Monday, February 28, 2011
Over at Quick and the Ed, Kevin Carey bashes on past and current New Jersey Governors. I’m all for bashing politicians, but the story Kevin tells is a bit… skewed.
Kevin’s version is that [evil] past Republicans cut taxes, and as a result did not fund teacher pensions. Fast forward to today, and [evil] current Republicans point to the underfunded pension and say we can’t afford to pay teachers their pensions.
There is just one little problem with this story. In 1997, when the tax cuts happened, the tax burden in New Jersey was 11% (total state and local taxes paid as a percent of total income). This was the fifth highest tax burden in the country. In 2009, their tax burden was 12.2%, the highest in the country.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to blame tax cuts for the state of teachers’ pension funds when taxes went up. Moreover, if the state with the highest tax burden is unable/unwilling to fund pensions, then it doesn't seem like even higher taxes are going to remedy the situation.
Our focus on the 3 I’s of higher ed reform (incentives, information, and innovation), just got another boost today. From the Economic Logician:
Publish school performance information!There are a series of vigorous debates over how schools should be ranked, the role of government, etc. But as the evidence continues to trickle in, it is getting harder and harder to argue that there is little benefit in providing more information.
Simon Burgess, Deborah Wilson and Jack Worth exploit a natural experiment in Britain: Wales suppressed the publication of school rankings in 2001, while England kept it. Using a difference-in-difference analysis, they show, oh surprise, that the performance of Welsh students regressed significantly, based on national exams… What is then a good argument for withholding school performance information?
If policy makers began to tie funding to performance — both graduation rates and measures of actual learning — we might not drive down the cost of the good colleges. But I bet we’d stop wasting so much money on colleges that are doing their students a disservice. And I bet there are more of these colleges than we care to admit. With better data on learning, we could also figure out how to evaluate new kinds of schools that may indeed be cheaper than traditional colleges are…Mark Smithers
there are a few dirty little secrets about online learning at traditional universities. Here are two: 1) Not many courses have any form of content online whatsoever (even when the university promotes a policy of minimum online presence). 2) When a course does have online content it is invariably rubbish…Andrew J. Rotherham
In any organization that is serious about effectiveness quality-blind layoffs are nothing short of insane…Marc Parry
WikiLeaks, scourge of governments worldwide, now has a copycat for academe. And the new group is itching to publish your university’s deepest secrets…Theodore C. Wagenaar
most academics resist assessment in general and on principle. Some professors dislike the scrutiny. Others feel that assessment reflects corporate encroachment and a threat to academic freedom. Still others fear a homogenization of the educational experience…
Executed well, assessment encourages faculty members to articulate their course and assignment goals more clearly and to develop sound rubrics. That helps them think more broadly about overarching program goals, and how to measure students' success in reaching those goals. That, in turn, typically leads to greater faculty interest in how classroom activities connect with academic performance. Asking what is important leads us to ask about what works, and both contribute to good-quality assessment, better teaching, and greater learning…
Friday, February 25, 2011
“measure student learning.” Historiann dismisses this one out of hand, with a quick reference to No Child Left Behind and the following: “Let’s just strangle this one in its crib unless and until we get some evidence that more testing = more education.”Daniel de Vise
It’s a fascinating response, because it encapsulates so cleanly the unthought impulse that many of us have. Testing equals Republicans equals bullshit; now shut the hell up and write us large checks. Trust us, we’re experts.
It’s written a little more carefully than that, of course, but written specifically to defeat verification. It rejects any sort of “measurement,” but does so by calling for “evidence” that measurement works.
What would that evidence look like? Might it involve, say, measurement?...
The knee-jerk response to any sort of accountability rests on a tautology. We know better than anyone else because we’re experts; we’re experts because we know better than anyone else. Screw measurement, accountability, or assessment; we already know we’re the best. Just ask us!...
Aristocratic pretensions aren’t gonna cut it; the “appeal to authority” isn’t terribly appealing. We need to show, rather than tell, the public that we’re worth supporting…
Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., today announced a Four-Year Degree Guarantee: Students who follow a few institutional policies are promised a degree in four years, or else the college will waive tuition until the student has finished…James E. Côté and Anton L. Allahar
Younger professors have fallen into place. Indeed, they are also products of the corporate university; many have been narrowly “trained” rather than broadly educated…Joanne Jacobs
The corporate model treats students like customers, and as customers they expect services and products for their tuition fees. The services include high grades in return for little effort…
“Creative destruction” is a bitch, but it beats destruction.Unions and Feds had better watch out. You don’t want to be fighting against this guy.
by: Onnalee Kelley
There are broadly three ways to approach post-secondary learning. Some colleges—mainly Liberal Arts institutions—teach their students by providing them with the ability to adapt to many different skill sets. Other universities teach students by focusing intensely upon one particular field that corresponds with a student’s major. Lastly, training from certificates and apprentices immerse the student in a particular skill set and teach him or her kinesthetically as well as didactically.
At the American Enterprise Institute’s Conference on Higher Education last week, Diane Auer Jones argued for advancement of these post-secondary alternatives by providing information about the benefits of certificates and apprenticeship programs. The three different approaches to learning are all imperative for our society and are individually needed, given the various demands of the labor market. However, President Obama’s goal to have America produce the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 seems unfeasible and impractical partly because of labor demands. If we look at where the current labor demands are, we notice that there are people who hold BAs and are unemployed or underemployed. CCAP’s study From Wall Street to Wal-Mart identifies that even though proportionately more Americans are achieving college degrees, the college-level job creation has not kept pace. This mismatch leaves 34% of college graduates underemployed. Therefore, I believe President Obama’s goal reinforces this disparity and I do not think we can benefit from having 60% of our population holding a BA degree when many workers already do not need a degree to competently perform their jobs.
There is a popular statistic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that has become the basis for arguments, like President Obama’s, that we need more college graduates. The data show that almost all of the fastest growing jobs require a college degree. However, as Auer Jones mentioned, our focus should actually be on which jobs are seeing the largest absolute growth, because that is where the most new jobs will be. From this list, only one-fifth of the largest growing jobs require a bachelor degree. Examples of jobs that are on this list are home and personal health aides, customer service representatives, office clerks, and truck drivers. The full BLS list is available here.
