Archive | April, 2012

The International Baccalaureate program as a way to save struggling schools

30 Apr

In The International Baccalaureate program and vocational students, moi said this:

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 compromise 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?

Claudia Rowe has written the Seattle Times article, Can more rigorous academics help Rainier Beach?

Rarely have the stakes been so high at Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School:

Student enrollment continues to plummet. Test scores continue to droop. And whispers of imminent closure abound.

But with 1,700 teenagers in Rainier Beach’s attendance zone, most of them now traveling out of the neighborhood to get their education, Seattle needs the beleaguered South End high school to succeed as never before — and in a big way.

The answer?

Parents at Rainier Beach believe it lies in a rigorous academic program created in Switzerland for the children of diplomats. And if they earn the necessary certification, Rainier Beach will become Seattle’s next International Baccalaureate World School, a place where college-bound students take a rigorous slate of advanced courses and test their performance against some of the most privileged young people on earth.

You could call it a Hail Mary pass for survival.

The IB program, as it is known, has a track record of saving schools previously written off, using teens’ natural impulse toward challenge and questioning to ignite an interest in education on their terms. This has worked in places like inner-city Chicago and in the poorer areas of California’s Central Valley, where teachers have seen many once-struggling students blossom as school leaders.

Closer to home, the IB has already effected similar turnarounds in Tacoma, and in Seattle, at Ingraham and Chief Sealth high schools.

But the high-minded, internationally focused program also forces confrontation with uncomfortable realities: IB’s college-prep focus tends to attract whiter, more affluent families; it requires academic skills that many students entering Rainier Beach do not possess. And at a high-poverty school like Beach, its price alone could be a deal-breaker — no matter how talented the students.

“When I saw that it cost over $700 to take the tests, I was like, ‘Whoa!’ ” said Kaeleabe Teferi, 17, a senior at Ingraham, which has been offering the IB for a decade. “I don’t qualify for free-and-reduced lunch, but it was still kind of a hard-sell with my parents.”

Kaeleabe is one of the few black students in line for an IB diploma at Ingraham this year, a fact he shrugs off and attributes to the dearth of black youth enrolled in honors classes, which act as a feeder system for the program.

But an image of elitism clings to the International Baccalaureate and remains a concern for parents at Rainier Beach, well aware that their students are — in numerous ways — not typical IB kids.

“It’s a predominantly white program — that’s what you see when you look at the literature, all white faces,” said Carlina Brown, president of Beach’s parent-teacher-student association.

“So I was like, ‘How am I going to present this to parents who are almost entirely black?’ ”

Other Seattle schools who have started International Baccalaureate programs have had some success according to Rowe.

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. …[Emphasis Added]

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.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Children and swearing

29 Apr

Natalie Angier wrote a fascinating 2005 New York Times piece, Almost Before We Spoke:

Yet researchers who study the evolution of language and the psychology of swearing say that they have no idea what mystic model of linguistic gentility the critics might have in mind. Cursing, they say, is a human universal. Every language, dialect or patois ever studied, living or dead, spoken by millions or by a small tribe, turns out to have its share of forbidden speech, some variant on comedian George Carlin’s famous list of the seven dirty words that are not supposed to be uttered on radio or television.

Young children will memorize the illicit inventory long before they can grasp its sense, said John McWhorter, a scholar of linguistics at the Manhattan Institute and the author of “The Power of Babel,” and literary giants have always constructed their art on its spine.

“The Jacobean dramatist Ben Jonson peppered his plays with fackings and “peremptorie Asses,” and Shakespeare could hardly quill a stanza without inserting profanities of the day like “zounds” or “sblood” – offensive contractions of “God’s wounds” and “God’s blood” – or some wondrous sexual pun.

The title “Much Ado About Nothing,” Dr. McWhorter said, is a word play on “Much Ado About an O Thing,” the O thing being a reference to female genitalia.

Even the quintessential Good Book abounds in naughty passages like the men in II Kings 18:27 who, as the comparatively tame King James translation puts it, “eat their own dung, and drink their own piss.”

In fact, said Guy Deutscher, a linguist at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and the author of “The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind’s Greatest Invention,” the earliest writings, which date from 5,000 years ago, include their share of off-color descriptions of the human form and its ever-colorful functions. And the written record is merely a reflection of an oral tradition that Dr. Deutscher and many other psychologists and evolutionary linguists suspect dates from the rise of the human larynx, if not before.

To the consternation of many parents, their children use bad words or swear.

Kid’s Health has a great article about swearing, Swearing – using bad words:

What is swearing?

Swearing is a way of speaking that some people use to express their feelings of anger, annoyance, and frustration, or when they want to hurt someone else’s feelings. Sometimes people swear because they think it is smart or funny.Swear words can be: slang words used to describe something a person is too embarrassed to talk about racist or sexist words used to hurt someone’s feelings words used to criticise or put someone down  
    words that are blasphemous [say blass-fee-mus] which means words that are about someone’s god or religion being used as swear words.

