Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cost of High School Dropouts Draining US Taxpayer

High school dropouts on average receive $1,500 a year more from government than they pay in taxes because they are more likely to get benefits or to be in prison, according to a U.S. study released on Wednesday.

"Dropping out of high school before receiving a high school diploma places a substantial fiscal burden on the rest of society," wrote Andrew Sum of Northeastern University, an author of a study of Illinois and Chicago residents done on behalf of the Chicago Urban League and some education groups.

The findings, based on U.S. Census Bureau data from 2009-2010, illustrate the cost advantage of programs that persuade dropouts to re-enroll in school instead of becoming a financial drain on society, the study's sponsors said.

The cost of getting a high school dropout back to school and through to graduation is $13,000 a year, or roughly $33,000 total, said Jack Wuest of the Alternative Schools Network, one of the study's sponsors.

And yet over a dropout's entire working life, he or she receives $71,000 more on average in cash and in-kind benefits than paid in taxes. The societal costs may include imprisonment, government-paid medical insurance and food stamps.

In contrast, high school graduates pay $236,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits, and college degree holders pay $885,000 more in taxes than they receive.

Lifetime earnings of dropouts totaled $595,000, the study found, compared to $1,066,000 earned by high school graduates and $1,509,000 by those with a two-year junior college degree.

In Illinois, the fifth-most-populous U.S. state with nearly 13 million residents, 11.5 percent of adults aged 19 to 24 left school without earning a high school diploma, and 15 percent in that age group dropped out in Chicago.

The highest dropout rates were among black and Hispanic men, at up to 30 percent.

High school dropouts accounted for 51 percent of Illinois' prison population, the study found.

The cost of housing an inmate is $22,000 annually, and adds up to more than $1 billion a year for the 46,000 prisoners being held in the state, according to state statistics.

Among men aged 18 to 34, 15 percent of the dropouts were in prison, an incarceration rate that was five times higher than high school graduates'.


Showdown for British exam cheats: Board chiefs will be hauled before emergency session of MPs for a grilling over 'coaching' of teachers

In Britain it's the examiners who are cheating, as well as the students

The heads of the country’s exam boards are being hauled before MPs in a bid to restore public confidence in GCSEs and A-levels, it was revealed yesterday.

The Commons’ education select committee has called an emergency session in the wake of the scandal over school teachers being ‘coached’ by examiners in how to improve their pupils’ pass marks.

Education Secretary Michael Gove hopes to de-commercialise the exam system so that each subject is tested by one board only – so rival boards would not be driven to offer tests that are easier than their competitors’ to try to win business from schools.

Rod Bristow, on behalf of Edexcel, and Gareth Pierce, chief executive of the Welsh board WJEC, will appear before the select committee on Thursday, alongside Mark Dawe, chief executive of OCR, and Andrew Hall, chief executive of AQA.

The exams regulator, Ofqual, and representatives from the Daily Telegraph have also been invited to give evidence. An undercover investigation by the newspaper exposed how teachers pay up to £230 a day to attend seminars with chief examiners, during which they have been advised on exam questions and the wording pupils should use to get higher marks.

Two examiners have been suspended from WJEC, after being filmed giving detailed guidance on forthcoming GCSE history exams.

Another examiner was suspended from Edexcel after being recorded claiming the course content in her board’s geography GCSE was so small she did not know how it had been passed by the regulator. The select committee is already investigating the country’s exam system. It now wants urgent answers from the exam bosses over the ‘shocking’ evidence unearthed.

Graham Stuart, chairman of the select committee, said: ‘One of the areas we’re already looking at is conflicts of interest – the commercial exploitation of their position as awarding bodies and whether the way the examination system is structured incentivises the right behaviour in awarding bodies.

‘This…tends to suggest the pressures and competition within the system are driving them to behaviour that is not in the best interests of good standards of education.’
Paul Barnes was filmed apparently telling teachers they could ignore some parts of the syllabus as they wouldn't appear in the exams

Paul Barnes was filmed apparently telling teachers they could ignore some parts of the syllabus as they wouldn't appear in the exams

He added: ‘The whole session will be on the evidence unearthed and the questions arising from that. ‘It will be about how we can have confidence in the system if the very people who are providing the awards appear to be complicit in gaining an encouragement of an approach which isn’t truly educational. We are already conducting an inquiry into exam boards and the need for reform.

