Should We Rank Colleges Based on Their Graduates’ Earnings?

Should We Rank Colleges Based on Their Graduates’ Earnings?

By Jordan Weissmann

Academics might not like it, but schools should be held accountable.

I recently reported on PayScale’s newest batch of college rankings, which compare how much a school’s graduates earn to how much they pay for tuition. In other words, it calculates each institution’s financial return on investment, which seems a far saner way to look at the value of a degree than anything that U.S. News, for instance,has cooked up. (In case you were wondering, PayScale ranked Harvey Mudd College at No. 1, with a $1.094 million 20-year net ROI on $116,800 tuition; MIT, Caltech, and Stanford came in at Nos. 2, 3, and 4, respectively.)

But not everybody feels so warmly about the idea of judging schools according to their ROI—particularly academics, who expressed qualms last year when President Obama proposed his own ratings system for colleges that would take into account how much graduates make. With the PayScale list out, Cedar Riener, a professor of psychology at Randolph-Macon College, took me—and PayScale—to task with a blog post titled “The Absurdity of Ranking Colleges by Graduate Salaries.” Riener was particularly irked by my decision to focus on colleges at the very bottom of PayScale’s list that offered alumni a negative return—meaning students spent more on their education than they made back in extra earnings.

Like many in higher education, Riener thinks some colleges are simply too different from one another to be judged on a single scale. You can’t mash together Harvard, with its well-off and well-prepared student body, with an institution like second-to-last-ranked Fayetteville State University, where 78 percent of students received Pell Grants in 2012. There’s no logical way to compare engineering and tech schools, which dominate the top of PayScale’s list, to art schools, which tend to fall at the bottom. He writes:

Sure, a dollar is a dollar is a dollar, but saying that a mineral engineer makes twice what an artist does, and therefore this particular art school isn’t worth it, that just seems absurd, but it is exactly the logic that their ROI tanking system encourages, and that Weissman’s [sic] article adopts in using language like “to be blunt, these schools make students poorer.” No they don’t. I imagine that most students entering art school are fully informed (by parents, teachers, classmates, strangers in the grocery store) that their choice is disastrous and they will never find a lucrative job doing art. They choose to pay for training anyways. Is the art school making them poorer?

My short answer is: Yes, the art school really is making students poorer if it delivers a negative ROI. And there’s nothing absurd about holding colleges accountable for what their students earn.

The art school question is actually a small piece of a much bigger quandary: When we look at the earnings of a college graduate, and try to decide whether their education was financially worthwhile, whom should we compare them to? PayScale answers this in a reasonable, though imperfect, way. They calculate the predicted lifetime earnings of alums from each institution, then subtract the cost of their schooling and the pay that the median high school graduate can expect to make over their working life. The ROI is whatever’s left. So when the site says that certain schools offer a money-losing proposition, it means that typical alums fare worse than the typical American with a 12th-grade education.

In a more ideal world, with better data available, PayScale would be able to compare students from similar race and class backgrounds, and who work in similar industries. Attending the Maryland Institute College of Art might be a less lucrative choice than getting a job working in a Ford factory or becoming the manager of a Chipotle. It’s certainly a less promising option than going to a higher-ranked arts program like the Rhode Island Institute of Design or the Art Institute in Chicago, which both offer positive returns.But is it a more financially ruinous decision than trying to become a painter or photographer without a B.F.A.? PayScale doesn’t say. Likewise, some historically black colleges (such as Fayetteville, Savannah State University, and Shaw University) rank at the bottom of PayScale’s list. But the results might turn out differently if their alms were compared to other African-Americans—who systematically make less than whites—with similar family incomes who decided not to get a degree.

Be that as it may, I think many students would like to know whether their college education is likely to leave them poorer than an adult who started their career right after prom. And it’s strange to argue schools should be let off the hook because their students have dimmer earning prospects to begin with, or choose less remunerative majors. It might not be absolutely necessary to rank colleges based on ROI. But in the age of massive student debt, it is absolutely fair and far from absurd to ask whether schools are charging appropriate tuition, given students’ realistic earning prospects.

Moreover, there is a very wide—and very accurate—consensus in academia that holds that for-profit universities vastly overcharge their students, given the actual value of their degrees. Why not apply that standard to traditional higher ed as well? To put it another way: It may be that art schools are at a disadvantage compared to engineering programs because painting don’t pay very much. But it may be equally true that some art schools are a rip-off.

At the same time, overemphasizing salaries would be dangerous. As Riener argued in so many words on Twitter, judging colleges based on their students’ expected salaries could theoretically penalize schools that admit low-income students, who have lower earnings expectations to start with. If the government were to use a ranking system just like PayScale’s to reward or punish colleges, it would almost certainly be a disaster—college administrators would start jettisoning poor and minority students like sailors bailing water out of a ship.

Thankfully, nobody is suggesting we do such a thing. Obama’s proposed rating system would look at a whole slew of factors—such as graduation rates, student debt defaults, and number of low-income admissions—and would compare them to similarly situated institutions. PayScale is merely a consumer tool, meant to give prospective students some concept of what their future earnings might look like. In an ideal world, there would be a better, more precise option. But sadly, colleges and universities have successfully lobbied Congress to ban the Department of Education from gathering more comprehensive data on graduates—if not for that, we wouldn’t have to rely on self-reported surveys by consumer websites. The really absurd thing, in the end, is that we still have to battle for such basic information.

9 Things We Should Get Rid of to Help Our Kids

9 Things We Should Get Rid of to Help Our Kids

by Kristen Welch

She borrowed something from me.

And then she lost it.

Accidents happen.

But it was the whole “It only cost ten bucks-you can get another one” attitude that I couldn’t let happen a moment longer.