The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) is trying to ensure American workers receive high-quality training. While the ETA is looking for new ways to train workers efficiently and effectively, the Department of Education (ED) is trying to get people more Bachelor’s degrees, even though a Bachelor’s degree might not be the best way to train these future workers. These two government bureaucracies are not working together with a common goal. Along with this troublesome dichotomy, the market calls for workers in jobs that do not require Bachelor’s degrees. Do we need retail salespeople to be educated at an elite East Coast school? Do we need truck drivers to major in philosophy at a 4 year college? From an economic and practical stand point, the answer to those questions is no. These examples represent imbalanced and mismatched post-secondary education.
Certificates and apprenticeships are effective, productive, and quite affordable. They provide a pathway for students to be educated efficiently and a way for businesses to hire quality employees. Both the employee and the business make a well-informed decision to work or hire, which would drastically decrease mismatched pairs. Currently, there are only about 28,000 registered apprenticeship programs which are poorly advertised and many students are uninformed of this as a post-secondary option. Certificates that take a year or more to obtain are slightly fewer than 400,000. These are growing at a slow rate because of the community colleges are shifting the programs from long-term to short-term certificates. Certificates that are over a year have a great sustainability rate for the career at hand. The ETA and the ED should focus more on the advancement of apprenticeship programs and long-term certificates instead of aiming for more people to get BAs. Once the focus is shifted, these types of education programs will create a more productive, educated, and market-based society.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
This will be a great test of two rival perspectives. The traditional view is that students are not terribly price conscious, and, indeed, increasing tuition sometimes even raises enrollments because of perceived improvements in school quality. The alternative view, embraced by Sewanee, is that increasingly students, even those from prosperous families (only 12 percent of Sewanee students are on Pell Grants), are becoming sensitive to rising prices.
True reform of the cost of higher education will only come when the convergence of faculty, administrators and trustees recognize that the present model is broken and needs a major overhaul.Burck Smith on fixing Higher Ed
1) Allow all student loans to be discharged at bankruptcy…Robert M. Eisinger
2) Accreditation should be done at the course level in addition to the institutional level…
3) Equivalent courses should receive equivalent credit…
4) State higher ed funding should be voucher based…
incorporating experimental, untidy open-ended exercises in their classes.Peter Wood
This request is not an arbitrary one. To the contrary, it germinates from a belief that the liberal arts and sciences, and the students who take such courses, often thrive by appreciating complex questions that do not have easy answers. Precisely because students can retrieve facts instantaneously at their finger tips, I am asking faculty to revise their syllabuses to discuss and, yes, teach, ambiguity…
the new report from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)…
Apparently it is well within the standards of academic fairness to investigate, report on, and censure institutions of higher education from a certain distance, but not faculty members. Alternatively, it is appropriate when the AAUP does it, but not when some other organization such as the National Association of Scholars does it…
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Over at the New York Times’s Economix Blog, an interesting piece ran yesterday discussing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the benefits (or lack thereof) of attending such an institution. According to the post, there is a growing amount of evidence suggesting that all else equal, attending an HBCU, instead of a traditional (white) college, adversely impacts a black student's future financial success. Citing data mostly from a paper by MIT’s Michael Greenstone and Harvard’s Roland Fryer, himself an African-American, the piece indicates that this was not the case in the past (circa early 1970s and prior), but rather that the wage premium began to decline in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Interestingly, the blog also mentions that evidence exists suggesting that traditional (white) colleges have become much more effective over time at educating African American students. Also, it should be noted that it did mention that in general, there are some non-economic benefits to attending an HBCU, such as enhanced socio-political engagement.
The post left out some interesting findings from the Greenstone/Fryer paper. There are vast disparities in institutional quality across the field of HBCUs. There are many of acknowledged poor quality, for example Paul Quinn College (four year graduation rate of 3%) or Central State University (20.8% student loan default rate), but there are those that are widely considered “better” (e.g. Howard, Spellman, Morehouse, Xavier). Greenstone and Fryer isolated these more prestigious HBCUs in this study and examined their labor market outcomes. Their findings: all else constant, even attending an elite HBCU has a negative impact on students’ future earnings. This effect has also become much stronger over time. Also an interesting finding, graduates of these elite HBCUs have experienced a decline, or in some cases a complete reversal, of the social/lifestyle benefits attributed to attending such a school.
The paper/blog post, along with others examine something important with regard to colleges in general: what are the outcomes? With HBCUs it seems that they are simply not delivering the goods, or as Greenstone/Fryer succinctly put it, are appearing to “retard black progress.” Setting aside arguments on whether racially cached institutions such as HBCUs should even exist in this age, one needs to consider whether it is prudent to fund (often federally in the case of HBCUs) and support institutions of inferior educational quality. To be sure, there are bigger problems in American higher education today than HBCUs (HBCUs make up only about 2% of total enrollment), but that shouldn’t give them a get out of jail free pass. If HBCUs are stifling African-American achievement, it may well be sensible public policy to rethink their continued public support. However, until we start to see more standardized and comprehensive measure of outcomes, both learning and financial, across all types of institutions, don’t hold your breath for much change on this front.
