Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stimulus gone = layoff for 290 Teachers in Dallas

From the Dallas Morning News and to the surprise of no one - once the stimulus dollars are gone, so are the jobs.  On top of that, there could be $250 million more in budget cuts from the state. 

The 290 teachers were hired in 2009 when the city scored $105 million on stimulus - but we knew it would only last two years.  So instead of properly preparing for the continued recession by streamlining operations, the federal government dangled the irresistible carrot and the district spent more. 

Texas districts received $3.5 billion in stimulus funds  - and now that is gone and the state is facing $10 billion in cuts. 

So let's recap - the district has a spending problem and 82% of the spending is payroll so the feds give them more money.  Isn't that like giving someone a huge piece of cake right before they start a very strict diet?  Seems like a waste.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Global Scholar Acquired by Scantron

Don't know how I missed this because it is pretty big - but Global Scholar was acquired by Scantron at the end of the year.  Global Scholar was owned by Knowledge Universe which also has a slice of K12 and was started by the Lowell and Mike Milken (yes that Mike Milken).  They are becoming quite the incubator for education start ups. 

This is a pretty cool match - you have an LMS, data mining, standards and tutoring company in Global Scholar now combined with a testing organization.  Very complimentary products. 

The Milkens are bringing business savvy to education.  It is fascinating to watch and I will continue to keep an eye on Knowledge Universe which is using technology and business expertise to rapidly become a world wide education powerhouse. 

Can 1% of our students dominate a global economy?

I think the answer is no - but only 1% of 12th grade students are advanced according the recently released NAEP - 2009 Science scores.  Even taking into account the apathy factor that our students don't really care, there should be enough passionate future scientists to do better than this.  On that plus side, 60% of our students are at or above basic and 21% are above proficient.

8th Grade
  • 37% below basic
  • 63% at or above basic
  • 30% at or above proficient
  • 2% advanced
4th Grade
  • 28% below basic
  • 72% at or above basic
  • 34% at or above proficient
  • 1% at advanced
If I'm Microsoft, I guess I am keeping my relationships in in India very strong so we have the staff to compete in 10 years. 

I am so sick of hearing about how we need to make a change and Sputnik moments and yet the scores are continually dismal.  We need to push more Science early to increase the passion in our middle school students.  Programs like Laying the Foundation are providing the teaching skills and equipment to make a difference - so let's get them in every school!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

For-Profit Schools: health care production disconnect with demand

A recent Center for American Progress report called Profiting from Health Care recently asked if for-profit schools providing relief in health care shortage areas? And the answer is: not really.

The facts:
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 3.2 million new health care jobs from 2009-2018
  • Obamacare will require even more health care professionals to care for the additional 32 million Americans who will receive coverage
  • Main need is in the practitioner or technologist field like registered nursing, medicine or diagnostic technician
For profit schools health care professional production:
  • 78% of the estimated 250,000 health care credentials awarded by for-profits last year were certificate or associate degrees and below
  • 88% of all medical/clinical assistants produced in this country were from for-profit schools
  • 10% of all health related completions at for-profits were massage therapists
  • Only 7% of all nurses came from for-profits
For profits are not really helping - only modest contribution towards the skilled health care professional shortage and producing a surplus of massage therapists, medical billing and medical assistants. 
  • Those graduating as an assistant / massage therapist are going to have a hard time paying off those student loans with an average cost for certificates of over $12,800
There is a disconnect between demand at the employer level and demand at the student level.  Gainful employment might help but it is doubtful and the study leaves some questions.  For instance, the certificates and degrees people are gravitating to are easier than those that are needed.  Is this a statement that these students are not prepared for more rigorous programs? 

An educated consumer is the only true way to combat the disconnect - no one is going to take out $12K in loans to go into massage therapy if there are no jobs.  Restricting student loans to high needs areas would pretty much solve the problem as well.  Until then, maybe massage prices will go way down. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Higher Ed Spending: the next cut is the deepest

The Chronicle is on top of it and the news is not good.  Colleges and universities blocked the hatchet last year by using the federal stimulus shield - a $40 billion shield that gets taken away this year.  Even with the stimulus, higher ed still took a small hit in funding.

But the cuts are going to get deep this year.  In Colorado, 26% of the total state higher ed appropriations came from the stimulus and that money is gone.  Stimulus money made up 10% of the state appropriations for higher education dollars in Louisiana, Montana and Nevada. 

