Thursday, April 02, 2009

Under a third of men at black colleges earn degree in 6 years

Enrolling kids who don't have what it takes to complete a course is pretty dumb -- and a rip-off from the kids concerned. An IQ test could predict who would succeed very readily

They're no longer the only option for African-American students, but the country's historically black colleges and universities brag that they provide a supportive environment where these students are more likely to succeed. That, though, is not necessarily true.

An Associated Press analysis of government data on the 83 federally designated four-year historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) shows just 37% of their black students finish a degree within six years. That's 4 percentage points lower than the national college graduation rate for black students.

A few HBCUs, like Howard and all-female Spelman, have much higher graduation rates, exceeding the national averages for both black and white students. But others are clustered among the worst-performing colleges in the country. At 38 HBCUs, fewer than one in four men who started in 2001 had completed a bachelor's degree by 2007, the data show. At Texas Southern, Voorhees, Edward Waters and Miles College, the figure was under 10%.

To be sure, women are outperforming men across education, and many non-HBCUs struggle with low graduation rates. And the rates don't account for students who transfer or take more than six years, which may be more common at HBCUs than at other schools.

Most importantly, HBCUs educate a hugely disproportionate share of low-income students. Compared to other colleges defined by the government as "low-income serving," HBCU graduation rates are just a few points lower. Factoring in obstacles like lower levels of academic preparation, some research suggests that HBCUs do as well with black students as do majority-white institutions.

Still, HBCUs' low completion rates, especially for men, have broad consequences, on and off campus. Women account for more than 61% of HBCU students, the AP found. They have unprecedented leadership opportunities, but also pay a price — in everything from one-sided classroom discussions to competition for dates.

HBCUs educate only one-quarter of black college students, but produce an outsized number of future black graduate students and leaders. That group is distinctly female; HBCUs award twice as many degrees to women as to men.

The good news is some HBCUs are working hard to boost graduation rates — and succeeding. Experts say that proves failure isn't inevitable — but also means it's fair to ask tough questions of schools that are not improving.

HBCUs receive more than half their revenue from government. There is growing frustration with the waste of money — for students and taxpayers — when students have nothing to show for their time in college. President Barack Obama wants to return the United States to the top rank of college attainment by 2020. That will never happen if the colleges that do the heavy lifting of educating disadvantaged groups don't perform better.

Even some within the tight-knit HBCU community say the schools bear some responsibility. They say too many HBCUs have grown content offering students a chance at college, but resisting the hard work to get them through. "I think HBCUs have gotten lazy," said Walter Kimbrough, president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock. "That was our hallmark 40, 50 years ago. We still say 'nurturing, caring, the president knows you.' That's a lie on a lot of campuses. That's a flat-out lie."

Glancing around her classes at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis and in the stands at basketball games, sophomore Velma Maclin has noticed something odd. Most of the so-called "Big Men on Campus" are women. "The ladies pretty much run the yard," said Maclin. Several male friends recently got discouraged and dropped out. She has little sympathy. She works the overnight shift at FedEx Corp. and says if she can stay in school, they can, too.

Women have probably outnumbered men at HBCUs for most of their history, but the proportion has been gradually rising, the AP found — from 53% in 1976 to about 61% the last few years. On 17 HBCU campuses there are two women for every man. At a few, the ratio is three-to-one...

At Edward Waters, virtually every student takes developmental courses — essentially, to finish the high school education they never fully received. Only then can they start progressing toward a college degree.

To explain the particular struggles of men, educators point to a range of cultural factors that affect black men everywhere, but which are especially visible at HBCUs. Men have fewer role models, and also seem to think they have more opportunities without a degree. Educators also describe a constant battle against two poisonous ideas: that black men can't succeed, or that if they do they are somehow less than genuine.

More here

Quarter of British 11-year-olds fail English and maths

More than a quarter of 11-year-olds leave primary school without mastering the basics of English and maths, official league tables will show today. Around 150,000 pupils failed a performance measure the Government is introducing. It shows the proportion of pupils who took SATs for 11-year-olds last summer and achieved the Government's expected level in both English and maths.

As many as 28 per cent of pupils started secondary school in September without having met the benchmark, the tables are expected to show. However, the figure is expected to vary widely between primary schools, whose results are being published in school-by-school tables this morning.

Youngsters who missed the benchmark will need extra help to cope with the curriculum at secondary school because they failed to reach level four in the core subjects of English and maths.

Separate official figures showed yesterday that a fifth of bright children - those who exceed Government expectations at 11 - make no progress in key subjects in their first three years at secondary school. More than 20 per cent of pupils who gain level five in English and science are still at level five three years later after 'coasting' once entering secondary school. Opposition politicians said teaching should be better tailored to pupils' abilities.

The trends emerged as the Government faced fresh criticism over the decision to publish today's tables amid claims they are tainted by last summer's marking fiasco. A catalogue of blunders in the administration of the tests led to a sharp rise in the number of delayed, missing or incorrect results. An official report concluded earlier this month that while the reliability of results was no worse than in previous years, it was possible that up to half of awarded levels in any given year are wrong.

Today's tables, which are being published at 9.30am, are certain to trigger renewed calls by teachers' leaders for SATs for 11-year-olds to be scrapped. Ministers said performance had improved on last year following literacy and numeracy drives costing hundreds of millions of pounds. But Tory schools spokesman Nick Gibb said: 'Too many children are leaving primary school without the basics they need to succeed later on. We simply cannot allow things to continue in this way.'

Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove said: 'We need to ensure teaching is tailored to individual pupils. 'We would give heads much more power over budgets so they can better reward great teachers and attract specialists.'

Schools Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry said: 'In 1997, almost half of children left primary school having failed to reach the expected level in both English and maths. 'We now see three quarters of children leaving primary school having reached the expected level in both subjects.'


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