollars.

Breast implants sell at 11,500 bimbo dollars and net the buyer 2,000 bimbo
attitudes, making her more popular on the site.

And bagging a billionaire boyfriend is the most desirable way to earn the all
important “mula” or bimbo dollars

Working, it seems, is a bit of a chore in bimbo world.
The site says: “Bimbo dollars is ‘the cabbage,’ ‘bread,’ the ‘mula’ you’ll need
to buy nice things and to get by in bimbo world. To earn some bimbo cash you
will have to (gasp) work or find a boyfriend to be your sugar daddy and hook you up with a phat expense account!”

The advice on feeding the dolls is even more spurious, encouraging them to feed the dolls “every now and then” even though they want to keep their Bimbos “waif thin.” [Emphasis Added]    

It is really no wonder that Tiger Woods and others like him are able to really “score” bimbo totals. 

The Barna Group researched teen role models and posted their findings in the article, Teen Role Models: Who They Are, Why They Matter:

The nationwide sample of teenagers asked 13- to 17-year-olds to identify the person whom they admire most today as a role model, other than their parents. A follow-up question probed the reasons they define that person as a role model…

So who do teenagers name as their role models? Even while limiting the answers to non-parents, family members still comes out on top. The most commonly mentioned role model is a relative—37% of teens named a relation other than their parent as the person they admire most. This is typically a grandparent, but also includes sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, and uncles.

After “family,” teens mention teachers and coaches (11%), friends (9%), and pastors or other religious leaders they know personally (6%).

Notice that a majority of teens indicated that the people they most admire and imitate are those with whom they maintain a personal connection, friendship, or interaction….

Respondents described a wide range of reasons why they named a particular role model. The most common rationale (26%) was the personality traits of that person (e.g., caring about others, being loving and polite, being courageous, and being fun were some of the characteristics mentioned most often). Another factor in teens’ thinking was finding someone to emulate (22%) or that the teen would like to “follow in the footsteps” of their chosen role model.

Dr. Robyn Silverman has an excellent article, Powerful Role Models: Seven Ways to Make a Positive Impact on Children, which is posted at her web site.

Positive role models;

  1. Model positive choice-making: Little eyes are watching and little ears are listening. When it comes to being a role model, you must be aware that the choices you make don’t only impact you but also the children who regard you as their superhero…..
  1. Think out loud: When you have a tough choice to make, allow the children to see how you work through the problem, weight the pros and cons, and come to a decision. The process of making a good decision is a skill. A good role model will not only show a child which decision is best, but also how they to come to that conclusion. That way, the child will be able to follow that reasoning when they are in a similar situation.
  1. Apologize and admit mistakes: Nobody’s perfect. When you make a bad choice, let those who are watching and learning from you know that you made a mistake and how you plan to correct it. This will help them to understand that (a) everyone makes mistakes; (b) it’s not the end of the world; (c) you can make it right; and (d) you should take responsibility for it as soon as possible. By apologizing, admitting your mistake, and repairing the damage, you will be demonstrating an important yet often overlooked part of being a role model….
  1. Follow through: We all want children to stick with their commitments and follow through with their promises. However, as adults, we get busy, distracted, and sometimes, a bit lazy. To be a good role model, we must demonstrate stick-to-itiveness and self discipline. That means; (a) be on time; (b) finish what you started; (c) don’t quit; (d) keep your word; and (e) don’t back off when things get challenging. When role models follow through with their goals, it teaches children that it can be done and helps them adopt an “if s/he can do it, so can I” attitude.
  1. Show respect: You may be driven, successful, and smart but whether you choose to show respect or not speaks volumes about the type of attitude it takes to make it in life. We always tell children to “treat others the way we want to be treated” and yet, may not subscribe to that axiom ourselves. Do you step on others to get ahead?
  1. Be well rounded: While we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin, it’s important to show children that we can be more than just one thing. Great role models aren’t just “parents” or “teachers.” They’re people who show curiosities and have varied interests. They’re great learners and challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zones….
  1. Demonstrate confidence in who you are: Whatever you choose to do with your life, be proud of the person you’ve become and continue to become. It may have been a long road and you may have experienced bumps along the way, but it’s the responsibility of a role model to commemorate the lessons learned, the strength we’ve amassed, and the character they’ve developed. We can always get better, however, in order for children to celebrate who they are, their role models need to show that confidence doesn’t start “5 pounds from now,” “2 more wins on top of this one,” or “1 more possession than I have today.” We must continue to strive while being happy with how far we’ve come at the same time.

Stephen Perrine has a good article, How To Bimbo Proof Your Daughter  which is also good advice for sons.  The point is parents must engage their children and offer them alternatives to the culture which is trying to turn children into Snooki, Miley, Lindsey, and Paris clones. Remember that education which includes not only the academic, but positive role models is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), teacher(s), and school. All parties must be involved and engaged.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Why go to college?

28 Nov

Adam Davidson has written an interesting New York Times article, It’s the Economy: The Dwindling Power of a College Degree:

A general guideline these days is that people are rewarded when they can do things that take trained judgment and skill — things, in other words, that can’t be done by computers or lower-wage workers in other countries. Money now flows around the world so quickly, and technology changes so fast, that people who thought they were in high demand find themselves uprooted. Many newspaper reporters have learned that their work was subsidized, in part, by classified ads and now can’t survive the rise of Craigslist; computer programmers have found out that some smart young guys in India will do their jobs for much less. Meanwhile, China lends so much money to the United States that mortgage brokers and bond traders can become richer than they ever imagined for a few years and then, just as quickly, become broke and unemployed.

One of the greatest changes is that a college degree is no longer the guarantor of a middle-class existence. Until the early 1970s, less than 11 percent of the adult population graduated from college, and most of them could get a decent job. Today nearly a third have college degrees, and a higher percentage of them graduated from nonelite schools. A bachelor’s degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability. To get a good job, you have to have some special skill — charm, by the way, counts — that employers value. But there’s also a pretty good chance that by some point in the next few years, your boss will find that some new technology or some worker overseas can replace you.