So, I gave her a job that required hard work and gave her the $10 she earned and then I made her pay me for what she lost.

Listen, when I realized I was more than half the problem in this whole entitlement parenting challenge, it was a wake up call. Kids naturally want what they haven’t earned, especially if we are handing it out for free.

But what we have is an entire generation of young adults who got everything they ever wanted with little or no work; we have a cultural norm and it’s a problem.

Because reality is, life doesn’t give us everything we want. We don’t always get the best jobs or a job at all. We don’t always have someone rescue us when we have a bad day or replace our boss just because we don’t like them. We can’t always have what we want when we want it. We aren’t always rewarded in life.

Here are 9 things we can get rid of to begin
eliminating entitlement in our children:

1. Guilt: Often we give into our kid’s requests out of guilt. We need to stop feeling guilty for not giving our kids everything they want. It’s hard to swallow, but we foster the attitude of entitlement in our homes when we are ruled by a guilty conscience. It’s okay to ask kids to be responsible for what they lose and to require consequences for actions.

2. Overspending: I think it’s good for our kids to hear us say, “We can’t afford that” Or “We will have to save for it.” Because that’s real life. We don’t have All The Money to Buy All the Things. I’ve known families before who are working multiple jobs to keep kids in extracurricular activities, when honestly, the kids would probably be happier with more family time.

3. Birthday Party Goody Bag (Mentality)-I’ve been guilty of this like most of us. But, really? We take our kids to parties so they can give a gift, but they take a small one home so they won’t feel bad? It’s not their birthday. This concept of spoiling kids (which usually goes far beyond goody bags) is temporary fun. It’s okay for them not to be the center of attention.

4. Making our day-week-month, our world about our kids-Working in the non-profit world has redirected our extra time. We simply can’t center our lives around our children when we are centering our lives around Christ. Child-centered homes don’t help children in the long-run.

5. The desire to make our children happy (all the time). If you visited my house, you’d find out pretty quickly that someone’s always unhappy. It’s not our job to keep our kids happy. Don’t carry that impossible burden. Typically when our kids are unhappy, it’s because we are standing our ground. And that makes for much healthier kids in the future.

6. Made Up Awards: You know what I’m talking about. Rewarding everyone who participates in every area only fosters an inflated self esteem. Kids don’t need rewards for every little thing. It’s okay to lose, they learn through failure as much as success.

7. Fixing all their problems: I don’t like to see my kids struggling. There’s a part of every parent that longs to make things right in their child’s world. But it’s not healthy to create a false reality. You won’t always be there to do so and not only that, if you’re doing it all for your child, why would they need to learn to do it themselves? Fixing all their problems is really only creating more challenges in the future.

8. Stuff: We could all probably fill a half dozen trash bags with just stuff. Excess. Try it. Bag it up and get your kids to help you and give it to someone who needs it.

9. Unrealistic Expectations: My girls are always asking for manicures. I didn’t have one until I was married, pregnant and 27 years old. I’m not opposed to the occasional treat, but it’s the attitude of expecting it because you as a parent or others have it. Just because I have an iPhone, doesn’t mean my children will get one. We don’t have to give our kids everything we have. It’s okay to make them wait for things in life.

It’s okay to toss out these things. Go ahead, give it a try.

Future of Education System in United States

Future of Education System in United States

by Zach Kirkman

A solid education, typically including college, is usually important in order for one to have a successful career. There are always exceptions, but a good education can give a person an advantage in most fields. However, it is not as if the education system in the United States no problems, and it is difficult to determine what the future holds.

Back in June of 2013, a study indicated that the United States had dropped ten places internationally in high school and college graduation rates over a period of 30 years. The report suggested income inequality as a primary contributor to these problems. It lamented cuts in various programs due to sequestration and talked about how there is not enough money spent to help the disadvantaged. For what it’s worth, the report claimed that the United States is in a period of “austerity.” This seems ironic considering that the country has over 17 trillion in total debt. Maybe more spending is not the answer to these types of problems.

Richard V. Reeves of Brookings’ Economic Studies also mentioned income disparity as a major problem in the education system, particularly when it comes to access to college. He said that a high school education in itself is not enough for success in today’s economy. Although this is typically true, it should be pointed out that a college education is no guarantee of success either. This might seem obvious, but student loan debt can be a major problem. College is important, but it is also a good idea for people to have a clear plan in mind in terms of what they will do when they actually get out of college.

Reeves wrote about making college education the norm and making it more accessible, but a recent Yahoo article suggested actually making it mandatory. The future of the United States education system would certainly look radically different if this became reality, but it is unlikely to happen. First of all, as the article itself points out, this idea would probably only work if the required college education was paid for by the government. The problem with this and all other publicly funded projects is that there are only so many ways that a government can get money. Perhaps more importantly, there is the issue of whether the government should have the authority to mandate a certain level of education in the first place.

Unfortunately, there are probably no easy fixes when it comes to making the education system more efficient. Rather than more spending and more government action, perhaps a better answer in the long run would be the opposite approach. A gradual shift towards less centralization in the education system might have some advantages. Maybe more power should be in the hands of parents and local school systems, rather than the federal and state governments. More choice and competition could be helpful, particularly at the lower levels of education.

This solution has its share of problems as well. For one thing, people with less income would initially have even more problems with getting access to quality education. Therefore, any such changes would need to be done gradually.

It is hard to say what changes the future of the United States education system holds, if any. The whole system could probably be more efficient, but there are not easy ways to bring this about.

Student loan debts top $1 trln in US

Student loan debts top $1 trln in US

by Jonathan Ernst

The student loan industry is booming, saddling over 37 million college students and graduates with $1.08 trillion in loans in 2013, even as President Barack Obama and lawmakers work to rein in the crippling debt young people face in the US.

