Study: Students need more paths to career success

School reform should include more emphasis on career-driven alternatives to a four-year education, says the study.

The current U.S. education system is failing to prepare millions of young adults for successful careers by providing a one-size-fits-all approach, and it should take a cue from its European counterparts by offering greater emphasis on occupational instruction, a Harvard University study published Wednesday concludes.

The two-year study by the Pathways to Prosperity Project at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education  notes that while much emphasis is placed in high school on going on to a four-year college, only 30 percent of young adults in the United States successfully complete a bachelor’s degree.

While the number of jobs that require no post-secondary education have declined, the researchers note that only one-third of the jobs created in the coming years are expected to need a bachelor’s degree or higher. Roughly the same amount will need just an associate’s degree or an occupational credential.

“What I fear is the continuing problem of too many kids dropping by the wayside and the other problem of kids going into debt, and going into college but not completing with a degree or certificate,” said Robert Schwartz, who heads the project and is academic dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “Almost everybody can cite some kid who marched off to college because it was the only socially legitimate thing to do but had no real interest.”

For more school reform news:

How—and why—to teach innovation in our schools

Readers sound off on value-added model, district efficiency

School Reform Center

The report highlights an issue that has been percolating among education circles: That school reform should include more emphasis on career-driven alternatives to a four-year education.

The study recommends a “comprehensive pathways network” that would include three elements: embracing multiple approaches to help youth make the transition to adulthood, involving the nation’s employers in things like work-based learning, and creating a new social compact with young people.

Many of the ideas aren’t new, and leaders, including President Barack Obama, have advocated for an increased role for community colleges so the country can once again lead the world in the proportion of college graduates. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will deliver opening remarks at the report’s release in Washington.

But the idea of providing more alternatives, rather than emphasizing a four-year college education for all, hasn’t been without controversy. Critics fear students who opt early for a vocational approach might limit their options later on, or that disadvantaged students at failing schools would be pushed into technical careers and away from the highly selective colleges where their numbers are already very slim.

“You’ve got to work on both fronts at once,” Schwartz said, arguing for intensifying efforts to get more low-income and minority students into selective institutions while strengthening the capacity of two-year colleges.


Tech-savvy students prompt colleges to revamp rules

Students who make iPhone apps could face college officials demanding ownership.

Tony Brown didn’t set out to overhaul his college’s policies on intellectual property. He just wanted an easier way of tracking local apartment rentals on his iPhone.

The University of Missouri student came up with an idea in class one day that spawned an iPhone application that has had more than 250,000 downloads since its release in March 2009.

The app created by Brown and three other undergraduates won them a trip to Apple headquarters, along with job offers from Google and other technology companies.

But the invention also raised a perplexing question when university lawyers abruptly demanded a 25-percent ownership stake and two-thirds of any profits: Who owns the patents and copyrights when a student creates something of value on campus, without a professor’s help?

“We were incredibly surprised, and intimidated at the same time,” Brown said. “You’re facing an institution hundreds of years older than you, and with thousands more people. It was almost like there were no other options than to give in.”

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T-Mobile to sell tablet with 3-D cameras, glasses

Aiming to ride two crazes at once, T-Mobile USA will sell a tablet computer that can shoot 3-D videos, the Associated Press reports. The cell phone company said Wednesday that the “G-Slate” tablet from LG Electronics Inc. will be out this spring, but it didn’t say exactly when, or how much it would cost. The tablet will have an 8.9-inch screen and two cameras on the back, which together can capture 3-D, high-definition video. The tablet will come with red-blue 3-D glasses for 3-D viewing while shooting…

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How—and why—to teach innovation in our schools

Classroom practices should change to encourage inquiry and innovation, the author writes.

It’s wonderful to hear President Obama call for a nationwide emphasis on innovation, but it raises an interesting challenge: Where will all those innovators come from? Currently, we are chasing testable competency in academic core skills. It is quite a different thing to try to educate future innovators. We don’t test for that.

An innovation curriculum requires an emphasis on what I am going to call, for lack of a preexisting term, the Five I’s: Imagination, Inquiry, Invention, Implementation, and Initiative (the latter being a foundational trait that enables the other four). Here is my take on how to teach each of the Five I’s of innovation in our schools.


Day-dreaming is discouraged in most classrooms. If a student focuses on anything except the assignment or the teacher, it is a problem that needs to be fixed. Enter discipline. Exit imagination. There was, traditionally, a peripheral home for imagination in our schools in the ancillary arts instruction that has now fallen to the budget axe in so many schools. How can we teach imagination and nurture the imaginative and the innovators?