Swearing is not okay

* In public  
* Around young children
* In school
* Around older people
* In the cinema or other public places like shopping centres and sports grounds
* In church, synagogue, mosque or other holy place
* On television or radio
* Anywhere there are other people who can be upset by swearing.

In order to guide children toward more appropriate language and behavior, parents must talk to their children about swearing.

Sierra Filucci has written a great Common Sense Media article, 5 Ways to Talk to Your Kids About Swearing — and Why:

What kids intuitively understand is that words are powerful, and certain words make a big impact. My son certainly felt the impact of the language that the birthday party gamers were using. Explaining to him why the kids were using those words — to shock, to feel older, to get attention — took a bit more time.

5 Ways to Talk to Kids About Swearing — and Why

  1. Think time and place. What might be no big deal at your house could be offensive at your best friend’s place. Remind kids to keep their audience in mind when they’re speaking. The language you use when texting your best buddy can be a bit looser than the words you use in a classroom or when speaking to Grandma on Skype.
  2. Expand your own vocab. You can almost always find a substitute for a curse word. Encourage kids to check out a thesaurus and find some creative alternatives to common curses or different ways to describe the feeling that’s making them want to curse. (My son is saying “peanut butter” instead of “dummy.” I tend to use “fig” a lot when I’m frustrated.)
  3. Words can hurt. Being called a name like “bitch” or “jerk” can sting. And just like it’s not OK to hit someone or bully them, it’s not OK to curse at someone to hurt them. Point out when TV characters call each other names, and ask kids how they could have handled the situation differently.
  4. Language reflects on you. Maybe some of your kids’ friends think cursing makes you cool, but the reality is that someone who curses a lot tends to look immature and not at all classy. Remind kids to keep that in mind, especially when they’re sending their language out into the world on social networks, online communities, etc.
  5. Limit exposure. Check out the “language” sections of our media reviews to help select TV shows, movies, games, etc. that keep the language within your comfort level. Find out how to turn off comments or access to chat rooms if kids are seeing inappropriate language on the web. (Learn more about handling swearing.)

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
Mark Twain

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Nelson Mandela

Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are.
Ralph Waldo Emerson


Why Kids Curse                                                           

Swearing: school-age children               

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

New report takes community colleges to task

26 Apr

In Helping community college students to graduate moi said:

Going to a community college is one way to reduce the cost of college.

The Lumina Foundation provides the following statistics:

  • Forty-six percent are 25 or older, and 32 percent are at least 30 years old. The average age is 29.

  • Fifty-eight percent are women.

  • Twenty-nine percent have annual household incomes less than $20,000.

  • Eighty-five percent balance studies with full-time or part-time work. More than half (54 percent) have full-time jobs.

  • Thirty percent of those who work full time also attend classes full time (12 or more credit hours). Among students 30-39 years old, the rate climbs to 41 percent.

  • Minority students constitute 30 percent of community college enrollments nationally, with Latino students representing the fastest-growing racial/ethnic population.

Source: The American Association of Community Colleges, based on material in the National Profile of Community Colleges:Trends & Statistics, Phillippe & Patton, 2000.

Many of those attending community college will need a variety of assistance to be successful in their academic career.

Jennifer Gonzalez reports in the Education Week article, Multiyear Study of Community-College Practices Asks: What Helps Students Graduate?

The first of three reports, “A Matter of Degrees: Promising Practices for Community College Student Success” was released last week. It draws attention to 13 strategies for increasing retention and graduation rates, including fast-tracking remedial education, providing students with experiential learning, and requiring students to attend orientation.

The strategies specified in the report are not new. In fact, many of them can be found at two-year colleges right now. But how well those strategies are working to help students stay in college and graduate is another matter. The report found peculiarities among responses on similar topics, suggesting a disconnect between institutions and students, while also raising questions about how committed institutions are to their own policies and programs.

For example, 74 percent of students said they were required to take academic-placement tests, but only 28 percent said they used materials or resources provided by the college to prepare for those tests. While 44 percent of participating colleges report offering some sort of test preparation, only 13 percent make test preparation mandatory, the report said.

Also, 42 percent of part-time students and 19 percent of full-time students work more than 30 hours per week. More than half care for dependents. But only 26 percent of entering students reported that a college staff member counseled them about how many courses to take while balancing commitments outside of class.

Colleges need to figure out a way to better align their programs and policies with the needs and realities of their students, Ms. McClenney says. The report found a sizable gap between the percentage of students who plan to graduate and those who actually do, suggesting that what colleges think works may not be helping retain and graduate students. In fact, fewer than half (45 percent) of entering community-college students actually graduate with either a certificate or associate degree within six years after enrolling at an institution, according to the report….

