Here’s what caught my attention this week in education news.
Online Remediation –Tamar Lewin and John Markoff of the New York Times report that in the California State University System “more than 50 percent of entering students cannot meet basic requirements” necessary for college entrance. Ellen N. Junn, provost and vice president for academic affairs at San Jose State University described it this way: “They graduate from high school, but they cannot pass our elementary math and English placement tests.”
To help remedy this crisis, Governor Jerry Brown and San Jose State took dramatic action this week, announcing an agreement to provide remedial and introductory courses through Udacity, the popular massive open online course (MOOC) provider.
In the pilot program, 300 students will have the option of taking online courses offered by Udacity in remedial algebra, college-level algebra and introductory statistics at a much lower cost ($150 for the 3-unit course offering). If the pilot is successful, it could be offered eventually to hundreds of thousands of students in the state.
Not everyone is happy with this development. Georgia Tech University professor Ian Bogost, cautions that outsourcing remediation instruction is the beginning of a slippery and ultimately dangerous descent into the privatization of public education.
Words of Wisdom – In A Wealth of Words, Core Knowledge Foundation founder E.D. Hirsch, Jr. argues the best way to close America’s stubborn academic achievement gap is through vocabulary development. From Hirsch:
“[T]here’s a positive correlation between a student’s vocabulary size in grade 12, the likelihood that she will graduate from college, and her future level of income. The reason is clear: vocabulary size is a convenient proxy for a whole range of educational attainments and abilities—not just skill in reading, writing, listening, and speaking but also general knowledge of science, history, and the arts. If we want to reduce economic inequality in America, a good place to start is the language-arts classroom.”
Hirsch urges that U.S. schools adopt a domain-based curriculum focusing much more heavily on actual content and less on process and problem-solving. According to Hirsch, countries following this path show much stronger gains in verbal scores across various demographics:
“The domain-based approach to literacy—using a coherent, content-based curriculum to teach language—is the educational policy of the nations that achieve the best verbal results for both advantaged and disadvantaged students and narrow the gaps between them. ”
So Long, AP Credit – This week Dartmouth University announced it would no longer recognize high school Advanced Placement (AP) exams for college credit. NPR reports that starting in 2018, Dartmouth will use AP scores for placement in freshman classes, but not for credit. Critics claim high school AP courses in no way resemble college instruction, while proponents point to the cost savings realized when students can complete some introductory level courses prior to college entrance.
[Note: An incomplete version of this blog post entitled “629” was sent out earlier today. I apologize for this technical error.]
Beth T. Sigall
January 18, 2013