For starters, educators must learn the skills of creative expression. We are talking about a set of practices, not some magical thing that just happens without conscious effort. I spend a lot of time designing training programs and writing how-to guides to help adults engage their imaginations with their work. It’s a relatively simple matter for people like me who work in the field (and there are many of us) to design age-appropriate learning activities aimed at training the imagination. Nobody asks us to help out, so we don’t. It’s probably time to change that tradition. Combining creativity and invention experts with master teachers might produce some rapid breakthroughs in curriculum design.

Imagination needs fuel, and the best fuel comes from bridging between apparently diverse or unrelated ideas, skill-sets, or objects. Many–in fact, most–inventions are actually innovative combinations. To make such innovative combinations, the inventor must know about more than one domain. In fact, I would hazard the claim that all leading innovators share one interesting characteristic: they gained, early in life, a fair amount of mastery in at least two separate domains or fields. This dual focus gave them rich opportunities for creative combinations and fueled them to imagine outside of the two boxes in which they were trained. We need to stimulate imagination by encouraging students to master, say, an instrument plus a science, or any other such combination of skills. (And that, by the way, is I believe the strongest argument for why we must bring the arts back into our schools.)


Who asks the questions in classrooms today? If the teacher asks, or even frames, most of the questions, then our educational approach discourages inquiry and innovators. It’s pretty clear that teaching people to focus on the right answer has the unintended consequence of reducing their tendency to inquire broadly and curiously about things. Research and exploration are essential innovative behaviors. Students need to ask their own questions and then poke around in pursuit of possible answers. There has been a reduction, I think, in the amount of curious research students do, rather than an increase. And no, looking up an answer on Wikipedia does not qualify!


G.O.P. governors take aim at teacher tenure

Seizing on a national anxiety over poor student performance, many governors are taking aim at a bedrock tradition of public schools: teacher tenure, reports the New York Times. The momentum began over a year ago with President Obama’s call to measure and reward effective teaching, a challenge he repeated in last week’s State of the Union address. Now several Republican governors have concluded that removing ineffective teachers requires undoing the century-old protections of tenure. Governors in Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada and New Jersey have called for the elimination or dismantling of tenure. As state legislatures convene this winter, anti-tenure bills are being written in those states and others. Their chances of passing have risen because of crushing state budget deficits that have put teachers’ unions on the defensive…

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NY city councilmen among 24 arrested in school protest

According to Reuters, twenty-four people, including two members of the New York City Council, were arrested on Monday at a protest over plans to close two dozen city schools, authorities said. Charles Barron and Jumaane Williams, City Council members from Brooklyn, were arrested along with 22 other adults after the group formed a human chain across Chambers St. in downtown Manhattan outside the city’s Department of Education headquarters. The group, some of whom wore signs saying “Fix schools, don’t close them,” was protesting plans to close 25 schools ahead of this week’s meetings of the Panel for Educational Policy…

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Cheaper student loans, but shortage of college grants likely in 2011 and 2012

According to U.S. News & World Report, although the federal government will hand out billions of dollars more in college grants in 2011 and 2012 than ever before, the nation’s financial aid programs as a whole are not keeping up with rising tuition, government officials and financial aid analysts say. That means for millions of America’s working and middle class families, “college is going to become less affordable,” warns Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and founder of and the scholarship search site The widening gap between college costs and financial resources is forcing a growing number of students into one of three bad choices, says Faith Sandler, executive director of the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis. More students are choosing cheaper colleges that, she says, often “don’t match their capabilities.” Too many other students “borrow too, too much.” Those who can’t stomach either of those options may give up on college altogether, she fears…

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Duncan, Lee urge more black men to become teachers

Filmmaker Spike Lee joined Education Secretary Arne Duncan in issuing a call Monday for more black men to become teachers, making their plea at the country’s only all-male historically black college, the Associated Press reports. The two took part in a town hall meeting at Atlanta’s private Morehouse College just a week after President Barack Obama urged more people nationwide to become teachers. Duncan told an audience that more than 1 million educators are expected to retire in the coming decade and that federal officials are hoping to harness that opportunity to create a more diverse teaching work force, noting that less than 2 percent of the nation’s 3 million teachers are black men.

“Everybody can’t be a business major,” Lee told the auditorium packed with male high school and college students. “We have to educate ourselves. We have to educate our young black men.”

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Apps alter reading on the web

The DVR rocked the world of television by letting viewers skip commercials and build their own home viewing schedules. Now a handful of web services and applications are starting to do much the same thing to online publishers, reports the New York Times. These tools make it easier for people to read web articles how, when and where they want, often dispensing with carefully arranged layouts and advertisements of publishers. One popular tool, Readability, strips articles to the bare minimum of text and photographs with a single click. But now, Readability wants to give something back to publishers. On Tuesday, the developers behind the tool will unveil a service that requires a subscription fee of at least $5 a month. The service, also called Readability, plans to distribute 70 percent of that fee to the news outlets and blogs that each subscriber is reading…

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