With huge budget shortfalls hitting the legislature this, higher ed is going to get some really deep cuts this year.

UPDATE:  Bob Williams blog has the latest state budget shortfall list!  - thanks Bob

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Recipe for Sucessful School

Karin Chenoweth from EdTrust has a great blog on learning from success.

New Mexico Griegos Elementary School is 50% free and reduced lunch, 75% Latino in a 'working-class' neighborhood of Albuquerque.

2010 Results:
  • 91% of fifth-graders met or exceeded state reading standards compared to only 59% for the rest of the state
  • 89% of fifth-graders met state math standards compared to 45% for the rest of the state
  • 95% of fifth-graders met science standards vs 52% for the rest of the state
How does a school do that well?  Do they get more money?  Nope - it is a fairly simple formula - but never easy to implement:
  • Former Marine jet-fighter pilot as a principal who has been there for 9 years
  • Mission: Do the right thing at the right time
  • Strong, professional and unusually stable faculty
  • Pride
  • Teach to the standards
  • Identify state standards students need to meet and provide them the instruction to get them there
  • Find out who needs extra help - think deeply on how to provide it
  • Work hard, work the hours needed, work together to get kids ready
Parents who used to send their kids to private school are sending them to Griegos.  The ideas are not rocket science - implementing and staying the course is.

Seat time is not an academic measure

Michael Horn at the Innosight Institute has a great blog post on "Clearing the path for learning" today.  He takes on seat time and how it is holding back so many great students. 

"Rather than measure learning and move individual students along to new concepts as they master previous ones, it measures seat time and moves students along when they hit certain dates on a calendar. Time is fixed and the learning is variable, when what we need is a system that makes time variable so that the learning can be fixed."

It is funny how education advances just move in big circles.  Back in late 60's early 70's I learned to read through the SRA program.  You mastered a set of reading materials, answered the questions and moved on.  You moved at your own pace.  I loved it and moved up two grade levels in a year and to this day, love reading. 

Online learning is bringing this back - competency based pathways create greatly accelerated learning for today's students.  This is a struggle for online schools and classes - states don't know how to handle it when students can master the material in 90 days - but the class has to last 160 days in order to count as a class. 

Horn argues that the first step is to pilot programs that allow for competency based course completion as a proof of concept which is good, but not great.  If that's all we can get, then let's do it. 

But what we really need in the hyper competitive world we live in is to allow the technology to maximize student potential today.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Virtual Professional Development

One of the great things about working in online education is the ability to see what is going on in other industries as well as in K-12 and Higher Ed.  I had the pleasure of speaking with Susan Munson of Fixed Income LIVE! They have a pretty cool story. 

As margins for the big investment houses have decreased, so has the 'free' education materials they provided to the fixed income market.  This leaves a pretty big gap that can easily be filled if someone creates very high quality educational materials online.  Enter Fixed Income LIVE!  More to come but it is fascinating to watch a great company come in to fill a market niche through virtual learning. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Idaho - reforming education through the budget

I am still trying to figure out if twitter is a complete waste of time - but every once in a while you get some great information.  This morning, Idaho Education Superintendent Tom Luna is basically tweeting his education policy through the budget requests.  One line item at a time.  It actually works pretty well so congrats to Tom for finding a great use for twitter.

His goal is to bring education in Idaho into the 21st Century without raising taxes.
  1. $4,850,000 a year to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers in math and science
  2. $963,500 a year for high school juniors to take the ACT and SAT
  3. $6,000 per classroom to ensure students have the technology to prepare and manage more students with 40% for hardware, 40% for software, 20% for professional development
  4. $4,700,000 a year for laptops for every 9th grader plus the necessary maint, repair and tech support
  5. $800,000 a year for teacher training and curriculum integration
  6. $842,000 a year in dual credit classes in the senior year (nice!)
  7. Increase minimum teaching salary in the state to $30,000
  8. Implement pay for performance based on academic growth with bonus amount of between $2,000 and $8,000 a year in 2013 with a budget of $38 million, subsequent years - $51 million
  9. Implement bonuses for hard to staff positions determined at he local level
  10. Fall 2011 - the state will require the student funding to follow the student!
Ambitious which is not surprising if you know Tom!  Go Idaho!

