You're encouraged to join and participate in what I hope will be an on-going conversation. Your participation will make this effort a much more worthwhile endeavor. Be sure to click on the "Comments" tab below to read what others have written in response. I look forward to hearing more from you.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

False Hope

I learned during a meeting last week conducted at Manchester Community College (MCC) that the state and federal governments will soon be redefining the term “college readiness”.  It has several implications for high school students and for their larger school communities.  Although the proposal is still being discussed in the legislatures, it’s likely that what it means to be ready for college will change quite significantly.

Here’s the quick take.  Not surprisingly, money allocated to community colleges is shrinking while enrollment is expanding.  Something has to go and that something looks like remedial classes.  So, before students are accepted to MCC, they’ll need to reach established benchmarks on the ACCUPLACER (I asked about the “placement” of these benchmarks but couldn’t get a definitive answer – probably because it hasn’t yet been established).  If they don’t grab hold of the benchmarks, but reach an accepted (but, again, not yet determined) level below them, these students will be allowed to take a VERY limited number of courses available to them and will only be allowed to matriculate as part-time students (this will affect insurance coverage on them relative to their parents' policies).  If they fail to even reach the aforementioned, they’ll be DENIED admission to MCC, required by the state to return to their local communities and enroll in adult education programs to prepare for the ACCUPLACER and get ready (college readiness) for college. So, community colleges will no longer be an option for anyone with simply a high school diploma or GED if this proposal becomes reality.  And the burden for remediation will be shifted back to local communities.

This shift in thinking is really based upon a concept known as "ability to benefit", which means that students need to demonstrate an ability to benefit from being enrolled in college (read: successfully complete college-level work).  Anything less will no longer be considered college.  Having said that, it will end the false hope that some students have of moving on to higher education without first taking sufficient care of what needs to be done in high school.

The link below will bring you to an article that addresses this issue in Arizona but sounds strikingly similar to the discussion being heard in Connecticut.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Teaching to the Text

Teens text often.  They should learn how to write in a concise, coherent, and cohesive manner. 

Define.  Describe.  Conclude. 

It's about sound bytes, isn't it?

Hit send.

The attached piece, written by a college professor, addresses this issue.
(Of course, you can hit delete, too.)



Monday, March 21, 2011

Rival Philosophies About Education From Two College Dropouts

Hear from and read about two college dropouts and their rival views on education.  You may be surprised to see who they are.  Also, take seven minutes to view the video imbedded in the link below (you'll need to click on "Read the Discussion").  And, while you're at it, take a few more minutes to click on the links to the left of the NY Times piece.

What's the primary purpose of education in today's world? 


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Boys Will Be Boys...As Girls Race Past Them In the Classroom

Below is an article I wrote in March, 2004.  Nothing really has changed.  If anything, it's become worse.  Read on and, if it sparks an interest, then read three articles on this issue that appear below and watch a brief video that speaks to it as well.

If the pursuit of academic achievement in high school were viewed as something resembling a long-distance road race, girls would be out-pacing boys at a considerable rate.  And the latter would be losing ground as more distance was covered.  At least that is what mounting evidence is revealing.  What this means down the road, as experts debate the issue, could have sociological and economic ramifications.

It has been known for years that girls in general outperform boys in the elementary school classroom, and that a gap in achievement usually diminishes by the time they move through middle school.  What has the experts scratching their heads lately has been the sustainability of this achievement gap well into the high school years.

The Southern Regional Education Board (SRED), a consortium of 16 states committed to improving education, recently conducted a survey that revealed surprising information.  Among the 40,000 males and female students polled in over 1000 high schools, all of whom were considered typical in that they were neither stellar performers nor slackers, boys clearly placed less value in school than did girls.  Whereas 84% of females surveyed reported that it was important to pursue higher education beyond high school, only 67% of the males felt similarly.  This bears out in the data released by the U.S. Department of Education - at the end of the last decade, 133 women received bachelor's degrees for every 100 men, and the former is expected to rise to 142 by 2010.  Moreover, 70% of these "average" girls surveyed by SRED see a direct relationship between school success and achievement of life goals while 57% of the boys hold to the same view.

Skeptics might point to verbal aptitude as a function of gender and that that these differences might reverse themselves in the quantitiative domain. Well, the data doesn't support this notion.  Across just about every measure, girls are outperforming boys.  Why?  Would anyone like to offer an explanation that appears to be perplexing to the experts?

Of course, what happens in the employment world, understandably, is another story, and perhaps for another time.  But, for school, falling back on the argument that "boys will be boys" is falling down in the face of a growing problem.

Fast forwarding to 2011, the rate of matriculation to college by gender is at about 57% for females and 43% for males.




Be sure to read the comments left by readers of these articles.  And feel free to post your own comments here.

 Look under Short Videos to the right - "Where Have the Good Men Gone?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is the American Dream Just That?

No other country in the world can hold claim to its own dream like the United States does with its "American Dream."  This dream has lured many from elsewhere to migrate and make this dream become for them a reality.  Many have, no doubt. And many haven't.  Coined in the 1930s just after the nightmare of the Great Depression was coming to an end, the American Dream became a reality as the country awakened from the financial disaster and then later WWII to find itself flush with resources and a booming economy that brought a middle class lifestyle to millions of Americans.

Six decades later, this notion of the American Dream is now fading for millions as the country has suffered from what is now called the Great Recession.  There is much debate about whether or not America will recover from this devastating crash and again become the land of opportunity it has long been known to be. 

You may have your own feeling about this and perhaps your own experiences as well.  Two pieces recently published in the same newspaper take contrasting views on the fate of the American Dream.  Take a few minutes to open both and read them (the links are below).  What's your take?  Is the American Dream still alive?  Or is it an experience that one can only have while sleeping?



If you choose to make the time, a report out of Harvard recently provided directions for "Pathways to Prosperity".  click on http://www.gse.harvard.edu/blog/news_features_releases/2010/02/pathways-to-prosperity-seeks-to-redefine-american-education-system.html.  It's worth the time.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Race to Nowhere" Attracting Attention

"Race to Nowhere" is a documentary film that is actually in a race its producer may not have initially expected.  This race seems to be one in which an increasing number of (affluent) communities throughout the United States can't arrange a showing fast enough. 

Briefly, the film is about this "race" in which students feel they must participate in order to compete for the few seats available in the most selective colleges this country has to offer.  Occupying one of these seats, so goes the thinking, will supposedly guarantee a life of grand success. 

This "race", in the process, is producing a generation of stressed-out, depressed, and increasingly disengaged kids who see little value in learning other than amassing AP credits and the like.  Other students are opting out of the "race", and some are so turned off by this "exercise" that they are opting out of learning altogether.

The previous post was on the status of AP courses.  This is a continuation on the theme.

You may want to spend about twenty minutes viewing the two short clips posted on this film.  Each is listed to the right under "Short Videos".  After viewing them, you may also want to post an opinion. 

While you're at it, why not spend a few more minutes at this site and click on any (or all) of the short clips addressing the state of the American Dream.   I wonder if this "Race to Nowhere" and the "American Dream" are intimately linked.  Or is there a disconnect here - one where an argument is being made for downshifting the pace of learning and the other calling for an uptick in order to prepare students for a world that is becoming increasingly more competitive?