Want to help poor kids succeed: make them actually go to school

Here’s a deceptively simple way to close part of the achievement gap between poor and wealthy students: make sure that poor students are in school as much as their richer peers.

A recent study found that absentee rates could explain up to 25 percent of difference in math scores between low-income students and less disadvantaged ones. Getting kids to come to school seems like an obvious way to help them score better on tests and eventually graduate. But it’s often overlooked in favor of more complicated, more controversial, and more interesting interventions. Here’s why attendance is incredibly important, and why it’s a tough problem to solve.

Going to school is required by law, and studies tend to assume that schools are following through. Schools aren’t required to report how many students are chronically absent, so very little national data exists on how often students miss school. Even the definition “chronically absent” varies, although the generally accepted definition is around 20 days of school per year…

Missing school means they fall even farther behind. Children who are chronically absent in preschool and kindergarten are more likely to be held back in the third grade. As early as sixth grade, whether a child is going to school is a good indicator for whether she’ll ever graduate high school.

The opportunism of New Mexico politicians is almost beyond comprehension. When it became obvious kids were falling behind – checking grades, accomplishments by 3rd grade, 6th grade – the solution that guaranteed the most votes for state legislators is called the social pass. If the school determines a child’s grades are so poor they shouldn’t be passed along to the next grade – that kid’s parents can demand a social pass and the child moves along to the next grade with their classmates – so their feelings aren’t hurt.

K-12 attendance can even predict college graduation rates: Johns Hopkins cites a study in Rhode Island found students who were chronically absent in high school, but still managed to graduate and enroll in college, were more likely to drop out during their freshman year than students with regular attendance records.

RTFA. Lots more of the same examined from different perspectives. My BITD look doesn’t surprise me because I saw examples of this laissez-faire crap starting up in the 1950’s into the 1960’s. Students graduating high school who were functional illiterates. They didn’t have to study literature, build reading skills, learning skills, if they didn’t feel like it. That was sufficient reason.

Just walk that along each decade through attendance, any other standards you care to examine.

GED test changes cause concern over higher standards

Educators are worried raising academic standards in the U.S. education system may discourage some people from taking high school equivalency exams.

The G.E.D. test will be changed in January to bring it in line with the Common Core — a set of standards for kindergarten through 12th grade students that have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, The New York Times reported.

There is a lot of fear of it becoming too challenging,” said John Galli, assistant director at the Community Learning Center, an adult education center run by the City of Cambridge, near Boston.

So, maybe kids will be better off staying in school? What a concept.

The changes have caused concern for instructors and students as they try to prepare for the unknown, the newspaper said.

“The information we have is still very much up in the air,” said Catherine Pautsch, education and career pathways coordinator at Youth Build Just-a-Start, a non-profit group that helps young adults prepare for high school equivalency exams. “We haven’t had anyone take the test yet, so we’re not sure what it’s all going to look like.”

The cost of the test will also increase come January. Test-takers currently pay $60 in New York, but that will increase to $80 in January.

Yes, another pet peeve. We have an education system that fails every generation, seemingly getting worse as time passes. We experience boatloads of talk and very few efforts to raise standards. Standards that affect testing as well as teaching. Meanwhile the rest of the educated industrial world strolls by leaving young Americans in the dust.

If the agreed purpose of the Common Core is to raise the abilities of students what possibly is the aim of retaining an alternative that retains the lesser standards of the recent past? I don’t see very many worriers offer a convincing case that today’s students confront studies as demanding as those in vogue rolling back to the period immediately after World War 2. Yet, graduation rates, the number of students capable of entering college was much higher than today. The limiting factors were generally opportunity and economics.

I don’t see any benefit to fighting for lower standards.

Study raises questions on the value of a college education (U.S.)


Chemistry major?

Studying alone, reading and writing more, are helpful

A new study provides disturbing answers to questions about how much students actually learn in college — for many, not much — and has inflamed a debate about the value of an American higher education.

The research of more than 2,300 undergraduates found 45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.

One problem is that students just aren’t asked to do much, according to findings in a new book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.” Half of students did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week…

The study, an unusually large-scale effort to track student learning over time, comes as the federal government, reformers and others argue that the U.S. must produce more college graduates to remain competitive globally. But if students aren’t learning much that calls into question whether boosting graduation rates will provide that edge.

I’ve been arguing for a long time that graduation rates, in and of themselves, are meaningless.

Students who studied alone, read and wrote more, attended more selective schools and majored in traditional arts and sciences majors posted greater learning gains.

No surprises here, especially regarding the nonsense that somehow working in groups will magically improve student performance.

Social engagement generally does not help student performance. Students who spent more time studying with peers showed diminishing growth….

Read it all, and see if anything surprises you.

The field of education is full of texts from new faces on the proper way to teach– always some idea that has somehow escaped the imagination of lesser mortals. And there is always some fool ready to buy a couple cases to hand out as required reading for his teaching staff.

Canadians among best educated in the world

Canadians are better educated than they were a decade ago and have some of the highest rates of post-secondary attendance in the developed world, a new report suggests.

The report also shows that women are graduating from both high school and post-secondary in much higher numbers than men, but continued to earn far less in the workforce…

Completion of high school has grown steadily in Canada. Between 1998 and 2008, the number of adults without a high school education dropped from 21 per cent to 13 per cent, while the number of adults aged 25 to 34 who finished high school climbed to 92 per cent.

The United States has a high school graduation rate around 72%.

Canada compares favourably to other OECD countries when it come to post-secondary education, according to the report, which calculates that about half of Canadian adults have completed college or university. The OECD average is one-third. The largest advantage Canada has is among colleges, which graduated about 24 per cent of the adult population, compared to 9 per cent across the OECD.

The report also suggests the reasons Canadians are attending school like never before: the benefits of a post-secondary education, on average, far outweigh the costs. The average Canadian with a university degree, for instance, earns roughly 75 per cent more than a counterpart with only a high school education…

The report also indicates that Canada spends proportionally slightly more than the OECD average on education, but most of this advantage is in post-secondary. Canada spent 2.6 per cent of its GDP on college and universities in 2006, second only to the United States.

But, uh, between statistical information offered in this report and just stepping back on your own to look at attitudes about education – Canada certainly gets a lot more value for their investment.