Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Taking college classes earlier can change course of students’ lives

The idea that minorities can benefit from college-level courses during their high school years is rather fanciful.  Most of them have enough trouble handling normal High School work. Claims that such a system does work must depend on dumbed-down college courses or highly selected students. 

Such programs are however helpful to brighter students regardless of background. I sent my son to a major university for mathematics classes during his final High School year, which made his transition to university much easier.  He ended up getting a B.Sc. with first class honours in mathematics

School districts in Boston, and in cities across the country, are beginning to rethink the high school experience, turning to the early college model, as well as a variety of others, to address persistent socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps.

Just 40 percent of Boston’s Hispanic and African-American high school graduates go on to earn college degrees, compared with more than 70 percent of its white and Asian students.

Boston has sought to close the achievement gap in recent years with specialized high schools focused on the arts, clean energy, health care, and technology. At least four schools have also launched small early college programs that send a few students to free college classes.

City officials see the approach as one of the most promising ways to prepare poor and minority students academically and socially for college, while saving their parents thousands of dollars in tuition costs.

Students at these schools are more likely to get a high school diploma, go to college, and, just as critically, to stay in college and get a degree, according to the American Institutes for Research, which compared students who enrolled in early colleges with students who sought to enroll but were rejected by a lottery.

More than 280 early college high schools have opened across the country since 2002. Last year, the Obama administration awarded $15 million to start more in South Texas and Denver, calling the schools an “innovative model with a proven record of improving student outcomes and closing achievement gaps for high-need students.”

But even students and teachers who embrace the model say that pushing high school students into college has its hazards.

Students at early college schools say they sometimes struggle with the logistics of scheduling classes at nearby colleges and finding transportation there. Some complain that their long commutes and reading lists leave them with no time for sports and clubs. And the college courses they attend can be large, impersonal lectures, the antithesis of the small, hands-on classes that help teenagers stay focused.

“College teaching, as a rule, is not what I would call centered on student engagement,” said Linda Nathan, a founder of Boston Arts Academy and former codirector of Fenway High School. “It’s often a lot of rote learning. It’s not particularly innovative.”

Bill Rawlinson, who works at the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers in Boston, which is sending 11 students to an English class at Bunker Hill Community College this year, said he sees both the necessity for early college and the potential downsides.

“The drawback may be that we are trying to make kids grow up too fast,” Rawlinson said, “but with the competitive nature of colleges, we almost have to do that.”

Massachusetts provides only a small amount of funding for early college, forcing most participating colleges to waive the students’ tuition. The burden on colleges has made it difficult to expand the programs. Texas, however, pays the full cost of tuition for its early college students.

That has helped Daniel P. King, the superintendent of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo School District, home to 30,000 students on the US-Mexico border, to launch the nation’s most audacious attempt yet to meld high school and college.

While most early college schools take only the students motivated enough to sign up, King is trying to push all of his 9,000 high schoolers — 90 percent of whom are low-income and more than 98 percent of whom are Hispanic — into early college classes. To qualify, students must pass an exam that tests whether they are ready for college-level work.

This year, 4,300 are taking college courses. Some take a 15-minute bus ride to South Texas College. Most take college-level classes in their high schools with teachers accredited by the college.

Students in a college-level calculus class worked on a formula known as the chain rule. A few doors down, a physics class calculated when two carts moving in the same direction at different speeds would collide. Students in a Spanish class discussed a 16th-century poem while wearing paper hats labeled with literary terms — verse, stanza, and sonnet.

“In the beginning, it’s really hard,” said Eric Garza, a 17-year-old senior originally from Mexico, who wants to go to the University of Pennsylvania next year. “You’re coming out of eighth grade. You’re a child. But I feel it’s helped me, and I feel prepared for any university of any kind.”

The district launched its first early college classes in 2007, along with special high schools for teen mothers and for dropouts ages 18 to 26. The results are drawing nationwide attention.

Since 2007, the dropout rate has plummeted from 19 percent — double the statewide average — to 3 percent, while the rate of students earning a high school diploma has jumped from 62 percent to 90 percent. This summer, 1,000 students took voluntary, free classes at South Texas College.

