Monday, August 23, 2010

Two interesting bits

Today, I want to point out two interesting pieces on education policy at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of age.  I tend to read less about pre-K education policy and university policy. They are just less focused on.  It is more common to see a LA times story about the effectiveness of elementary schools or an article in the Boston Globe comparing MCAS scores across middle and high schools.  The importance and relative effectiveness of pre-K and universities seems to be less focused on. (I hate to use the word seem, but of course I have not been regularly reading any US papers for the past 8 months so for all I know the Globe has run a hard hitting series on dropout rates at local colleges.)

The first is an interview  with Sara Mead, a pre-K policy expert, by Dylan Matthews who is filling in for Ezra Klein on Klein's blog at the Washington Post.  The part that interested me the most was when Sara Mead points out, "It's actually possible with universal pre-K in Oklahoma to improve learning for everyone while also moving to close the achievement gap."   I guess it should be obvious, but this to me argues for universal pre-K education, not solely focusing on the most disadvantaged groups, since they will benefit the most anyways. 

The second is an excellent article in the Washington Monthly by Ben Miller and Phuong Ly.  This part might be controversial, but I think important, 

"But we won’t make real headway on the college graduation problem until two even more fundamental steps are taken. The first is acknowledging that colleges share responsibility for graduation with their students. Without that, governors, mayors, accreditors, and secretaries of education won’t be willing to expend scarce political capital on behalf of students like Nestor. The second is a willingness to broach a heretofore-forbidden topic in higher education: shutting the worst institutions down."

The article points to universities which deal with the same types of students and graduate students at double and sometimes triple the graduation rates.  If a college or university is truly this terrible, the money and effort it will take to turn it into a functioning university seems to be not worth it.  This is especially true for schools in areas such as NY, where efforts could be made to increase enrollment at universities which actually serve their students.

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