Though it’s no guarantee, a B.A. or some kind of technical training is at least a prerequisite for a decent salary. It’s hard to see any great future for high-school dropouts or high-school graduates with no technical skills. They most often get jobs that require little judgment and minimal training, like stocking shelves, cooking burgers and cleaning offices. Employers generally see these unskilled workers as commodities — one is as good as any other — and thus each worker has very little bargaining power, especially now that unions are weaker. There are about 40 million of these low-skilled people in our work force. They’re vying for jobs that are likely to earn near the minimum wage with few or no benefits, and they have a high chance of being laid off many times in a career.

The societal push the last few years has been to have more kids go to college. Quite often schools are ranked on the percentage of kids that go directly to college from high school. So, counselors are following cultural cues they have received from administrators, parents, and the media.

Chris Stout lists Top Five Reasons to Go to College Stout places the emphasis on the college experience and the fact that college is not just a place for possible career training. Forbes. Com published Five Reasons Not to Go to College Some people discover their passion earlier in life than others. Forbes.Com addresses its comments at those folks. The calculation is that if one already knows what they want to do, college could be an unnecessary detour. A US News and World Report article estimated the value of a college degree

Amanda Paulson of the Christian Science Monitor has a great article, Does Everyone Need A College Degree? Maybe Not Says Harvard Study about a new Harvard study.   

A new report released by Harvard Wednesday states in some of the strongest terms yet that such a “college for all” emphasis may actually harm many American students – keeping them from having a smooth transition from adolescence to adulthood and a viable career.

The American system for preparing young people to lead productive and prosperous lives as adults is clearly badly broken,” concludes the report, “Pathways to Prosperity” (pdf).

Marcus Wohlsen of AP has posted the article, Tech Mogul Pays Bright Minds Not to Go to College at Seattle PI.Com. Wohlsen reports that tech tycoon Peter Thiel has set up a scholarship which two dozen gifted young people $100,000 not to go to college but to become entrepreneurs for the next two years.

A college degree is no guarantee of either employment or continued employment. Still, because of the economic uncertainty there is an “arms race” in education. Laura Pappano is reporting in the New York Times article, The Master’s As the New Bachelor’s

Call it credential inflation. Once derided as the consolation prize for failing to finish a Ph.D. or just a way to kill time waiting out economic downturns, the master’s is now the fastest-growing degree. The number awarded, about 657,000 in 2009, has more than doubled since the 1980s, and the rate of increase has quickened substantially in the last couple of years, says Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools. Nearly 2 in 25 people age 25 and over have a master’s, about the same proportion that had a bachelor’s or higher in 1960.

Great Schools has a concise overview of various options should a child decide they do not want to go from high school to a four year college. What if Your Teen Wants to Skip College There are several options. Options include a gap year, trade school, vocational school, community college, and for some the military. The only option that should be off the table is to do nothing.

Whether a person chooses to attend a four year college after high school is a very personal decision and there is no one right answer. One thing the current economic climate has taught many is there are no guarantees in life, even with a college degree. The trades may offer some a means to earn a living and a fulfilling life.

Follow your passion, and success will follow you.
— Arthur Buddhold

There are no easy answers in the current economic climate.


  1. A publication by the government Why Attend College? Is a good overview
  2. Article in USA Today about gap year
  3. gap year articles
  4. Advantages of Going to a Vocational School
  5. Vocational School Accreditation
  6. Accredidation Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology
  7. The Federal Trade Commission has Choosing A Career Or Vocational School
  8. How to Choose a Vocational School
  9. How to Choose The Best Trade School

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

What , if anything, do education tests mean?

27 Nov

Moi received a review copy from Princeton University Press of Howard Wainer’s Uneducated Guesses. The publication date was September 14, 2011. In the preface Wainer states the goal of the book, “It deals with education in general and the use of tests and test scores in support of educational goals in particular.” Wainer tries to avoid not only the policy, but the ethical analysis of the analysis of the improper use of tests and test results by tightly defining the objective of the book at page four. The policy implications of using tests and test results to not only decide the direction of education, but to decide what happens to the participants in education are huge. Moi wonders if Wainer was really trying to avoid the unavoidable?

For moi, the real meat of the book comes in chapter 4. Wainer says:

In chapter 3 we learned that the PSAT, the shorter and easier version of the SAT, can be used effectively as one part of the selection decision for scholarships. In this chapter we expand on this discussion to illustrate that the PSAT also provides evidence that can help us allocate scarce educational resources…. [Emphasis Added]

Wainer examines the connection by analyzing and comparing test results from three high school districts. Those schools are Garfield High School in L.A., the site of the movie “Stand and Deliver.” La Canada High School in an upscale L.A. Suburb and Detroit, a very poor inner city school district. The really scary policy implication of Wainer’s very thorough analysis is found at page 44, “Limited resources mean that choices must be made.” Table 4-4 illustrates that real life choices are being made by districts like Detroit. What is really scary is that these choices affect the lives of real human beings. Of course, Wainer is simply the messenger and can’t be faulted for his analysis. According to Wainer, it is very tricky to use test results in predicting school performance and his discussion at page 53 summarizes his conclusions.

Perhaps the most chilling part of Wainer’s book is chapter 8 which deals with how testing and test results can adversely impact the career of a teacher when so-called “experts” incorrectly analyze test data. It should be required reading for those who want to evaluate teacher performance based upon test results.

Overall, Uneducated Guesses is a good, solid, and surprisingly readable book about test design, test results, and the use of test results. The truly scary part of the book describes how the uninformed, unknowing, and possibly venal can use what they perceive to be the correct interpretation to make policy judgments which result in horrific societal consequences.

Wainer makes statistics as readable as possible, because really folks, it is still statistics.