Minding Our campus has an article by Mark Bauerlein about a report which is highly critical of the effectiveness of community colleges.

In The Community Colleges: High Promise, High Drop-Out Rates, Bauerlein reports:

The problem is stated bluntly in this report from the American Association of Community Colleges, entitled, “Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future.” The report contains an overly-dramatic framing, with dire assertions such as this opening in the Executive Summary: “The American Dream is imperiled. Upward mobility, the contract between one generation of Americans and the rest, is under siege.” But the basis for the report is undeniable. A section on “Student Success” notes that only 46 percent of community college students pursuing a degree or certificate earn one, transfer to a four-year college, or are still enrolled after six years. Worse, “Nearly half of all community college students entering in the fall term drop out before the second fall term begins.”

There is more. About 60 percent of community college students need remedial course work. Only a fraction (25-39%) of students manages to transfer to a four-year institution. For students who do succeed, too many of them opt for dead-end fields: “Reports suggest an overabundance of both adult and younger students planning to enroll in low-demand fields, and a corresponding shortage of students planning to enroll in high-demand fields paying a family-supporting wage.” Indeed, the authors observe, “Estimates indicate employment opportunities for just 3% of students planning on enrolling in fields such as personal services, employment-related services, regulation and protection, crafts, and the creative and performing arts.”

The report develops several recommended “institutional responses” to improve these abysmal results, including focusing on student success as well as student access, making faculty members think less individualistically and more collectively, and making the curriculum less fragmentary and more cumulative. But while these changes are all intramural, the best driver of improvement is, in fact, off-campus, as three examples of community-college success demonstrate a few pages later. There, we read about community colleges as “entrepreneurs,” each one partnering with local businesses to link education directly to employment. City Colleges of Chicago works directly with Rush University Medical Center and Midway airport to provide a pipeline of graduates tailored to their needs. Jefferson Community and Technical College in Kentucky has teamed up with UPS, the latter helping cover tuition and textbook costs while the former provides coursework designed to meet UPS’s job openings. And Walla Walla Community College has altered its curriculum to match the region’s tremendous growth in wine-making, the College now operating a commercial winery run by the students themselves.

The report has several strategies to improve the performance of community colleges.

Here is a portion of the press release:

Transforming Community College System Key to U.S. Competitiveness

Milestone Report Outlines 7 Specific Recommendations for the Future

ORLANDO – Today, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) released a report that calls for dramatic changes to America’s community colleges to ensure U.S. competitiveness. The report outlines seven specific recommendations for reforming the country’s community college system in its new report, Reclaiming the American Dream: A Report from the 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges.

The report’s counsel center on the “Three Rs” of reform: Redesign, Reinvent and Reset. These are defined as a redesign of students’ educational experiences, a reinvention of institutional roles, and a resetting of the system to create partnerships and incentives for student and institutional success….

In a rapidly changing America and a drastically reshaped world, the Commission notes, sustaining the American Dream is at risk. The ground beneath the nation’s feet has shifted so dramatically that community colleges – which had their greatest growth period to respond to societal needs in the 1960s and 1970s – need to re-imagine their roles and the ways in which they work. A highly educated population is fundamental to economic growth and community colleges play a significant role in ensuring the American dream. Stepping up to this challenge will require dramatic redesign of these institutions, their mission, and, most critically, their students’ educational experiences.

The report’s recommendations are:

1. Increase completion rates of community college credentials (certificates and associate degrees) by 50 percent by 2020, while preserving access, enhancing quality, and eradicating attainment gaps associated with income, race, ethnicity, and gender.

2. Dramatically improve college readiness: by 2020, reduce by half the numbers of students entering college unprepared for rigorous college-level work, and double the rate of students who complete developmental education programs and progress to successful completion of related freshman-level courses.

3. Close the American skills gaps by sharply focusing career and technical education on preparing students with the knowledge and skills required for existing and future jobs in regional and global economies.

4. Refocus the community college mission and redefine institutional roles to meet 21st-century educational and employment needs.

5. Invest in support structures to serve multiple community colleges through collaboration among institutions and with partners in philanthropy, government and the private sector.

6. Target public and private investments strategically to create new incentives for educational institutions and their students and to support community college efforts to reclaim the American Dream.

7. Implement policies and practices that promote rigor, transparency, and accountability for results in community colleges.

The report also includes implementation strategies for each of the seven recommendations.

Additional resources:

Reclaiming the American Dream full report:

Report Video:

Report website:

Given the numbers of students attending community college and the population demographic, more must be done to help this students graduate.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Rural schools

25 Apr

A significant number of children attend rural schools. According to the Rural Assistance Center, the definition of a rural school is:

Question: What is the definition of a rural and/or small school?