“When you go around, the number of students talking about their master’s and even their PhDs — these are things that are not typical,” King said. “Whether it’s a student who has really struggled or a student who is doing very well, we’ve seen a lot of positive results from it, and it’s changed the conversation among students in our high schools.”

Students said they appreciate the added responsibility and independence that are central to the early college experience. At one high school in Pharr, students have to get themselves to class on time; there is no bell at the end of class. In Boston, early college students at Bunker Hill Community College are issued college IDs and can use the campus gym and library.

While officials are venturing cautiously toward new models, gathering community input and considering whether a large-scale transformation is advisable, students in early college programs say they have already reimagined high school — and their academic trajectories.

“When I’m here, I feel like I’m a college student,” said Jenel Miller Cairo, a 16-year-old junior at the Community Academy of Science and Health, who is taking English at Bunker Hill. “I don’t even think about high school.”


The Upside Down Campus Protester

By Victor Davis Hanson

One common denominator characterizes almost all unrest on college campuses: the demands to create more “-studies” courses (black, Latino, feminist, gay, etc.) and thus to hire more -studies professors.

An empiricist from Mars might observe that the chief beneficiaries of the protests are -studies academics. They alone will win more jobs and classes, which otherwise few students wish to attend and from which fewer gain any factual knowledge, written and oral speaking skills, or improvement in inductive thinking.

A good leftist would cite conflict of interest: the more -studies professors egg on students to protest for more -studies professors, the more their friends, students, and mentors profit. Or is it more insidious: students also want more -studies courses to ensure more gut classes with easy As to inflate GPAs and free up more time to hit the gym and the local protest? So far there are few demands to make the physics department more diverse or to hire more engineering professors.

If some right-wing nut wished to harm leftist students and wanted to ensure that they stay indebted, leave college poorly prepared, and do not impress future employers, then he would likely advocate for the curtailment of traditional history, language, science, math courses and their faculty, and the expansion of more -studies courses and professors.

Who pays unnecessary administrators—other than students and the federal government that ensures their frequently defaulted loans? Screaming that the Constitution is racist is not the same thing as explaining the 10th Amendment’s Reserve Clause, in the way that damning old white texts does not mean one has first read Plato’s Republic or Augustine’s The City of God and found it unfair.

Forget the Poor?

Another irony. Note how class never really becomes an issue to campus class warriors.

If it were, campus demands would include:

1) Part-time teachers should receive equal pay for equal work, instead of receiving far less compensation for teaching the same class with the same credentials.

2) Stop administrative bloat and return more scarce education dollars for teaching students rather than creating czarist fiefdoms for academic careerists.

3) Spread the wealth among rich and poor campuses: set a cap at $5 billion on tax-free endowments; anything over that amount would be subject to for-profit tax codes regarding donations and spending. Why should Princeton have more tax-free dollars than, say, Morgan State? Are its privileged alumni and donor base to perpetuate their privilege on the public dime? Even professional sports teams treat wealthy franchises one way, and poorer counterparts quite another. Why are campuses more reactionary and adverse to spreading the wealth than Major League Baseball or the NBA?

4) Predicate affirmative action on class considerations. Why would one assume that a multimillionaire kid like Jonathan Butler who led the Missouri hunger strike faces more hardship than does a poor kid from Appalachia or a South Korean immigrant?

5) Stop building pricey bourgeoisie distractions like Club Med heated swimming pools, hipster rock-climbing walls, and 5th Avenue Fitness-style workout stations, when zero-sum money could be far better spent on more Chicano reading rooms, more black safe spaces, and more soup kitchens on campus.

Left Versus Liberal

Student protesters are furious at liberal faculty and administrators. There are few conservative faculty, statistically speaking, on college campuses. Apparently liberal appeasement is what infuriates students.

And why not? Reading an administrator’s cave-in letter elicits the same sort of contempt shown Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain from those each had tried so hard to appease. Hitler said he admired Stalin, who destroyed him far more than Chamberlain (who empowered him).