Here is the full citation for the book:

Uneducated Guesses: Using Evidence to Uncover Misguided Education Policies

Howard Wainer

Cloth: $24.95 ISBN: 9780691149288


Wainer’s book will come in handy when reading Eric A. Hanushek’s analysis of a National Research Council report.

Joy Resmovits writes about Eric A. Hanushek’s analysis of a National Research Council report in the Huffington Post article, Stanford Economist Rebuts Much-Cited Report That Debunks Test-Based Education:

When the National Research Council published the results of a decade-long study on the effects of standardized testing on student learning this summer, critics who have long opposed the use of exams as a teaching incentive rejoiced.

But Eric Hanushek, a Stanford University economist who is influential in education research, now says the “told you so” knee-jerk reaction was unwarranted: In an article released Monday by Harvard University’s journal Education Next, Hanushek argues that the report misrepresents its own findings, unjustifiably amplifying the perspective of those who don’t believe in testing. His article has even caused some authors of the NRC report to express concerns with its conclusions….

According to Hanushek’s analysis, the panel’s thorough examination of multiple studies is not evident in its conclusions.

“Instead of weighing the full evidence before it in the neutral manner expected of an NRC committee, the panel selectively uses available evidence and then twists it into bizarre, one might say biased, conclusions,” Hanushek wrote.

The anti-testing bias, he says, comes from the fact that “nobody in the schools wants people looking over their shoulders.”

Hanushek, an economist, claims that the .08 standard deviation increase in student learning is not as insignificant as the report makes it sound. According to his calculations, the benefits of such gains outweigh the costs: that amount of learning, he claims, translates to a value of $14 trillion. He notes that if testing is expanded at the expense of $100 per student, the rate of return on that investment is 9,189 percent. Hanushek criticized the report for not giving enough attention to the benefits NCLB provided disadvantaged students.

The report, Hanushek said, hid that evidence.

“They had that in their report, but it’s buried behind a line of discussion that’s led everybody who’s ever read it to conclude that test-based accountability is a bad idea,” he said. Hanushek reacted strongly, he said, because of the “complacency of many policymakers” who say education should be improved but that there are no effective options.


Grinding the Antitesting Ax: More bias than evidence behind NRC panel’s conclusions
Eric A. Hanushek,Education Next, WINTER 2012 / VOL. 12, NO. 2

Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education: A report from the National Research Council Checked by Eric A. Hanushek

One of the reasons why Hanushek’s critique is so important, aside from the implications that testing has under No Child Left Behind, is the push to use student test results in teacher evaluation. Valerie Strauss has an article in the Washington Post about a study which questions the use of student testing in the teacher evaluation process and the article includes links to the full report. In Study Blast Popular Teacher Evaluation Method Strauss reports:

Student standardized test scores are not reliable indicators of how effective any teacher is in the classroom, not even with the addition of new “value-added” methods, according to a study released today. It calls on policymakers and educators to stop using test scores as a central factor in holding teachers accountable.

Value-added modeling” is indeed all the rage in teacher evaluation: The Obama administration supports it, and the Los Angles Times used it to grade more than 6,000 California teachers in a controversial project. States are changing laws in order to make standardized tests an important part of teacher evaluation.

Unfortunately, this rush is being done without evidence that it works well. The study, by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit think tank based in Washington, concludes that heavy reliance on VAM methods should not dominate high-stakes decisions about teacher evaluation and pay.

Here is the report link

Sarah Garland of the Hechinger Report has written the article, Should value-added teacher ratings be adjusted for poverty?

In Washington, D.C., one of the first places in the country to use value-added teacher ratings to fire teachers, teacher-union president Nathan Saunders likes to point to the following statistic as proof that the ratings are flawed: Ward 8, one of the poorest areas of the city, has only 5 percent of the teachers defined as effective under the new evaluation system known as IMPACT, but more than a quarter of the ineffective ones. Ward 3, encompassing some of the city’s more affluent neighborhoods, has nearly a quarter of the best teachers, but only 8 percent of the worst.

The discrepancy highlights an ongoing debate about the value-added test scores that an increasing number of states—soon to include Florida—are using to evaluate teachers. Are the best, most experienced D.C. teachers concentrated in the wealthiest schools, while the worst are concentrated in the poorest schools? Or does the statistical model ignore the possibility that it’s more difficult to teach a roomfull of impoverished children?

Saunders thinks it’s harder for teachers in high-poverty schools. “The fact that kids show up to school hungry and distracted and they have no eyeglasses and can’t see the board, it doesn’t even acknowledge that,” he said.

The question is what do test results mean and more importantly, how are test scores to be used? Wainer’s book attempts to analyze these questions.


Should value-added teacher ratings be adjusted for poverty?

Sarah Garland, The Hechinger Report, November 22, 2011

Every population of kids is different and they arrive at school at various points on the ready to learn continuum. Schools and teachers must be accountable, but there should be various measures of judging teacher effectiveness for a particular population of children. Perhaps, more time and effort should be spent in developing a strong principal corps and giving principals the training and assistance in evaluation and mentoring techniques. There should be evaluation measures which look at where children are on the learning continuum and design a program to address that child’s needs.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Buyer beware of some for-profit colleges

25 Nov

The General Accounting Office (GAO) has a report which details just how far from bargains some for-profit schools are.

According to the Washington Post article, GAO: 15 For-profi Colleges Used Deceptive Recruiting Tactics written by Daniel de Vise and Paul Kane some for-profit schools used deceptive practices to recruit students.

Congressional officials on Wednesday identified 15 for-profit colleges where recruiters allegedly encouraged investigators posing as prospective students to commit fraud on financial aid applications or misled them about such matters as tuition costs and potential salaries after graduation.

The Government Accountability Office’s findings, presented to a congressional committee along with grainy video clips captured by hidden cameras, may amplify federal scrutiny of the fastest-growing higher-education sector.