Answer: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the definition of rural schools was revised in 2006 after working with the Census Bureau to create a new locale classification system to capitalize on improved geocoding technology and the 2000 Office of Management and Budget definitions of metro areas that rely less on population size and county boundaries than proximity of an address to an urbanized area. Small schools do not necessarily mean rural, and rural does not mean small. A small school could be an urban school with a decreasing population. Rural schools can be large due to the center school concept where students are bused in to one school to save on costs. Some schools are considered small when compared to the mega-schools of several thousand that are common in some districts. A small school could be one designed to accommodate a specific population of students and their unique needs or a private school. Rural and/or small schools have similar needs and concerns.

According to The Condition of Education in Rural Schools (U.S. Department of Education, 1994), ‘few issues bedevil analysts and planners concerned with rural education more than the question of what actually constitutes “rural”.’ In the Federal Register published December 27, 2000, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced the Standards for Defining Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas. These new standards replace and supersede the 1990 standards for defining Metropolitan Areas. OMB announced definitions of areas based on the new standards and Census 2000 data in June 2003. The lack of a clear, accepted definition of “rural” has impeded research in the field of rural education. When defining the term rural, population and remoteness are important considerations as these factors influence school organization, availability of resources, and economic and social conditions.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the definition of “small rural schools” are those schools eligible to participate in the Small Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program. SRSA includes districts with average daily attendance of fewer than 600 students, or districts in which all schools are located in counties with a population density of fewer than 10 persons per square mile, AND all schools served by the districts are located in a rural area with a school locale code of 7 or 8.

Rural schools face unique challenges.

Jeremy Ayers reports in the Center for American Progress report, Make Rural Schools A Priority:

One in five students attends a rural school, and more than half of all school districts and one-third of all public schools are in rural areas. Rural student enrollment grew 15 percent between 2002 and 2005, an increase of 1.3 million students. That compares to only 1 percent growth in nationwide enrollment during the same time period.

Definitions of “rural” vary. The U.S. Census Bureau defines rural areas by their geographic distance from urban centers, and as communities that contain fewer than 2,500 people. The Department of Education defines rural schools as those located in districts with fewer than 600 students. Some rural education advocates identify rural schools as those residing in communities with fewer than 2,500 residents, following the Census classification, but also argue for including schools in towns up to 25,000 people. The exact definition matters less than the realization that a large number of rural schools exist and face unique challenges and opportunities. Then there are “frontier” schools that may have only dozens of students, located in very remote or isolated parts of the country such as Alaska, Appalachia, the prairies of the Plains states, and the Mountain West.

Many rural areas of the country contain concentrated poverty, just as urban areas do. Rural schools face particular difficulty in recruiting and retaining teachers and principals. Rural schools continue to lag behind others in Internet access, and rural high schools are not able to provide advanced coursework such as AP and IB classes in the way more urban and suburban areas do. Research on rural education has, at times, been underfunded or not encouraged. And, overall, rural areas have experienced shrinking tax bases, shifting local economies, and brain drain among young people who move to more urban areas after high school graduation.

Download this brief (pdf)

Read this brief in your web browser (Scribd)

Jeremy Ayers is the Senior Education Policy Analyst at American Progress.

One of the significant challenges faced by rural schools is complying with “No Child Left Behind.”

Education Week has an interesting issue brief, Rural Education:

More schools were in rural locations than in either cities or suburbs in 2009-2010, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Based on data from the “Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey,” slightly more than 33 percent of regular elementary and secondary public schools nationwide were in locations classified as rural by NCES (2009b). In all, over 24 percent of public school students attended rural schools that year. In about half of the states, students in rural areas make up a majority of the public elementary and secondary school population.

Those high numbers, combined with the potential advantages of small schools and the challenges that rural schools face in meeting certain mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, have prompted experts to realize that rural education merits increased attention and policy consideration.

It is important to keep in mind that rural schools differ greatly from one another. But as a group, students in these schools have generally scored as well as or better than non-rural students on standardized tests (Loveless, 2003; Williams, 2003; Fan & Chen, 1999). Average test scores on the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed that 4th and 8th grade students in rural schools perform at similar levels in reading, science, and mathematics to their suburban peers and better than their urban peers (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007).

However, the nationwide picture obscures achievement levels that, in fact, vary greatly from state to state. Rural students perform significantly better than non-rural students in some states, but significantly poorer in others. Such differences seem to be linked to variances in a wide range of school factors, such as instructional resources and advanced course offerings (Lee & McIntire, 2000). The spread of high-speed Internet access and development of online learning programs in several states and districts has helped expand opportunities and access to resources for rural students in recent years.