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Mexico - goin' reform

New Mexico's education secretary Hanna Skandera is ready to roll and has the data to back her up.  New Mexico's education system received an 'F' in K-12 student achievement and was rated 50th in the nation in opportunities for success. 

If that is not a mandate for change, I don't know what is.

She has the background to get things done having worked with Governor Jeb Bush to reform Florida's education system.  At the same time, she has to make massive budget cuts in education.  If anyone is up to the task - it is Hanna!

More to come - but keep an eye on New Mexico for real education reform.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Big Changes to AP Testing

Change is never easy - especially in education.  As AP class participation has skyrocketed so have questions bout the validity of the exams.  The main complaint is the amount of content that needs to be covered in a little short of a school year.  Teachers end up juggling concepts to hit the ones they believe will get students closer to a 4 or 5 on the AP Exams.

College Board listened and got together groups of college professors and teachers to revamp the AP exams in biology and history.  The challenge will still be there but they are going to try and focus less on memorization and more on critical thinking.

Any time you say that - you immediately spark the direct instruction vs constructivist debate.  And I am one that falls squarely on hating the fluff in education. 

There are two keys that convince me that this is the right track:
  1. They started with college professors - these are supposed to be classes that get you out of taking the college class so if these professors give their stamp of approval then the content is college level
  2. My own daughter (anecdotal evidence alert:  basis of one) did not pass the AP because she is not good at memorizing and I felt that maybe I should have had her take a basic course at the community college - would have been easier and should have had the college credit
So it sounds to me like they are on the right track - not dumbing down the AP - but making it more like a college course and less like a memory contest. Now we just need to train AP teachers before 2012 to make sure they are ready!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

College = Job...not so fast

Robert Pondiscio has a great post over at Core Knowledge entitled, You Want Fries with that B.A?  Kudos for the title with emphasis on the B.A. part. (note:  blog is based on a CATO study/blog post by Neal McClusky)  The bottom line:
  • 33% of college grads hold a job that does not require a college degree
College could become the largest bait and switch scam in the history of the world.  We tell everyone that they have to go to college to be trained to fill the jobs of the future and that we don't have near enough college grads.  But then they graduate and....
  • 17.39% are porters and bellhops
  • 16% are bartenders
  • 16.64% are administrative assistants
  • 15.15% are hired drivers
Those jobs required an education investment of over $100,000???  Wow! 

As I stated in the comments they need to find out the college major of our graduates who are working these jobs.  Based upon previous posts here and here  - my guess is it is sociology or women's studies.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Parents want higher graduation rates

Got an email from AEI today on a new study they are releasing - direct from the email:

"In their new research study, Filling in the Blanks, AEI's Andrew P. Kelly and Mark Schneider used an experimental survey to test whether providing graduation-rate information affects the way parents choose between two public, four-year colleges in their state. The study found that providing graduation-rate information for two similar colleges increased the probability that parents would choose the institution with the higher graduation rate by 15 percentage points.

Perhaps most importantly, the information had a large and significant effect on parents with less education, lower incomes, and less knowledge of the college application process. More advantaged and better-informed parents, meanwhile, did not significantly change their preferences in response to graduation rates."

I wish this was an ongoing study because I believe the economy is going to have a significant impact on this number.  College costs have sky-rocketed and parents savings have been hit - so the six year plan is really off the table now.  With our daughters, I was really impressed with first year retention as well - schools that brag about the support they give with the results gave me a very high comfort level that they wanted the kids to succeed.
It's time for the 6 year plan to end with solid AP, early college, online gen eds and efforts by schools to help students succeed.  Nice to see data to support that parents are becoming actual consumers when it comes to higher education.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bill Tucker vs Urban League and WaPo

Part of the problem with blogs and education policy is the extreme rhetoric - mass exaggeration and anecdotal evidence rule the day.  So it is nice to read the blog on Quick and the Ed by bill Tucker taking apart an op ed in the Washington Post by Mar Morial.

The issues is the gainful employment rule and the Urban League is claiming this is going to destroy the ability for minorities to earn a degree.  As Marc points out - this is really going to destroy the ability of minorities to pile on massive amounts of debt for a degree that is not going to help them in the future.