the 180 or so regional public universities that were founded, often in the 19th century, as “normal schools” to train teachers. Over time, they’ve all followed the same pattern, first becoming “Teachers Colleges,” then dropping the “Teachers,” then trading the “College” for “University.” Now they have, or are trying to get, all the trappings of a research university: multiple colleges and academic departments, stadiums named after corporate sponsors, $20 million gymnasiums–sorry, “Integrated Wellness Centers”–and so forth.Sandy Baum on fixing Higher Ed
The problem is that they’re not actually research universities. Most of them don’t train graduate students in significant number or conduct much funded research. So they’ve adopted the most expensive and student-indifferent organizational model available even though many of them are still responsible for what they were founded to do: training the state’s teachers. This makes them low-hanging fruit for future disruptive innovation…
2) Stop trying to make individual institutions be all things to all people…Thomas H. Benton
3) Find ways to use technology to both improve the quality of teaching and reduce the cost of educating large numbers of students…
6) Collect better data so we can really understand what is happening…
7) Simplify pricing and student aid systems…
8) Loosen the anti-trust restrictions on colleges and universities so they can work together…
Students are adrift almost everywhere…Scott Jaschik
Here are some reasons:…
college professors routinely encounter students who have never written anything more than short answers on exams, who do not read much at all, who lack foundational skills in math and science, yet are completely convinced of their abilities and resist any criticism of their work… Such a combination makes some students nearly unteachable…
It has become difficult to give students honest feedback…
some majors have become an almost incoherent grab bag of marketable topics combined with required courses that have no uniform standards…
The median base salary increase for senior administrators in 2010 was 1.4 percent, up from no increase at all in 2009…
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
David Leonhardt serves up a dialogue with Robert B. Archibald, and also David H. Feldman. Archibald starts by citing the cost disease and also the heavy use of skilled labor in the sector. I don't think they get to the heart of the matter, as there is no mention of entry barriers, whether legal, cultural, or economic. The price of higher education is rising -- rapidly -- and yet a) individual universities do not have strong incentives to take in larger classes, and b) it is hard to start a new, good college or university. The key question is how much a) and b) are remediable in the longer run and if so then there is some chance that the current structure of higher education is a bubble of sorts.DAVID LEONHARDT
I never see the authors utter the sentence: "There are plenty wanna-bee professors discarded on the compost heap of academic history." Yet the best discard should not be much worse, and may even be better, than the marginally accepted professor. Such a large pool of surplus labor would play a significant role in an economic analysis of virtually any other sector.
When it comes to solving the access problem, the word which pops up is "financial aid," not "increased competition." Why might that be?...
A decade ago, two economists — Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger — published a research paper arguing that elite colleges did not seem to give most graduates an earnings boost. As you might expect, the paper received a ton of attention. Ms. Dale and Mr. Krueger have just finished a new version of the study — with vastly more and better data, covering people into their 40s and 50s, as well as looking at a set of more recent college graduates — and the new version comes to the same conclusion.Daniel devise
Given how counterintuitive that conclusion is and, that some other economists have been skeptical of it, I want to devote a post to the new paper…
Eight ways to get higher education into shape:Michael B. Goldstein
1. Measure student learning
2. End merit aid
3. Three-year degrees
4. Core curriculum
5. More homework
6. Encourage completion
7. Cap athletic subsidies
8. Rethink remediation
every state has its own rules and requirements for the chartering, authorization and oversight of institutions of higher education. And that oversight has been notable for its inconsistency across jurisdictions: states such as New York have long exercised very close control over every aspect of institutional operations for both public and independent colleges and universities, while other states have had a history of minimal regulation…
It was assumed, naively as it turned out, that as the technologies for distributing higher education services matured the barriers would fall in the face of interstate cooperation and the acceptance of "home" State recognition as sufficient regulatory oversight…
Monday, February 21, 2011
This chart depicts the ten U.S. states with the highest student loan default rates from fiscal year 2008 (the last year of data availability). There were several characteristics that these high default rate states had in common. First, on average the states with higher default rates were poorer, with 8 out of 10 having a per capita personal income below the U.S. average. Secondly, these states typically had higher unemployment rates. Neither of these two results are surprising since both low income levels and high unemployment would suggest that students would typically have a more difficult time earning enough to repay their loans. However, the high default states had more affordable colleges (that is, lower than average public tuition and fees) than the states with lower default rates.
tell colleges and universities they cannot award any federal financial aid (Title IV) if they award merit aid. That is, tell them they can award need-based federal financial aid only if they award only need-based aid. We need to be sure that as much financial aid as possible is being devoted to meet need. Every dollar of merit aid is a wasted dollar with regard to the national problem of access…Neal McCluskey
the higher education marketplace is much too dominated by considerations of prestige and much too little dominated by considerations of real value or effectiveness…
(1) that we do not have nearly enough instruments for assessing student learning, and (2) that too few institutions are prepared to publicly disclose what they know about whether and what students are learning…
evidence of success has never been important in decisions to keep or kill programs...Roy Flores
students testing into the lowest levels of developmental education have virtually no chance of ever moving beyond remedial work and achieving their educational goals. For those students and their families, developmental education is expensive and demoralizing…Paula Marantz Cohen
the realization that we cannot help every student…
Chinese universities have been accused of copying American models as they seek to evolve, but there is evidence that they are also altering our models in original and effective ways. One noteworthy example is tenure, recently introduced in China but in a slightly different form from what we know in America. Contracts are granted not for life but for three-year periods, and while tenured professors are largely assured sustained employment, they undergo regular review. There are obvious political reasons for that approach, but it also has clear benefits, prodding faculty to remain engaged and productive for the length of their careers…
A related innovation has to do with teaching. Those university professors not judged to be good teachers are placed on a research track, which, far from being a reward as in the United States, prevents those assigned to it from achieving the highest rank in their fields. The result is to create good researchers who work hard to become good teachers…
Friday, February 18, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
If people talk about the budget in a way that identifies certain very broad categories of expenditure like “education” as inherently virtuous and all Obama proposals to cut programs within that category as, by definition, a betrayal of the progressive cause, we’re basically doomed to waste large amounts of scarce public resources forever. And in the future when there’s no money to support some vital new cause, this will be one of the reasons why…Jay P. Greene
Inside most public policy wonks is a mini-dictator, waiting to come out. They dream about how things ought to be organized… if only they were in charge…Scott Jaschik
The University of the South on Wednesday announced that it is cutting total student charges (tuition, fees and room and board) by 10 percent -- one of the more dramatic shifts in tuition policy announced by a competitive private college in recent years…April Kelly-Woessner
Sewanee's decision is based in part on competition with public flagship universities and in part on the conviction of the new president, John McCardell, that current economic trends for liberal arts colleges like his are "unsustainable" and may even represent "a slow death scenario."…
in the midst of reflecting on what our students should do and know, we found ourselves acting out a scene from George Orwell's 1984. Adopting the correct "assessment" language seemed to take priority, and we circulated lists of approved and forbidden action verbs…
Although the goal of assessment is to improve teaching and learning, some faculty members argued that, in an effort to articulate what we could most easily measure, our new learning objectives actually reduced and narrowed our expectations of students…
The public is not demanding evidence of learning as much as it is demanding evidence of efficiency…
But institutions of higher education have chosen to ignore the efficiency aspect of accountability…
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
the administration had to make "tough choices" to sustain the maximum grant at $5,550, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a call with reporters Monday.Jonathan Zimmerman
The department's 2012 budget calls for ending a three-year experiment that allows students to qualify for two Pell Grants in a calendar year, to allow them to attend college year-round, and for eliminating the subsidy in which the government pays the interest on student loans for graduate students while they are in school. (The subsidy for undergraduate students would remain in place.)...