Slightly more than 33 percent of regular elementary and secondary public schools nationwide are in locations classified as rural by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The makeup of student populations in rural schools differs considerably across the country as well. As a whole, rural students are predominantly white (75 percent); approximately 10 percent are black, and about 11 percent are Hispanic, according to 2007-08 data from NCES (2010).

While the typical rural school has a smaller proportion of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches compared to the typical urban school (Loveless, 2003), some rural areas struggle with extreme poverty. According to 2009 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24.2 percent of rural children across the nation live below the federal poverty level, up from 19 percent in 2000 (Mattingly & Stransky, 2010).

Studies in several states have shown that small schools and districts can overcome the adverse effects of poverty on student achievement and narrow the achievement gap between poor students and their more affluent peers (Johnson, 2004; Johnson, Howley, & Howley, 2002; Bickel & Howley, 2000). Such findings are particularly relevant in rural education, where the average school serves approximately 338 students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009c).

Despite research that points to advantages of small schools, however, many rural schools and districts have been forced to consolidate with other schools and districts to cut costs. Between 1930 and 2000, consolidation reduced the number of U.S. school districts by 91 percent and the number of schools by 67 percent, while the number of students increased by 83 percent in that time (Howley & Howley, 2001)…

Rural schools have long struggled with attracting and retaining teachers. A nationwide survey of rural school superintendents conducted by the American Association of School Administrators and the Appalachia Educational Laboratory found the superintendents identified low salaries and social and geographic isolation as the main factors responsible for their difficulties in recruiting and retaining teachers (Schwartzbeck et al., 2003).

According to the NCES report “Status of Education in Rural America, 2007,” the average base salary for teachers in rural areas was $44,000, well below the national average of $49,600, and trailing the average salaries for teachers in towns, $45,200; suburbs, $54,200; and cities at $51,200 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009a). Small rural schools also heavily rely on teachers to teach more than one subject area (Schwartzbeck et al., 2003).

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires states to raise all student performance up to the “proficient” level on state tests by the 2013-14 school year. Individual schools must meet state “adequate yearly progress,” or AYP, targets toward this goal for their overall student populations and certain subgroups such as low-income students, black students, English-language learners, etc.

The law poses particular problems for small rural schools that have tiny numbers of students who take state tests each year. In such schools, a relatively small amount of test data determines whether the school meets AYP targets. Some experts feel that because of this, small schools and districts face the potential of being misidentified as failing or in need of improvement. They suggest that states raise the minimum number of tests-takers for AYP purposes. But the same experts also caution that such a solution could mean that small schools that need help would not be included in the accountability system, and could slip through the cracks (Jimerson, 2004a; Jimerson, 2004b).

The Council of State Governments studies rural schools.

The Council of State Governments‘ report, Rural Schools: Federal Expenditures & State Perspectives has the following key findings:

Key Findings

1. Rural schools and districts are at a significant disadvantage when seeking Title I funding.

2. Rural Education Achievement Program funds help only a small portion of rural schools and districts.

3. Rural schools due to infrastructure or staffing shortages find it difficult to compete for competitive grants.

4. Rural schools do not receive preferential federal funding, even though it costs more to educate rural students.

5. Low state funding, leads to low federal funding. This means that if Utah spends $5,521 per pupil while Rhode Island spends $13,410 per pupil, Rhode Island will receive the larger allocation even after controlling for the cost of living in that states.8

6. Distance learning and integrating technology into the classroom is a costly necessity. In the face of school consolidation and increased competitiveness in the college application process, rural schools and districts must provide more schooling options and more advanced courses, if they want their students to succeed.

7. The recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers is an issue for rural schools. Rural schools tend to employ teachers who teach more than one core subject, are miles from the nearest university or college and who may be paraprofessionals, all of which makes hiring and retaining qualified teachers a challenge.

8. Pockets of rural students exist everywhere in the United States and their composition varies ethnically, racially, socioeconomically, and in English proficiency. There is no one way to address all rural communities.

Because a significant number of children attend rural schools, rural schools must receive the resources to educate their children.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Beware of diploma mills

24 Apr

Tara Siegel Bernard has a great article in the New York Times about researching career training to see if a particular option is a good choice. In Making Career Development Pay Bernard advises:        

IN shaky economic times, going back to school needs to be treated like any other investment: you need to weigh the potential returns while closely managing the costs.

Paula Hogan, left, a financial planner, and Jane Schroeder, a career counselor, in Ms. Hogan’s office.

So before you enroll in a program, you should ask the same sorts of questions that a portfolio manager might ask when analyzing conventional investments, like stocks: Am I buying a reputable credential? What is demand like in the field I’m interested in? What is the earnings potential? What are the long-term prospects? And how can I minimize my expenses?

The more radical the shift in careers you contemplate, the more research you should do. You might, for example, visit O*Net OnLine, a Web site maintained by the Labor Department, to check out salaries or estimates of employment opportunities for different professions.

