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Future of Work
Seeking answers to the big question: Are students ready to thrive after graduation?
May 4, 2012
At civics competition, students present plans for progress
Students from Generation Citizen's inaugural Civics Day (Wei Yao) The ninth grade girls at the Urban Assembly School for Criminal Justice weren't interested in much when Pace University junior Kayla Francis first visited their classroom in February to discuss civics topics to research. She tossed out a few ideas – poverty, humanitarianism – until one issue finally caught their attention. "Nothing got them as excited as women's health," said Francis. Led by Francis, a mentor on the project, the group spent the next six weeks researching women's health issues, including teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, which they said were issues in their own all-girls school. On Friday they presented their findings – along with a plan to raise awareness – to a panel of about 40 judges from around the city community as part of an inaugural "Civics Day" event hosted by Generation Citizen. More than 500 middle and high school students from 14 schools participated in the six-week program, which is in its first year in New York City. Generation Citizen, founded by Scott Warren during his senior year at Brown University in 2008, already has similar civics programs in Boston and Providence. New York City is no stranger to civics education programs, of course. In March, a similar event was held at the Academy for Young Writers.
April 4, 2012
Truman HS principal turns to local college for readiness boost
Truman High School Principal Sana Nasser introduces a program to boost college readiness. Harry S. Truman High School Principal Sana Nasser started making college preparation a priority long before the city began sounding the alarm about poor college readiness rates. She has encouraged students at her large Bronx school to take college level courses at the nearby Mercy College campus, and invited alumni enrolled in college to meet with current students. But when the city assessed her efforts in its first release of data measuring how schools are preparing students for college academics, Truman fell short of the city's already dismally low averages in all three college readiness categories. Just ten percent of Truman's students scored high enough on advanced standardized tests to be considered "college prepared," according to the city's rubric. So Nasser is trying a different approach. She has joined with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and administrators from Mercy College to create a college readiness initiative that target all students and offer the strongest ones a chance to earn a two-year associates degree by the time they graduate from high school. "I believe some of you can do high school in two years and take college courses," she told an assembly of honors students in grades nine through twelve seated in the school's spiffy, first-floor IMAX theater.
March 23, 2012
In pursuit of college readiness, a course about "Assimilation"
Mitch Kurz leads students through a true/false quiz about the psychology of dreams. Mitch Kurz is a math teacher and a college counselor, but the lessons he teaches don't fall neatly into either subject area. On a recent winter morning, Kurz asked students in his college readiness class to describe their dreams. On the board, he wrote, "What do your dreams mean?" followed by "Sigmund Freud" and a list of vocabulary words more typical of a Psychology 101 class: id, ego, superego. Most of Kurz's two dozen South Bronx juniors and seniors had not heard of these concepts before. But after a semester learning a hodgepodge of lessons from Kurz meant to ease the transition to college — covering everything from the dreidel game, to basic French, to the elevator pitch — students say they come into class expecting the unfamiliar. The class, which Kurz calls "Assimilation," is meant to ease the transition to college for students at the Bronx Center for Science and Math, a small school with many poor students who would be the first in their families to attend college. The school emphatically urges all graduates to enroll in college, and the vast majority do — but they suffer the same academic and financial challenges that low-income, first-generation students often face. Nationally, 89 percent of those students who enter college leave without a degree within six years. Increasing students' likelihood of graduating from college has emerged as a major frontier in education policy. The city's approach is to toughen high school preparation so students have a better shot of handling the rigor of college-level work. Others, such as the KIPP network of charter schools, believe the problem lies more in students' capacity to handle challenges and have developed programs to bolster traits such as resilience and "grit" that seem correlated with college success. At Kurz's school, academic standards are important, and so is character. But Kurz adds an additional approach.
February 16, 2012
Efforts spur college readiness dialogue in Washington Heights
City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez speaks to a crowd of Washington Heights parents about college readiness Wednesday evening. A Washington Heights politician who has been trying to get local parents talking about college readiness might have bitten off more than he can chew. City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez has adopted a novel response to the daunting statistic that only about 13 percent of the city's African American and Latino students are graduating from high school prepared for college: He has put together a working group of principals to get families talking about the path to college starting in kindergarten. But at a forum Wednesday evening at I.S. 143, the first public event to come out of the working group's suggestions, parents among the audience of 60 families, educators, and elected officials spoke mostly about more immediate concerns. Most of the parents who spoke during the question and answer session prefaced their questions about college readiness with complaints about high class sizes and administrative problems at their schools, which drew the meeting off topic. "There are 35 kids in our classroom and only one teacher," one mother said. "What are the things we can do about that?"
