Monthly Archives: November 2010

Is Choice of College Important?

Are you involved in a college search for yourself or your child?

In its new “Room for Debate,” the New York Times gathers debaters to discuss the question:

Does It Matter Where You Go to College?

As expected, the debaters take sharply different points of view:

Martha (Marty) O’Connell, executive director of the nonprofit Colleges that Change Lives, proposes that what students do during their college years matters more than where they do it.

Richard D. Kahlenberg, fellow at the Century Foundation, counters that of course it matters: elite colleges spend nearly 8 times as much per pupil as colleges that are least selective; students at well-endowed colleges pay a quarter of the costs of education that must be assumed by students at colleges with the least wealth; Kahlenberg implies that the quality of one’s classmates affects not only one’s college days, but one’s professional life; and flat out says that, according to most studies, the name of your college can boost your wages post-college.

After beginning with these two opposing takes, five other debaters have their say. If you’re the parent of a high school junior or senior, it’s worth reading the opinions.

Tomorrow, we’ll have the final results of our survey on how education influenced readers’ votes in the November elections. If you haven’t voted yet, vote here.

New Article on Homeschool Methods

Our newly posted article on “Homeschool Methods” covers general information about homeschool methods, as well as nine key approaches to homeschooling:

Charlotte Mason Education

• Classical Education

Distance Learning

• Eclectic Approach

• Great Books Method

• Montessory Method

• Textbook/Materials-Based


• Waldorf Method

As you can see from the list, the methods covered range from time-honored approaches developed from the philosophy of a single educator, new ways of instructing through technology, approaches that focus on transferring a body of knowledge to students and approaches that focus on letting the student choose what s/he wants to learn, as well as methods that stick to one coherent approach, and methods that take what the homeschooler deems best from multiple sources.

Check out the article here.

Update on Election Survey

With 9 days left to vote in our survey on the 2010 mid-term elections, here’s an update on the voting so far.

Our initial report came with 51 voters, and this is what the percentages looked like then:

We now have nearly 6 times as many responses.

The biggest changes are to the first two categories: those who didn’t vote and those for whom education is the top consideration. The first increased; the second decreased.

The increase in the first category is explained both by the fact that the 2010 turnout rate according to the United States Election Project was 40.3%. The upturn in the first answer, therefore, may mean that our survey is actually more representative. To assure its accuracy, however, we would also have to know how many “I didn’t vote” answers were attributed to voters and how many to people who were interested in the survey but are not eligible to vote, for whatever reason.

While “Education was the top consideration” remains the top choice at this point, it’s drop is not surprising in a more diverse audience.

We’re hoping for as large a show as possible, so if you haven’t voted yet, please do so here.

New Article on Preparing Students for College

We are pleased to announce the posting of a new article, “Preparing Students for College” on our website.

College preparation may seem to start junior year of high school, when admissions tests are taken and college applications are prepared. But there is a great deal that can be done and is important to do earlier, and this may take both parents and students by surprise if they are unaware, say, if it is the first time a family member is attending college, or the first time in this generation that a child is applying to college.

The article covers seven important steps that can help students prepare for college:

• Choice of coursess.

• Application of effort throughout high school.

• Preparation for and taking standardized tests.

• Participation in extracurricular activities.

• Gaining work experience.

• Contributing to community service.

• Developing persuasive writing ability.

You can find the new article here.

Teacher Training Overhaul Called For

A panel of education experts convened by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) reported today that a major overhaul of teacher preparation programs in the United States is needed.

The panel recommended that teacher training learn from medical schools, and increase emphasis on clinical practice, as well as bolster admissions criteria, make graduation requirements more stringent, and increase rigor in the classes offered.

The panel criticized the 10–12 week stint that most states require student teachers to spend observing and student-teaching as too little, particularly since much of that time is spent in lectures, rather than in hands-on training.

Evidence increasingly points to teacher quality as the greatest determinant factor in student achievement. Yet the states, which set their own requirements for admissions and graduation from colleges of education and licensing of teachers vary markedly, with licenses being granted—in some cases—to candidates who have not completed nationally accredited programs.

Teaching has traditionally been a career choice that attracts candidates with lower grade-point averages and lower grades on college entrance examinations than other professions. And despite some recent changes to admissions standards, it seems to be agreed that more remains to be done.

Because of lack of follow-up, an op-ed titled “Training Better Teachers” in the Los Angeles Times points out, clear connections are not being drawn between specific approaches to teacher preparation and performance. Teacher-training programs do not make it a practice to keep in touch with their graduates or the school districts that employ them to see what kind of results they are achieving. The op-ed also points to the fact that the accrediting agencies are funded by the universities whose programs they’re evaluating.

The states of California, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Tennessee have already committed to implementing the recommendations of the panel including:

• increased focus on teacher practice
• shared accountability for P-12 student performance by higher education and school districts
• attracting more highly qualified and more diverse applicants into teacher training programs
• changing the monitoring of teacher training
• changing the rewards structure for teachers
• increased scrutiny of teacher preparation
• disincentives for training teachers in specialties that are not in demand
• clear research agenda to provide evidence for best practice in teacher training

NCATE’s report and more information are available on the NCATE site.