It is not very brave to sit down in the office of an invertebrate president. The real enemy logically should be at NASCAR races and NRA shows. Why not disrupt the recreation of supposed rednecks to remind them of their racism, sexism, and homophobia? Why not go to Donald Trump rallies en masse to remind the reprobate audiences of their embedded privilege?

Leftists tweaking liberals is kid’s play. The real adult would swarm the entry gate at the Marine Corps Base at Camp Lejeune, mob the Cody Stampede Rodeo, and shut down a Branson concert in the Ozarks.

Adults or Children?

Students need to decide whether they are ten or twenty. One cannot be both infantile and mature as the situation demands. If one in four women are truly sexually assaulted on campus, then why not end co-ed dorms, the incubator of date rape? Dress codes for both men and women might discourage callous sexuality and cruel hook-ups. In this regard, the treasured Middle Eastern Studies department or the local black Muslim mosque might offer some empirical advice about the separation of the sexes and proper female attire, in a nonjudgmental manner of course.

If African-American students want more segregated black safe spaces and theme houses, then stop blaming administrators, and demand that students be categorized by race and housed in dormitories accordingly. To remove the odor of apartheid and segregation, we could use Orwellian language to expand the idea of “theme” houses: the Africana Row, the European Village, the Asian Neighborhood, and on and on. Do we want “white meditation rooms” or “Asian sanctuary plazas” or “Latino reflection gardens"?

How strange that students damn frat predators on campus and racist attitudes that ignore disparate impact, then head to 1940s-like Saturday football games. Don’t they know that statistically the football and basketball teams commit an inordinate percentage of campus sexual assaults, and hardly reflect proportional representation, while completely ignoring disparate impact?

Georgetown basketball and Missouri football refuse entirely to insist on racially diverse teams, and minority outreach and mentoring (Asian centers, Latino forwards, gay quarterbacks, female placekickers, etc.). Adults who want to change the world are not children who watch football on Saturdays and say nothing about the unapologetic sexism and racism on the field.

Why not forbid bourgeoisie (and infantile) campus distractions that six year olds obsess over—not mature revolutionaries who are changing the universe? Ban videogames on campuses. No real man or woman dresses up in silly preteen Halloween costumes. Only kids chant “I know you are, but what am I?” slogans. Teenagers, not adults, pose for selfies.

And why the agonizing self-confessionals about being traumatized, hurt, marginalized, and depressed by inequality and unfairness? Are they Coward Lions and Straw Scarecrows, or grim pike men in the phalanxes of hope and change?

Students, as gallant revolutionaries, should be prepared for premodern challenges in the manner of Mao’s Long March or Che’s Bolivian ordeals. Changing America is not part-time buzz in between flights back to the cushy basement of mom and dad. The true revolutionaries see nothing “hurtful.” They laugh at the absence of safe spaces. They guffaw at micro-aggressions. And they ignore trigger warnings. Instead, they welcome struggle and enjoy confrontations that toughen them up for the full-time, life-long sacrifices for the masses.

Protestors: get real and grow up—there’s a wide world out there to change!


University: Your Holiday Party Cannot Be a Christmas Party in Disguise

If you plan on having a Christmas party at the University of Tennessee, be sure to leave the Baby Jesus and Santa Claus at home.

The taxpayer-funded university’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion recently released an “unofficial” edict calling for the campus to host holiday parties that do not emphasize religion or culture.

“Ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise,” the organization warned in an online document titled, “Best Practices for Inclusive Holiday Celebrations in the Workplace.”

Ah yes — Christmas-neutral. It’s all the rage on college campuses these days.

“Celebrate your religious and cultural holidays in ways that are respectful and inclusive of our students, your colleagues and our university,” the Office for Diversity and Inclusion stated.

Let me pause for just a moment to share a rather frosty note I received from the university’s media relations department.

They say the “Best Practices for Inclusive Holiday Celebrations in the Workplace” is not an official policy.

“It is a list of suggestions for inclusive celebrations,” they stated. “We recognize that our campus community is diverse and its members observe various religious and faiths.”