The average cost of a Bachelor’s degree at a private college or university is $45,000, according to The College Board’s Trends in Higher Education. Students attending public schools in their home state pay just under $23,000 on average, while those paying out-of-state tuition can expect to pay more than $36,000 a year. In 2012, The College Board says the average student carried over $6,000 student loans for the academic year.

Of the nearly 20 million Americans who attend college each year, about 12 million borrow, according to the Almanac of Higher Education. Estimates show that the average four-year graduate accumulates $26,000 to $29,000 in loans, and some leave college with debt totaling in the six figures. Those students who continue on to graduate school, especially law and medical school, see their debt balloon.

All that debt hits as soon as students graduate, whether they have a job or not. And millennials – those born after 1982 – were the hardest hit group in the Great Recession, as professionals with experience took entry-level jobs just to get by and millennials sometimes took unpaid internships after graduation, in the hopes that the experience would translate into a job. In 2012, the unemployment rate for college graduates under the age of 24 was 9.4 percent, while the overall unemployment rate hovered around 8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Those who didn’t get a job or an unpaid internship turned to graduate school, adding to their overall debt.

Now college graduates are realizing they may have mortgaged their future to pay for their educations as interest piles on to the initial loan. A brief based on the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances and other sources, shows that, over a lifetime of employment and saving, $53,000 in education debt leads to a wealth loss of nearly $208,000.

Nida Degesys, who graduated in 2013 from Northeast Ohio Medical University with about $180,000 in loans, told the Associated Press, “There were times where this would make me stay up at night.” With interest, Degesys now owes a total of $220,000. “The principal alone is a problem, but the interest is staggering.”

But these same graduates also have a much higher earning potential than those who don’t receive a Bachelor’s degree. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials aged 25-32 with a four-year degree earn an average of $45,500 a year, compared with $30,000 for those with an associate’s degree or some college and $28,000 for someone with only a high school education. They also have a lower unemployment rate: 3.8 percent versus 8.1 percent or 12.2 percent, respectively.

That higher earning potential doesn’t help them down the line, though. Gregory Zbylut pays $1,300 a month towards his $160,000 in law school loans. He graduated from Loyola University in Chicago in 2005. He estimates he could have saved $150,000 to $200,000 if that monthly payment had gone into a 401(k) retirement account instead. He’s been turned down twice for a mortgage, he told AP, and he’s been unable to marry his fiancé between his debts and her son. “I have more education and more degrees than my father, as does she than her parents, and yet our parents are better off than we are. What’s wrong with this picture?” he said.

The government is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to fixing the student debt crisis. The federal government funded 43 percent of student loans in the 2012-2013 academic year, The College Board said. Borrowers are locked into a 6.8 percent interest rate for student loans, while the average interest rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage is much lower at 4.5 percent. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the “break even” interest rate for the student loan program would be around 2.5 percent. The CBO also projects the government will earn $184 billion off student loans over the next ten years. But that profit comes on the backs of the government’s constituents, and student loans (unlike all other types of loans) don’t go away in bankruptcy or after death.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is leading the charge to change the way the federal government loans money to students. “I’d like us to go a long way toward letting people deal with student loans the same way they deal with home mortgages and medical debts,” she told the Huffington Post in September. Warren plans to introduce legislation that would allow borrowers to refinance their debts the way that homeowners and businesses can already refinance.

“This exploding debt is also dragging down our economy. With monthly loan bills that can easily exceed a mortgage payment, it’s no surprise that homeownership among thirty-year olds has declined steeply. And last spring, the Federal Reserve raised concerns that rising student debt may threaten our overall economic growth,” Warren wrote in prepared remarks for a speech on the Senate floor. Warren’s plan would also focus on bringing down the costs of higher education. She would pay for the lost revenue by enacting the so-called “Buffett Rule” to close tax loopholes on millionaires.

On Thursday, at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) proposed limiting the amount of money graduate students can borrow and reducing the loan amounts for certain categories of undergraduate students. Before 2006, graduate students could only borrow up to $138,500 total in federal loans and also had an annual cap on the amount they could borrow.

Congress lowered the interest rate on some student loans to 3.86 percent for the 2012-2013 academic school year, but that only affects current borrowers who receive the federal unsubsidized loans.

The Nation’s Most Segregated Schools Aren’t Where You’d Think They’d Be

The Nation’s Most Segregated Schools
Aren’t Where You’d Think They’d Be

by Joy Resmovits

NEW YORK — The nation’s most segregated schools aren’t in the deep south — they’re in New York, according to a report released Tuesday by the University of California, Los Angeles’ Civil Rights Project.

That means that in 2009, black and Latino students in New York “had the highest concentration in intensely-segregated public schools,” in which white students made up less than 10 percent of enrollment and “the lowest exposure to white students,” wrote John Kucsera, a UCLA researcher, and Gary Orfield, a UCLA professor and the project’s director. “For several decades, the state has been more segregated for blacks than any Southern state, though the South has a much higher percent of African American students,” the authors wrote. The report, “New York State’s Extreme School Segregation,” looked at 60 years of data up to 2010, from various demographics and other research.

There’s also a high level of “double segregation,” Orfield said in an interview, as students are increasingly isolated not only by race, but also by income: the typical black or Latino student in New York state attends a school with twice as many low-income students as their white peers. That concentration of poverty brings schools disadvantages that mixed-income schools often lack: health issues, mobile populations, entrenched violence and teachers who come from the least selective training programs. “They don’t train kids to work in a society that’s diverse by race and class,” he said. “There’s a systematically unequal set of demands on those schools.”

