Many parents and the children they send to college are paying rapidly rising prices for something of declining quality. This is because “quality” is not synonymous with “value.”

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, believes that college has become, for many, merely a “status marker,” signaling membership in the educated caste, and a place to meet spouses of similar status — “associative mating.” Since 1961, the time students spend reading, writing and otherwise studying has fallen from 24 hours a week to about 15 — enough for a degree often desired only as an expensive signifier of rudimentary qualities (e.g., the ability to follow instructions). Employers value this signifier as an alternative to aptitude tests when evaluating potential employees because such tests can provoke lawsuits by having a “disparate impact” on this or that racial or ethnic group.

George Will

Will writes a twice-a-week column on politics and domestic affairs.


In his “The Higher Education Bubble,” Reynolds writes that this bubble exists for the same reasons the housing bubble did. The government decided that too few people owned homes/went to college, so government money was poured into subsidized and sometimes subprime mortgages/student loans, with the predictable result that housing prices/college tuitions soared and many borrowers went bust. Tuitions and fees have risen more than 440 percent in 30 years as schools happily raised prices — and lowered standards — to siphon up federal money. A recent Wall Street Journal headline: “Student Debt Rises by 8% as College Tuitions Climb.”

Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist, writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that as many people — perhaps more — have student loan debts as have college degrees. Have you seen those T-shirts that proclaim “College: The Best Seven Years of My Life”? Twenty-nine percent of borrowers never graduate, and many who do graduate take decades to repay their loans.

In 2010, the New York Times reported on Cortney Munna, then 26, a New York University graduate with almost $100,000 in debt. If her repayments were not then being deferred because she was enrolled in night school, she would have been paying $700 monthly from her $2,300 monthly after-tax income as a photographer’s assistant. She says she is toiling “to pay for an education I got for four years and would happily give back.” Her degree is in religious and women’s studies.

The budgets of California’s universities are being cut, so recently Cal State Northridge students conducted an almost-hunger strike (sustained by a blend of kale, apple and celery juices) to protest, as usual, tuition increases and, unusually and properly, administrators’ salaries. For example, in 2009 the base salary of UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for equity and inclusion was $194,000, almost four times that of starting assistant professors. And by 2006, academic administrators outnumbered faculty.

The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald notes that sinecures in academia’s diversity industry are expanding as academic offerings contract. UC San Diego (UCSD), while eliminating master’s programs in electrical and computer engineering and comparative literature, and eliminating courses in French, German, Spanish and English literature, added a diversity requirement for graduation to cultivate “a student’s understanding of her or his identity.” So, rather than study computer science and Cervantes, students can study their identities — themselves. Says Mac Donald, “ ‘Diversity,’ it turns out, is simply a code word for narcissism.”

She reports that UCSD lost three cancer researchers to Rice University, which offered them 40 percent pay increases. But UCSD found money to create a vice chancellorship for equity, diversity and inclusion. UC Davis has a Diversity Trainers Institute under an administrator of diversity education, who presumably coordinates with the Cross-Cultural Center. It also has: a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center; a Sexual Harassment Education Program; a diversity program coordinator; an early resolution discrimination coordinator; a Diversity Education Series that awards Understanding Diversity Certificates in “Unpacking Oppression”; and Cross-Cultural Competency Certificates in “Understanding Diversity and Social Justice.” California’s budget crisis has not prevented UC San Francisco from creating a new vice chancellor for diversity and outreach to supplement its Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Diversity, and the Diversity Learning Center (which teaches how to become “a Diversity Change Agent”), and the Center for LGBT Health and Equity, and the Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention & Resolution, and the Chancellor’s Advisory Committees on Diversity, and on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues, and on the Status of Women.

So taxpayers should pay more and parents and students should borrow more to fund administrative sprawl in the service of stale political agendas? Perhaps they will, until “pop!” goes the bubble.

Published originally in The Washington Post

Finland has one other significant advantage over the United States. The child-poverty rate in Finland is under 4 percent. Here it is 22 percent and rising. It’s a well-known fact that family income is the most reliable predictor of academic performance. Finland has a strong social welfare system; we don’t. It is not a “Socialist” nation, by the way. It is egalitarian and capitalist.

I was asked about current trends in U.S. education, and Finnish educators were astonished by the idea that our governments intend to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores; that made no sense to them. They were also surprised that we turn children over to “teachers” who have only a few weeks of training and no masters’ degree. They did not understand the idea of “merit pay.” They are paid more if they do more work for the community, but they can’t understand why teachers should get a bonus to compete with one another for test scores. Since they don’t have comparative test scores for their students, our practices don’t make sense to them. Nor do they understand the benefits of competition among teachers who ought to be collaborating.