February 9, 2012
Find your school's 2011 remediation rates
More Colorado high school graduates are assigned to remedial courses when they enroll in a state college or university, according to a Department of Higher Education report released this week. Find out what's happening at your child's school in this interactive database.
January 26, 2012
At turnaround schools, wide range in college readiness rates
Click on the chart for an expanded view. A handful of the high schools the city wants to "turn around" are already doing a better-than-average job at preparing students for college.
January 19, 2012
City officials say college readiness rate should double by 2016
Students from the Urban Youth Collaborative present suggestions to boost college readiness before a City Council hearing on the subject. By 2016, the proportion of students who graduate from city high schools ready for college-level work will double, Department of Education officials told skeptical City Council members today. The ambitious projection, made during a hearing on college and career readiness, would require growth that far outstrips even the most liberal assessments of the Department of Education's recent record of improvement. But even then most students would not be considered "college-ready." In 2010, when the city touted a 61 percent four-year graduation rate, just 21 percent of students who had entered high school in four years earlier met the state's college-readiness requirements. A disjuncture has long been visible between what city high schools require for graduation and what the City University of New York expects from new students. Three quarters of the students enrolling in CUNY's two-year colleges must take remedial math or reading classes, and that number has risen along with college attendance rates in recent years, especially as CUNY has toughened its standards. Testifying before members of the council's committees on education and higher education, UFT President Michael Mulgrew accused the city of practicing "social graduation" by giving high school diplomas to students who must repeat high school-level work before starting college classes. But until recently, high school graduation, not college readiness, was considered the gold standard for success testified Shael Polakow-Suransky, the DOE's chief academic officer. He said school officials had been adjusting their priorities to meet rising expectations and were confident that initiatives already underway would substantially change the picture. In particular, he said, new curriculum standards known as the Common Core that are being rolled out this year would push students to develop critical thinking skills required for college-level work.
October 24, 2011
DOE: College-readiness data could take toll on reports next year
Although the city’s new college readiness metrics were not factored into high school progress reports this year, they will be next year—and schools that don’t prepare could see drops in their grades, city officials said. The new data points are one of the Department of Education's answers to increased scrutiny on how public schools are preparing students for college. Criticisms have mounted against city schools for graduating students who are not college-bound, or require large doses of remedial coursework when they get to college. But Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer, said they will not be factored into the schools’ scores until next fall because the Department of Education wants educators to have time to adjust their curriculums to meet those standards. Until the city completely rolls out new Common Core standards, he said, instructors will have to walk a fine line between preparing students for state exams, which often require broad but shallow knowledge, and simulating college-level work with more writing assignments and long-term projects. “We’re not waiting for the state to change its assessments, but it is a real dilemma that teachers and students face until that change occurs,” he said. “You can play around with the cut scores, but until you actually change what you ask kids to do, until you ask them to do more writing, more critical thinking, more problem-solving, engage with more rigorous texts, you’re not changing the standard. That’s the real work.” The department hasn't decided yet how to factor the new data points into progress report scores, Polakow-Suransky said. But he said expected the college readiness metrics to bring many grades down next year.
October 24, 2011
Fewer top scores on more robust high school progress reports
Nearly half of students who started ninth grade in 2006 are enrolled in college right now, but only a quarter of them were ready for it, city data shows. The numbers were revealed today when the Department of Education released high school progress reports for last year. For the first time, the reports include data about each school's course offerings and college enrollment rate, although that information will not be factored into schools’ grades until next year. Schools that receive a grade of F or D, or get three C grades in a row, could face closure. This year, 41 schools received D's or F's, an increase over last year, while fewer high schools received A grades than in any year since the progress reports were created in 2007. Speaking to reporters this morning, Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer, attributed those changes to a tougher set of requirements around student performance on state tests, credit accumulation, and documentation for student discharges. "I think we're tightening things up and we've gotten a more precise result," he said.
October 14, 2011
This week's teaching & learning tidbits
Boulder Valley votes against later start to year - Denver school board candidate forum planned - Want to learn more about District 6? - 'Slow family' movement focuses on fewer outside activities - CollegeInvest offers college savings - Homeless students a growing problem in Colorado schools.