Or you might test the waters in a field you are interested in. See if you can find an employee to shadow, making sure to ask questions about the job, the satisfactions, the downsides and industry trends.

They will tell you the truth in your area before you put any money down on schools,” said Beverly Baskin, executive director of BBCS Counseling Services, a career counseling firm in Marlboro, N.J.

Even better, see if you can find a job, even part time, or an internship in the field you plan to pursue. If no paid positions are available, considering volunteering, if that is permitted.

Bernard has some excellent resources for researching the career decision. The decision to re-train for a new career or to go back to school for additional training should be thoroughly researched. After the decision is made, then any school or training program should be researched to ensure that it is accredited and licensed.

Jennifer Williamson has written a great article, Six Signs Your Online School is a Diploma Mill for Distance Education.Org:

There are two common types of diploma mills.  The first will simply mail you a degree for a fee of a few hundred dollars.  They sometimes ask to see your resume first, and will pretend to vet you for “life experience credit.” Of course, everybody who applies gets enough life experience credit to earn an entire degree.

The second type will actually require some work, but it will be minimal.  Your dissertation may be five pages long instead of fifty, and you’ll be able to earn a degree in months, not years.  These diploma mills are a bit more dangerous than the first type, because they more closely resemble legitimate schools.  However, there are still a few warning signs:

Lightning-Fast Degrees 

It should take you four years to earn an undergraduate degree, two or three years to earn a Master’s degree, and another three to five—depending on the subject—to earn a Ph.D. Many diploma mills claim you can earn degrees in months, not years.  Be cautious if a school you’re considering is making this claim. 

Bogus Accreditation

Legitimate schools are reviewed by accreditation agencies: third-party nonprofits that hold schools to rigorous standards.  There are six regional accreditors, and it’s best to go to a school that lists one of these as its accrediting agency.

Many online schools are accredited by one of a long list of national agencies in the U.S. instead.  National accreditors are not always considered as rigorous as regional accreditors, but they are still legitimate.

The Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) maintains a database of legitimately accredited schools.  You can also check our list of regional, national, and known illegitimate accreditors. If the accrediting agency listed by your school is in the third category—or if it isn’t on this list at all—it’s probably a diploma mill.

They Charge per Degree 

Legitimate schools charge per credit hour, per course, or per semester.  Diploma mills often charge by degree.  Some offer discounts if you order a second degree, which a legitimate school would never do. A small handful of legitimate schools do offer programs for a flat fee, but it’s rare.

It’s Easy To Get Credit For Life Experience

Some diploma mills will ask you to send in your resume, and will give you almost unlimited credits for life experience.  In some cases, you can get all the credits you need for a degree through life experience.  Just pay the school’s fees—usually a few hundred dollars or so—and they’ll mail you a degree.

This is tricky, because legitimate schools offer life experience credits as well.  But it’s very rare to be able to earn your entire degree through life experience credit—and impossible with a post-graduate degree.

In addition, they’ll ask to see more than your resume to prove your competence.  Legitimate schools will ask you to assemble a prior learning portfolio, write personal essays, take standardized tests, or undergo an interview process to determine whether you’ve really earned those life experience credits.

The Work Required Is Minimal

If you’re required to read a few articles, write a few simple papers, and hand in a five-page dissertation at the end, it’s not likely you’ve learned enough to earn a legitimate degree. 

The School Is Located In A State With Little Regulation

Some states make it easier for diploma mills to operate than others.  Alabama, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, and Wyoming are all common locations for diploma mills, because of loopholes in local law or lax regulation.  Of course, there are many legitimate schools located in these states as well.  But if your school looks suspicious already, check to see if it’s based in one of these states.  If it is, it may be a bad sign.

Ulinks has 16 Key Questions to Ask a Vocational School:

Before visiting the vocational school or trade school

  • Is the vocational school or trade school you are considering accredited by a reputable accrediting agency?
  • Is the vocational school or trade school properly licensed in the state in which it is operating?
  • What are the admissions requirements and how does it compare to similar vocational schools and trade schools?
  • Do other schools allow students to transfer credit from the vocational school or trade school you are considering?
  • What is the crime rate like at the vocational school or trade school you are considering and how does it compare to other schools
  • Does the vocational school or trade school have any complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau, the Department of Consumer Affairs, or the Department of Education?
  • Are the fees being charged by a vocational school or trade school in-line with the fees at other comparable schools?
  • What do potential employers in your chosen industry think about vocational school or trade school programs you are researching and would they hire graduates from that school?

