Education

Education

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  • Texas: Promise in Paying for Grades

    As President Obama looks to overhaul education policy, he might consider a simple fix: paying students for grades. Backed by private donors, hundreds of schools nationwide have tried a pay-for--performance approach in the last decade. But even as the practice has spread, psychologists have attacked it as shortsighted, saying it doesn't cultivate a lifelong love of learning. Legislators, wary of the optics, have steered clear, citing the need for further research.Now, in the first long-term study of its kind, a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research may provide some answers. According to the report, Texas high-school students who earned cash for passing Advanced Placement exams showed not only better GPAs, but also bumps in college attendance, performance, and the likelihood of earning their degrees. The effects were most pronounced among minorities, with African--American students 10 percent more likely to enter college, and 50 percent more likely to...
  • Evan Bayh Wants his Lasting Achievement to be Stifling Student Loan Reform

    Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) cast his impending retirement as an expression of disgust with Congress to do the people's business. So now that he's liberated from the obligations of raising money and similar grimy political considerations, we can expect Bayh to spend his remaining months in the World's Greatest Deliberative Body working with apolitical, high-minded intentions to do the people's business. ...
  • Pursuing a Liberal Arts Education in China

    Like many top students in Chinese high schools, Chen Yongfang dreamed of attending college in the United States. But unlike many of his classmates at Shanghai's Foreign Languages High School, Chen did not set his sights on Harvard, Yale, or any of the other Ivy League schools or big research universities long coveted by the Chinese. Instead he applied to Bowdoin College, a small, elite liberal-arts college in Maine. Chen received a full scholarship to study psychology, and he later added economics as a second major.Now in his senior year, Chen has become such a devotee of the liberal-arts approach that he's made it his mission to spread the word throughout China. He has coauthored a book called A True Liberal Arts Education, which essentially explains the little-known concept to Chinese students and their parents. "Most Chinese people only know about Harvard, Yale, and Princeton," he says over coffee in a Shanghai café during his winter vacation. Though there have been many books...
  • A GOP Plan for Deficit Reduction

    I've been hard on congressional Republicans recently for pandering to voters' ignorance by offering politically appealing but irresponsible slogans instead of a credible conservative vision of how to meet America's challenges, even those they harp on Obama for failing to address, such as our rising budget deficits. So, it is only fair that I praise Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin for coming forward with a proposal that could actually reduce long-term deficits. ...
  • The New Abstinence-Education Study Is Good News. So Why Are Liberals Freaking Out?

    The first peer-reviewed study to show abstinence education to be successful was published yesterday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. And, to put it succinctly, the liberal blogosphere is not thrilled.“According to this study, abstinence-only education might work,” quips one blogger at Feministing. “And the operative word here is might, as in, sometimes, maybe, coupled with other strategies or sometimes never.” The Guttmacher Institute does a thorough, point-by-point takedown of the study, noting that it “essentially leaves intact the significant body of evidence showing that abstinence-only-until-marriage programming that met previous federal guidelines is ineffective.” And at AlterNet—well, you can basically figure out its take from the headline Why We Should Disregard a New Study Showing Abstinence Ed Works. The general meme circulating on liberal blogs has basically been: this study may indicate abstinence-only education worked in one instance, but it...
  • Next Bunch of Obama Education Reforms to Offer More Carrots

    When the Obama administration first proposed having states duke it out for a share of a $4 billion education-reform fund, critics expected the whole enterprise to either be largely ignored or dissolve into political infighting. But instead, the Race to the Top competition has proved so successful in motivating states to accelerate their education-reform efforts that the administration has new plans to offer such competitions on an annual basis. President Obama will also announce tonight that the Department of Education will be offering a new competition to push states to create more and better preschool programs. During a briefing Tuesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the country doesn’t “need any more studies” to prove that high-quality preschool education can significantly close the achievement gap between rich and poor. Instead, he said, the country just needs to offer such programs to more kids. The president “wants to dramatically increase access and give kids a...
  • Why Bush’s Abstinence-Only Policies Are (Probably) Not to Blame for the Teen-Pregnancy Increase

    The first increase in teen pregnancy in more than a decade has, unsurprisingly, led many to place blame on Bush’s heavy funding of abstinence-only education. The Guttmacher Institute report that identified the teen-pregnancy increase suggests that it has to do with "the growth of abstinence-only sex education programs at the expense of comprehensive programs." Katie Couric made a similar link on last night’s CBS News, and, over at Feminste, one of the most-read feminist blogs, they're putting it even more bluntly: ...
  • How Obama Will Keep Pushing Education

    President Obama’s aggressive push for education reform has been one of his few domestic success stories, so it’s not surprising that he’s decided to build on that with a 6.2 percent increase in federal education spending next year. During his State of the Union speech tonight, Obama will specify that the new money will be targeted to expand college access, adult education, K–12 reform, and early learning, administration officials said. Part of the money will be used to encourage states to work together to develop higher national standards, which in turn will be used to encourage states and local school districts to develop more ambitious expectations and curricula for students and more meaningful tests. The money is also expected to help revamp former president George W. Bush’s hallmark education program, No Child Left Behind, which has come under considerable criticism since its introduction because of its emphasis on testing and its unfunded mandates. Obama is expected to maintain...
  • The Real Issue Behind the Rhee Flap: Why Can't Schools Fire Bad Teachers?