The cat is finally out of the bag about what our students are learning, and it isn't pretty…Chad Aldeman
But shame can be good, if it gets us to do the right thing. And in this case, I think it can…
More than half of the students in Arum and Roksa's sample had not taken a single class in the semester before they were surveyed that required a total of 20 pages of writing. That's not a misprint; it's a scandal…
So how can we change any of that?...
a peer—ideally, a colleague in the same department or division—would take each of those professors out for coffee, inform them about the below-average scores, and offer to help.
Before you start scoffing, you should know that the "cup-of-coffee method" has already been tried with physicians, and it works…
Tenure was granted by the HR Department as breezily as sick days were accumulated or paychecks were mailed out...Russell K. Nieli
Many of us are conflicted on the legacy issue. The case against legacy preferences presented by people like Kahlenberg, Golden, and Peter Sacks tugs at our meritocratic heart strings, but our pragmatic sense pulls in a different direction. There is something unseemly about lowering admissions standards to a highly competitive college because one's parents attended the college or because you have a billionaire father likely to make a seven-figure donation if you are admitted. In much of the rest of the world the American practice of granting preferences to the children of alumni is seen as indistinguishable from bribery.Megan McArdle
But in those same places, colleges and universities are usually state-funded and don't have to go hat in hand looking for private money. Corrupt as the practice of legacy and wealthy donor preference clearly is, it may be one of those defensible corruptions that should be retained primarily because much good comes out of it and the alternatives, perhaps involving more state funding, are probably worse…
So my post on the liberal slant in academia has garnered what I believe to be a record number of comments…
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Relying on a unique data set from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CCAP has written extensively (here, here and here ) about the growing trend of underemployment for our nation’s college graduates. We estimate that approximately 17 million Americans with college degrees are employed in jobs that do not require college-level skills. The majority of our previous work has examined college graduates in general, lumping together those with bachelor’s and graduate degrees. Recently, I disaggregated the data and found that rampant underemployment is not limited to those with just a bachelor’s degree.
In 2008 (the last year data are available), 7.87 million graduate degree holders were underemployed (that is, employed in jobs requiring less than a graduate degree). Further breaking the data down, 6.98 million held masters and another 1.18 million had PhDs or professional degrees. A full 59% of those employed holding a masters degree were classified as underemployed. PhD and Professional degree holders did better at 22% underemployed. Yet that is still a shockingly high figure considering the level of education that these individuals have attained. To further put things in perspective, the number of underemployed masters degree holders was more than the total number of masters degrees produced between 1998 and 2008 (5.75 million). Similarly for the PhDs/Professionals, 80% of the incremental increase in the total number of degree holders over that same period were considered underemployed.
It should be noted that the underemployment estimate for PhDs is on the conservative side. In calculating the totals, I did not count as underemployed the PhDs/Professionals working in jobs that the BLS classifies as requiring “a bachelor’s degree or higher” or “master’s degrees.” Workers in these fields were given the benefit of the doubt in whether or not they were truly underemployed because of the small ambiguities with these BLS classifications (i.e., are professional degree holders really underemployed if they work in a job requiring a master’s degree?). Had these two BLS classifications been included, PhD/Professional underemployment would have risen to 1.59 million.
A few thoughts come to mind when looking at this data. First, not all graduate degrees are created equal. Those with graduate degrees in finance, economics, and engineering for example likely have a better employment outlook (and are less likely to be underemployed) than those with graduate degrees in anthropology, English or sociology. This is not to say that no one should enter the latter type of fields, but that obtaining one of these degrees should be considered carefully. Secondly, as a recent book, has detailed, a significant number of undergraduates are learning little in college. A likely consequence of this is that more and more people are finding it “necessary” to get graduate degrees. The credential inflation problem associated with this issue could be alleviated somewhat if undergraduate education (and K-12 for that matter) was more rigorous and effective. Lastly, universities should take note of the employment opportunities for graduate degree holders. Graduate students are frequently subsidized (through tuition waivers, stipends, etc.) by their undergraduate counterparts. With an often bleak employment outlook for many graduate degrees/programs, universities should rethink their graduate degree subsidization. Reducing subsidies for graduate education will likely help realign the supply of graduate degree holders with realistic demand from employers.
This blog originally posted on CCAP's "Higher Education and the Economy" blog space at Forbes.com.
For my part I really don’t care what Michelle Rhee’s value-add or gain scores would or would not have been in Baltimore almost two decades ago. Why? It’s not just that this whole thing is unprovable given the data available today. Rather, it’s because today she is pushing an actual education agenda that has ideas – with varying amounts of evidence and/or proof of concept behind them – and we should have a lively debate about those proposals. And it should be obvious that those ideas don’t hinge on her value-add scores or really much of anything that happened almost two-decades ago…Jay Mathews
If we have managed to be the world's most powerful country, politically, economically and militarily, for the last 47 years despite our less than impressive math and science scores, maybe that flaw is not as important as film documentaries and political party platforms claim…Sasha Chavkin, Cezary Podkul, Jeannette Neumann, and Ben Protess
Under federal law, borrowers who develop severe and lasting disabilities after taking out federal student loans are entitled to have their debts forgiven… But an investigation by ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity has found that the process of discharging the loans of disabled borrowers is broken…Neal McCluskey
Perhaps the most telling sign that the House GOP is not serious about really cutting Washington down to size, though, is that the laughable Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners program is not on their chopping block. If you won't pick off this ridiculous, almost-on-the-ground-it's-hanging-so-low fruit, you simply aren't really trying…Ben Miller
At some point Congress should consider a law that automatically eliminates any program that has been recommended for termination multiple times by presidents from different parties over a 10 year period. For example, the Historic Whaling Partners Program has been targeted for elimination in every one of the 10 budget requests that have been released since its creation–a period that spans both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Of the 13 education programs this year’s budget targets for elimination, six were also singled out in Bush’s 2009 fiscal year budget. The other eight weren’t signed into law after Bush had left office. There’s clear agreement across both parties to get rid of most of these programs, it’s a testament to the difficulty of the political process that they persist.