The current crop of corporate reformers get very upset by any mention of the Finnish model. They refuse to believe that a nation can have great schools without relying on high-stakes testing. They insist that Finland cannot serve as a model because it lacks racial diversity; but they fall silent when one points out that Finland has the same demographics as Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway, yet gets superior results. I am troubled by this “lacks diversity” argument, because it implies that African-American and Hispanic children cannot benefit by having highly experienced teachers, small classes, and a curriculum rich in the arts and activities.

Here’s an interesting contrast: We claim to be preparing students for global competitiveness, and we reward mastery of basic skills. Our guiding principles: Competition, accountability, and choice. Finland has this singular goal: to develop the humanity of each child. Isn’t that a shocking goal? Their guiding principles: equity, creativity, and prosperity.

This is actually very interesting and needs to be considered seriously. Finnish society and American society are very different, but the idea of focusing on “the humanity” of each child is a worthy one. Who can disagree with “equity, creativity, and prosperity?” But it is also foolish to dismiss the need for testing and to cast the objective measurement of student progress as “competitive.” Technology gives us new tools to enhance and improve educational effectiveness and efficiency, but good teachers will remain central to the success of the process. The concept of “great teachers,” seems to me to be ignoring the simple fact that, by definition, “great” always refers to a minority of extraordinary performers. In education, as in all things, we have to acknowledge the bell curve and work to raise the performance level of the majority of “average” teachers. Recalling my own Education courses in college, I have to say, if things haven’t changed much since 1967/68, there is much to be done just to improve the course work at the undergraduate level. But, as in any organization, we also have to be able to cull the bottom 10% of performers, too — remove them as waste and obstacles to the system’s success. To do that we need to eliminate the Teachers’ Unions.




I’m clearly not a shill for corporate takeover of the public education system.  However, I want to clear up one misconception about (most) merit pay systems. 

A lot of people will say very uniformed things like “Oh, what if one kid doesn’t try on the test that day?  Should I be held responsible for that?” 

No, you shouldn’t.  And obviously this has been thought of when developing these systems for years on end with teams of PhD statisticians and generally intelligent people. 

First of all, most merit pay systems only place student growth/test scores at about 40% of the total. (The rest being on evaluations and surveys)


I’m not sure that I agree with the points brought up here.  Personally, I know that as a kid I liked to make designs on test bubbles one year.   I don’t think that is ever going to fit a math equation, even the one you described.  Also, some kids (particularly the population I work with) do not do well on tests.  

I’d like to see what other teachers on tumblr think.

Please describe the statistical process that would preserve my paycheck under such a system despite the fact that my students are receiving half as much time and instruction from me this year as they were last. 

Many of my students made great gains last year because I actually had time to teach them. This year, if my merit is to be demonstrated in any kind of test score, it would be that we held our ground in these trying circumstances, but as far as I can tell the system would call that a failure. I’m sure you can picture my gestured response to that. 

I also think the concerns about impact of merit pay on collaboration and cooperation are valid if teacher is pitted against teacher. Do commissioned salespeople give away their easy standing accounts? Do they maneuver to get the business of those who require the most time for the narrowest of profit? Does anyone really want such self-interest in the classroom?

One would hope that teachers would become more concerned about effectively teaching all learners if they were to be accountable in that way, and for some I’m sure that would be true, but as long as there’s some other teacher to whom to pass off a difficult case, my experience gives me little hope. 

I welcome evaluation. I would be a better teacher today if anyone to whom I report had any idea what I try to do and how it really should be done. My job is different. I would appreciate being held to some standards which acknowledge that and articulate it better than my personal, ever-evolving criteria of Whatever Needs to Be Done. But I digress. The notion that even 40% of my worth as a teacher can be measured by the performance of other people on one particular assessment is ludicrous. 

Incentive comp plans are always trickier than you think they will be. And unions make them nearly impossible. I’m not entirely sure I understand the writer’s complaint, but there’s no doubt that a mix of objective and subjective measurements should be used. I’d like to see a broader discussion of this one.

(Source: deathcabforchomsky)


OhioLINK and OCLC Research released on September 21 what is likely the largest and most comprehensive study of academic library circulation ever undertaken. Among the more interesting findings, the “80/20” rule, which says that 80 percent of a library’s circulation is driven by approximately 20 percent of the collection, may not be accurate.