Many of the largest for-profit entities were named among the 15 sites targeted by GAO investigators: University of Phoenix, with more than 400,000 students; Argosy University, part of the 136,000-student Education Management Corp.; Kaplan College, part of the 119,000-student Kaplan Higher Education operation owned by The Washington Post Co.; and Everest College, part of the 110,000-student Corinthian Colleges.

Also named: Westech College in California, Bennett Career Institute and Potomac College in the District, MedVance Institute in Florida, College of Office Technology in Illinois, Anthem Institute in Pennsylvania, and Westwood College and ATI Career Training in Texas. Kaplan, Everest and Phoenix each were cited twice, for different campuses.

Four of the colleges — Westech, MedVance, Anthem and Westwood — “encouraged fraudulent practices” in meetings with undercover investigators, the report says. All 15 “made deceptive or otherwise questionable statements.”

At a morning Senate hearing, some of the most powerful revelations came in a brief video presentation, spliced together from hidden-camera feeds….

For-profit or “career” colleges have grown in enrollment from 365,000 students to nearly two million over the past several years, and their students borrowed more than $20 billion in federal loans last year. With so many tax dollars at stake, Congress asked the GAO to determine whether the sector has engaged in fraud, deception or questionable marketing practices, as its critics allege.

Across official Washington, reaction to the findings and the video was swift and unequivocal.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan termed the apparent evidence of fraud “unacceptable, absolutely unacceptable.” [Emphasis Added]    

See, Online K-12 education as a cash cow for ‘Wall Street’

Kelly Field is reporting in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, Undercover Probe Finds Lax Academic Standards at Some For-Profit Colleges:

An undercover investigation by the Government Accountability Office has found evidence of lax academic standards in some online for-profit programs.

The probe, which is described in a report made public Tuesday, found that staff at six of the 12 colleges that enrolled the investigators tolerated plagiarism or awarded credit for incomplete or shoddy work.

The release of the report, “For-Profit Schools: Experiences of Undercover Students Enrolled in Online Classes at Selected Colleges,” comes roughly a year after the accountability office revised an earlier report on recruiting abuses at for-profit colleges, acknowledging errors and omissions in its findings. A coalition of for-profit colleges has sued the office over that report, accusing its investigators of professional malpractice….

This time, the agents attempted to enroll in online programs at 15 for-profit colleges using a home-school diploma or a diploma from a closed high school. Twelve of the colleges accepted them.

The “students” then proceeded to skip class, plagiarize, and submit “substandard” work. Though several ultimately failed their classes, some got credit for shoddy or plagiarized work along the way.

At one college, a student received credit for six plagiarized assignments; at another, a student submitted photos of political figures and celebrities in lieu of an essay, but still earned a passing grade. A third student got full credit on a final project, despite completing only two of the three required components. That same student received full credit for an assignment that had clearly been prepared for another class.

In two cases, instructors confronted students about their repeated plagiarism but took no disciplinary action against them. One student received credit for a response that was copied verbatim from other students’ discussion posts.

Instructors at the other six colleges followed their institutions’ policies on grading and plagiarism, and in some cases offered to help students who appeared to be struggling.

All of the students ultimately withdrew or were expelled from the programs. Three of the colleges failed to provide the departing students with federally required exit counseling about their repayment options and the consequences of default.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting report by Josh Keller about the tactics used by some for-profit colleges.

In Online Ads Hijack Prospective Students, Former Employee Says Keller reports:

Last year, James Soloway called hundreds of prospective students per day on behalf of a company that placed advertisements on Google and Bing. The ads promised to help students contact the admissions offices of public colleges if they filled out an online form and included their phone number.

He told students that they would hear from their preferred public college, even though they almost never did. In the meantime, he said, they should consider attending a for-profit college—such as Kaplan University and Westwood College.

Most of the prospective students were confused. Some hung up. But sometimes the pitch worked. Some people, especially high-school students, believed he was an educational counselor and gave weight to his recommendations, he says.

The entire process was designed to redirect students who wanted information on a public college to a for-profit college, Mr. Soloway says. “The expectation was that we were not to allow a call to end with a student until we had created three private-school leads.”

Victor Hugo said it best when dealing with many for-profit colleges:           

Caution is the eldest child of wisdom
~Victor Hugo


College accreditation – U.S. Department of Education

College Accreditation: Frequently Asked Questions

Ask questions before deciding on a for-profit college [Video]

For Profit Colleges: Get the Facts

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

The changing world of textbooks

24 Nov

As the cost of a college education rises, everyone is looking at ways to reduce cost so that more students are not priced out of a college education. Allen Grove has a good article at About.Com which gives some reasons for Why College Books Cost So Much? There are ways to cut down the cost associated with college text books. If possible, one can buy used texts. Another way to cut costs is to rent texts. Rhiana Jones’ article Top Three Online Sites to Rent College Texts At a Discount compares three text rental sites. Paul Michael has some tips for going online to find discounted texts at How to Find the Cheapest College Textbooks

Christopher F. Schuetze is reporting in the New York Times article, Textbooks Finally Take a Big Leap to Digital:

Amazon, which got its start selling books online, announced this year that, for the first time, its digital books had outsold paper books. This trend of going digital does not hold true for all books: While many popular consumer books have successfully made the switch into the new format, textbooks are still widely read on paper….

Digital textbooks are any books that can be downloaded to an e-reader or computer or those that can be read online using a Web browser. While no one keeps precise numbers of digital textbook sales globally, a number of companies have seen similar growth patterns and nearly identical market share.

According to the Student Monitor, a private student market research company based in New Jersey, about 5 percent of all textbooks acquired in the autumn in the United States were digital textbooks. That is more than double the 2.1 percent of the spring semester.

Simba Information, a research company specializing in publishing, estimates that electronic textbooks will generate $267.3 million this year in sales in the United States. That is a rise of 44.3 percent over last year. The American Association of Publishers estimates that the college textbooks industry generated a total of $4.58 billion in sales last year….

Students say digital rentals can be good and bad.

