News Roundup

One article is about the growing number of colleges and universities that are admitting students but not right away; the student has to wait for a semester or even a year.  The admission is gauged on the student going to another college or university and maintaining a certain GPA.

This is a standard course of action for students with little money - go to a community college for a couple of years, get your required freshman classes out of the way, save some money and then, finish at a four-year university.   Now colleges and universities are getting in on the action that is called "enrollment management":

This little-noticed practice — an unusual mix of early admission and delayed gratification — has allowed colleges to tap their growing pools of eager candidates to help counter the enrollment slump that most institutions suffer later on, as the accepted students drop out, transfer, study abroad or take internships off campus. 

But you can see the problem.  Many students with good grades might not want to go to community college.  Others many not want to start at another school - learning the campus, making friends, etc. - only to leave a year later.  Also, does the university that gets the one-year student appreciate that it was just a stopping off place on the way to somewhere else?  Or, your student took a place at a university he/she doesn't even really want from another student who may have wanted it.  (On the other hand, you can get a lot of embarrassing freshman goofs out of the way in one place and then go to another a wiser student.)

Next article is about what is in the new federal budget (and I missed this, did you?:

In the 11th-hour compromise to avoid a government shutdown last week, one concession that President Obama made to Republicans drew scant attention: he agreed to finance vouchers for Washington students to attend private schools.

Vouchers.  I didn't really think there was much worse that charters but to me, it is.  (Among the issues are that private schools don't have to follow federal/state testing mandates, most of the people who use vouchers use them to make sure their children are in parochial schools and, of course, it's more money from struggling public schools who have to serve all comers.) 

Mr. Boehner’s beloved program is the latest example of how conservative Republicans across the country are advancing school vouchers — including offering them for the first time to middle-class families — and reviving a cause that until recently seemed moribund. 

The cry is that this will force the public schools to compete and improve.  That would be true if it were a level playing field with private schools and it isn't.  Also, like charters, in 21 years of vouchers, students who get them do no better than those in public schools in testing. 

Vi Simpson, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate in Indiana, said the vouchers would divert $92 million from public schools when they are already facing steep declines in state and federal aid. “Either this hasn’t been very well thought out,” she said, “or it’s been very well thought out and it is intended to help public schools fail.” 

I think Senator Simpson's latter thought is probably the case.  

Next up is on-line learning which is sweeping the country, apparently because it is cheaper to have students on computers with fewer teachers needed.  

I can see the good behind some of this but it seems like there is an awful lot of possible bad outcomes.  From the NY Times article:  

Jack London was the subject in Daterrius Hamilton’s online English 3 course. In a high school classroom packed with computers, he read a brief biography of London with single-paragraph excerpts from the author’s works. But the curriculum did not require him, as it had generations of English students, to wade through a tattered copy of “Call of the Wild” or “To Build a Fire.” 

Mr. Hamilton, who had failed English 3 in a conventional classroom and was hoping to earn credit online to graduate, was asked a question about the meaning of social Darwinism. He pasted the question into Google and read a summary of a Wikipedia entry. He copied the language, spell-checked it and e-mailed it to his teacher. 

Great, here we have a student who already failed English, does not have to read the book he is writing about, plagiarizes Wikipedia to answer questions and calls it done.   

Here in Memphis, in one of the most ambitious online programs of its kind, every student must take an online course to graduate, beginning with current sophomores. 

But it is also true that Memphis is spending only $164 for each student in an online course. Administrators say they have never calculated an apples-to-apples comparison for the cost of online vs. in-person education, but around the country skeptics say online courses are a stealthy way to cut corners.  

So what's good?

Chicago and New York City have introduced pilot online learning programs. In New York, Innovation Zone, or iZone, includes online makeup and Advanced Placement courses at 30 high schools, as well as personalized after-school computer drills in math and English for elementary students. 

Reza Namin, superintendent of schools in Westbrook, Me., which faces a $6.5 million budget deficit, said he could not justify continuing to pay a Chinese-language teacher for only 10 interested students. But he was able to offer Chinese online through the Virtual High School Global Consortium, a nonprofit school based in Massachusetts. 

So yes, if you are a small or rural high school, on-line learning allows you to offer courses you could never fund or more AP courses.    But you can also see it as cheapening education while pushing out more students than ever who are do not have a real and valid high school diploma.   

Last, Seattle's Child has an interview with Dr. Enfield in this month's edition.   Nothing much new here but this was nice to see:

SC: In a few weeks, elementary schools across this district will be learning that they are losing some of their best and brightest teachers, because they don’t have long experience in the SPS system. The new contract does nothing to address this. Should there be a state law to eliminate layoffs solely based on seniority?

ENFIELD: It would be a mistake to assume that just because you are a newer or younger teacher that you are necessarily more effective than a seasoned veteran teacher. So what I would rather see is a focus on making sure that (teachers) have what they need to be successful in our system. If they are not the right fit in our system, then they don’t stay in our system. To me really it is less about old and new, and more about just focusing on making sure we have the best that we can.


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