Monthly Archives: May 2009

Closure of Denver’s Manual High School offers lessons, warnings for districts and families

Under NCLB, the ultimate sanction faced by a school that fails to make adequate yearly progress is closure. The Denver Post reports on the aftermath of one such closure – that of Denver’s Manual High School, a predominatly minority high school, in 2006.

[In] 2006 [Denver Public Schools] district officials announced [Manual High] school would close at the end of the school year because of lagging test scores and plummeting enrollment — forcing 558 students to find a new school.

Nearly a third of those students are now classified by the district as withdrawn. They are either dropouts, have moved to a different state or their whereabouts are unknown. One student has died, and 94 transferred out of Denver Public Schools. Their progress is no longer tracked.

Of those who remain in DPS, 70 will graduate this month, joining 175 other former Manual students who went on to get diplomas from other schools. Another 11 are on track to graduate later this year, and 40 more are still in DPS, but not yet ready to graduate.

President Barack Obama recently said he would like to see the nation’s 5,000 lowest-performing schools close and reopen as robust institutions of learning over the next five years.

Ben Kirshner, assistant professor of education at CU who led the Manual study, said districts must be careful.

“I don’t think the message is never close a school,” Kirshner said. “The message is slow down. Think about what happens to these students when they close. Our data suggests students on the whole did not benefit, and many experienced setbacks.”

Disclosure: Dr. Ben Kirshner, primary investigator on the study referenced in the article, is my graduate advisor and co-chair of my dissertation committee.

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More on 3-year bachelor’s degrees…

I previously posted here on the phenomenon of 3-year bachelor’s degrees, which some institutions see as a way to meet the needs of students who had difficulty affording expensive tuition without sacrificing college access.

The Washington Post has its own story on this phenomenon:

The four-year bachelor’s degree has been the model in the United States since the first universities began operating before the American Revolution. Four-year degrees were designed in large part to provide a broad-based education that teaches young people to analyze and think critically, considered vital preparation to participate in the civic life of American democracy.

The three-year degree is the common model at the University of Cambridge and Oxford University in England, and some U.S. schools have begun experimenting with the idea. To cram four years of study into three, some will require summer work, others will shave course lengths and some might cut the number of credit hours required.

Does coaching help students improve their college admissions test scores?

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Families can spend thousands of dollars on coaching to help college-bound students boost their SAT scores. But a new report finds that these test-preparation courses aren’t as beneficial as consumers are led to believe.

The report, to be released Wednesday by the National Association for College Admission Counseling [NACAC], criticizes common test-prep-industry marketing practices, including promises of big score gains with no hard data to back up such claims. The report also finds fault with the frequent use of mock SAT tests because they can be devised to inflate score gains when students take the actual SAT.

The NACAC report, authored by Dr. Derek Briggs, is available here.

Disclosure: Dr. Briggs is on the faculty at my doctoral alma mater, the U. of Colorado at Boulder, and I have studied with him.

Are 3-year degrees the wave of the future?

Inside Higher Ed reports on the increasing popularity of 3-year bachelor’s degree programs.

Mayor seeks to raise funds by taxing students at local private colleges and universities

The AP (via Huffington Post) reports:

The mayor of Providence wants to slap a $150-per-semester tax on the 25,000 full-time students at Brown University and three other private colleges in the city, saying they use resources and should help ease the burden on struggling taxpayers.

Mayor David Cicilline… said the fee would raise between $6 million and $8 million a year for the city, which is facing a $17 million deficit.

If enacted, it would apparently be the first time a U.S. city has directly taxed students just for being enrolled.

In a struggling economy, finance professionals look to teaching

The NY Times reports:

In March, the [New Jersey] State Legislature approved a pilot program… Called Traders to Teachers… designed to turn unemployed finance professionals into math teachers in three months. Successful candidates, who are not required to have been math majors, will attend classes free at Montclair State University…

Since December 2007, New Jersey’s financial services sector has shed 16,000 jobs, said David J. Socolow, state commissioner of labor and workforce development. Thousands of other residents lost similar jobs in New York.

Traders to Teachers, financed by a federal grant, will do more than retrain dislocated workers, Mr. Socolow said, it will also ease the state’s shortage of math teachers.

Keeping grade appeals to a minimum

I typically post ‘straight news’ stories but this op-ed piece from Inside Higher Ed’s Shari Dinkins is thought provoking enough that I wanted t share it.