While segregated schools are located throughout New York state, the segregation of schools in New York City — the country’s most heterogeneous area — contributes to the state’s standing. Of the city’s 32 Community School Districts, 19 had 10 percent or fewer white students in 2010. All school districts in the Bronx fell into that category. More than half of New Yorkers are black or Latino, but most neighborhoods have little diversity — and recent changes in school enrollment policies, spurred by the creation of many charter schools, haven’t helped, Orfield argues.

Only 8 percent of New York City charter schools are considered multiracial, meaning they had a white enrollment of 14.5 percent or above, the New York City average. “Charter schools take the metro’s segregation to an extreme,” according to the report. “Nearly all charters” in the Bronx and Brooklyn were “intensely segregated” in 2010, meaning they had less than 10 percent white student enrollment. The Civil Rights Project considers 73 percent of New York City charters to be “apartheid schools,” in which less than 1 percent of students are white, and 90 percent were “intensely segregated.” (Orfield clarified that he uses the word apartheid to make “people understand what it’s like when you have a law that requires racial separation — we are very close to that level.”) Charter supporters have argued that Orfield’s methodology compares schools’ racial composition to those of boroughs or cities, but not their immediate surrounding neighborhoods.

“Charters are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they open in mixed-income neighborhoods as many have tried to, they are accused of abandoning their mission to serve high-needs kids and of trying to inflate their test scores,” said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center. “And when they do serve children in low-income areas — neighborhoods which are historically segregated — they are accused of being too narrow in focus.”

“So instead of focusing on the bogus conclusions of this study,” Merriman continued, “we’re going to focus on providing a great public education to all of our students, no matter where they live.”

Charter schools are publicly funded but can be privately run, and their segregation has long been controversial. Charter schools in urban areas tend to be segregated, in part, because they seek to serve specific low-income communities. Some intentionally cater to one race, with a focus on black culture.

In New York City, charter schools have been the center of a newly-simmering debate, with Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio overturning the space-sharing arrangements of a few charter schools that had been green lighted by the Bloomberg administration. Though de Blasio recently softened his charter school tone, the announcement that he would alter the space-sharing arrangements of several charter schools run by the Success Academy chain set off a loud and expensive media blitz.

Orfield hopes that all this hubbub means that the city’s charter landscape is ripe for change, and that charters can start focusing on civil rights. “I hope this new multiracial city leadership in New York that wants to take a new look at these things will not just stereotype all charter schools as bad or all public schools as good, but will try to make more schools of choice that are equitable or diverse in both of those sectors,” Orfield said.

Representatives for Success Academy and the De Blasio administration did not respond to a request for comment. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said it was unavailable to comment before press time.

How did New York get this way? Forty years ago, according to the report, New York state made “school desegregation … a serious component of the state’s education policy as a result of community pressure and legal cases.” Legal fights in Yonkers and Rochester respectively targeted housing and educational segregation, and resulted in an inter-district transfer program. New York City never saw a lawsuit over school segregation but community leaders “challenged practices and policies that perpetuated racial imbalance and educational inequity across schools.”

But during the Reagan administration, policy shifted focus. New York instead looked to newly popular ideas to improve school quality: charter schools, school choice and school accountability. “By the early twenty-first century, most desegregation orders in key metropolitan areas were small and short-lived due to unitary status, and many programs designed to voluntarily improve racial integration levels, like magnet schools, are now failing to achieve racial balance levels due to residential patterns, a lack of commitment, market-oriented framework, and school policy reversals,” the authors write. And while many New Yorkers involved in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case tried to alter the racial composition of New York’s schools, nothing happened — not even one school in Harlem was integrated.

Orfield argues that despite this turn in education policy, actively pursuing desegregation is still important. “From the benefits of greater academic achievement, future earnings, and even better health outcomes for minority students, and the social benefits resulting from intergroup contact for all students … we found that ‘real integration’ is indeed an invaluable goal worth undertaking,” he wrote.

To help remedy the problem, Orfield suggests emphasizing education policies that mitigate segregation, such as an equal distribution of resources, the building of low-income housing in new communities, student assignment policies that take race into account and having schools report on their diversity. Charter schools, he recommended, should target recruitment and weight admissions to make sure they reach students of different races.

Some contested Orfield’s rhetoric. “I have some sympathy for his goals … but Orfield takes it way over the top,” said Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Petrilli has written a book on school diversity. “The reality is, a city like New York does have a lot of racially concentrated schools, and that’s because it has a lot of racially concentrated neighborhoods. That fundamentally comes from housing segregation. … We need both these high-poverty schools that are high-performing and we need integrated schools that are high-performing.”

UPDATE: — A representative from the New York State Education Department called the findings troubling but unsurprising, and highlighted some of the state’s desegregation work.

“Both racial and socioeconomic integration can contribute to advancing the student outcomes we want and ensuring the kind of society we want that reflects America’s democratic principles. The nation, the state, and our school districts all have work to do,” spokesperson Dennis Tompkins said. “Over the years, the Board of Regents and the Department have supported a variety of initiatives along these lines, including the Rochester Urban-Suburban Initiative. More recently, the Department required students at two failing Buffalo high schools to be provided with access to high-quality programs at a suburban BOCES, and the Board of Regents called for legislation to allow the creation of regional high schools.”

4 Ideas to Help Students Navigate Their Anxiety

4 Ideas to Help Students Navigate Their Anxiety

By Tim Elmore

One of my greatest concerns is the poor mental health our teens and young adults experience today. Teenagers in the U.S. endure higher levels of stress than many adults, according to a report by the American Psychological Association. And college students are definitely more “stressed” than students in past generations.