While visiting the vocational school or trade school

  • Do the vocational school instructors seem knowledgeable and do they teach effectively?
  • Do students enrolled in the vocational school or trade school you are considering like the programs and recommend it?
  • Do current students feel that they are learning what they need to know to get a good job in the future?
  • What do current students say about the instructors on campus?
  • Have students had any issues or problems with the school, the curriculum, the instructors, or the facilities?
  • What do the current students like the most and the least about the vocational school or trade school?
  • What percentage of students successfully complete their programs?
  • Is it possible to obtain a list of past students whom you can contact?

During periods of crisis or uncertainty the scam artists emerge and try to take advantage of the unsuspecting. Before making a decision about any school, students, parents, and guardians must research the options.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Television cannot substitute for quality childcare

23 Apr

Your toddler not only needs food for their body and appropriate physical activity, but you need to nourish their mind and spirit as well.

There are several good articles which explain why you do not want your toddler parked in front of a television several hours each day. Robin Elise Weiss, LCCE has a very good explanation of how television can be used as a resource by distinguishing between television watching and targeting viewing of specific programs designed to enhance learning. In Should Babies and Toddlers Watch Television? Weiss comments about the effects of young children and television. MSNBC was reporting about toddlers and television in 2004.

In the MSNBC report, Watching TV May Hurt Toddlers’ Attention Spans the following comments were made:

Researchers have found that every hour preschoolers watch television each day boosts their chances — by about 10 percent — of developing attention deficit problems later in life.

The findings back up previous research showing that television can shorten attention spans and support American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that youngsters under age 2 not watch television.

The truth is there are lots of reasons for children not to watch television. Other studies have shown it to be associated with obesity and aggressiveness” too, said lead author Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a researcher at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle.

The issue is whether prolonged television watching affects a child’s brain development.

Nancy Shute is reports in the US News article, TV Watching Is Bad for Babies’ Brains

Babies who watch TV are more likely to have delayed cognitive development and language at 14 months, especially if they’re watching programs intended for adults and older children. We probably knew that 24 and Grey’s Anatomy don’t really qualify as educational content, but it’s surprising that TV-watching made a difference at such a tender age.

Babies who watched 60 minutes of TV daily had developmental scores one-third lower at 14 months than babies who weren’t watching that much TV. Though their developmental scores were still in the normal range, the discrepancy may be due to the fact that when kids and parents are watching TV, they’re missing out on talking, playing, and interactions that are essential to learning and development.

This new study, which appeared in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, followed 259 lower-income families in New York, most of whom spoke Spanish as their primary language at home. Other studies examining higher-income families have also come to the same conclusion: TV watching not only isn’t educational, but it seems to stunt babies’ development.

Background television is also not good for the development of a child.

Even television in the background can be harmful for kids. Alexandra Sifferlin writes in the Time article, TV On in the Background? It’s Still Bad for Kids:

Too much television can be detrimental for kids’ development, even when they’re not plopped directly in front of the screen. And your kids might be getting more exposure to such background TV than you think, a new study finds.

The researchers found that the average American kid was exposed to 232.2 minutes of background television per day — when the TV was on, but the child was engaged in another activity. Younger children and African-America children were exposed to the most background television on average.

We were ready and willing to accept that the exposure would be high, but we were kind of shocked at how high it really was,” says study author Matthew Lapierre, a doctoral candidate and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. “The fact that kids are exposed to about four hours on average per day definitely knocked us back on our heels a bit…”

Previous research has found that exposure to background television is linked to lower attention spans, fewer and lower-quality parent-child interactions and reduced performance in cognitive tasks, the authors said in the study.

The current findings came from data gathered in a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,454 American parents with at least one child between the ages of 8 months and 8 years. The parents were asked about how often their TV was on when no one was watching and whether their child had a TV in their bedroom.

For every minute of television to which children are directly exposed, there are an additional 3 minutes of indirect exposure, making background exposure a much greater proportion of time in a young child’s day,” the authors say in the study.

What they found even more concerning was that kids under 2 and African-American children are exposed to 42% and 45% more background TV, respectively, than the average child.

Education Week also reports on the effects of background television.

Sarah D. Sparks reports in the Education Week article, Is Television the New Secondhand Smoke?

Prior research suggests background television can have a “chronic disruptive impact on very young children’s behavior.” Studies have linked background television to less focused play among toddlers, poorer parent-child interaction, and interference with older students’ ability to do homework.

“For every minute of television to which children are directly exposed, there are an
additional 3 minutes of indirect exposure, making background exposure a much greater
proportion of time in a young child’s day,” the study noted.

“Considering the accumulating evidence regarding the impact that background television exposure has on young children, we were rather floored about the sheer scale of children’s exposure with just under 4 hours of exposure each day,” Lapierre said in a statement on the study. Lapierre and his fellow researchers recommended that parents, teachers and early childcare providers turn off televisions when no one is watching a particular program and that parents prevent children from keeping a television in their rooms.