Monday, February 14, 2011
I’ve been a bit taken aback by the heat Texas Governor Rick Perry is taking for calling for $10,000 bachelor’s degrees. I’d like to make two points.
First, saying that the status quo is unable to achieve something is not the same as saying it can’t be achieved. For instance, we are currently unable to get 60% of young Americans to graduate with a degree. Yet most of the eduworld is aiming to do just that. Does that mean that they are naïve (as Gov. Perry has been called)? Of course not. The whole point of both proposals is to change the status quo in such a way that the new proposal can be achieved.
Second, even the status quo is within striking distance of delivering a $10,000 degree. To do so, they need to spend less than $2,500 per student per year. As Bob Samuels found, “the total average annual instructional cost per student is $1,456.” That leaves $1,000 per year for everything else. Of course, colleges currently spend much more than $1,000 on everything else, so while it wouldn’t be easy, it is certainly within the realm of possibility to lower that figure to $1,000. In fact, since you wouldn’t be touching instruction at all, the vast majority of students wouldn’t even notice the difference.
In 2008, 75 DCPS teachers, all on probationary status, were fired…Andrew J. Rotherham
these teachers were clearly deemed to be “ineffective or worse” by their supervisors, with principal narratives describing problems such as “extremely poor classroom management skills,” “rude and aggressive demeanor toward paraprofessionals,” an “excessive failure rate at every marking period,” “excessive absences and latenesses, including 24 tardies, and 20 days of absences,” and “AWOL since May 5th.”…
the decision… sends the teachers back to the classroom…
Score one for no one. A bunch of beginning teachers who, with the nicest spin, weren’t doing well, are coming back into DC classrooms! DC now owes a bunch more money. DCPS gets to chase after teachers it doesn’t really want. And the union falls further from grace by living up to its image as the protector of bad teachers…
Teach For America (TFA)… has generated a great deal of research about how to improve the teacher training and selection strategies that are commonly used today. Yet the reaction from the education establishment remains one of intense hostility…Neil Raisman
Pretty much every article about TFA states the boilerplate assertion that the research about its effectiveness is "mixed" or "inconclusive." Actually, that's only true if you think the best way to consume research is to literally pile all the different studies up and see which pile is higher. Again and again, the most rigorous studies show that TFA's selection process and boot-camp training produce teachers who are as good, and sometimes better, than non-TFA teachers, including those who have been trained in traditional education schools and those who have been teaching for decades…
the major difference between a good non-profit and for-profit school is an accounting system -- fund balance versus cash accrual. But there are also differences in four significant areas: the people who run the schools and who carry out the operations; the way people are compensated; the intensity of the efforts; and how the operations are accomplished…Richard Kahlenberg
In my personal history as a chancellor and consultant to career colleges, I have observed some leaders of companies, schools, and departments doing things to make numbers that were to be polite, very questionable. And yet, they were rewarded for doing so…
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg argued that universities in England were instruments of “social segregation,”…
no American president or vice president or education secretary has ever made a similar high-profile case for more economic diversity in America’s selective colleges…
Why have we allowed the British, who are known for their aristocratic history, to lead Americans in making universities more democratic?
I'm working on an empirical study of educational inequality in the U.S. Part of the analysis is exploring the effect that governmental subsidies for postsecondary education (in addition to K-12 education) have had on inequality. While that analysis is still in the works, I have put together a chart below that shows real government subsidies by level, on a per student basis, over the past 90 years for postsecondary education.
As the chart reveals, federal subsidies were relatively constant for the first half of the 20th century before exploding as the second half of the century began. This coincides roughly with the birth of the federal government's financial aid system (beginning with the GI Bill in 1944 and later expanding to all students with the 1965 HEA).
State subsidies were relatively modest prior to the mid 20th century and experienced some volatility in the latter half of the century and beginning of the 21st century. Local government subsidies have traditionally been relatively modest, but have become increasingly more prevalent in recent years.
Interestingly, the more that we have subsidized college, the more expensive it seems to have become for students. This is a classic example of the unintended consequences that often result from public policies that artificially stimulate demand. See my colleague Andrew Gillen's paper on financial aid for an excellent read on this theory.
Note: Source of Data is National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). 2006-07 was latest year with complete data. It is not known to what extent local or state subsidies originated from a higher level of government to be distributed at the lower level. This limitation in the data could underestimate federal and/or state , and overestimate state and/or local subsidies in recent years.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
The Golden Age of Education Never WasSHARON OTTERMAN
only 23 percent of students in New York City graduated ready for college or careers in 2009…TRIP GABRIEL
Grades are the currency of education…Matthew Yglesias
Now U.S. News & World Report is planning to give A through F grades to more than 1,000 teachers’ colleges, and many of the schools are unhappy…
21st century standards Isaac Newton should have patented calculus (“A Method For Using Fluxions To Determine Instantaneous Rate of Change”) and then waited patiently until Leibniz published his superior method and then sued the pants off anyone who tried to take a derivative without coughing up a hefty license fee. But would that world have been a better place? The issue isn’t really so much the rents that Newton would have thereby extracted (I’m not going to begrudge one of human history’s greatest geniuses a fortune) but the barriers to entry that would have been created as a secondary consequence. A world in which smart people have access to the stock of existing human knowledge and are free to apply it in new ways is a world of competition and innovation. A world where you need to consult with an army of lawyers first isn’t...