While levels of “extreme stress” among teens vary during the year, 34 percent of teens surveyed said they experience it and expect their stress levels to increase over the next year due to a variety of stressors (school, work, family and friends). In my book,Generation iY, I relay that 44 percent of university students say they are so overwhelmed that it’s almost difficult to function. It seems that angst is everywhere.

High school and college students reported realities like:

“I feel like we have to be perfect for colleges and we have a big workload. Most of the time… we just talk about how stressed we are.”
“When we feel this stressed out, that’s when so many of us start doing stupid things. It’s a coping strategy we don’t even think about.”
“I feel tons of fatigue and I’m tired most of the time. I sometimes skip meals because I am so stressed out.”

Approximately 23 percent of teens report skipping a meal in the past month due to stress, and 39 percent say they do this weekly or more. “This study gives us a window in looking at how early these patterns might begin,” clinical psychologist Norman Anderson, the APA’s CEO, told USA Today. “The patterns of stress we see in adults seem to be occurring as early as the adolescent years–stress-related behaviors such as lack of sleep, lack of exercise, poor eating habits… all in response to stress.”

The survey also revealed that many teens are using unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with their stress: more than 40 percent said they play video games or went online to relax, compared to 37 percent who said they exercised for stress relief. Furthermore, 27 percent said they eat to manage stress, and 34 percent reported over-eating or eating junk foods. When it comes to sleep, about one in five teens reported they didn’t believe they got enough sleep. In reality, this is a huge reason for stress in youth. The bottom line: according to the report, today’s adolescents may be at risk for a variety of unhealthy effects, including shorter life-spans, due to high stress levels.

All of this begs the question: do teens today really experience a more challenging life than teens did a hundred years ago?

In some ways, yes they do. In other ways, not even close. And I believe we (adults) must equip them to navigate the pressures of life so they can reduce their “distress.”

Four Ideas We Can Practice

1.Don’t think BINGE, think BALANCE.
We live in a world of extremes — even the 2014 Olympics included former “X-treme” sports. To excel at anything, it seems we push kids to become consumed with a recital or performance; even hobbies like video games become obsessions. This isn’t healthy. Kids need equations that offer benefits and consequences. In our home, our kids balanced screen time and face time. For every two hours in front of a video screen, they had two hours with real people, face to face. If they spent time in self-absorbed activities, they knew they must spend equal time in service projects. Time with peers was balanced with adult-interaction time. While kids should develop their strengths, moderation is a lost idea we must recover.

2. Don’t think PUSH, think PULL.
When a student lacks ambition and wilts under pressure, reduce the outside pressure you apply. Pushing kids can eventually backfire. It makes them want to dig their heels in and refuse to cooperate. What if you offered chances for them to experience something compelling? Try exposing them to opportunities they’d not want to miss out on, thereby pulling them toward a positive goal. Anxiety lessens when the drive comes from within instead of from the outside. For me, my job is seldom a source of stress because I so love what I do. This should be the story for every young person. It becomes inward motivation, not outward compulsion.

3. Don’t think PRESSURE, think PERSPECTIVE.
Instead of viewing all their tasks as barriers in the way, foes to conquer, or stressors to be endured, why not see them as opportunities to experience? It may seem like semantics, but students often fail to see themselves as capable until an adult comes alongside of them and imparts vision into them. I remember a coach and a teacher saying to me as a teen, “You are capable of pulling this off. You have it in you.” When they said this, it was empowering. It cured me of thinking, “This is too hard for me. I can’t do this. I’m too young.” It removed the situation from being too challenging for me. Like the phrase, “I used to stress over having no shoes until I met a man who had no feet,” life is a matter of perspective.

4. Don’t think TODAY, think TOMORROW.
One of the greatest cures for the common “angst attack” is to consider it in light of the long-term future. Remember Suzy Welch’s 10-10-10 Questions: Will this matter ten days from now? How about ten months from now? Ten years from now? If a student feels angst over getting a poor grade, sometimes it’s helpful to remind them that you got a few of them yourself and managed to live through them all. In fact, let them know how getting a bad grade was a wake up call for improvement, and hence became a gift. This idea is not only about seeing the big picture, but also seeing the future impact of their stressors clearly. The further out they can see into the future, the better their choices will be, and the more stability they’ll display handling the pressures of today.

Do any other strategies come to mind?

Informing teachers about grants vital to education

Informing teachers about grants vital to education

By Jordyn Holman

In today’s world, schools and teachers are expected to provide more services and opportunities to their students than ever before. In addition to a top-notch education, U.S. public schools are mandated to provide healthy meals, exercise opportunities, financial literacy, productive and after-school programs and amiable social settings for the thousands of children matriculating through the system each year. To meet these needs, many teachers are often asked to reach into their own pockets. According to the Los Angeles Times, a new initiative announced on Monday seeks to reduce the financial burden teachers regularly face. The initiative also has the potential to change the morale of teachers within the city.

The initiative, called Grants HQ, seeks to educate teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District on how to write grants in order to request and subsequently receive funding for school programs and projects they are involved in. The Los Angeles Fund for Public Education, which was founded in 2011 as a way to create unconventional partnerships in order to improve students’ education, is sponsoring the initiative.

Through the initiative, teachers will be able to use a website with a searchable database to find grants that apply to the projects and programs they are focusing on in the classroom, according to the L.A. Fund website. The database will ideally help connect the LAUSD teachers to philanthropic organizations that could provide them with money for funding, according to the L.A. Times. For example, if a teacher is in charge of the robotics club, he or she can apply for a grant that financially supports the materials needed for building robots.

In addition, the initiative will offer workshops to teach grant writing, review all proposals and write letters of endorsement for selected ones, according to the L.A. Fund website. This type of assistance for teachers is critical. The other tasks that they are paid to focus on should not be overshadowed by the growing importance of attempting to find funding for activities.