It was cheaper than actually buying the book,” said Rebecca Johnson, a senior at George Mason University, who bought her first electronic textbook during her junior year. She paid about 50 percent less for her digital textbook, which she bought directly from the publisher. But she pointed out that the digital version was not permanent.

You have it for that class time, but you don’t have it forever,” Ms. Johnson said. Her textbook expired 180 days after she purchased it.

Jill Ambrose, the chief marketing officer at CourseSmart, says sections of rental books can often be printed off and kept. Also, most publishers will make the printed version of the textbook available at a big discount to students who have purchased the digital version.

For some students, the limited-time access can represent a real downside to digital books.

The biggest downside to renting seems to be access to material after the rental period has expired unless a new fee is paid. Also, there are technology issues for users who do not access the material in a linear manner, but instead jump around in the use of the material.

Cristian Salazar of the Washington Post reports that initial results from test projects of college textbook rentals may not be promising. In the article, College Textbook Rental Pilot Might Not Be Making The Grade Seems like institutional barriers to entry and to reform, as well as a calcified culture are prevalent in the textbook rental market, just like in many areas of education.

The U.S. Congress has conducted a study of text book pricing:

Study on the Affordability of College Textbooks


·         Congressional Letter Authorizing Textbook Study PDF

·         Textbook Study Fact Sheet PDF

·         An Economic Analysis of Textbook Pricing and Textbook Markets by Dr. James V. Koch PDF

·         A Generational Opportunity: A 21st Century Learning Content Delivery System, By Mr. Patrick McElroy PDF

·         US Government Accountability Office Report: College Textbooks, July 2005 PDF

·         Table of State Legislation Pertaining to Textbook Affordability, 2004-2007 MS Word

Textbook Study Hearing Information Contact the Committee:
Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance

The publishing world is evolving.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Social media addiction

24 Nov

Moi wonders if anyone is surprised by this development. The UK’s Daily Mail reported about internet addiction among the young  in  Internet Rehab Clinic for ‘Sreenager” Children Hooked on modern technology  In a Movieline interview, Miley gives the reason for closing her Twitter account. According to Miley, It’s Dangerous, It Wastes Your Life, It’s Not Fun Ya, think?

“I was kind of, like, tired of telling everyone what I’m doing,” Cyrus told Movieline. “I hate when I read things and celebrities are complaining like, ‘I have no personal life.’ I’m like, well that’s because you write everything that you’re doing.”

“So I was that person who was like, ‘I’m so sad. I have no real, normal life, everyone knows what I’m doing.’ And I’m like, well that’s my own fault because I’m telling everyone,” Cyrus said. “And then I’d tweet, ‘I’m here,’ and I’d wonder why a thousand fans are outside the restaurant. Well, hello, I just told them. So I’m just, like, kind of thinking doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Everything I’m saying is not really going with what I’m putting on the internet.

Asked if the change has been for the better, Cyrus took a moment to consider, then said, “I’m a lot less on my phone, I’m a little bit more social. I have a lot more real friends as opposed to friends who are on the internet who I’m talking to — which is like not cool, not safe, not fun and most likely not real. I think everything is just better when you’re not so wrapped up in [the internet].”

What  Miley is saying is that she wants the type of social relationships which come from face-to-face contact. In other words, she wants healthier social interactions.

Alexandra Rice is reporting in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, Bleary-Eyed Students Can’t Stop Texting, Even to Sleep, a Researcher Finds:

Students, the researchers found, were losing an average of 45 minutes of sleep each week because of their cellphones.

The phones were disrupting sleep and, in turn, were associated with higher rates of anxiety and depression because of insufficient rest. While depression is a well-documented side effect of a lack of sleep, Ms. Adams said, the anxiety element was something new.

Students already average a “sleep debt” of two hours each night, according to Ms. Adams’s study, which reflects similar findings from national sleep studies. Her study and others suggest that college students need nine and one-quarter hours of sleep each night, though they get an average of only seven hours. So losing those extra 45 minutes hurts even more. The students who had the highest rates of technology use also had higher levels of anxiety and depression compared with the rest of the students in the Rhode Island study.

The main message of her study, Ms. Adams said, is that college students struggle to set boundaries for themselves. Unlike high-school students, many of them don’t have anyone around telling them to put the phone away.

For Ms. Adams and other researchers studying the topic, finding out why students feel compelled to always answer their phones at night is an important piece of the puzzle. The most common reason, as reported by several researchers, is wanting to not miss out on something. An invitation to a party, a bit of gossip from a friend, or a text from a significant other all warrant staying awake just a little bit longer. Like the chicken and the egg, it’s hard to determine which comes first: the unwillingness to disconnect or the anxiety and loss of sleep.

Jason Dick has Internet Addiction and Children Hidden-Dangers and 15 Warning Signs  See also  Disabled World’s Internet Addiction in Children and CNN’s Internet Addiction Linked to ADHD, Depression in Teens   Help Guide. Org has a good article, Internet Addiction  on treating internet addiction in teens. Among their suggestions are:

Recognize any underlying problems that may support your Internet addiction. If you are struggling with depression, stress, or anxiety, for example, Internet addiction might be a way to self-soothe rocky moods. Have you had problems with alcohol or drugs in the past? Does anything about your Internet use remind you of how you used to drink or use drugs to numb yourself? Recognize if you need to address treatment in these areas or return to group support meetings.

Build your coping skills. Perhaps blowing off steam on the Internet is your way of coping with stress or angry feelings. Or maybe you have trouble relating to others, or are excessively shy with people in real life. Building skills in these areas will help you weather the stresses and strains of daily life without resorting to compulsive Internet use.

Strengthen your support network. The more relationships you have in real life, the less you will need the Internet for social interaction. Set aside dedicated time each week for friends and family. If you are shy, try finding common interest groups such as a sports team, education class, or book reading club. This allows you to interact with others and let relationships develop naturally.

Modify your Internet use step by step:

To help you see problem areas, keep a log of how much you use the Internet for non-work or non-essential activities. Are there times of day that you use the Internet more? Are there triggers in your day that make you stay online for hours at a time when you only planned to stay for a few  minutes?