The report, OhioLINK-OCLC Collection and Circulation Analysis Project 2011, and its extremely large, diverse data sets will not only clarify the usage and collecting patterns of books and manuscripts within OhioLINK libraries but also provide a basis for further research and comparisons at other institutions. The goal is to better inform acquisition behavior and create “a set of collecting rubrics that will help reduce unnecessary duplication, allocate resources more effectively, and increase diversity of collections across the state,” according to the report.

“We really hope to be able to provide analysis down the road, and we hope other scholars will jump in and use it, too,” said Julia Gammon, the head of the acquisitions department at the University of Akron libraries and a co-author of the report.

» via Library Journal

This is very good news. The Ohio Public Library System has finally decided to implement the kind of analytics that marketers have been using for at least 40 years. 40 YEARS!


How did so many people become so inflexible, so unable to improvise, so unwilling to learn, so resistent to change, so very afraid, and why in all great googly moogly did they ever decide to teach?



When Julian Bond, the former Georgia lawmaker and civil rights activist, turned to teaching two decades ago, he often quizzed his college students to gauge their awareness of the civil rights movement. He did not want to underestimate their grasp of the topic or talk down to them, he said.

“My fears were misplaced,” Mr. Bond said. No student had heard of George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, he said. One student guessed that Mr. Wallace might have been a CBS newsman.

That ignorance by American students of the basic history of the civil rights movement has not changed — in fact, it has worsened, according to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, on whose board Mr. Bond sits. The report says that states’ academic standards for public schools are one major cause of the problem.

“Across the country, state educational standards virtually ignore our civil rights history,” concludes the report, which is to be released on Wednesday.


The New York Times, “Students’ Knowledge of Civil Rights History Has Deteriorated, Study Finds.”


(via inothernews)

I’ll bet this is not the only growing gap in the teaching of American History.

"(In) the U.S., the states spend about $500 billion every single year on the public school system. (The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is) putting in about five billion, basically, over the next few years. But all philathropic money can do is be a catalytic wedge — that is, we can look at the places where people haven’t answered the questions, or asked some of the questions, and say ‘What is it we really need to do to fix this?’ And one of the things that we’ve learned is that having an effective teacher at the front of the classroom is the single most important thing we can do in the public school system."

MELINDA GATES, opining on what’s really needed to improve public schools — her Foundation’s generous donations notwithstanding — on The Colbert Report.

Go teachers.

(via inothernews)


“Maybe she forgot,” suggests the counselor who has never met her and doesn’t know.

I pretend to entertain that thought— it’s twenty minutes past when I thought she’d be there, and the explanations in my head are dwindling down to implausible. But I know she didn’t forget.

So I head from the…

I really liked this. You have a wonderful job.

"The real disruptive threat is to the hundreds of institutions that emulate the elite few at the top. Many of them lack the prestige to hold off for-profit competition and the money that the elites can spend on online curriculum. But their challenge isn’t fundamentally one of money: online tutorials don’t have to be expensive to be effective, as the open-to-all Khan Academy has shown. The much greater challenge for traditional universities and colleges is changing their teaching traditions. Full-time faculty members must not only assent to the inclusion of online learning in the curriculum, they should lead it. Even profit-driven consumer electronics companies tend to respond too slowly to disruptive innovation. Faculty-led institutions need all the time they can get. Notwithstanding the tough economy, now is the time to invest in online learning innovation. “Made-in-Japan” once meant “cheap.” Will the majority of traditional universities and colleges be ready when “online education” means “high-quality learning?”"


In retrospect, “I am not a high strung person!” is probably more credible when it’s not delivered a half-octave high or punctuated with a foot stomp.

I’ll have to work on that for the next time a colleague explains he always credited my agitated demeanor when discussing the state of the ELL…

Don’t give up. Technology will never replace a skilled, dedicated teacher. Kids need you. They need to actually learn something in school.




Amazon Kindle can now check out e-books from 11,000 libraries -

Kindle users can now check out e-books from 11,000 community libraries across the country, Amazon announced today. The process is a simple one: Navigate to the website of your local library, enter your library card number, select a title, click “Send to Kindle,” and plug in your information. Your book can then be transmitted wirelessly or via USB – any gadget with Amazon software will do, including an iPhone or Android handset.

The availability of the e-books will vary from library to library, but most titles should be available on your Kindle for about two weeks. After that, they’ll disappear. In a press release, Amazon exec Jay Marine called libraries a “critical part of our communities,” and framed the initiative as the natural next step for library lending.

“We’re even doing a little extra here – normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no,” Marine said. “But we’re fixing this by extending our Whispersync technology to library books, so your notes, highlights and bookmarks are always backed up and available the next time you check out the book or if you decide to buy the book.”


