Tag: New York Times


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The Dropout Nation Podcast: Why We Need College Prep Curricula


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On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I examine arguments made by Charles Murray and others that American students don’t need high-quality college prep curricula — and explain why such thinking…

Dropout Nation Podcast Cover

On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I examine arguments made by Charles Murray and others that American students don’t need high-quality college prep curricula — and explain why such thinking is mistaken. As nearly every aspect of the American economy — and the global economy at large — has become knowledge-based, every job (including blue-collar positions) require strong skills in algebra, trigonometry and the kind of knowledge that used to only be required for college. College prep curricula is also fundamental for American society to keep its place as the economy and culture in which even the poorest can rise to the top.

You can listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle’s radio page or download directly to your iPod, MP3 player or smartphone. Also, subscribe to the podcast series. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Podcast Alley, the Education Podcast NetworkZune Marketplace and PodBean. Also, add the podcast on Viigo, if you have a BlackBerry, iPhone or Android phone.

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The Read


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What’s happening inside — and outside — the dropout nation. Updated throughout the day: Losing track of the black kids, Texas style*: Black students account for 15 percent of school…

Two dropout factories later, Dontike Miller is now studying for a GED. And it isn't a Good Enough Diploma. Photo courtesy of AP

Two dropout factories later, Dontike Miller is now studying for a GED. And it isn't a Good Enough Diploma. Photo courtesy of AP

What’s happening inside — and outside — the dropout nation. Updated throughout the day:

  1. Losing track of the black kids, Texas style*: Black students account for 15 percent of school enrollment in the state, yet account for a quarter of the 13,100 or so 7th-through12th grade students for which the state’s traditional and public charter schools could not account, according to a report from the Texas Education Agency. Some districts and schools can’t account for as much as 12 percent of their middle-and-high school students. Nancy Smith of the Data Quality Campaign, which advocates for improving school data systems, tells the Austin American-Statesman that the fact that its a little odd that blacks account for so many of the unaccounted student population; it appears to be less a systemic data problem than possibly a racial issue.  Jimmy Kilpatrick, the Texan who runs EducationNews.org, on the other hand isn’t surprised at all (and neither am I). Says Kilpatrick: “Just look around crack houses and the jails and you will find all the “lost” blacks. These kids dropped out by 4th grade and few cared!”
  2. Wielding clout: As I’ve noted previously, teachers unions are well-placed to wield clout inside the nation’s 50 statehouses and at the local level. Not only do they have the bodies — through local affiliates and the teacher corps — to lobby legislators on behalf of their goals, there is also the warchests they build up thanks to dues collected from the rank-and-file. So it’s no surprise that the New York Public Interest Research Group finds that the New York State United Teachers — the largest affiliate of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers — is spending $2.3 million on winning budget votes in local districts. Essentially, says NYPIRG’s Blair Horner to the Examiner, United Teachers is basically wielding its warchest the way one would use  “a Howitzer on a mosquito.”
  3. Meanwhile the United Teachers is also spending $2.8 million on lobbying and campaign donations this year, according to NYPIRG. Only Verizon, the phone giant, spent more lobbying and backing politicians.
  4. When a good premise goes bad: Former University of Kentucky Professor Martty Solomon asks a good question in his EducationNews piece: Why embark on reforms with no facts or research. But then, he delivers a mishmash of pseudohistory and rubbish: Bashing the No Child Left Behind Act for allegedly turning schools into “testing factories” even though, if anything, the tests are hardly high-stakes or even very difficult for those who are actually taught the curriculum. Before that, he takes shots at the concept of providing college-preparatory — rigorous, solid — curriculum to students, blaming the introduction of such high standards for the dropout crisis; this despite the fact that few students graduated from high school for most of this century, that graduation rates may have been low for decades and that high schools were originally developed as prep schools based on the concepts expoused by legendary Harvard University president Charles William Eliot. High schools only became comprehensive during the 20th Century, when educators — driven in part by the belief that immigrant children and blacks were incapable of receiving a college prep education, pushed for a diversity of choices (including shop classes) so that kids would stay in school, if not receive a high-quality education.
  5. Not that it’s worth the paper its printed on, but still: Just 54 percent of Wisconsin adult education students testing for the General Educational Development certificate — the not Good Enough Diploma as I call it around here — completed the battery of exams needed to gain it, according to the American Council on Education. That’s lower than the 86 percent average. Only 44 percent passed it. The real question that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel should have asked is how many dropouts taking adult education classes for the test actually completed the classes.
  6. The other question that should be asked? How many of those students are 16-to-18 year-olds who should be in high school in the first place. I’ll tell you this much: In Indiana, high school-participating teens accounted for 30 percent of the adult education enrollment. That was the third-highest percentage after Alabama and Vermont. The answer to the question would give some real insights into how poorly Wisconsin’s children are faring in school.
  7. How about just giving the teens a strong academic education they can use anywhere: Such a statement goes counter to the position of school superintendent Paul R. Hay in the Mercury News, who contends that dropouts should learn technical skills. Essentially, one can conclude from his piece that he is suggesting a typical educator line: That at-risk students and dropouts are too inept to learn Trigonometry, Algebra or pre-Calculus (the first two, by the way, are used in welding and machine tool-making, both of which can be considered high-skilled ‘technical’ jobs). My question: Why can’t a plumber know Chaucer too? In fact, I know plenty of bus drivers in Indianapolis and in my hometown of New York that are better-traveled (and read) than some reporters, teachers and stock brokers.
  8. Cutting out the shenanigans*: The New York Times actually calls for a smart improvement in the No Child Left Behind Act: Make states actually show that they are actually improving student learning instead of playing the gamesmanship of lowering standards, cut scores and other moves. One idea from the editorial board — or more likely Brent Staples, the resident education guru: “Congress needs to take the testing issue head-on. It should instruct the NAEP board, an independent body created by the government, to create a rigorous test that would be given free to states that agreed to use NAEP scoring standards.” Agreed.

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The Morning Read


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What’s happening inside — and outside — the dropout nation: When civil rights groups get it wrong on education: Is access to a high-quality education a civil right? Depends on…

What’s happening inside — and outside — the dropout nation:

Image courtesy of C'Ville Weekly

Image courtesy of C'Ville Weekly

    1. When civil rights groups get it wrong on education: Is access to a high-quality education a civil right? Depends on where you sit ideologically (personally, this libertarian thinks it isn’t necessarily so, but a public education system being funded with tax dollars should actually do the job and educate all students). But civil rights groups such as La Raza and the NAACP have long ago began bucking their ties to teachers’ unions and supporting the No Child Left Behind Act. Now, according to the New York Times, other groups are also doing the same, this time fighting with the NEA and AFT over a congressional bill aimed at weakening an accountability provision in the law.
    2. Diane Ravitch and James Heckmann should know better: Essentially, that’s what Ken DeRosa concludes in his latest sharp criticism of the Broader, Bolder Coalition, the strange bedfellows group of conservative and left-leaning education policy stars demanding that the the kind of standards-and-accountability embedded in the No Child Left Behind Act ought to be abandoned because it blames schools for academic failure. This isn’t the first time he has claimed that the group ignores data that may not support their position.
    3. Are teachers’ unions anti-teacher?: Larry Sands of the California Teachers Empowerment Network offers his own thoughts.
    4. Meanwhile in my birth-state: New York is once again reeling from unrestrained spending and prospects of a recession, notes the Economist. The chances for comprehensive education reform in the state — whose legislature and new governor overturned a successful effort to reform how new teachers attain tenure — is about as likely as the city handing over Liberty Island to New Jersey.

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