Set goals for when you can use the Internet. For example, you might try setting a timer, scheduling use for certain times of day, or making a commitment to turn off the computer, tablet, or smart phone at the same time each night. Or you could reward yourself with a certain amount of online time once you’ve completed a homework assignment or finished the laundry, for instance.

Replace your Internet usage with healthy activities. If you are bored and lonely, resisting the urge to get back online can be very difficult. Have a plan for other ways to fill the time, such as going to lunch with a coworker, taking a class, or inviting a friend over.            

There is something to be said for Cafe Society where people actually meet face-to-face for conversation or the custom of families eating at least one meal together. Time has a good article on The Magic of the Family Meal See, also Family Dinner,The Value of Sharing Meals

It also looks like Internet rehab will have a steady supply of customers according to an article reprinted in the Seattle Times by Hillary Stout of the New York Times. In Toddlers Latch On to iPhones – and Won’t Let Go Stout reports:

But just as adults have a hard time putting down their iPhones, so the device is now the Toy of Choice — akin to a treasured stuffed animal — for many 1-, 2- and 3-year-olds. It’s a phenomenon that is attracting the attention and concern of some childhood development specialists.

Looks like social networking may not be all that social.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

3rd world America: The economy affects the society of the future

22 Nov

One of the major contributors to poverty in third world nations is limited access to education opportunities. Without continued sustained investment in education in this country, we are the next third world country. All over the country plans are being floated to cut back the school year or eliminate programs which help the most disadvantaged. Alexander Eichler reports in the Huffington Post article, Middle-Class Jobs Disappearing As Workforce Shifts To High-Skill, Low-Skill: Study:

America is increasingly becoming a place of high- and low-skill jobs, with less room available for a middle class.

A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that over the past 30 years, the U.S. workforce has shifted toward high-paying jobs that require a great deal of education — jobs in the legal, engineering or technology industries, for example — and toward low-paying jobs that require little schooling, like food preparation, maintenance and personal care.

What haven’t fared so well are the industries in the middle, like sales, teaching, construction, repair, entertainment, transportation and business — the ones where a majority of Americans end up working.

In 1980, these middle-level jobs accounted for 75 percent of the workforce. By 2009, that number had fallen to 68 percent. In the same span of time, low- and high-skill jobs had each grown as a percentage of the workforce.

In order to support family creation and family preservation, there must be liveable wage jobs. We, as a society, must support the concept of:

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©


Job Polarization in the United States: A Widening Gap and Shrinking Middle by Jaison R. Abel

and Richard Deitz, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, November 21, 2011.

Huffington Post reprints a report about the effect of the income gap and learning from California Ed Source in the article, ‘Income Achievement Gap’ Almost Double Black-White Performance Gap, Report Shows:

In a dramatic illustration of the impact of income inequality on how children do in school, the achievement gap between children from high and low income families is far higher than the achievement gap between black and white students, a pathbreaking research report from Stanford University has shown.

The report by Sean Reardon, a Stanford professor of education and sociology, shows that the income achievement gap–the difference in the average standardized scores between children from families at the 10th percentile of income distribution and children at the 90th percentile–is now “nearly twice as large as the black-white achievement gap.”

A half century ago, the situation was just the reverse. The black-white gap was one and a half times as large as the income achievement gap as defined in the report, Reardon found….

.Reardon’s report for the first time looks at the achievement gap between rich and poor children, how that gap compares to the achievement gap between black and white children, and how the gap has evolved over time.

Another notable finding was that the income achievement gap doesn’t narrow, or widen, during the entire time children are in school. To Reardon, this suggests that “a big part of the processes that are responsible for this are things that happen in early childhood before kids get into kindergarten….”

Reardon’s report for the first time looks at the achievement gap between rich and poor children, how that gap compares to the achievement gap between black and white children, and how the gap has evolved over time.

Another notable finding was that the income achievement gap doesn’t narrow, or widen, during the entire time children are in school. To Reardon, this suggests that “a big part of the processes that are responsible for this are things that happen in early childhood before kids get into kindergarten.”

See, Race, class, and education in America ,


Reardon’s report titled “The Widening Achievement Gap Between the Rich and the Poor: New Evidence and Possible Explanations” was published in September 2011 in Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances, edited by Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane  (Russell Sage Foundation).

So what future have the Goldman Sucks, cash sluts, and credit crunch weasels along with we don’t care, we don’t have to Washington Georgetown and Chevy Chase set – you know, the the “masters of the universe” left those on a race to get through college? Lila Shapiro has the excellent post, Trading Down: Laid-Off Americans Taking Pay Cuts and Inceasingly Kissing Their Old Lives Goodbye at Huffington Post:

This government, both parties, has failed to promote the kind of economic development AND policy which creates liveable wage jobs. That is why Mc Donalds is popular for more than its dollar menu. They are hiring people.

This economy must focus on job creation and job retention and yes, hope. Both for those racing through college and those who have paid their education and training dues. “You deserve a break today at Mc Donalds,” the only employer who seems to be hiring.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

The 1% is maintaining the status quo: Colleges return to early admissions

22 Nov

There is an “arms race” in education from granting more advanced degrees to colleges vying for top undergraduate students. One weapon to attract top students has been the admissions policy of “early admission.” There is a difference between “early admission” and “early decision” according to the College Board:

Early decision plans are binding—a student who is accepted as an ED applicant must attend the college. Early action plans are nonbinding—students receive an early response to their application but do not have to commit to the college until the normal reply date of May 1. Counselors need to make sure that students understand this key distinction between the two plans: binding is binding.

There are reasons why colleges prefer the process and why for a time top institutions like Harvard and Princeton abandoned the process for a time.