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
“Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations.”…John Lachs
There is a simple way to judge whether the old or the new idea of the university prevails in an institution. If education is primarily a business, managers hire the faculty. If universities are communities of students and scholars, faculty members hire the managers. The difference between the two strategies is immense, because it determines the locus of power...Joseph A. Alutto
Until now, we have failed to develop a valid, reliable assessment process. This is a critical failing…SOPHIA KISHKOVSKY
the Russian version of the American S.A.T. has gathered a number of critics and provoked angry reactions…
Before the E.G.E. was introduced, outright bribes to get into universities, which are, among other things, an outlet for young men to avoid military service, were widely acknowledged.
Now, critics say, corruption has shifted into the schools. Incidents have been reported by the government and in the news media of students cheating or teachers and administrators disseminating or altering test results…
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
There has been a flurry of activity concerning accreditation reform, which is not exactly normal. As luck would have it, we recently released a study on the topic. One thing that didn't make it into the study is a section I wrote on a proposed replacement system. I've copied it below for anyone who's interested, though this is a rough draft (both in writing and idea formulation), and the footnotes didn't copy and paste over (just get in touch if you'd like a word version with proper documentation).
To paraphrase Alan E. Guskin (who was paraphrasing Michael Hammer and James Champy in a different context), the problem is that we are entering a new century with an outdated accreditation system designed to the address the problems of the last century. Given the problems that have arisen as a result, “it should be clear to the accreditation and higher education communities that a new model for quality assurance is needed, if for no other reason than to forestall future federal intrusion.”
In light of this, we believe that a better system could be devised, and should be implemented. In the words of CHEA’s president Judith S. Eaton, we need a focused system – one that holds colleges “accountable for achieving results” but does “not dictate how those results are to be achieved.” With that in mind, we propose the following replacement for accreditation. Our recommended system differs from the current system in three fundamental ways. First, eligibility for federal funding would be based on certification rather than accreditation. Second, certification would be granted to degree programs and courses rather than institutions. And third, multiple paths to certification would be available.
The most important change is that the new focus would be on certification, rather than accreditation. As Russell S. Kitchner notes,
“the notion of accreditation -- that process of determining if an institution is adequately positioned to fulfill its mission effectively -- is confused with certification, which often is an attempt to measure the degree to which an entity is, in fact, fulfilling someone else’s mission effectively. This difference is more than a matter of semantics, and historically, only the former concept was the purview of accreditors”Accreditation is currently being used to determine if colleges are fulfilling the government’s goals in providing public money. But accreditation is not primarily concerned with the government’s goals, and is therefore not doing an adequate job of ensuring that they are met. A new certification system based on explicit measurement of the extent to which colleges are achieving the public’s goals with taxpayer money is highly desirable.
Second, certification of eligibility for federal funding would be granted for specific degree programs and even individual courses rather than accreditation being granted to entire institutions. Certifying individual programs and courses would, to paraphrase Hutchins, make colleges more like a series of separate programs and research centers held together by a central heating system. Ideally, this would be done with objective measures of student learning or other relevant outcomes. But such measures will not always be available, which brings up the third fundamental change.
The third major change is to have multiple paths to certification. As noted before, there is no one completely satisfactory method of determining which institutions should be eligible for federal aid. Because of this, it is important to have escape hatches to guard against the danger that any one path is inappropriately blocked, or is inappropriate for a particular type of educational program.
We recommend at least two tracks for certification.
Track 1: Meet Government Determined Cutoffs on Publicly Disclosed Data
More information about colleges needs to be disclosed to the public. This is already done for some categories of data, such as enrollment and employee counts and distributions by race and sex. But much more potentially useful data is not disclosed, or is disclosed but not in a manner that allows for meaningful comparisons. This needs to change. There are a number of potentially useful types of data that could be used for determining program or course eligibility.
One category of data that would be extremely useful for public accountability purposes would be information on what happens to students in the job market after they graduate. This information should be collected and disseminated for every degree program. Data on a number of outcome measures, such as job placement rates, passage rates on licensing exams, salary distribution etc., should be publicly available for every program that is offered.
If a program meets some cut off on a combination of these data, its students would be eligible for federal aid. For instance, a primarily monetary cutoff could be set for vocational programs, with institutions where every dollar spent in tuition (and appropriations?) yielded more than X dollars in higher starting salary for graduates being eligible for federal funding.
Another type of data that could be used for determining eligibility is student learning outcomes. This data could come from a variety of sources, including assessments specifically designed to measure the value added of a program or course. Another source of this data could be licensing exams that are in widespread use in a field, such as the CPA and the bar exam. Value added contributions to passage rates on those exams could be used to determine eligibility. Law schools that increase their students’ chances of passing the bar by a sufficient amount could automatically be eligible for federal aid. Data from other longitudinal databases could also be used for certification purposes. For instance, in Louisiana, the Board of Regents was able to match student performance with the colleges of education that trained their teachers. This allowed them to assess which programs produced the most capable teachers. Top performing programs on measures such as these could receive automatic eligibility.
One important issue is how the cutoffs would be determined. Making appropriate determinations is crucially important and we are more likely to see sound decisions if they are made in a technocratic manner that is shielded from political pressures. Fortunately, we have a model of a successful independent federal agency that makes technocratic decisions, namely the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve is the country’s central bank, and is tasked with conducting monetary policy, an extremely technical task. Throughout history, central banks that were not independent routinely violated the principals of sound money management as they succumbed to political pressure to inflate. To avoid this, members of the Board of Governors are appointed for very long terms, which insulates them from political pressure and allows them to focus on long term considerations. We would favor the establishment of a similar institution for higher education to determine the appropriate terms of eligibility for those programs following the first path.
Track 2: Meet (Mostly Discipline Determined) Cutoffs for Learning Outcomes
A problem arises with the first path in that there are fields where there is no certification or licensing exam in use, and it is not appropriate to measure outcomes based primarily on job market data. While we favor the development of suitable exams to the extent possible, it is clear that this would not be appropriate for every field or course. Thus, alternative path(s) are needed.