Furthermore, the initiative comes at a time when LAUSD is facing the possibility of losing $200 million in funding in the coming years, according to the Huffington Post. Nationally, teachers are experiencing the same cash-strapped scenarios.

According to a recent study by insurance firm Horace Mann, teachers are spending more of their personal funds for classroom supplies than in previous years because of school budgets across the country being slashed. The study showed that each year, 30 percent of teachers spend between $200-$400 of their own money on supplies, which has a larger impact considering teachers receive some of the lowest salaries in the country.

Though the initiative provides another outlet for teachers to alleviate their additional burdens, it should not turn the conversation away from the importance of pouring more directed money into a school system. Without that conversation taking place, the perennial problem of teachers having to find alternative routes of funding educational programs will not be addressed.

Overall, the initiative proves that teachers still have something to learn. Though teachers — for the most part — seamlessly impart knowledge to students in the classroom every day, an understanding of the process of receiving grants and funding to continue critical school programs is still lacking.

Grants HQ is a necessary first step in helping teachers provide a quality and holistic education to students. If successfully implemented, this pilot program could change the amount of avenues teachers have to fund activities in the classroom. It will also show the school system as a whole that there are other ways of contributing to children’s educations.

Despite its benefits, it should not replace the need to reevaluate the amount of funding school systems are receiving. But in the meantime, teaching teachers one more lesson can go a long way in contributing to students receiving the best education possible.

The Never-Ending Controversy Over All-Girls Education

The Never-Ending Controversy Over All-Girls Education

by Christine Gross-Loh

It’s extremely tricky to prove scientifically
whether or not single-sex schooling is effective.

Pippa Biddle always said she would never attend an all-girls school. She reluctantly agreed to visit Miss Porter’s, an all-girls boarding school in Farmington, Connecticut, as a favor to her mom. But after spending one night at her mom’s former high school, she decided to apply. “Until you experience a single-sex classroom, it is hard to understand how beneficial it is,” Biddle, who’s 21 now, tells me. “I could wake up five minutes before class, pull on clothes, and feel just as beautiful as I would have with full hair and makeup. The value was put on who we were, not what we look like.”

Despite personal testimony from young people like Biddle, opponents of single-sex education argue that separating children by gender is not only sexist, it also leads to harmful gender stereotyping. They also state that the existing science does not show that same-sex education has tangible benefits and that public funding should not be used to support segregating students by gender. These opponents of separate-sex education have a new study to back up their claims: Last month a meta-analysis of 184 studies covering 1.6 million students from 21 countries indicated that any purported benefits to single-sex education over coeducation, when looking at well-designed, controlled studies, are nonexistent to minimal.

Yet interest in the potential promise of single-sex schooling continues to grow. More than 500 American public schools in the 2011-2012 academic year offered their students single-sex opportunities ranging from separate classes for physical education to entire school days with all activities being either all-boy or all-girl. They include schools like Girls Preparatory Academy at Ferrell Middle Magnet School and its counterpart, Boys Preparatory Academy at Franklin Middle Magnet School, in Tampa, Florida, and G. James Gholson Middle School, near Washington, D.C., which offers single-gender classes in courses such as math and science.

Single-sex schooling is being championed to combat the high dropout rates among urban black and Latino boys. There is a long list of parents waiting to enroll their children in the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy in Dallas, a publicly funded school which opened in 2011 after its principal spent a year researching the best practices of schools, including boys’ schools, around the country. For girls, the alleged benefits of single-sex education are that they would be learning in an environment in which they are encouraged to participate more in class and not overshadowed by confident, outspoken boys. They are arguably more willing to avidly pursue subjects such as advanced math and science that they might otherwise consider masculine, possibly helping to close a persistent STEM gender gap.

Why is there such disagreement over the benefits of single-sex education? Methodology is the key sticking point. A 2005 Education Department study, conducted through the American Institutes of Research looked at 2,200 studies and found that only 40 of those studies qualified as meeting the minimum requirements of sound methodology. The most recent meta-analysis, out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also focuses squarely on these concerns about methodology.

It is particularly difficult to conduct research on single-sex education. The methodology is challenging. A randomized study would entail students’ having to be able to be assigned to single-sex or coed schools, something that is not only legally impossible but also unethical. Currently, participation in single-sex schools must be completely voluntary. Parental involvement in the choice would immediately raise the possibility that the groups of students would be different. Some often-cited studies, Janet Hyde, coauthor of the 2014 study told me, might compare a private single-sex school in a privileged community to a public coeducational school with a less affluent population, resulting in differences that certainly derive from more than just the contrast between single-sex and co-education. Hyde pointed out that parental education and income are the best predictors of their children’s school success – not whether a school is educating boys and girls separately. In other words, the reason kids at single-sex schools often seem to do so well is because they would have thrived, regardless of the environment they were in. And when single-sex schooling is hailed as a magic bullet, it diverts attention – and financial resources – away from other strategies worthy of consideration, such as a longer school year or universal pre-K. “Parents are making this choice in the absence of scientific data,” says Hyde. “And if it’s a principle of choice, what are the limits of choice if that’s your argument?”

Separate-sex education has a long history in this country, since the 1700s. It used to be thought immoral for boys and girls to be together unsupervised, and formal education was considered the province of males only. Girls, when they were educated at all, were often taught at home. Women’s colleges arose because of the fact that many elite colleges, such as the Ivy League schools, admitted men only. Over time, boys and girls began to be educated together, a phenomenon which gained steam when education reformers such as Horace Mann sought to make elementary education free and available to all children, a goal that was mostly accomplished by the end of the 19th century.