The statement went on to point out they “honor Christmas as one of the celebrations of the season and the birth of Jesus and the corresponding Christmas observance is one of the Christian holidays on our cultural and religious holidays calendar.”

I wonder if the Office for Diversity and Inclusion is aware that such non-inclusive and non-diverse activities are occurring on campus?

“I am hoping that you will be fair and objective in your reporting and the inferences you make about the piece,” the statement went on to read.

Well, I’m not inferring anything. It’s written in black and white and Tennessee orange — on the university’s official website.

Get a load of some of the nonsense they’re suggesting on Rocky Top:

Holiday cards should be non-denominational. And decorations should not be specific to any religion or culture.

“Refreshment selection should be general, not specific to any religion or culture,” they added.

I reckon that means kids won’t be able to serve jugs of sweet tea — considered the House Wine of Southern Baptists.

And my personal favorite:

Holiday parties should not play games with religious or cultural themes. They singled out “Dreidel” and “Secret Santa” as no-nos.

The recommendations have drawn the ire of alumni, including Rep. John Duncan, (R-Tenn.).  “The people I represent are disgusted by this,” he told me. “People from all over the country are sick and tired of all this political correctness.”

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey echoed the congressman’s concerns about political correctness.  “While the advisory makes clear it is not university policy, these ‘suggestions’ call into question what purpose university offices of diversity serve,” he said.

He said students don’t attend college “to have their values and traditions sidelined and undermined.”

Ho, Ho, Ho, America.


Teachers should ban times tables tests to stop children developing a crippling fear of making mistakes, says leading academic

The stupid b*tch seems not to realize that LIFE is stressful and school should help kids to COPE with that, not run away from it

Teachers should ban times tables tests to stop children developing a 'crippling' fear of making mistakes, according to a leading professor.

Jo Boaler, professor of mathematics education at Standard University, said many children develop anxiety when asked to do multiplication tests, which puts them off.

She highlighted that she herself has never learned her times tables, and it 'never held me back'.

And she added that maths is about much more than just memory tests, which only some children are able to master.

She told the Times Educational Supplement: 'What we know now is that when you give things to kids like a timed multiplication test, about a third of them develop anxiety.

'For those kids the working memory which holds maths facts is blocked and they can't access it.

'Governments saying everybody has to memorise their times tables to 12 times 12 is absolutely disastrous. We will be setting up nations of maths-anxious kids – we are doing that now.

'Some kids aren't fast memorisers, and they decide from an early age that they can't do maths because of the timed maths tests. Other kids may be OK but see maths as a shallow subject which is about recall of facts and disengage. So [these cause] huge damage. The US is moving away from them. The UK is moving into them.'

In her book, Mathematical Mindsets, she argues there should be less testing in maths, less worrying about failure, more use of visual representations and more emphasis on group work.

'We need to free your young people from the crippling idea that they must not fail, that they cannot mess up, that only some students can be good at maths and that success should be easy and not involve effort' her book says.

She said that children need to be taught that maths is about more than just giving a right or wrong answer.

She added: 'You want kids to get things right of course, and you don't want them making mistakes all the time.  'But kids will make a mistake and think 'I'm not a maths person, I can't do this.'

'So if you tell them that when you are making mistakes and struggling this is when you are learning, this is a transformative message for them. 'They are allowed to make mistakes.'

Professor Boaler began teaching at Haverstock School in North London before moving into academia with a masters and PhD in mathematics education at King's College London.

She became a professor at Stanford and after a three-year stint back in the UK as the Marie Curie Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Sussex, she returned to California.

It comes amid a government drive to drive up standards in education by focussing on basic numeracy at an early age.

Former education secretary Michael Gove vowed to overthrow so-called progressive teaching methods in favour of traditional techniques.

Charlie Stripp, director of the National Centre for Teaching Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics, said: 'It is not the learning of times tables that is causing anxiety but rather it is lack of times table knowledge.

'It should be an educational; entitlement that all children are helped to learn their times tables.'


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