Many feel that “the place for quality assurance should have remained… with specific program evaluation associations such as the American Medical Association licensing medical programs, the American Bar Association approving law schools, and other various, subject-specific associations and agencies certifying program integrity within their areas of expertise.” We largely agree, and the second track in our proposed system would involve individual programs and courses receiving certification from a recognized entity. To offer degrees in chemical engineering for example, a degree program would need to be certified by an organization recognized to certify chemical engineering programs (note that there can be and should be more than one recognized entity to guard against monopolistic behavior of certifiers).
The basic idea is to utilize field determined standards to the greatest extent possible. It is important to note that the standards in a field need to be determined by private experts in that field, not public bureaucrats. An appropriate model is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), described by A. Lee Fritschler as
“a private organization that is supported and managed by industry itself… ANSI accreditors’ standards become law when governments license professionals, e.g., in areas from health to plumbing. But it is the private organization which, through self-regulation, defines the standards government enforces. The standards are the product of the industry that operates in the field.”To be clear, the government would not license graduates, but would be licensing certifiers. The certifiers would in turn certify degree programs and courses for federal funding purposes based on their students’ performance on field determined certification measures. Of course, this raises the issue of how the certifiers would be recognized. It is likely that the recognition process for accreditation could serve as a model (subject to stricter regulation as will be discussed shortly), though if more independent decisions are desired, an agency based on the Federal Reserve model could be established here as well.
What effects would it have?
In determining the effects that a program and course based certification system would likely have, the devil is in the details. While we will not attempt to lay out all of the specific details, we have identified three potential problems that deserve special attention. The first is that like the current system, such an arrangement could be subject to serious conflicts of interest. Second, such entities could engage in guild like behavior, such as artificially limiting the number of students entering a profession to drive up wages when an exam is required for licensing purposes. Third, as we’ve already seen, left to their own devices, specialized accreditors (the closest analogy to certifiers) have a tendency to rely on measures of inputs to try and increase spending for their specific fields.
We believe that the establishment and enforcement of reasonable regulations could reduce these dangers to tolerable levels. For instance, certifiers could be barred from having a stake in institutions that offer educational services, and be required to have a significant share of outside board members (to guard against conflicts of interest). They could also be barred from using input and process requirements (to guard against irresponsible recommendations). In addition, they could be forbidden from requiring college attendance to take the exams (to guard against guild behavior). The results below presume that such regulations would be established and enforced.
By freeing accreditors from their quality assurance obligations, they would be able to focus more exclusively on the quality improvement mission. Moreover, because accreditation would no longer be a near necessity, accreditors could specialize to a greater extent, which would have the potential to allow them to study particular issues and give more useful advice and guidance. Thus, we believe that our proposed system would improve the quality improvement role of accreditation.
The dual track certification of colleges for federal funding purposes would also improve all aspects of quality assurance.
To the extent that there are measures of quality under the current system, they are inappropriate, focusing primarily on inputs and processes that are thought to be necessary and sufficient to guarantee an adequate education. They are neither. By focusing on actual measures of the value added education provided by a program, the new system would see a vast improvement in the definition of appropriate measures of quality.
Similarly, the certification of minimum quality would see vast improvement. No longer would sufficient educational quality be assumed based on a college following the dominant formula in terms of inputs and processes. Instead, programs would be judged based on what their students have learned and what they can do.
The public would also have access to much better information and data about colleges. For the dual track certification system to work, data on learning outcomes and/or employment outcomes for each degree program needs to be publicly disclosed. This will allow for extremely useful types of additional information to be determined. One example would be that student-college specific estimations could be made. For instance, using the newly available databases, websites would emerge that informed a student who scored 150 on the LSAT that they would have a 20% higher chance of passing the bar if they went to Law School X instead of Law School Y. This would be very valuable information for students to have, and would likely lead to better matching of students and schools. Another example of the useful information this would provide would be rankings that are based on value added educational output rather than reputation and resources.
Health and Efficiency
The new system would also increase institutional autonomy. Accreditors are currently able to infringe on institutional autonomy because they have regulatory-like power over their member colleges. Some accreditors have decided to use this power to dictate practices that have no impact on educational quality, while others have tried to impose their own priorities on institutions. Under the new system these and other practices that limit the freedom of colleges would cease. For those colleges on the first track, some would not have any interference from third parties at all, with their eligibility for aid money determined entirely on labor market or certification exam outcomes. Even on the second track, programs would be evaluated based on outcomes only, giving the programs complete freedom of action.
Diversity of institution types and missions would likely remain mostly unchanged. To be sure, in some sense, diversity would decline if the data showed that certain educational practices were superior, and colleges flocked to adopt them (this would be good even if it reduced diversity). However, two things would help mitigate against even this reducing diversity. First, because degree programs would be certified, rather than each institution, there would be much more diversity in the measure of quality. Currently, there is a one size fits all approach, based largely on input usage. That would change under the new system, as some institutions would be judged on their ability to increase the salaries of their graduates, and others would be judged on learning outcomes defined by the field. These different measures of quality would yield very different programs. The second reason we probably wouldn’t see a decline in institutional diversity is that it is likely that different practices work better in certain fields, and programs would have an incentive to find and adopt the most appropriate practices in each case.
Innovation by new and existing colleges would likewise be encouraged. The current accreditation process does not measure the ends, and because of this, they feel the need to impose restrictions on the means used to achieve ambiguous ends. Colleges are more or less free to aim for whatever they want, but must achieve it using a one size fits all recipe. Placing such restrictions on the inputs that colleges can use and the way in which they can be used suppresses innovation. The new system, by changing the focus of evaluation from means to ends, would leave colleges completely free to experiment with new ways of providing an education. Existing colleges would have an incentive to continually reinvent themselves, and new colleges would have the opportunity to demonstrate their effectiveness without first having to conform to the existing paradigm.