    Michelle Rhee, the tough-talking D.C. schools chancellor, is used to taking her lumps from the press, the teachers' unions, and city politicians as she tries to overhaul one of the nation's worst public-school systems. But this week she's been under siege after a controversial quote about teachers molesting students made it into print. Rhee is fighting back, arguing the quote was taken out of context, but the whole episode highlights a bigger problem in districts all over the country: why can't a school system fire teachers who abuse kids or don't bother showing up for work? In D.C., as in many other cities with "progressive" employee discipline procedures, school officials can suspend such teachers but can't terminate them.      The latest uproar began with the publication of a short "update" item in the Feb. 1 issue of Fast Company, in which Rhee seemed to say that the 266 teachers laid off last fall during the system's budget...
  • Class Origins Predict French Integration Success

    With financial hard times whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment across Europe, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has bowed to the angry wind by launching a national debate on what it means to be French. The touchstone of this discussion remains the widespread rioting of 2005, which seemed to prove that France is a land of increasingly marginalized and restive migrants. Into the center of this fray comes a new book, which shows that integration à la française works better than most French imagine.In The Destiny of Immigrants' Children, authors Claudine Attias-Donfut and François-Charles Wolff offer a landmark survey of 6,000 migrants and 19,000 of their offspring. It is the first time that a study on immigration in France focuses on migrants from all continents. The authors' deliberate intent is to counter the common fiction of French political debates, which tend to define "les immigrés" as African and Arab newcomers, and to use immigration as a pretext to talk about ethnicity, an...
  • College Presidents’ Bow to Bad Publicity: Pay Hikes Slow as Tuitions Continue to Soar

    Public-university presidents have been getting a lot of bad press recently: endowments are dwindling, state support is shrinking and tuitions, which have been rising faster than inflation for years, are jumping even more to close the gap. College and university presidents, who enjoy generous six-figure salaries and ample expenses and benefits, are being targeted for abuse by student protesters as a result. ...
  • Meacham: Why Liberal Arts Matter

    At noon last Wednesday in Sewanee, Tenn., in a 19th-century Gothic hall dominated by a sandstone fireplace and decorated with portraits of somber bishops, the University of the South—my alma mater—elected a new leader, John M. McCardell Jr., the former president of Middlebury College. (We refer to our president as vice chancellor, in the English tradition. If the fates had ever brought Anthony Trollope and Tennessee Williams together to collaborate, Sewanee might have been the result.) Those of you who share an affinity for small institutions know the power of sentiment at such moments—how the old rooftops remind us of when we were young, and all of that. Arguing the interests of Dartmouth before the Supreme Court, Daniel Webster captured this feeling well: "It is, sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it."I love Sewanee, an Episcopal university tucked away on 13,000 rural acres of the Cumberland Plateau. It is a place where students and faculty wear...
  • Obama's Smart Sex Education Funding

    Although health care has dominated the policy sphere as of late, I wanted to call attention to the sex-education funding in the 2010 Appropriations Bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies. The 146-page bill is, to be fair, not a Twilight-caliber page turner, but it does tackle sex education, a hugely contentious issue during the Bush administration, when $1.8 billion was appropriated for abstinence-only education.Here’s the Obama approach to the issue:$100,000,000 shall be for making contracts and competitive grants to public and private entities to fund medically accurate and age-appropriate programs that reduce teen pregnancy; and for the federal costs associated with administering and evaluating such contracts and grants, of which not less than $75,000,000 shall be for replicating programs that have been proven through rigorous evaluation to delay sexual activity, increase contraceptive use (without increasing sexual...
  • Can You Never Tell a Child She’s Smart?

    Ultimately, we want kids to believe they can get good at skills and talents if they practice and try hard. We want them to be persistent in the face of early difficulty. The work by psychologist Carol Dweck and others suggests that this adaptive mindset is dramatically a function of the praise kids hear. If you’ve heard this research, you know the new rules: praise the process, not the person. Avoiding suggesting that success is due to innate qualities. Instead, steer the child’s attention to strategies they can do again to repeat their success.A question I often get is “Does this mean I can never tell my kid she’s smart?” We’re not perfect, we’re enthusiastic, and the old “you’re so smart!” just flies off the tongue. Where's the line? Is there a margin for error here?In everyday life, kids hear a wide mix of praise types from parents, teachers, and other children. Even a kid who gets praised correctly by his parents (“you studied really hard, so you did well on the test”) will...
  • This is Your Brain on a Test

      This is a picture of a Quick-Cap, which measures electrical activity on the surface of the scalp. While it looks like something out of a futuristic movie about thought control, it’s actually quite comfortable and unobtrusive. While it’s not nearly as precise as a fMRI, electroencephalography (EEG) is much easier to use and drastically cheaper; the cap does a decent job of registering which regions of the brain are firing moment to moment. Carol Dweck and Jennifer Mangels had Columbia undergraduates wear the cap while taking a computerized trivia test. The students worked through over 200 questions, covering topics from geography, religion, world and US history, math and science, literature, and art history. These questions were chosen because they’d ring a bell of familiarity – students felt like they should know the answer, but often weren’t quite able to recall it. Example: In what country is Kathmandu? The computer adjusted the level of difficulty just slightly, so that most...
  • Is the Brain Like a Muscle, Really?

    Back in 2007, Ashley and I reported on the science of praise for New York magazine, highlighting in particular the body of work by Dr. Carol Dweck. Dweck had done studies for over a decade – and we covered them all – including a brand new semester-long intervention that had been conducted with Lisa Blackwell at Life Sciences Secondary School in East Harlem. Life Sciences is a health-science magnet school with high aspirations but 700 students whose main attributes are being predominantly minority and low achieving. The scholars split the kids into two groups for an eight-session workshop. The control group was taught study skills, and the others got study skills and a special module on how intelligence is not innate. These students took turns reading aloud an essay on how the brain grows new neurons when challenged. They saw slides of the brain and acted out skits. After the module was concluded, Blackwell tracked her students’ grades to see if it had any effect.It didn’t take long....