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.

Think United States has the world’s best colleges — Wrong!

Americans have a split vision of education. Conventional wisdom has long held that our K-12 schools are mediocre or worse, while our colleges and universities are world class. While policy wonks hotly debate K-12 reform ideas like vouchers and the Common Core state standards, higher education is largely left to its own devices. Many families are worried about how to get into and pay for increasingly expensive colleges. But the stellar quality of those institutions is assumed.

Yet a recent multinational study of adult literacy and numeracy skills suggests that this view is wrong. America’s schools and colleges are actually far more alike than people believe — and not in a good way. The nation’s deep education problems, the data suggest, don’t magically disappear once students disappear behind ivy-covered walls.

The standard negative view of American K-12 schools has been highly influenced by international comparisons. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, for example, periodically administers an exam called PISA to 15-year-olds in 69 countries. While results vary somewhat depending on the subject and grade level, America never looks very good. The same is true of other international tests. In PISA’s math test, the United States battles it out for last place among developed countries, along with Hungary and Lithuania.

America’s perceived international dominance of higher education, by contrast, rests largely on global rankings of top universities. According to a recent ranking by the London-based Times Higher Education, 18 of the world’s top 25 universities are American. Similarly, the Academic Ranking of World Universities, published annually by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, gives us 19 of 25.

But there is a problem with this way of thinking. When President Obama has said, “We have the best universities,” he has not meant: “Our universities are, on average, the best” — even though that’s what many people hear. He means, “Of the best universities, most are ours.” The distinction is important…

The fair way to compare the two systems, to each other and to systems in other countries, would be to conduct something like a PISA for higher education. That had never been done until late 2013, when the OECD published exactly such a study…Piaac…

Like PISA, Piaac tests people’s literacy and math skills. Because the test takers were adults, they were asked to use those skills in real-world contexts. They might, for example, be asked to read a news article and an email, each describing a different innovative method of improving drinking water quality in Africa, and identify the sentence in each document that describes a criticism common to both inventions. The test also included a measure of “problem-solving in technology-rich environments,” reflecting the nature of modern work.

As with the measures of K-12 education, the United States battles it out for last place, this time with Italy and Spain. Countries that traditionally trounce America on the PISA test of 15-year-olds, such as Japan and Finland, also have much higher levels of proficiency and skill among adults…

This reality should worry anyone who believes — as many economists do — that America’s long-term prosperity rests in substantial part on its store of human capital. The relatively high pay of American workers will start to erode as more jobs are exposed to harsh competition in global labor markets. It will be increasingly dangerous to believe that only our K-12 schools have serious problems.

The demand for H1B visas for degreed foreign nationals is not based solely on a lower cost of employment. You’re kidding yourself if you believe that. There were 4.5 million job openings in the United States at the beginning of June. It ain’t because all the skilled, well-educated professionals are driving tractors in Kansas and don’t want to move to Silicon Valley. Mostly, it’s because we haven’t folks trained and educationally equipped for those jobs.

Recent study says fastest job growth will be in healthcare


Why, yes – I have a master’s degree in education

The fastest-growing jobs in the United States through 2017 are expected to be those requiring an advanced education, a study released Thursday found.

The report compiled by CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists International, says job creation will accelerate from 2013 to 2017 compared with 2009 to 2013, gaining 4.4 percent compared with 3.5 percent.

Jobs requiring an associate degree or a master’s degree are expected to grow 8 percent, the report says, while jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree — which generally takes four years and falls between associates and master’s degrees — are expected to grow 6 percent.

Jobs that require “short-term, on-the-job training trail at 4 percent,” the study projects.

In a list of jobs expected to grow 8 percent or more through 2017, personal care and home health aides top the list with growth expected at 21 percent.

Jobs for market research analyst and marketing specialists are expected to grow 14 percent, as are jobs for medical secretaries.

Jobs for emergency medical technicians and paramedics are projected to grow 13 percent, while jobs for software developers are projected to rise 11 percent.

The final job with double-digit growth expected is medical assistants, with growth of 10 percent predicted, CareerBuilder said…

In the 18 jobs categories expected to grow by 8 percent or more, seven are jobs related to healthcare.

The top 18 include, in descending order, registered nurses, network and computer systems administrators, pharmacy technicians, landscapers, and social and human services assistants, all expected to grow 9 percent, and computer systems analysts, management analysts, cooks, insurance agents, nursing assistants, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses and food preparation workers and servers, including fast-food, the report said.

Middle-aged? Stick to figuring out ways to survive. Sooner or later the cost of living will begin to accelerate to match the increases of those with growing income. If you want longer-term worries consider your kids and grandkids. The quality of K-12 education ain’t especially getting better inside the United States. Compared to other literate nations and competing with them for jobs, we’re in a deeper hole that’s on the way to becoming downright subterranean.

While there’s no shortage of pundits who finished their college years before malaise and a matching decline set in – they continue to praise the value of our advanced education. That will continue to sort out with underfunded public schools getting more and more of the student base and giving back less in return. Or so it seems.

Remember when Americans led the world in college degrees?

The United States used to lead the world in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. Now it ranks 12th among 36 developed nations.

“The growing education deficit is no less a threat to our nation’s long-term well-being than the current fiscal crisis,” Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board, warned at a meeting on Capitol Hill of education leaders and policy makers, where he released a report detailing the problem and recommending how to fix it. “To improve our college completion rates, we must think ‘P-16’ and improve education from preschool through higher education.”

While access to college has been the major concern in recent decades, over the last year, college completion, too, has become a leading item on the national agenda. Last July, President Obama announced the American Graduation Initiative, calling for five million more college graduates by 2020, to help the United States again lead the world in educational attainment…

William Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, who hosted the Washington discussion along with Gaston Caperton, said…“We led the world in the 1980s, but we didn’t build from there,” he said. “If you look at people 60 and over, about 39-40 percent have college degrees, and if you look at young people, too, about 39-40 percent have college degrees. Meanwhile, other countries have passed us by.”

Canada now leads the world in educational attainment, with about 56 percent of its young adults having earned at least associate’s degrees…

You can’t address college completion if you don’t do something about K-12 education,” Mr. Kirwan said.

The group’s first five recommendations all concern K-12 education, calling for more state-financed preschool programs, better high school and middle school college counseling, dropout prevention programs, an alignment with international curricular standards and improved teacher quality. College costs were also implicated, with recommendations for more need-based financial aid, and further efforts to keep college affordable.

Aside from sound governance – which drained away down sewers of greed in the eight years preceding the present administration – the mediocre stimulus budget approved by Congress doesn’t even keep up with maintaining staff minimums for education around the country. While there are legitimate discussions about the ratios of administrators to students, quasi-pro sports budgets versus the broad range of intelligent curricula, the task still remains to equip the young people of the United States to build a nation that can grow beyond an economy based wholly on consumption and service.

Though I imagine little or no change would please the beancounter breed of reactionary.