kitchen table math, the sequel: CT's Education Budget Crisis

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

CT's Education Budget Crisis

Last year, in an effort to win Race to the Top money, Connecticut passed a flurry of new laws affecting education. One of these added new high school graduation requirements. Now, having failed to snag any of those federal dollars, CT faces the difficult prospect of paying for the reforms they committed to. One idea is to make them voluntary and allow towns to vote with their feet on implementation. Read the blog post here:

New High School Graduation Requirements -- Should they be Voluntary?

16 comments:

SteveH said...

Our state is talking about giving out three levels of diplomas. This, in spite of getting RTTT money. NCLB is implemented as feedback to the school, not as a way to hold kids back a grade. For high school graduation, kids have to show 4 years of "anchor" assignments and do a senior project/exhibition to determine if they are allowed to graduate. But some of these kids still can't pass the state tests. Therefore, they want the three levels of diplomas.

For most able students, all of this is meaningless nonsense and a waste of time. For the others, it's the end result of ignoring the signs for the last 12 years. Are they going to prevent kids from graduating high school if they don't know a certain amount of algebra II? ... after 12 years of telling them that they can go on to the next grade? So, what is the reaction to 3 levels of diplomas? It's not fair! But do they ask to fix the problems in the lower grades? Nope. Everyone seems to be looking for a different definition of learning.

A capstone project is just a fuzzy way to get around the hard numbers on the state tests, and we know how low those proficiency cutoffs are.

LynnG said...

Of the three levels of diploma, which one is supposed to indicate college readiness?

One of the many concerns raised by CT's efforts is that the lack of input from those at the collegiate level.

SteveH said...

"which one is supposed to indicate college readiness"

I don't know! I will have to see what I can find, but I'll wager that the top level simply means that they pass the state's low proficiency cutoff. I don't think they are coming up with anything like an "honors" diploma. I think it's more like two extra levels of purgatory.


"...the lack of input from those at the collegiate level."

The top end kids don't care about these standards. They are worrying about their AP class grades and their SAT scores. They do gripe about the hassle of the senior exhibition, but since there is so much room for choice, they can do something fun. I don't think it even figures into their GPA. The anchor assignments collected over 4 years are just regular assignments that are separated and put into a portfolio. The fact that they are anchor assignments is meaningless.

Lisa said...

IN has 4 different diplomas. My 16yo asks why he can't just take a GED and get on to college for pities sake. (For the record they are General, Core 40, Core 40 w/academic honors and Core 40 w/technical honors.) The academic honors is basically college track/AP.

LynnG said...

At what point do students have to decide which type of diploma they are aiming for? Once on a track, I'm guessing it would be rather difficult to move up.

Lisa said...

The kids have to decide in 8th grade when they sign up for classes. It is possible to start on an honors track and drop back to Core 40 but it isn't possible to accelerate the opposite direction. Because of that I think the counselors recommend the honors to probably too many kids because waiting until you're a Sophomore to get your act together is too late.

LynnG said...

It's really hard to imagine how it is acceptable that a child should pay for their entire life for the poor decisions made by them, and on their behalf, in their K-8 years.

Anonymous said...

A lot depends on whether there is literally no college option for students who choose Core 40. If they can graduate and then enroll in community college, choosing an academic track there, I see no reason for dread. On the other hand, enrolling every student in Honors Core 40 will dampen the meaning of that diploma, and fail to provide good preparation for medium- and upper-tier colleges.

Lisa said...

I'm sure many Core 40 students do go on to college at some point. Truthfully, I'm not all that sold on AP anyway. My ds got a 5 on the AP US History test. He told me he learned more from documentaries and video games than in the class.

hainish said...

With the expectation now that *all* students go to college, is there really a non-college-bound track anymore? I mean, a real one?

Anonymous said...

Hainish, mostly there is not. The students who self-identify (or less often, are identified by their high schools) as non-college-bound are considered to be deficient in energy or brains. And this is really arrogant, not to say self-serving on the part of the colleges who beat the same drum. I work in communities where the older adults remember good vocational education that was actively chosen by intelligent young people, who then used it as a springboard to a valid occupation and success in life.

SteveH said...

Our high school lost the "general" level and now just has three; honors, college prep, and something called "Success Academy". The slackers in the old general level were pushed into the college prep level and only those kids who are behind by at least one year (on the state test I assume) are placed into the lowest level. This lowest level gets a lot of attention becuase they require the most help to get over the minimum state test cutoff level. The school doesn't want to make their job harder by having slackers in the mix.

However, this means that the old college prep is now honors, and college prep is now filled with a huge range of abilities and motivation. It also means that kids and/or parents fight to get all honors classes. Then, to prove that honors classes are tough, teachers do things to arbitrarily make things difficult. This seems to be where a certain amount of grade deflation takes place.

Also, many vocational schools are accredited to offer associate and full college degrees. One in our area is quite well regarded. These students are in more demand and get higher paying jobs than those with a degree from the community college. Even if kids don't want to go to vocational school, they have to meet the requirements of the college prep level. However, the requirements for this level are vague, such as taking a math class every year. It doesn't force them to get through algebra II. So, even if it's called college prep, you have to look at the details. When I was growing up, the top level was college prep.

momof4 said...

From www.joannejacobs.com; the AP tests are being redesigned. All of the comments make the same assumption that, in this case, redesigned really means dumbed down(does anyone doubt this?) This is a huge hit to the kids for whom APs were originally designed; maybe it's better to forget HS and just head to college early whenever and wherever possible.

ChemProf said...

I'll worry more when they start reworking AP Calculus and Chemistry. AP Bio is tricky because there isn't a well-defined national curriculum for college-level bio. Actually, if there was one to skip, I'd suggest that AP Bio is the one to pick because in my experience it does students the least good, if they are on a STEM track. Bio departments may or may not accept it for the major, and med schools definitely don't accept it as premed, so you are better off taking biology in college anyway. Of course, if you just need it for gen ed, the AP is fine.

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Sad to hear. I'm sure the students and the teachers will be the one most affected in this crisis.