These coeducational schools, however, often had gender-specific curricula: boys were routinely taught woodshop, for instance, while girls were taught home economics or childcare.

In 1972, in the wake of the civil rights and feminist movements, Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender in educational programs that would be receiving federal funding. The intention was to prohibit discrimination towards boys or girls in coeducational settings based on gender-based stereotypical assumptions about what each should be learning. The number of public as well as private single-sex schools decreased dramatically over the next decade.

In the 1990s, books sounding the alarm for girls, such as Reviving Ophelia, were followed by a flurry of books calling our attention to the plight of boys, such as Raising Cain. Following on their heels was Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax, a pediatrician and psychologist who argued that in our zeal to create a gender-neutral society, we had shortchanged both boys and girls, especially in educational settings. Sax wrote that the science shows that boys and girls learn differently; boys are often labeled as ADHD when they really just need teachers to speak louder, girls are more cooperative and interpret assertive talk as yelling.

In 2001 senators Hilary Clinton, Barbara Mikulsky, Susan Collins, and Kay Bailey Hutchinson joined forces in a bipartisan effort to amend the No Child Left Behind Act and allow for single-sex education in public schools. In 2006 Title IX was rewritten to allow for single-sex classes, schools, and extracurricular activities at the primary and secondary level, as long as they also provided a coeducational option. Whether schools offer entire school days or just one class as separate, to be true to the law, these classes must be “substantially related” to an important governmental or educational objective (such as providing a girls-only computer science class in a school in which very few girls have historically shown interest in the class). Because of persistent doubts over whether there are real educational benefits to single-sex education, the ACLU has stepped in, sending cease and desist letters to public schools that educate boys and girls separately, often pressuring them to choose between costly lawsuits or shutting down their programs.

Opponents say the science doesn’t prove there are any benefits to separating children for their education. In fact, some see it as harmful. Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago and author of the 2009 book Pink Brain, Blue Brain, doesn’t deny that there are some innate differences between boys and girls. A mother of a daughter and two sons herself, she notes in her book that, for instance, studies show that many boys are better at certain types of spatial reasoning. The problem comes when such differences are seen as absolute. There are many girls who like active, hands-on learning; many boys who thrive in cooperative settings. And Eliot, who specializes in the field of neuroplasticity, contends that infant brains are malleable and that such differences become amplified and immutable as children grow and their parents, teachers, and society reinforce gender stereotypes. In 2011 eight scholars who oppose single-sex education, including Eliot, as well as Diane Halpern, a psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College, Hyde, and others, all of whom are founders and board members of an advocacy group, the American Council for CoEducational Schooling, published an article in Science calling out what they say is the false promise of single-sex education.

“Although SS outcomes may at first appear promising, apparent advantages dissolve when outcomes are corrected for pre-existing differences,” they wrote in the article. They noted that students entering those schools are often academically advanced to begin with, and pointing out that underperforming students often transfer out of those schools early on, which inflates overall performance. They also cited the influence of novelty. “A new curriculum, like a new drug or factory production method, often yields a short-term gain because people are motivated by novelty and belief in the innovation.” Another related phenomenon, called the Hawthorne effect, can occur when a formerly coeducational school becomes single-sex (or single-sex classes are provided within the school): the feeling of being “chosen” or “singled out” can lead to higher student performance. These scientists worry that, like racial segregation, separation of the sexes will lead to entrenched gender stereotyping and sexism. The authors were subsequently criticized for their failure to cite any studies that did demonstrate that single-sex schools foster sexism, a point which they conceded.

The STEM gender career gap is one reason advocates call for educating girls separately. They argue that girls would do better in math and science and be more likely to pursue those fields of study in college or graduate school. But Hyde points out that the STEM gap has been closing “dramatically” and that if you really look at the numbers, women have closed the gap in some areas, such as biology. One study suggests that ironically, “sex segregation by field of study is on average more pronounced in advanced industrial societies.” In countries where there has been less of a STEM gender gap, such as in some eastern and central European countries and South Korea (despite the dearth of single-sex education options), choice is portrayed very differently. The main goal is to get a stable job that pays well, not necessarily one that allows young people to realize their interests and follow their passions. Kids aren’t exhorted to “do what you love.” Their goal is just to do what will bring home a respectable paycheck—and STEM careers are among the most lucrative. In other words, the societal message about what it is acceptable and desirable for boys and girls to academically pursue may be notably different.

Christina Hoff Sommers, who has written about the controversy for The Atlantic, is puzzled by the zeal with which single-sex education’s detractors such as Hyde pursue the issue. She says that “even if there were decisive evidence that gender-specific education improved student performance, both the ACLU and the Science authors would still be opposed.” For them, according to Hoff Sommers, this is a moral crusade, akin to the civil rights movement. Although they insist on the connection between race and sex, Hoff Sommers writes, “Race and sex are different, as the Supreme Court has emphasized and as most everyone recognizes. Mandatory racial separatism demeans human beings and forecloses life prospects.” But single-sex education, she contends, opens up prospects: It is “freely chosen, and has helped millions of pupils flourish intellectually and socially. It’s preposterous to think of Wellesley College, the Girl Scouts, or the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy as oppressive institutions comparable to segregated schools in the Jim Crow South.”

Burch Ford, who has served as an administrator, counselor, or teacher at a number of independent schools, most recently serving as the head of Miss Porter’s School, spoke to me about her experience at this famed girls’ school, the same one that Pippa Biddle attended. She was most surprised by the high energy level she encountered when she first came to the school, her first experience at a girls’ school. She speculated that the energy level was there because the students weren’t having their energy diverted by having to be presentable/available for the other sex. “The currency of adolescence is being cool,” says Ford, “and that sort of restraint requires a phenomenal amount of energy.” It’s about wearing the right things, saying the right things, laughing the right way at the right jokes. She has observed that when adolescents are doing that, it “absolutely dominates their daily experience” and siphons energy off of other pursuits.

