kitchen table math, the sequel: 1/3/16 - 1/10/16

Friday, January 8, 2016

Speaking of credentialism and college tuition

I was bemoaning the fact that 18-year olds today must take on more debt to earn a college degree that will get them a lower-paid job than in previous eras, and a few minutes later came across this:
It’s been eight years since the Great Recession caused many states to scale back their higher education budgets, and the vast majority of states haven’t fully restored that spending despite improvements in the overall economy.

A new report from the research firm Young Invincibles, a millennial advocacy group, finds that 48 states -- all but Alaska and North Dakota -- are spending less per student on higher education than they did before the recession. Louisiana’s funding has fallen the most since the recession (41 percent), followed by Alabama (39 percent) and Pennsylvania (37 percent).

On average, states have cut funding per student by 21 percent since the recession. Tuition at public schools has increased 28 percent over the same period. (Private school tuition has increased about 20 percent in that period, according to the College Board.)


Three-quarters of American college students attend public colleges.

As States Cut Funding, Tuition at Public Colleges Soars
Inflation matters, too.

In a low-inflation environment, employees have lower raises and repay debt in more expensive dollars.

Credentialism & "hiring blind"

This is interesting.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some companies are hiring "blind":
Compose is among a handful of companies trying to judge potential hires by their abilities, not their résumés. So-called “blind hiring” redacts information like a person’s name or alma mater, so that hiring managers form opinions based only on that person’s work. In other cases, companies invite job candidates to perform a challenge—writing a software program, say—and bring the top performers in for interviews or, eventually, job offers.

Bosses say blind hiring reveals true talents and results in more diverse hires. And the notion that career success could stem from what you know, and not who you know, is a tantalizing one....
In Hiring without signals, David Henderson raises the possibility that hiring blind could put a dent in credentialism. If companies hire without knowing whether a new employee had a college degree, will college degrees become optional?

I hope so.

One of the more horrifying aspects of the crash and the economic stagnation that has followed, at least for me, has been the brave new world young people must navigate:

a) credential inflation -- jobs that didn't require college degrees before the crash now do (nursing being one example) probably because employers had so many hundreds of applicants for each job that they used college degrees as a sorting mechanism
b) tuition inflation at state universities because tax revenues collapsed
c) higher debt loads for new graduates
d) far lower inflation than in times gone by, with the result that today's college graduate will be repaying student loans in more expensive dollars (and with lower raises) than previous generations

Put those four together, and we have a generation of college students forced to go into debt that's higher and harder to repay than the debt taken on by previous generations, all for the sake of acquiring a job previous generations could hold without going to college at all.

Could blind hiring change this?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Robert Pondiscio, education reform, and the white working class, part 1

Robert Pondiscio has a terrific article on Donald Trump, education, and blue collar white Americans that we've been talking about on Facebook (come join if you haven't already--!)
If my Dad were alive today—and fifty years younger—I suspect he'd be a Trump voter.

My father got a high school education, enlisted in the Army, and fought in the South Pacific during World War II. After the war, he was hired by American Airlines, the only company whose paychecks he would ever cash. In forty-plus years on the job, he went from working as a mechanic to flying transcontinental routes as a flight engineer (a job made obsolete long ago by microprocessors).

He earned enough to move his family from Yonkers to Long Island, with its affordable houses and good schools. His own father had been an immigrant pick-and-shovel man. My Dad did him one better by following the playbook common to men of his moment and mindset: learn a trade, word hard, play by the rules, and things will work out. On the day he dropped me off at college (I was the first in my family to attend), he was still badgering me to learn TV repair, plumbing, or heating and air conditioning. College was fine, but its benefits seemed nebulous to Depression-era guys like Dad. It wouldn't hurt, he insisted, to have "a skill to fall back on."

Within a generation, however, his kind of life and the playbook he followed have largely ceased to exist.


The ground has not merely shifted beneath the feet of blue collar white Americans with no college degree; it has liquefied. "You can see the effects of their despair in the new statistics describing horrifying rates of suicide and substance-abuse fatality among this same group, in middle age," Frum notes. "They are pissed off. And when Donald Trump came along, they were the people who told the pollsters, 'That's my guy.'" If he were my age today, my Dad would almost certainly be struggling among them. The country that allowed him to become upwardly mobile through sweat, toil, and time—not credentials and connections—is gone.

As this new sobriety over the issues animating Trump supporters, if not Trump himself, settles in, I'm hoping for a parallel rethinking among education reformers. What, if anything, can be done to bring this huge contingent of pissed-off Americans, or at least their children, in for a softer landing before they give up entirely?