The Daily Princetonian described some of the issues involving the “early admission” process in the September 18th, 2006 article, An unfair process: Princeton should follow Harvard in dropping the early admission option:

Perhaps the biggest problem with the early admissions process is that it tends to favor wealthier students at elite high schools. Many schools — Princeton included — tend to accept a higher percentage of students who apply early. Yet, students in need of financial aid have a huge disincentive to apply early because it prevents them from comparing financial aid and scholarship options. At the same time, students from schools with more established college advising programs are given a head start in applying for admissions and are often more aware of early admission programs to begin with. As interim Harvard president Derek Bok put it, early decision programs tend to “advantage the advantaged.”

Early admission programs also hurt students because they encourage increased gamesmanship in the college admission process. High schools seniors are encouraged to choose the most selective school on their list of schools to apply to, instead of taking the time to consider which schools are really their best matches.

Princeton did drop “early admission” for a time.

There are about 400 colleges which offer early admission The College Board also has an excellent time line for those who may be seeking early admission. Inside Higher Education has an article about the Harvard and Princeton decision to return to early admission. In, Surrender to Early Admissions Scott Jaschik writes:

In the fall of 2006, first Harvard University, then Princeton University, and then the University of Virginia announced that they would end programs in which applicants applied earlier than the regular deadline — and also found out months early whether they had been admitted. With those decisions by elite institutions, the many critics of early admissions policies thought that they had momentum to end practices that many saw as creating needless anxiety and favoring wealthy applicants.

That momentum never materialized — and other colleges and universities did not abandon their early programs….

Many colleges also reported that their early applicants were more likely than those in the regular pool to be white, wealthy and from good high schools. That’s not surprising, of course, since those who would need to compare financial aid packages from different colleges would be hesitant to pledge to enroll at one college before seeing all available aid packages. A series of articles — most notably a 2001 piece by James Fallows in The Atlantic Monthly — led to much hand-wringing at admissions gatherings about early admissions being out of control.

Even as educators talked about all of the downsides of early admissions, applicants from good high schools continued to apply early in greater and greater numbers — until Harvard and then others announced their shifts. In restoring early action, both Harvard and Princeton stressed that they believed they could offer an early option without placing any groups of students at a disadvantage.

See, Harvard and Princeton Restore Early Admission

Eric Hoover is reporting in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, The Flock of Early Birds Keeps Growing about the return of prestige colleges to “early admission.”

In 2007, Georgetown University’s admissions staff expected a flood, and it got one. The university received 6,000 early-admission applications, a 31-percent increase from the previous year.

The rise was striking, but not shocking. After all, three of Georgetown’s high-profile competitors—Harvard and Princeton Universities, and the University of Virginia—had eliminated their early-admission programs that year. Scores of eager, high-achieving students apparently jumped into Georgetown’s nonbinding “early-action” pool instead. More and more applications came each year after that, climbing to 6,658 in 2010.

But this fall would be different. At least that’s what Charles A. Deacon predicted after Harvard, Princeton, and Virginia reinstated early-admission programs this year. The two Ivy League universities adopted restrictive early-action policies that bar applicants from applying early to other private colleges. So Mr. Deacon, Georgetown’s dean of admissions, suspected that his university would see early-action applications drop by as much as 30 percent.

That didn’t happen. Georgetown’s final tally was 6,750 applications, a handful more than last year. “The question is, Why hasn’t the same change reversing the increase of four years ago occurred?” Mr. Deacon says. “It just becomes ever less predictable.”

Another early-admission season is winding down, and this one has a back-to-the-future vibe. The same three institutions that had won praise for abandoning their early-admission programs became symbols of application-saturation this fall. Princeton received 3,547 early applications—nearly three times the number of seats in its freshman class. Virginia, which has a nonrestrictive early-action program like Georgetown, received 11,417 early applications; that’s about 9,000 more than the university saw back in 2007, when it had a binding early-decision program. As of Friday afternoon, Harvard had yet to announce its total, but it’s safe to guess that the number is gigantic…

CBS. News has early admission statistics in the article, Early Decision Applications Are Soaring: Here’s Why by Lynn O’Shaughnessy.

2011-2012 Early Decision Statistics

Percentage increase or decrease in early decision applications from last year:

  • Amherst College -5%
  • Bates College 4%
  • Brown University -3%
  • Bowdoin College 10%
  • Bucknell College 30%
  • Columbia University 8%
  • Dartmouth College 12%
  • Dickinson College 15%
  • Duke University 14%
  • Elon University -15%
  • George Washington U. 19%
  • Haverford College 14%
  • Johns Hopkins U. 14%
  • Lehigh University 14%
  • Middlebury College < 1%
  • Northwestern U. 26%
  • U. of Pennsylvania 18%
  • Pomona College <1%
  • U. of Rochester 0%
  • Sarah Lawrence 15%
  • Vanderbilt U. 30%
  • Virginia Tech <1%
  • Williams College 1%

2011-2012 Early Action Statistics

Percentage increase or decrease in early action applications from last year:

  • University of Chicago 18.5%
  • Emerson College 11%
  • Fordham University 8%
  • MIT 14%
  • Santa Clara U. 27%
  • Villanova U. 25%
  • Boston College 7%
  • Stanford U. 7%
  • Yale University < 1%

Early admission” seems to be one element of the growing income inequality in America.


Harvard, Princeton return to early admission by Daniel de Vise

The College Board’s Early Decision & Early Action The benefits and drawbacks of applying early

Debating Legacy Admissions at Yale, and Elsewhere by Jenny Anderson

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Online K-12 education as a cash cow for ‘Wall Street’

21 Nov

There should be a variety of options and approaches in education. Still, School choice does not mean education on the cheap! K-12 education should not be the next sub-prime mortgage or derivative gambit for large for-profit companies. Lee Fang has written the alarming Nation article, How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools.

While most education reform advocates cloak their goals in the rhetoric of “putting children first,” the conceit was less evident at a conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, earlier this year.