Other Sources

Wall Street Journal “Teacher Training Is Panned

Survey Results, Old and New

Today, we have a glimpse at our new survey results on the role that education played in influencing people’s voting choices in the midterm elections, as well as a look back at our survey on the success the Obama administration has achieved in the area of education, which has gained quite a few more responses since our report at the end of August.

First, let’s take a look back. Here is a chart showing the preliminary results on the August survey, the intended-to-be final report at the end of August, and the current figures. As before, obscene remarks have been deleted, while “Other” response that are related to education, but not clearly “yes” or “no” have been allowed to stand, but not included in the “yes” or “no” count.

Notice that while the results were similar overall during August (approximately 3/4 voting “No” and 1/4 voting “Yes,” the proportions now are closer to 2/3 “No” and 1/3 “Yes.”

In this second summary chart, the responses have been ranked. Notice that while the “No” answers were ranked 1, 2, and 3 at the end of August, they are back to being 1, 2, and 5, with “Yes” answers taking 3rd and 4th place, as they did in mid-August.

Here, now is a first look at our November survey results. If you haven’t yet shared your response with us, please don’t forget to vote here!

Glad, for once, to see 0% in a poll!

Election Day, 2010 Survey Announced

Election Day brought mixed results in a lot of respects, both nationally and locally, and left us with a Congress and President who are going to need to have a conversation and compromise in order to move forward.

As many Americans are reflecting on what led to these results and what the road ahead holds, we want to take a look at the election from the standpoint of education.

Please take our one-question survey to let us know about the role education issues played in your voting in these mid-term elections. There are six set answers and—as always—an opportunity to provide an answer and explanation under “Other.”

You can take the survey right here on the site or go to Survey Monkey

Going back to our August survey on the Obama Administration, which I reported results for on August 31, people have continued to vote. When I wrote up the report, there had been 167 usable votes. Now, there are 457.

The question was: Do you think the Obama administration and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are doing a good job of leading the country in the right direction with education?

It seems like a lot of people continue to have something to say, so I’ll be doing another report next week, providing the new totals, and comparing the percentages from August 31 with the current picture.

Will the favored answer from August 31—

No, the federal government should be moving towards less involvement in education, rather than more.—

which received 27.5% of the vote, remain the favorite?

Visit next week to see the updated results. In the meantime, don’t forget the current survey.

School Uniforms

School uniforms have been part of the private school setting for a number of years. Over the last decade we have found that many public schools are now adopting school uniforms as well. There are many arguments both for and against school uniforms. Today we will take a look at a few of the arguments from both sides to try and give a little more insight into the issue of school uniforms.

Some major reasons those in favor of school uniforms feel they are beneficial:

  • Uniformity – for many years now school administrators have tried to set dress codes that were appropriate and fair but still allowed students to expression their own individuality. This has become increasingly difficult with popular trends in clothing showing more and more skin and insignia on clothing becoming more vulgar and suggestive.
  • Save money – fashion can become so important to a teenager that a family will spend more than they can afford just trying to keep up.
  • Stop dress-identified cliques – many gangs or other cliques will choose clothing as a way of signifying that they belong to a certain group.
  • Community spirit – wearing a school uniform can help make everyone feel like they are part of something significant.
  • Reduce crime – if everyone is wearing the same clothing it is much less likely that students will steal clothing from other students. Also victims that became targets because of their clothing will be eliminated.
  • Reduce intruders – if everyone in the school dresses the same, anyone at the school that does not belong will be easily identified.
  • Recognizing individual talents – having everyone dressed the same forces teachers and peers alike to look further than one’s clothing to determine who that person really is. In this way everyone is given a fair chance to prove who they are.

Some reasons individuals oppose school uniforms include:

  • Lack of self-expression – it may be more difficult for an individual to feel like they can express their personality if they have to dress the same as everyone else.
  • Expense – some feel that purchasing school uniforms is more than their budget can afford.
  • Exertion of power – some think that school uniforms are just a way for school administrators to show their power over their students.
  • Doesn’t prevent cliques or gangs – while they may not use clothing to show they are part of a gang or clique, having school uniforms does not prevent these groups from forming.
  • Negative expression – if teenagers are not allowed to show self-expression in how they dress, they may find other, inappropriate, ways to express themselves.
  • Self-image – some uniforms are very unflattering and students may develop a very negative self-image if they are forced to wear something that they do not look good in.
  • Differences – forcing everyone to dress the same can take away opportunities for children and teens to learn tolerance and skills for dealing with people they find different or unappealing.
  • Conformity – some feel that uniforms send the message that conformity is the way to prevent conflict and that this is not an appropriate message for schools to teach.

Both the arguments for and the arguments against school uniforms have some validity. With the increase in crime and behavioral issues in public schools over the past decade, many schools are choosing to adopt a school uniform in an effort to help stop these problems. Find more information and statistics regarding public school uniforms here.