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Education Sector Biweekly Digest, 7.25.13

This Week:

Education for Empowerment: A Conversation With Linda Darling-Hammond

Education Sector’s interview series on equity in education continues this month with Linda Darling-Hammond, director of Stanford University’s Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. Hammond, an outspoken advocate for the professionalization of teaching, spoke to Peter Cookson, ES’s managing director, about teacher preparation, her work with California Gov. Jerry Brown to equalize funding for K-12, and—of course—educational equity. 

“At the end of the day, if we achieve a level playing field, if all schools become reasonably well-resourced, children are fed and housed, and we have adequate health care,” Darling-Hammond says, “what will still matter most in terms of students’ achievement are the qualifications and capacities of their teachers.” Enthusiasm for the job alone won’t cut it, she tells Cookson. Teaching requires highly skilled, committed leaders. To groom those leaders, teacher preparation programs must include more extensive training and feedback.

“In Finland,” Darling-Hammond explains, “there is very little formal evaluation that happens after teachers get into the profession, because the bar is so high at the beginning, and there are so many supports to get better. There are some analysts who have claimed, ‘Oh, if you fire the bottom 10 percent of teachers every year, you’ll get educational outcomes like those in Finland.’ In fact, that is not how Finland gets high educational outcomes. You can’t fire your way to Finland. You actually have to build the capacity of teachers.” Read the edited interview here, or watch other highlights from the interview in this video.

Also From Education Sector:

What We Can Learn from FAFSA Completion Rates

Chad Aldeman, a blogger on The Quick & the Ed, has chronicled school-by-school completion rates for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in District of Columbia public high schools over the last school year. Almost 68 percent of D.C. students completed their FAFSAs, a small improvement from last year. Why are completion rates so important? Because students who submit these forms tend to receive higher amounts of financial aid and are more likely to go to college. Aldeman’s month-by-month analysis led him to three important observations:

1. Students who haven’t completed FAFSAs by the end of March are in danger of not doing it at all.

2. FAFSA completion rates vary tremendously by school.

3. It is now easy to track FAFSA completion rates.

You, too, can keep tabs on FAFSA completion rates for your local schools. Learn how in Aldeman’s latest post.

High-Tuition + High-Aid = High Tuition for Everyone

An analysisby The Atlantic shows that “high-tuition, high-aid” models (where affluent students pay full price, and low-income students receive aid to subsidize their tuition costs) actually just means higher tuition for everyone. Andrew Gillen, ES’s research director, surmises that this happens because all the additional revenue generated from higher tuition isn’t directed toward more financial aid. On average, only 60 percent circles back to aid, he told The Atlantic. (Gillen has also writtenabout this in his Higher Ed Data Central series on The Quick & the Ed.) Just 3 percent of schools increased aid as much as they increased tuition, Gillen said, and even worse, the aid is often targeted at more affluent students to try to lure them to campus.

Announcements: 

August Circulation Notice

It's August and that means it’s time for the Biweekly Digest to take a short vacation to recharge. We'll be back in September with great new work on technology, school leadership, professional development, and the latest in higher education. Meanwhile, keep up to date with Education Sector by reading our blog, The Quick & The Ed, and checking out our website, Twitter feed (@EducationSector), and Facebook page.

Trending on The Quick & The Ed

A sampling of our most popular blog posts of the week… 

Perspective on PARCC’s Price

“Tuesday was a bad news day for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of two federally funded consortia creating new assessments aligned to the Common Core. Not only did Georgia publicly drop out of the consortium to go it alone, PARCC released cost estimates for its assessments that would require half of its member states to increase the amount they spend on testing. PARCC estimates the tests will cost states $29.50 per student. Anyone can figure out what $30 means to their own personal budget, but what does it mean for state budgets? …” (by Chad Aldeman)

Making up Our Minds on MOOCs

“ … Perhaps the week’s MOOC news is just a lesson in confirmation bias. But it seems to me, above all, a reminder that triumphalists and naysayers alike should be humble in the face of rapid educational change. As a cautious optimist about their future, I wouldn’t be in the least concerned if MOOCs didn’t pan out, so long as they morphed into, or were overtaken by, some new, improved, pedagogically superior educational technology. We just don’t know. It’s far too soon to declare that MOOCs will conquer the earth—or that they will die a slow, ignoble death.” (by Ben Wildavsky)

Higher Ed Data Central: A Possible Way to Identify Colleges with Low Graduation Rates

“ … Graduation rates are largely under the control of colleges, and some colleges have been accused of lowering standards to keep graduation rates high. Since colleges have very little influence on default rates (other than their effectiveness in preparing students), default rates can provide an indication of which colleges (if any) may have lowered its graduation standards. …” (by Andrew Gillen)

A Call for High Standards for Every State

“ … Some worry that raising standards will widen the gap between top and bottom states. However, there is evidence that in states with higher standards, even struggling students achieve higher performance levels. The Common Core has offered states a way to give their students ‘an equal opportunity for an education, regardless of where they live.’ It’s time for states to accept the challenge of setting a higher bar. That is what’s necessary to prepare every state’s students for careers and competition in the 21st century.”(by Constance Clark)