Education Secretary Arne Duncan is a big fan of extending time in school, National Journal reports. He pushed for it when he headed up the Chicago Public Schools and included it as one of the pluses for states applying for waivers under No Child Left Behind. But extended schools hours can’t just be done willy nilly. As Education Sector analyst Elena Silva noted in a report last year, the best outcomes of extended learning time come from schools that increase the time that a student is “on task”—i.e., actively engaged. That requires lesson planning, up-to-date technology, and dependable funding……Read More
The rapid growth of the Hispanic population, among minorities needing better access to higher education, leads an advocacy group to suggest that the federal financial-aid structure is outdated and needs an overhaul, the National Journal reports. The existing structure for aid has long suited traditional students: those who are predominantly white and college-ready, able to secure their degree in four years. Today 25 percent of K-12 students are Latino, and babies of color now outnumber their white cohort, meaning it’s high time to redefine “traditional.” Changing structures is the basis of policy suggestions released this week by Excelencia in Education in support of redesigning the federal-aid system. The organization is one of 16 that has released white papers as part of the Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery project, a $3.3 million grant program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation……Read More
The National Center for Education Statistics released this week a report on public-school graduation and dropout rates, and the news overall isn’t bad, the National Journal reports. About 78 percent of high school students have graduated within four years, the highest average since 1974. Graduation rates by race and ethnicity are up across the board, with Hispanic students seeing a 10-point increase over five years to 71.4 percent, and black students showing a 7-point increase to 66.1 percent. But it’s hard to ignore comparative gaps. Asian-American students graduate at a rate of 93 percent–nearly 27 points higher than black students–while white students are at 83 percent……Read More
The furor over student debt in this country takes aim at a noble cause — quality education at a good price — but obscures an even nobler cause, which is getting more students to take on more debt to obtain more skills in a modern economy that doesn’t pay living wages to uneducated workers, the Atlantic/National Journal reports. Seen in this light, the single most important issue in higher education isn’t cost, it’s really something more like advertising. If we want students from disadvantaged areas to attend good colleges and obtain modern skills, we should be thinking about ways to entice them, not scare them with blaring headlines: “six figures in debt and unemployed at 22.” There’s a quieter, more lower-case crisis that is potentially even more dangerous for the economy: Smart, low-income students who never consider applying to our best colleges — even though the education would both cost less and lead to higher-paying jobs……Read More
A new study released on Thursday finds teachers are concerned that the amount and types of electronic media that children interact with at home may be harming their performance in the classroom, the National Journal reports. Common Sense Media, a think tank focused on children’s media use, polled 685 public and private elementary and high school classroom teachers on how children’s increasing use of television, video games, texting, social networking, music and other forms of media is affecting their performance in school. The study found that 71% of teachers polled said students’ media use hurts their attention spans in school, while 59% said students’ use of entertainment media has also harmed their ability to communicate face to face. A slightly smaller amount, 58%, said they believe it’s had a negative impact on their writing skills, according to the study conducted by Knowledge Networks May 5-17……Read More
A new initiative in online learning intending to help low-income adults achieve an associate’s degree is set to launch in Colorado and then California before expanding to selected cities nationwide, the National Journal reports. MyCollege Foundation is partnering with Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles in this program that aims to give students who are strong on grit and drive the chance to gain the skills and confidence to earn a two-year degree, without taking on extensive debt before advancing toward a bachelor’s degree. Partly funded by a $3 million grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s plans to offer four fields of study: business administration, computer science, liberal arts, and pre-health science. The concept is the brainchild of Portmount President Srikant Vasan, developed in part while he served as entrepreneur-in-residence at the Gates Foundation……Read More
Vanessa Bertrand always intended to go to a big-name, out-of-state school. She made the decision as a little girl, watching Cliff Huxtable on a rerun of The Cosby Show argue the merits of Princeton, Yale, Howard, and his father’s favored alma mater, the fictional Hillman College, says the National Journal. The conversation that unfolded on that episode of the 1980s sitcom—a show whose run ended before she was even born—left a deep impression on the child, driving her to research universities before even reaching high school. And at 18, it informed the decisions she made about college applications and the way she ranked the most desirable universities.
“A school’s name opens more doors than many others,” Bertrand explains. “Not only did college open doors, but the school’s name did. So if you have Yale on your resume, it felt like an automatic yes, you’ll get a certain job. So I felt like Ivy Leagues would help me out more than certain colleges would.”
The Republican National Committee’s platform on education contains a lot of tea party buzzwords: abstinence, English-first, homeschooling, vouchers, local control, the National Journal reports. But the document also shows signs that the GOP is willing to embrace some type of benchmarking (that is, regulation) for public schools. The platform talks about “accountability,” “higher expectations for all students,” and options for students in failing schools. It’s a far cry from eliminating the Education Department. Prominent education-reform advocates are hobnobbing in Tampa. They are the type of people who doggedly defend standards for student achievement and shun a hands-off approach. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee, the former District of Columbia Public Schools chancellor, led a panel discussion on Tuesday at a screening of Won’t Back Down, a movie about two mothers who take on a failing inner-city public school. The event drew 1,000 delegates and guests. Rhee’s grassroots-education group, StudentsFirst, will also be screening the film in Charlotte next week at the Democratic National Convention……Read More
The Brookings Institution released a long-term study earlier this month that examined the effects of school vouchers on eventual college enrollment, the National Journal reports. The academics had their say, but what do educators—the ones who are interacting with students on a daily basis—and other education-policy advocates have to say about it? Here we share some reactions from Twitter: “Vouchers deserve a spot among the array of interventions available to education policy makers. There remains no magic bullet. #BIVouchers” — Bart Pogue (@BartPogue) August 23, 2012……Read More
SPECIFIC POLICY POSITIONS
Obama says that the United States should lead the world in college-graduation rates by 2020. He has pushed to expand the size of, and access to, Pell Grants for students from low-income families, increasing the maximum per-student amount, the National Journal reports. In the spring, Obama shifted his attention to student loans, advocating for legislation to prevent the 3.4 percent student-loan interest rate from doubling. He succeeded when Congress passed a one-year delay. Obama launched an aggressive campaign promoting community colleges. He has also warned universities that their federal funding could be reduced if they don’t rein in tuition costs.
Obama considers the Education Department’s Race to the Top competitive-grant program, which encourages state-level school reforms, to be one of his crowning domestic-policy achievements. His budget for fiscal 2013 includes $850 million for the program, down from its $4.35 billion level in the 2009 economic-stimulus bill……Read More