Frankly, we missed it. With our focus on closing the achievement gap between blacks and whites, framing reform as the "civil rights issue of our time," and the attention and praise we have heaped on inner-city charter schools—one of reform's few bona fide success stories—we have tacitly made education reform a race-based endeavor. In doing so, we largely overlooked a crisis that's been hiding in plain sight for years. There are about twice as many non-Hispanic whites as blacks living below 150 percent of the poverty line in the U.S. It's a fair bet that their kids aren't doing very well in school—and that they see Donald Trump as "my guy."
A couple of things.

First (and I can't remember whether I've been saying this on ktm, believe it or not), although I was a strong (and public) supporter of NCLB from the get-go, I realized pretty early on that the race-based aspect of NCLB was a problem.

Being from the heartland myself, it's possible I was more aware than some of the changes taking place outside big cities and affluent suburbs. I've gone home to central Illinois every year of my adult life; I've seen those changes firsthand. (Of course, I've seen the same changes taking the Amtrak out of New York City into the small towns of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.)

However, as a white parent sending children to predominantly-white suburban public schools, I had another vantage point that may have been more eye-opening: the new law and its supporters gave districts like mine a free pass.

Once NCLB became law, our district became high-quality by definition. No matter what our administrators did, no matter what cockamamy programs they embraced, no matter how many tutors we parents hired, no matter how much reteaching we did, our school was good because our kids did better on the state tests than underprivileged black and Hispanic kids attending urban schools.

Virtually everyone I knew believed (and still believe today) that all white suburban schools are better than all urban schools, period.

A couple of you will remember my adventures trying to get my district simply to perceive the fact that KIPP, in the Bronx, had an algebra pass rate that was double my district's. Doug Sundseth actually created a bar chart to illustrate.

I couldn't do it. I would look people straight in the eye and say "KIPP has 80% of its 8th grade students passing Regents 1 in 8th grade; we have 40%" and ---- nothing. Blank stares.

The one time I did manage to get a rise out of a fellow parent, she protested, saying: "KIPP has to have higher scores. They have to fundraise."

Which, actually, is true: KIPP had to show results, my district didn't.

But no one saw the problem with this state of affairs. By definition, no matter what, our schools were superior because our schools were affluent and white. The great injustice of the day was that inner-city black and Hispanic kids couldn't attend excellent schools like ours.

Before NCLB, I'm told, my district was much more modest in its claims, and much more realistic. Each year students in all grades took a standardized test, much like days of old when each year students took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or some such, and each year the then-superintendent would tell parents that student achievement in our district fell roughly in the middle of student achievement across all Westchester schools.

Roosevelt's minimum wage

Education reform's race-based narrative has always reminds me of a story my mom told me about my grandfather during the Great Depression.

He was working at a gas station when Roosevelt created the minimum wage.

His boss immediately lowered my grandfather's wage to the minimum.

That was NCLB in my district.

Again, I say this as a person who supported the law privately and publicly--and who would support it still today, in some variant.

* I can't link to Doug's chart because, lo and behold, the original kitchen table math is down because Outlook has been down so I didn't get the email invoice etc, etc, .... dealing with all that now & will include the link when the site is back up.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Liberal education is more fun

In the Telegraph:
What's wrong with education for education's sake?
Should a career be the focus of education? Michael Mercieca, CEO of Young Enterprise says 'yes', Kieran McLaughlin, head of Durham School says 'no'

Kieran McLaughlin, head Durham School

"What’s the point of an education? It’s easy in this time of measurement, targets and league tables to lose sight of what the primary purpose of our schooldays should be: to acquire a knowledge of the culture, history and intellectual progress of our civilisation, as well as of those that have gone before.

The epitome of an education should be the Arnoldian “best of what has been thought and said” and the measure of any civilisation, of any culture, is the extent to which learning is held as important.

From the ancient Greeks, through the Arabic, Chinese and others up to the present day, the cultures which have most achieved greatness have been those which have fostered learning for its own sake and a scholarly endeavor.

To continue to make this progress, to develop technologically or to simply think about things in a different way, we need the bedrock of our forebears’ knowledge to build on.

Newton’s famous quotation that he stood on the shoulders of giants applies to more than just science, and new ideas across the disciplines come from a constant reworking of the old.

However there is a much more immediate reason for pursuing learning for its own sake: it’s great fun.

Anyone who has ever taught a child – whether it be how to ride a bike, why the dinosaurs became extinct or how to use Pythagoras’ theorem – will have seen the light in their eyes when they have finally mastered a tricky concept.

Those Eureka moments are what make teachers continue in the profession, as they find joy in witnessing the joy of learning.

Intellectual thirst is hard-wired into us as human beings and it continues in us beyond childhood. A greater knowledge and understanding of the world leads to a greater appreciation of its beauty and rigour, and as a society and as individuals we are the richer for it."
Fans of liberal education are on the defensive.