The gainful employment rule will not put the industry out of business and certainly is not going to leave minority students with no opportunity to earn a degree.  For-profit colleges and universities will adapt and succeed.  And everyone will win.

Well played Mr. Tucker.

Things do happen outside of DC

When I was in DC, it alwasy amazed me that people inside the Beltway believe that what they did had far reaching affects throughout the country.  But then I would go to Florida or Missouri and speak with education leaders and they had no clue what was happening in DC and couldn't care less.

All eeducation change is truly local.

When I came to Texas, I met with Hanna Skandera who was with me at Best Associates and then went over to Laying the Foundation (LTF).  LTF is doing some really great things - outside of DC!!  Finding outstanding teacher professional development is difficult it seems - but her is an organization that is getting teachers to focus on creating more student success on the AP tests.  Creating a well trained teaching corps that helps students get a jump on college courses is pretty incredible.  My daughters learned how to study in their AP classes.  Hanna was going to lead LTF to the next level and take it nation wide.  I was so excited about this, I was going to volunteer to help her as an unpaid consultant. 

But New Mexico called her!  She is now going to be the New Mexico's Public Education Secretary !  THIS IS A BIG DEAL!  Hanna is the consummate education reformer who really cares about student success, fully understands education measurement systems and can navigate the politics through sincerity and honesty (politicians have a hard time handling those characteristics). 

Exciting times in the Texas and New Mexico - so to all my DC Ed Friends - keep an eye out down here.  LTF is going to be everywhere soon and Hanna is going to help New Mexico charge ahead.

Friday, January 7, 2011

College Admissions Process

The Washington Post has an article with some great videos embedded about the new ways that admissions teams are using social media to get their message out.  Pretty funny.  As schools look for new ways to attract students, it is tough to get through the clutter.  Showing the school is a lot less stuffy then others is just good marketing.  

Thursday, January 6, 2011

VA Changes Affecting Schools

The VA has a great section the fully defines the new changes to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and they put up a brief section on how it affects schools.  Here it is from the VA Site:

"The list below highlights changes of particular interest to School Certifying Officials.

  • Reporting fees paid to schools increases from $7 to $12 per student per year
  • Requires that reporting fees only be used for the purpose of certification
  • Programs offered at accredited public and private-not-for-profit schools are deemed already approved for VA Education Benefits
  • Non-college degree programs, on-the-job training, and flight training programs are now covered (effective October 1, 2011)
  • Allows the VA to use SAAs (State Approving Agencies) for compliance and oversight duties
  • Allows VA to disapprove courses"
The big concern:  if public and private-not-for-profit schools are deemed already approved, does that meant that for profits have to get new approval?

For full changes:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

VA has authority to cut off for-profits!

It is official now  - President Obama has signed GI Bill 2.0 (S. 3447) into law!  This is great news for the military!  It will be an interesting time for the for-profit education industry as there was a trade-off in the bill. 

The good:  Veterans using the GI Bill for online schools going full time can now receive the housing allowance.  Prior to S. 3447, online students missed out on as much as $1,500 per month - a huge hit.  But so many Veterans needed to study online due to combat injury, family obligations or work so veterans groups stepped up and got this done.

The trade-off:  The bill includes a provision to "protect Veterans from predatory practices" by giving authority to the VA to cut-off schools that it feels are not serving vets.  Prior to the bill, if the school was accredited, they could participate.  Now, the VA can cut off any school.

This is a good deal for all and congrats to Congress, President Obama and Veterans groups for getting this done!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2 year programs out-earn 4 year schools

For years I have been telling parents - it's all about the degree!  If you get a degree in women's studies from NYU your life will be no better than someone with a 2 year vocational degree.  But I really only had anecdotal evidence to back it up. 

Until I saw this post from Joanne Jacobs at Community College Spotlight.  Let's look at the bullets:
  • Bachelor degree recipients at the 11 public universities averaged $36,552 in 2009
  • Associate degree recipients from the community colleges averaged $47,708 in 2009
OUCH - why the huge difference?? Community colleges offer training in high demand health-care fields. 

Even private colleges and university graduates earn more - $44,558 compared to the $36,552.  When asked why, FIU's provost says that those schools focus on degrees where people can make a living.

If you are going to invest a ton of money in a car, you want to make sure it can get you somewhere - - why don't we take the same care in choosing a major?