It’s easy to think about this as just one more alarm about how our modern media environment is ruining our kids. Yet the more interesting take-away from this field of research is how critical it is for children to learn actively and socially. Children learn from adults speaking to, with and around them, and from actively engaging with their world.

Anything that limits or distracts from that active interaction can be a problem, but not an insurmountable one. For example, researchers at the University of Washington’s Learning in Formal and Informal Environments, or LIFE, Center, is doing some fascinating work on the potential benefits of interactive media. There’s also been some interesting work on using video conferencing to read with children.

If watching television is not an appropriate activity for toddlers, then what are appropriate activities? The University of Illinois Extension has a good list of Age-Based Activities For Toddlers

See, How to Have a Happier, Healthier, Smarter Baby

Parents must interact with their children and read to them. Television is not a parental substitute.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Differential college tuition

22 Apr

According to a  March 13th 2011 SF Gate with Bloomberg Business report, 57% of universities now use differential tuition:


That’s the portion of U.S. public research universities using differential tuition – the practice of charging different amounts to students based on their area of study. The trend is hitting business-school students especially hard, with an increasing number of colleges looking to squeeze money from what’s seen as a more lucrative field. Eighteen schools have adopted differential tuition in the past three years alone, according to a study by Glen Nelson, chief financial officer for the Arizona Board of Regents.

A recent survey finds that more universities are considering differential tuition.

Scott Jaschik writes in the Inside Higher Ed article, The Rise of Differential Tuition:

A longstanding tradition in American higher education — that undergraduates are charged the same tuition, regardless of major — is eroding, especially at doctoral universities.

That is the finding of a new survey by the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute. Researchers checked the websites of every public institution that awards bachelor’s degrees, and then surveyed some of the institutions identified as having differential rates. A total of 143 public colleges or universities were found to now have differential tuition policies. That figure includes 29 percent of bachelor’s institutions, 11 percent of master’s institutions, and 41 percent of doctoral institutions….

Other findings of the new survey include the following:

  • At doctoral and master’s institutions, differential tuition is generally based on a student’s field of study, but at bachelor’s institutions, differential tuition is equally likely to be based on how far along students are in their programs (with juniors and seniors charged more than others, for example).
  • The most common majors facing extra charges are business, engineering and nursing.
  • Since public colleges and universities started to adopt variable tuition policies, the number doing so has gone up steadily, with no years from 1980 on showing a decline in the number of institutions with variable tuition.

The Cornell Institute’s report does not take a stand on whether differential tuition is a sound policy. But it questions whether so many institutions should be embracing a policy about which relatively little is known (except that it seems to generate revenue).

“The process by which differential tuition policies have arisen and been have spread across American public higher education institutions has not been examined,” the report says. “Neither has there been any research on the possible consequences of differential tuition policies. For example, does differential tuition by major influence students’ choice of majors? Do higher tuition levels for upper-level students affect students’ persistence and graduation rates? If such effects exist, are they larger for students from lower-income families and how do such effects interact with state and institutional financial aid policies?”:

Daniel de Vise is reporting in the Washington Post that Chancellor Gordon Gee of Ohio State University is considering differential tuition.

In Ohio State’s Gordon Gee proposes “differential” tuition, de Vise reports:

A recent survey by the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, reported in Inside Higher Ed, found 143 public institutions that had differential tuition policies, meaning that they charge different rates for students with different majors.

Differential tuition is most common in doctoral institutions, the report found, with the highest surcharges in nursing, business and engineering, all fields that reward students with relatively high pay.

Tuition surcharges can be controversial, but they might also be the only way an institution such as Ohio State can tactfully recoup some of the money it’s losing by subsidizing the education of in-state students.

A quick read of the Ohio State Web site suggests that the institution already charges varying fees for students in different majors and programs. But the basic undergraduate tuition appears to be fixed. Ohio residents pay $19,926 in tuition and living expenses this year, for an education that costs closer to the $35,000 paid by nonresidents.

There has been much talk of how universities might recover the money they’re losing in an era of declining state support. The usual answer is to raise tuition; but schools that enact steep increases get pushback from parents and politicians.

Another tack is to jack up tuition for nonresidents and to increase their numbers on campus, because nonresidents generally pay the full cost of their study. But this can upset resident students, who find it correspondingly harder to get in.

Some higher-education thinkers have proposed progressive tuition: charging families on a sliding scale according to each one’s ability to pay. Top private universities already do this, in effect, with blanket need-based aid policies.

But Gee doesn’t think progressive tuition would work in Ohio. One of Ohio State’s peers, Miami University, already tried progressive tuition and gave it up after a few years.

“I’m a low tuition guy,” Gee said. At $9,711, Ohio State tuition is lower than the rate at Penn State or Michigan, but higher than at the University of Maryland.

Higher Education funding has been decreased during the current financial calamity. Colleges are looking at shifting more costs to students.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©