This is a pretty exceptional turn of events. Back in March I had shared this article about a library that was lending out Kindles on-site. It’s almost weird to see where things are going when it comes to books and libraries. (relevant picture):

Love my kindle. Ereaders rule.

"Young Americans don’t go to college to avoid work. They work hard in college so they have a shot at earning a modestly rewarding living. Unfortunately for these young aspirants, they’re slogging toward a labor market that older generations of Americans have sullied. Rather than insulting college students by suggesting that they don’t know what hard work is, older Americans might instead consider apologizing for the pathetic employment market staring down graduates in this country."


The Myth of College as a Fairy Tale

(via infoneer-pulse)

Exactly how have the older generations “sullied” the labor market? “Slogging” has always been more the rule than the exception. We are in a trough, a low spot, but it isn’t the first and it won’t be the last. Suck it up. Get through school. Get a job or start a business and make the best of it. Where does it say life owes you ANYTHING? We apologize for nothing. We worked hard in college, slogged away at turning our talents and energies into some level of acceptable lifestyle, saved our money, took our lumps in previous recessions as well as in this one. Quit bitching and blaming. Get busy. Unemployment isn’t 90%, it’s 9%. What a baby!


“I am 25 years old now, and shacking up in my parents’ guest bedroom,” he told me. “I have successfully made four payments on my student loans in the past three and a half years. I have over $48,000 dollars of student loan debt, and absolutely nothing to show for it. No degrees. No certificates. No qualifications. I have continued my education to the best of my ability since leaving A&M, but always at community colleges and always paying for everything out of pocket. As you can imagine, since I’m not ‘qualified’ for a decent paying job, my savings for school piles up very slowly, and then disappears when August and January roll around. I haven’t been back to school in about a year now, and I currently work at Subway, making sandwiches. I don’t make my loan payments.”

He’s about to join the military because he sees it as his only option. “I am depressed at the idea of signing my life away for four years so I can fight someone else’s wars. I am angry beyond belief that it’s come to this,” he said.


$1 Trillion In Loans? How Student Debt Is Killing the Economy and Punishing an Entire Generation | | AlterNet (via alternet-working)

I don’t get it. He has borrowed $48,000 in student loans, is 25 years old, and he hasn’t graduated? What’s the bitch here? Sorry, but I can’t feel sorry for a person who goes that deeply into debt and won’t do his part to fkg GRADUATE in 7 years. Nobody is failing him but him. The military might be the right choice, although nobody is forcing him to enlist. Sounds like a big baby to me.


With his declaration on Friday that he would waive the most contentious provisions of a federal education law, President Obama effectively rerouted the nation’s education history after a turbulent decade of overwhelming federal influence.

Mr. Obama invited states to reclaim the power to design their own school accountability and improvement systems, upending the centerpiece of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, a requirement that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014.

“This does not mean that states will be able to lower their standards or escape accountability,” the president said. “If states want more flexibility, they’re going to have to set higher standards, more honest standards that prove they’re serious about meeting them.”

But experts said it was a measure of how profoundly the law had reshaped America’s public school culture that even in states that accept the administration’s offer to pursue a new agenda, the law’s legacy will live on in classrooms, where educators’ work will continue to emphasize its major themes, like narrowing student achievement gaps, and its tactics, like using standardized tests to measure educators’ performance.

In a White House speech, Mr. Obama said states that adopted new higher standards, pledged to overhaul their lowest-performing schools and revamped their teacher evaluation systems should apply for waivers of 10 central provisions of the No Child law, including its 2014 proficiency deadline. The administration was forced to act, Mr. Obama said, because partisan gridlock kept Congress from updating the law.

“Given that Congress cannot act, I am acting,” Mr. Obama said. “Starting today, we’ll be giving states more flexibility.”


The New York Times, “Obama Turns Some Powers of Education Back to States” (via inothernews)

This is a good thing. This is the one area where I can agree with the boy king. And his former Chief of Staff is kicking Teachers’ Union ass in Chicago. All good.


Google Hangouts now offer screen-sharing, a sketchpad, and integration with Google Docs. That means that as you collaborate with others, you can view each other’s desktops, you can view and edit documents together, you can scribble and share notes.

This happened a few days ago, but is still important. I’m hoping Google will put Google+ in a position where you can use it as an App in an educational Google Apps rollout (a la Blogger, GMail, and Google Docs for example). That way you could have a Google+ network just for the students at your school.

Teachers will revolutionize education by devising ways to use technology to amplify and extend the reach of their skills. Technology will not replace teachers — or, at least not soon.