“Equal exposure doesn’t mean equal experience,” says Ford emphatically. The media and wider culture puts so much pressure on both boys and girls that she sees the education that girls get in single-gender environments as a way not to perpetuate stereotypes, but as a way to equalize the playing field for them. “The function of a girl’s school is not protection, it’s freedom.” She sees girls whose energy is going into their own development and not being drained off daily by the social pressures they’d encounter in a coeducational school.

Stereotypes work both ways. Culture reinforces stereotypes and can winnow children towards certain restrictions of behavior (think a young girl who absorbs early on the idea that she must always be interested in playing with dolls, or a boy who feels uncertain and worried about his budding interest in princesses). But the wider culture is endemic with gender stereotypes that single-sex schools aim to free children of, at least during their school hours and formative years. As Hoff Sommers writes, “As to the claim that gender-specific schools increase stereotyping and sexism, there is ample evidence to the contrary. After all, in such schools, girls cannot leave it to boys to dissect the frog, and boys cannot leave it to girls to edit the school newspaper.” Biddle agrees. At her school, all subjects were “girl subjects.” When she went to college, she recalls, “I was baffled by how few girls were willing to speak in class, and how those who did often apologized for their thoughts/opinions and/or used passive language. Speaking up at Porter’s wasn’t just encouraged, it was mandatory.”

Judy Bolton-Fasman, of Newton, MA, has a son and a daughter. The son, now 16 years old, began studying at an independent boys’ school in the Boston area when he was a seventh grader. Although they were attracted to the school for its small class size and rigorous curriculum, not the single-sex aspect, they have been sold on benefits they see as emanating from the single-sex atmosphere. “One of the things that my son gained from being at a single-sex school is confidence,” she says, noting that the close bonds he had formed at this school, and the feeling of being cared for and able to be himself gave him the confidence to come out when he was in 11th grade. “The philosophy of a school like this is, give us your boy and we’ll give you back a scholar and a gentleman. I feel that they’ve really delivered in this promise.”

Science has not come down definitively proving that single-sex education is better. But it has not proven that it is harmful either, which makes it all the more intriguing that the controversy continues to rage. The truth is that studies may never be able to prove that there are either clear benefits or disadvantages. The real question is this: Does the fact that researchers can’t ethically conduct such studies mean students shouldn’t experience the possible benefits of them? Parents with means to enroll children in independent schools have always had this option. The growth of public schools offering this option is an attempt to expand that sort of choice to public school families as well.

The Importance Of Creativity In Public Schools

The Importance Of Creativity In Public Schools

By Katie Lepi

In the US (and in many other places as well) the vast majority of teachers teach in public schools. While public education is an awesome offering in many ways, it also comes with a number of not-so-awesome things that many teachers bemoan on a regular basis. I’d say that the number one thing we hear about that would fall into this category are standardized tests. With teachers forced to spend more time on the subjects that are evaluated with standardized tests, that leaves much less time for teaching other subjects (like art and music) which are now often considered ‘extras’ or ‘luxuries’.

The handy infographic below takes a look at how public schools’ focus on teaching to the test may be squelching students’ creativity. It also looks at how arts education may help students in many other areas. Keep reading to learn more.

The Importance of Arts Education & Creativity In Public Schools

  • Nationwide budget cuts have cut funding for many arts education programs
  • Federal funding for class curricula has made a shift towards the common core subjects
  • Annual federal funding for science is $5 billion, but only $250 million for the arts
  • The No Child Left Behind Act highlights the arts (including art, music, and foreign language) as core curricula subjects, yet fewer schools are offering these subjects than a decade ago
  • Students who study art are 3 times more likely to be rewarded for good attendance
  • They are 4 times more likely to be awarded for academic achievement
  • They tend to have higher GPAs and standardized test scores
  • They have lower dropout rates
  • They tend to be more involved in community service work
  • Students with 4 years of art or music education
    score about 100 points higher on the SAT
  • Arts also encourage social development,
  • creativity, higher self worth, and positive attitude


10 Thoughts On Grading And Assessment

10 Thoughts On Grading And Assessment

by Justin Tarte

1). ‘Teachers don’t need grades or reporting forms to teach well. Further, students don’t need them to learn.’

2). ‘If you trust the validity and accuracy of your test/assessment, then you shouldn’t have any problem with redos for full credit.’

3). ‘Don’t leave students out of the grading process. Involve students – they can – and should – play key roles in assessment and grading that promote achievement.’

4). ‘Nothing of consequence would be lost by getting rid of timed tests. Few tasks in life – and very few tasks in scholarship – actually depend on being able to read passages or solve math problems rapidly.’

5). No studies support the use of low grades or marks as punishments. Instead of prompting greater effort, low grades more often cause students to withdraw from learning.’

6). ‘A kid who says school sucks and just give me an ‘F’ does not have the necessary maturity level to be in charge of making his/her own educational decisions.’

7). ‘Averaging falls far short of providing an accurate description of what students have learned. . . . If the purpose of grading and reporting is to provide an accurate description of what students have learned, then averaging must be considered inadequate and inappropriate.’

8). ‘When we refuse to accept an assignment late and give a zero instead, we undermine our content and say it has no value.’

9). ‘Don’t include zeros in grade determination when evidence is missing or as punishment; use alternatives, such as reassessing to determine real level of achievement or use ‘I’ for Incomplete or Insufficient evidence.’

10). ‘If a kid never does any of the work you assign but does wonderfully well on your assessments, then it’s time to evaluate the work you assign and the types of assessments you use.’