There are two main downsides to the proposed system. The first is that some types of innovation would face more obstacles. Similar to the problems with a qualifications framework or certification schemes, entirely new types of degrees as well as new multidisciplinary degrees would have more difficulty in being approved. Under the current system, once an institution has accreditation, they are largely free to concoct new and/or multidisciplinary degrees. But when approval is based at the lower program or course level, these ventures will face increased scrutiny.
The second downside is that direct costs would be higher. Of course, it is easy to keep the costs of the current system low because it does not actually provide quality assurance. Any system that does provide quality assurance would cost more, and this proposal is no exception. On the other hand, indirect costs would fall. Much of the indirect costs of the current system come from mandates to use various unnecessary and inappropriate inputs, and these would cease under the new system. No longer would regional accreditors be dictating maximum course loads, nor would specialized accreditors be able to insist on better facilities for departments in their field. Thus, overall, costs would likely decline.
Nobody deserves tenure, with the possible exception of federal judges…Kevin Carey
there are plenty of other ways to safeguard public employees from wrongful dismissal besides guaranteeing them lifetime jobs.
To be blunt, I believe the accreditors overseen by NACIQI should not be in the business of deciding whether for-profit colleges and universities should have access to the federal Title IV student aid system…Ilana Garon
The existing accreditation system was not designed to accommodate them and it would be a mistake to try to bend or warp its mission to do so. It can’t be done. If accreditors try, they will fail, and they will be blamed for the consequences of that failure…
monolithic accreditation status is currently serving to obscure differences in quality between institutions rather than distinguish them…
"I'm not going to college."…Doug Lederman
A few years ago, I would have been horrified at this pronouncement. I know there are plenty of teachers and administrators who still would be. But these days, I'm more inclined to be impressed by Danielle's self-awareness, foresight and her implicit understanding of a fact I wish our system leaders would see: that perpetuation of the current "college for all" trend in education is neither economically viable nor beneficial to all students…
said Peter Ewell… "there's a difference between prodding and fixing. Nothing fundamental ever changes in higher education without an outside push," he said, and "whatever you can do to scare [higher education leaders] into acting, if you will, is the road to go."...
Monday, February 07, 2011
the Education Department's two-day forum on higher education accreditation…Michael Pomeranz
The basic gist on which there was general agreement:
• Higher education accreditation is imperfect (seriously so, in the eyes of some), with many commentators citing how rarely the agencies punish colleges and how inscrutable and mysterious their process is to the public.
• Politicians and regulators are asking accrediting agencies to do things they were never intended to do, like make sure colleges don't defraud students.
• Despite those flaws, most seemed less than eager to try to create a wholly different system to assure the quality of America's colleges and universities, because they see it as either difficult or undesirable…
Louisiana's Board of Regents have engaged in one of the most rigorous reviews the nation has seen in recent memory. It will serve as a model for other states. The Regents reviewed every student program. Those programs that have failed to graduate more than a handful of students, the Regents designated as "low-completers." Each campus will have the opportunity to explain why the low-completers make sense both from a financial and from a mission point of view for the school; the Regents will then terminate failed, redundant, and costly programs…Peter Wood
The university needs science, but how much does science need the university?Steve Peha
People have had a decade to take shots at NCLB. Many started shooting before it even passed. (I’ll admit to being one of them.) Now we get the chance to fix all the things we said we never liked about it…
People don’t like AYP. Fine. Come up with a better way to tell schools and the people who go to them how they’re doing. People don’t like testing. Fine. Come up with a better way—a viable, actionable, scaleable way—that we can get a read on how kids are doing in school. Same goes for teacher quality. Don’t like VAMs and being held accountable for student progress under measures you don’t trust? Propose other approaches that help teachers improve, reward people for results, and increase the respect of the profession…
I find it hard to see how weakening accountability, giving back more control to the states, or removing sanctions and labels—as odious as they are—will make things better…
It’s easy to look at the decade before NCLB and the decade after and see that NCLB has made a positive difference—at least to the degree that increasing student achievement, especially for poor kids and those of color, is now a topic we discuss regularly, profess to care about, and occasionally take action toward…
Friday, February 04, 2011
A growing body of work suggests that education offers a wide-range of benefits that extend beyond increases in labor market productivity. Improvements in education can lower crime, improve health, and increase voting and democratic participation. This chapter reviews recent developments on these ‘non-production’ benefits of education with an emphasis on contributions made by economists.Kevin Lang and Erez Siniver
In this paper we compare the labor market performance of Israeli students who graduated from one of the leading universities, Hebrew University (HU), with those who graduated from a professional undergraduate college, College of Management Academic Studies (COMAS). Our results support a model in which employers have good information about the quality of HU graduates and pay them according to their ability, but in which the market has relatively little information about COMAS graduates. Hence, high-skill COMAS graduates are initially treated as if they were the average COMAS graduate, who is weaker that a HU graduate, consequently earning less than UH graduates. However, over time the market differentiates among them so that after several years of experience, COMAS and HU graduates with similar entry scores have similar earnings. Our results are therefore consistent with the view that employers use education information to screen workers but that the market acquires information fairly rapidly.Randall Reback, Jonah Rockoff, and Heather L. Schwartz
The most sweeping federal education law in decades, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, requires states to administer standardized exams and to punish schools that do not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the fraction of students passing these exams. While the literature on school accountability is well-established, there exists no nationwide study of the strong short-term incentives created by NCLB for schools on the margin of failing AYP. We assemble the first comprehensive, national, school-level dataset concerning detailed performance measures used to calculate AYP, and demonstrate that idiosyncrasies in state policies create numerous cases where schools near the margin for satisfying their own state’s AYP requirements would have almost certainly failed or almost certainly made AYP if they were located in other states. Using this variation as a means of identification, we examine the impact of NCLB on the behavior of school personnel and students’ academic achievement in nationally representative samples. We find that accountability pressure from NCLB lowers teachers’ perceptions of job security and causes untenured teachers in high-stakes grades to work longer hours than their peers. We also find that NCLB pressure has either neutral or positive effects on students’ enjoyment of learning and their achievement gains on low-stakes exams in reading, math, and science.This is funny (unless you’re currently a grad student).