Standing at the lectern of Arizona State University’s SkySong conference center in April, investment banker Michael Moe exuded confidence as he kicked off his second annual confab of education startup companies and venture capitalists. A press packet cited reports that rapid changes in education could unlock “immense potential for entrepreneurs.” “This education issue,” Moe declared, “there’s not a bigger problem or bigger opportunity in my estimation.”

Moe has worked for almost fifteen years at converting the K-12 education system into a cash cow for Wall Street. A veteran of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, he now leads an investment group that specializes in raising money for businesses looking to tap into more than $1 trillion in taxpayer money spent annually on primary education. His consortium of wealth management and consulting firms, called Global Silicon Valley Partners, helped K12 Inc. go public and has advised a number of other education companies in finding capital.

Moe’s conference marked a watershed moment in school privatization. His first “Education Innovation Summit,” held last year, attracted about 370 people and fifty-five presenting companies. This year, his conference hosted more than 560 people and 100 companies, and featured luminaries like former DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, now an education executive at News Corporation, a recent high-powered entrant into the for-profit education field. Klein is just one of many former school officials to cash out. Fenty now consults for Rosetta Stone, a language company seeking to expand into the growing K-12 market.

As Moe ticked through the various reasons education is the next big “undercapitalized” sector of the economy, like healthcare in the 1990s, he also read through a list of notable venture investment firms that recently completed deals relating to the education-technology sector, including Sequoia and Benchmark Capital. Kleiner Perkins, a major venture capital firm and one of the first to back and Google, is now investing in education technology, Moe noted.

Henry M. Levin of Columbia University had some cautionary notes about for-profit K-12 education in 2001.

In the 2001 paper, Thoughts on For-profit Schools, Levin wrote:

The fact is that we know little about how for-profit schools will operate and how they will affect students and other schools. At least three major questions have yet to be answered satisfyingly:

If schools are a potentially profitable endeavor, then why did entrepreneurs wait so long to enter the market? Is there something unique about schooling that makes it difficult to earn a profit?

Now that we do have for-profit schools, how will they achieve cost savings? Will they bring fundamentally different approaches to education through curricular and technological innovations that will “break the mold”?

Even if they are more effective or less costly, or both, will they earn profits that are comparable to the returns on other investments?

Levin mused about some of the other issues that for-profit operators of K-12:

In short, even the most expensive private schools with the most elite clientele fail to cover their costs with tuition. This goes far in explaining why entrepreneurs have shied away from the K–12 market. This is not to say that an individual, for-profit, family-owned school can’t survive. I know of a few for-profit schools at the K–12 level and more at the preschool level that appear to be marginally profitable. But much of what appears as profit is due to the family members’ hard work for little pay. The salaries they draw on the school understate the value of their time, leaving the impression that the enterprise is profitable.

Whether this can be replicated on a large scale by corporate entities is doubtful. Historically, economic studies have not identified substantial economies of scale in education at school sites or in multi-school endeavors. Perhaps this is for the reason suggested by John Chubb and Terry Moe in Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools (1990): that the best results are obtained when schools are given great autonomy.2 A corporate competitor in schooling must establish brand and product identity, which necessitates relatively uniform operations and services from site-to-site. This puts the need for quality control and similarity from site to site in direct competition with the need to be responsive to differences among particular clients and settings.

One business plan about how the big corporations plan to turn a buck in K-12 education is the move toward online education. Laura Herrerra’s New York Times article, In Florida, Virtual Classrooms Without Teachers describes what may actually happen in practice.

 MIAMI — On the first day of her senior year at North Miami Beach Senior High School, Naomi Baptiste expected to be greeted by a teacher when she walked into her precalculus class.

All there were were computers in the class,” said Naomi, who walked into a room of confused students. “We found out that over the summer they signed us up for these courses.”

Naomi is one of over 7,000 students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools enrolled in a program in which core subjects are taken using computers in a classroom with no teacher. A “facilitator” is in the room to make sure students progress. That person also deals with any technical problems.

These virtual classrooms, called e-learning labs, were put in place last August as a result of Florida’s Class Size Reduction Amendment, passed in 2002. The amendment limits the number of students allowed in classrooms, but not in virtual labs….

Under the state’s class-reduction amendment, high school classrooms cannot surpass a 25-student limit in core subjects, like English or math. Fourth- through eighth-grade classrooms can have no more than 22 students, and prekindergarten through third grade can have no more than 18.

Alix Braun, 15, a sophomore at Miami Beach High, takes Advanced Placement macroeconomics in an e-learning lab with 35 to 40 other students. There are 445 students enrolled in the online courses at her school, and while Alix chose to be placed in the lab, she said most of her lab mates did not.

None of them want to be there,” Alix said, “and for virtual education you have to be really self-motivated. This was not something they chose to do, and it’s a really bad situation to be put in because it is not your choice…”

Some teachers are skeptical of how well the program can help students learn.

The Illinois Online Network has a good synopsis of the pros and cons of online education at Strengths and Weaknesses of Online Learning Technology can be a useful tool and education aid, BUT it is not a cheap way to move the masses through the education system without the guidance and mentoring that a quality human and humane teacher can provide.

Many critics put the emphasis on “for-profit” and will adamantly argue that any entity which is for-profit is inherently bad for education. Moi would put the emphasis on neighborhood choice and argue that entities without strong ties to the neighborhood they intend to operate in, do not have the loyalty to succeeding in that particular neighborhood and will probably not be successful. Let’s be honest, corporations intend to generate a profit from their education activities as their primary goal. The secondary goal is probably the education of children. Moi is skeptical that a for-profit entity really has the commitment to a neighborhood and thus to a neighborhood’s schools. Still, moi is not like some so called “anti-reform” types who foam at the mouth at the words charter and for-profit. There is no magic bullet or “Holy Grail” in education. There is only what works to produce academic achievement in each population of children. That is why school choice is so important.

Children are not the new sub-prime mortgage business or the new derivative gambit. People must be afraid, very afraid of the vultures who are now hovering around the education sector. If folks don’t watch them, the results will not be pretty.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©