Thursday, September 14, 2006


Dropping out of high school has its costs around the globe, but nowhere steeper than in the United States. Adults who don't finish high school in the U.S. earn 65 percent of what people who have high school degrees make, according to a new report comparing industrialized nations. No other country had such a severe income gap. Adults without a high school diploma typically make about 80 percent of the salaries earned by high school graduates in nations across Asia, Europe and elsewhere. Countries such as Finland, Belgium, Germany and Sweden have the smallest gaps in earnings between dropouts and graduates.

The figures come from "Education at a Glance," an annual study by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The report, released Tuesday, aims to help leaders see how their nations stack up. The findings underscore the cost of a persistent dropout problem in the United States. It is rising as a national concern as politicians see the risks for the economy and for millions of kids. Adults in their 20's and 30's have slightly lower high school completion rates than older adults. "We, perhaps as parents, are doing better than our kids. And I have real worries about that," said Betsy Brand, director of the nonprofit American Youth Policy Forum.

The new report says 44 percent of adults without high school degrees in the United States have low incomes - that is, they make half of the country's median income or less. Only Denmark had a higher proportion of dropouts with low incomes. Also, the United States is below the international average when it comes to its employment rate among adults age 25 to 64 who have no high school degree. Even U.S. adult education and job training do little to close gaps, because too few dropouts take part, said Barbara Ischinger, director of education for the OECD. "Those with poor initial qualifications remain disadvantaged throughout their life, because they have fewer opportunities to catch up later on," she said.

About one-third of students in the United States don't finish high school on time - or at all. Estimates on that dropout rate vary, though, and state data are often shaky. Policymakers know how to keep kids in school, Brand said. It takes specialized teaching, relationships with caring adults and coursework that's relevant to career plans. What's missing, she said, is a sustained national effort and more "political will."

The importance of a high school degree on income varies across nations. It depends on the demands for skills, the supply of workers, minimum wage laws and the strength of unions. The disparity is more pronounced in the United States, Ischinger said, partly because the U.S. labor market is more flexible. Other nations protect people with weak education qualifications through regulations or tax systems that favor the low skilled, she said.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, the United States more richly rewards those who go to college. An adult with a university degree in the U.S. earns, on average, 72 percent more than someone with a high school degree. That's a much bigger difference than in most countries.

The study compares the United States to 29 other nations that belong to the economic organization, although not every country reported data on every indicator. In perspective, the U.S. economy remains strong and competitive, the report says. The country has a high proportion of educated adults and greater gender equality than other nations. But a troubling theme of the last couple years continues: The United States is losing ground internationally because other countries are making faster and bigger gains. The high school and college graduation rates of recent U.S. students are now below the international average. For example, among adults age 25 to 34, the U.S. ranks 11th among nations in the share of its population that has finished high school. It used to be first.

The United States remains, by far, the most popular place for international students to study. But there, too, the U.S. is losing its market share of students studying abroad. When it comes to money, the nation remains a big spender. From elementary school through college, the United States spends an average of $12,023 per student. That's higher than in all countries in the comparison except for Switzerland.



The governing board for the California community college system on Monday voted unanimously to raise requirements for a two-year associate's degree, starting in the 2009 fall semester. "We're not trying to train for dead-end, low-wage jobs," said Ian Walton, a math teacher at Mission College in Santa Clara and president of the Academic Senate.

Community college professors have pushed for the tougher standards since 1999. The requirements replace an old graduation standard that critics said was inappropriate and embarrassing for a higher education system that educates 2.5 million students in California. Old requirements for an associate's degree were elementary algebra and an English course one level below freshman composition -- which is what it takes to get a high school diploma. Those classes also weren't rigorous enough to transfer the credits to the state's public universities, California State University and University of California. (The new English standard is, but the new math standard still falls short.)

Board president George Caplan, an attorney from Los Angeles, said the move reflects the national rise in education standards. "It's necessary. It's really necessary, otherwise our work force will be terribly unprepared," Caplan said. Advocates say it puts in place an added degree of difficulty and expertise in community college education. They likened it to learning piano with simple chords and scales using only the white keys, then progressing to a more intermediate level of playing simple tunes.

There was some resistance to the proposal, mostly from counselors, English-language teachers and vocational instructors. Community college students bound for a four-year degree already surpass the associate's degree requirements, so the new requirements could create more obstacles to students already at risk, opponents said. Teresa Aldredge, a counselor at Cosumnes River College, said raising the bar for students who can't even meet the old standards could further discourage them from reaching their educational goals.

However, potential opponents on the board were swayed by delaying the implementation until 2009, giving colleges time to create a safety net for those students, with expanded tutoring, counseling and other intervention services. "I don't want to put up another gate, another barrier for students," said board member Margaret Quinones, dean of counseling at Coastline College in Orange County. She called the new graduation requirements an opportunity to shine a "floodlight" on colleges that need to do a better job preparing students.

Others disagreed. "The system needs to be fixed before they try to do this," said Chris Denney, a student at Merced College. But Francisco Fabian, who studies at San Diego City College, told the board he flunked intermediate algebra twice and was determined to pass it this semester. "It's one of the courses I know I need," he said. "It's one of those foundation courses you need for success."



As a very amateur Latinist, I am delighted to hear of this. It should mean that more kids learn how to construct a clear sentence in their own language

Latin appears to be enjoying a quiet revival in Britain's secondary schools. Teachers and classicists across England have noted a dramatic rise in the numbers of children starting secondary school who are expressing an interest in the subject. It is 40 years since it was dropped as a compulsory subject at school, but specialists are hoping that the resurgent enthusiasm will result in more children studying Latin at GCSE and A level, in spite of it being seen as a difficult subject.

In 1988, the first full year of GCSE examinations and the start of the national curriculum, more than 16,000 pupils took GCSE Latin, of whom about half were from state schools. Since then the numbers have fallen, to just 9,743 last year. However, as Latin teachers retired and fewer schools offered the language, the Cambridge School Classics Project (CSCP) embarked on a scheme to teach Latin online. Its package, designed for schools without Latin teachers, consisted of books, a CD-Rom interactive project and "e-tutors" to answer pupils' questions by e-mail and help to mark work.

Now the organisation estimates that about 40,000 children aged 11 and older are learning Latin, and says that more schools want to take it up. It has become so popular that CSCP is employing a full-time tutor to teach Latin at GCSE level via a live video link.

Will Griffiths, director of the CSCP, said that about 1,200 schools were offering Latin. He said that the increase had been caused partly by the number of non-specialist teachers able to offer the subject with the help of computer study aids, and because schools were having to find new ways of keeping bright children interested. "The Gifted and Talented initiative has forced schools to provide for bright children, so schools are perhaps associating Latin with the more able children, and also more money is going into different out-of-hours learning projects," he said.

Jeannie Cohen, founder of the Friends of Classics, a charity that gives money to schools to teach Latin, said that she had also noticed a new keenness. "We are a small charity, but anecdotally we've noticed a three or four-fold increase in schools writing to us for grants to teach Latin to children at that level," she said.

At Saffron Walden High School, in Essex, where pupils have been studying Latin online and via video link in recent years, numbers have steadily increased and the school now employs Ann Dodgson, a part-time GCSE Latin teacher. She credits the revitalisation to computers bringing it to life but also to its exclusivity as a subject. "It has parent appeal, because it's quite an exclusive subject, certainly here in Saffron Walden," she said.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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