August 8, 2011
City's test gains outpace state's, but performance remains low
From the state's test score presentation, a slide that shows gains in New York City that exceeds that of other cities. A first look at state test score data confirms good news for New York City: The city's test scores gains exceeded those across the state. According to data released today, 43.9 percent of city students in grades 3-8 met the proficiency standard in reading and 57.3 percent hit the math proficiency standard. That's compared to 42.4 percent and 54 percent in 2010, the first year after state officials raised the bar to reach that rating. Statewide, reading scores dropped by a tiny amount — 0.4 percentage points — to 52.8 percent proficient, and math scores rose by 2.3 points, to 63.3 percent proficient. State officials sounded a somber tone in their press release announcing the scores. "While the majority of students statewide met or exceeded the state’s proficiency standards in both math and ELA, overall performance remains low and the gaps in achievement persist," the press release said. Mayor Bloomberg is likely to point to city students' relative performance during his press conference later today. But the big story this year is not the scores but the tests themselves.
May 24, 2011
Against the grain, a DOE employee advises on leaving school
Lisa Nielsen: Students should be free to opt out of school. The city Department of Education has adopted a laser-like focus on sending its graduates to college. But that doesn't mean all of its employees are on board. Lisa Nielsen, who works in the DOE's office of educational technology, is advancing the idea that not only is college not for everyone, neither is high school. In the Community section today, Nielsen explains why she put together a guide to help teenagers figure out how to "opt out" of high school and continue learning and developing on their own. She writes: Despite outdated constraints involving issues like seat time, student funding, and resource allocation, we are making progress toward bringing more personalized and engaging learning opportunities to students through a handful of efforts, such as the iSchool and the Innovation Zone. But while students are doing better in a more innovative climate, ultimately we are just using updated tools to meet narrow and outdated measures on which our students, teachers, and school leaders are judged. It is not enough to personalize learning for everyone to go down the same path — to college, without consideration of what comes next. Instead, schools need to embrace the many alternatives to the traditional college route that would better meet the needs of many learners today. What is missing at the DOE is the important work of letting students discover, define, and develop their own passions, talents, and interests and determine personalized, meaningful, and authentic measures of success. Nielsen, who writes the blog The Innovative Educator, told me she hears frequently from teachers who say they fear they are boring students by teaching a test-driven curriculum. But when she tries to talk about the issue with other administrators at the DOE, she told me, it's usually dismissed.
February 11, 2011
College-readiness may take even more than state's stats show
This week, state officials released some grim statistics: according to measures derived from a study conducted by a state committee last summer, just 23 percent of city high school graduates are well-prepared for college. But the college-readiness recommendations the City University of New York gives for its incoming students require even more achievement than the measures used by the state this week. And the city is preparing to judge high schools on how well they prepare students for college on a range of standards that city officials claim are more robust. For their data release this week, state officials examined students who earned at least a 75 on their English Regents exams and an 80 on their math A exams. Those cut-offs were based on an analysis of state test scores performed by Harvard University testing expert Daniel Koretz and assistant professor Jennifer Jennings last summer. That analysis predicted that students receiving those Regents exam scores would likely receive a C or higher in the college-level course. CUNY officials also recommend that students enter their classes having received at least a 75 on the English exam and an 80 on the Math A test. But in addition, they suggest that students also have scored at least a 65 on the Math B, the next test in the math sequence.
September 27, 2010
City wins $3 million Gates grant to increase college grad rates
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded New York City $3 million today to more than double the percentage of city college students who earn associate's degrees. Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott said the city's goal is to have 25 percent of City University of New York students earn an associate's degree after three years of college. The city is giving itself until 2010 to reach that objective, and it's got a long way to go. Currently, only 10 percent of the students who enter CUNY complete enough coursework for an associate's degree in three years. Well-prepared students can typically earn this degree in two years. Walcott said the city would also use the grant money to align public high schools' curriculum with what's being taught at CUNY to prevent students from entering college unable to do the work. "One of the things we've been trying to do for a number of years in New York City and what this grant does for us, is make sure our K-12 and our CUNY system are constantly talking together and planning together," he said in a conference call with reporters today.
September 14, 2010
After years of SAT score declines, city students break the trend
SAT scores of city public school students rose slightly over last year's scores, bringing a four-year trend of declining performance to an end, according to data released by the Department of Education today. The average city SAT score was five points higher on the reading portion of the test, four points higher on the math, and two points higher for writing. The gains are statistically significant, but not yet great enough to cancel out several years of loses. Today, the city's average scores to roughly where they were two years ago. City students' average score was 439 out of 800 on the reading section, 462 on math, and 434 on writing. The score increases are mainly due to improved results from Asian, white, and Hispanic students. Black students' scores stagnated, except in the case of the writing SAT, where they fell by three points.
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