‘The stories are shocking and suggest there may be a need for radical changes. The committee will question the heads of the exam boards to hold them publicly to account. We will also want to ask the regulator how such alleged breaches have been allowed to happen and explore what can be done to ensure that our qualifications support and encourage real learning rather than undermine it.’ Former senior examiner Martin Collier, who worked for Edexcel, told the committee last week that he wanted to see a single merged exam board because ‘it was wrong to put children’s qualifications into the marketplace’.

Mr Collier, who was an A-level history examiner between 1996 and 2011, told MPs: ‘One of the reasons why grades have gone up and up is the issue of market share. ‘Exam boards are very wary of saying, “this year there have been fewer A grades”.

‘What the exam boards are worried about is that if they hit children hard one year and the number of top grades diminish they fear people will go elsewhere.’

Mr Gove has ordered an official inquiry into the scandal and the regulator, Ofqual, must report back before Christmas. Chief executive Glenys Stacey has outlined a number of possible sanctions including pulling ‘examinations set for January and for next summer with awarding bodies providing substitute scripts’.

The Education Secretary said he is preparing to reform the exam system early in the new year, but is awaiting the findings of the investigation before finalising his proposals. His current plans would see exam boards compete to provide a single exam for each subject.

‘The first response that most people understandably have is, “Why don’t you just have one exam board?”’ he said last night.

‘And as someone who grew up in Scotland I naturally sympathise, because we just had one exam board. I think it is the most compelling answer at the moment. But I owe it to students and to teachers to let the investigators come up with their recommendations.... and present all the facts.’


Big jump in university fees for maths and science study at a time when Australia needs more such students, not fewer

AUSTRALIA'S ambition to become the "clever country" is in tatters because it cannot produce enough experts in the two most critical disciplines - mathematics and science.

Top scientists and mathematicians, furious about the Gillard Government's $400 million cut in HECS fee relief and axed school science programs, warn Australia is in serious danger of losing its mantle as a world leader in education.

In a bid to return the Australian economy to surplus Treasurer Wayne Swan has taken the razor to education, increasing annual HECS fees for university science and maths students from $4691 to $8353 - cancelling the incentive to study those subjects.

Barry Jones, a former science minister in the Hawke government, said just 9 per cent of Australian university students enrol in the sciences of physics, chemistry and mathematics when the OECD average is 13 per cent and in South-East Asia it is 26 per cent.

"It looks bad," he said. "There are serious problems in maths and sciences in Australia generally."The "deficiency" starts in primary schools with a high proportion of teachers themselves uneasy with maths and science and by high school, students move on to other interests, Mr Jones added.

And the crisis is set to worsen by 2020 when Australia will have more PhD mathematicians retiring from the workforce than entering it - despite a 55 per cent increase in demand across all sectors of the economy.

The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute is so worried about the decline it is planning a national advertisement campaign on buses and trains to promote the impact of maths and statistics on people's "daily lives and on their health and wellbeing".

The head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of NSW, Anthony Dooley, warned the cut to HECS would affect student numbers in the core subjects.

"The country needs more mathematicians and scientists ... our enrolments have been going up by 10 per cent a year and that growth is a realisation that maths and science are crucial to the world's future," Prof Dooley said.

"We need the Government to realise that this is a crucial national priority ... we need to be clever and we need people with mathematical skills to drive the economy forward."

The number of advanced maths students across Australia dropped by 25 per cent between 1995 and 2008, while university maths majors fell by 15 per cent between 2001 and 2008. The Australian Academy of Science also urged the Government to do more to support the subjects.

"We are slipping behind neighbouring countries in maths and science performance at secondary school and there are growing shortages in the workforce of young people with maths and science skills," president Suzanne Cory said.

"Australia's robust economic future depends upon innovation.," she said.

A spokesman for Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans said the HECS subsidy was being abolished because it had not proven to be a cost-effective way of lifting maths and science attainment.

"By the time young people are making university choices many have already made the decision to drop the study of advanced maths and science subjects at high school," he said. "It's for that reason that the Government has asked the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, to work with the science community to develop new means for further lifting student participation rates in maths and science."

Federal Schools Minister Peter Garrett said that science and mathematics were two of the first four subjects to be rolled out under the new national curriculum.

Universities Australia said alternative programs to improve school science and maths and university enrolments were vital while the University of Sydney was seeking more funds to support the most talented students.


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