New federal data on achievement in U.S. history reveal some good news for African-American students. The gap between black eighth-graders and their white peers shrank by 20 percent from 2006 to 2010. Meanwhile, from 1994 to 2010, the achievement gap between black and white fourth-graders shrank by one-third.
While this is encouraging news, the results also show that four out of every five African-American 12th-graders performed below “basic,” indicating that much more work is needed.
Like millions of other Americans, President and Mrs. Obama depended heavily on financial aid to fund their college educations. No doubt, that experience informs the president’s ongoing support of the Pell Grants program, even in these difficult economic times. During a recent meeting with 10 youth leaders from around the country, he made it clear that the nation can’t afford to balance the budget on the backs of college students.
As the inside-the-Beltway discussions of federal accountability heat up, it is worth taking a breath to consider what the research says about the impact of accountability provisions in No Child Left Behind.
Results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress exams in math and reading, for example, show that low-income eighth-graders made faster gains in reading and math after passage of NCLB than they had before. What’s more, the Council of Chief State School Officers reports, 75 percent of states have made achievement gains with economically disadvantaged eighth-graders on state math assessments. Meanwhile, 20 percent of states have made progress toward closing gaps between low-income and high-income students. And new and rigorous research published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management confirms these trends.
College and career preparation may be all the rage, but many schools seem to be operating under a college or career model, and then pretending as though these are equal options.
Too often, we find students warehoused in cosmetology and auto mechanics classes with companion “academic-lite” courses like consumer or business math. The warped logic of these so-called “career tracks” emerges in the words of an urban high school counselor.
Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) chose a recent Senate HELP Committee hearing as the venue in which to publicly voice dissatisfaction with the U.S. Education Department’s new “gainful employment” regulations. Citing loopholes and other flaws, Harkin said the new rules are so watered down — after a relentless lobbying campaign by the for-profit college sector — that they do little to protect students.
At a time when the skills needed for success in college align with those needed for a career, Education Week’s new “Diplomas Count 2011” report oddly suggests that high schools should not steer all students toward college readiness. This misguided conclusion assumes that aborting the mission before it’s even launched leaves room for students to succeed elsewhere in the workforce.