Archive for August, 2012

Land grant universities: Retracing the roots of UGA

Michael F. Adams is president of the University of Georgia. This is a piece that he wrote about the Morrill Act

By Michael F. Adams

At the end of William Faulkner’s novel “Absalom, Absalom!,” Quentin Compson, scion of that once-great but now declining Mississippi family, a student at Harvard, is asked by his Canadian roommate, Shreve McCannon, “Why do you hate the South?”

“I don’t hate it,” he replies quickly. “I don’t hate it.” He repeats the mantra several times in his mind, as if trying to convince himself of its truth. The fact that Compson’s family had to send him north for a good education lies at the heart of the Morrill Act’s impact on Southern higher education and the South itself.

Prior to the Civil War the South was functionally non-industrial, rich in raw materials but utterly dependent on the northern states for production. It was an educational backwater, with a number of state universities established but operating with very low …

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Algebra for all: A dumbing-down of U.S. math classes that hurt the most elite students

Jacob Vigdor, a professor of public policy and economics at Duke University, wrote an interesting essay earlier this year challenging the conventional wisdom about school discipline. It led to a lot of discussion here on the blog

I suspect we will see a lot discussion around his latest report about U.S. math instruction. In a report for the American Enterprise Institute, Vigdor explains what has gone amiss with American math education.

In a recent essay based on his research — “Does Your Job Really Require Algebra ? — Vigdor writes:

Unfortunately, the misguided transformation of algebra into a course for the masses has proven to be a cure worse than the disease. The transformation has resulted in a less rigorous course. Introductory textbooks have slimmed down considerably over the past century, omitting some subjects entirely. The primary victims of this dumbing-down are the elite students themselves.

Among the most recent cohorts of college graduates, the proportion …

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Are online courses more susceptible to cheating problems?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting story about plagiarism related to Coursera, a new consortium of colleges offering free, non-credit courses. Among the 16-member participant universities are Georgia Tech, Stanford, Duke, Princeton, University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins.

As the Chronicle story notes, plagiarism is a problem even in conventional classrooms, but poses additional challenges in mass-enrolled online courses that rely on peer review and grading of assignments, as does Coursera.

I wrote about the surge in free online college courses a few weeks ago. At this point, the courses — many of which are in the computer sciences realm — do not offer college credit, but certificates of completion.

The Chronicle focuses on complaints of plagiarism in a fantasy and science fiction class being offered by Coursera. This is only an excerpt so please read the full piece before offering a comment.

According to the Chronicle:

Students taking free online courses …

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AJC investigation: Dropouts in Georgia far higher than reported. Can we fix it?

In a front page Sunday investigation, the AJC shares its discovery – learned through open records requests — that 30,751 students in the Class of 2011 left high school without a diploma, nearly double the 15,590 initially reported.

The jarring difference owes to new federal requirements for counting dropouts, requirements that now put the onus on systems to track students who disappear.

I wonder whether schools have the staff to do what one principal described as intense detective work to hunt missing students.

“It’s going to be something where we all turn into Sherlock Holmes,” and we’re tracking every lead we can. It basically is a guilty-until-proven-innocent format,” Gabe Crerie, principal at Henry County’s Eagle’s Landing High School, said. He and his school’s grad coaches spent seven hours one day this summer, trying to track down 62 suspected dropouts. They found 33 at other schools, Crerie said.

The AJC story by reporters Nancy Badertscher and Kelly Guckian notes …

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Study: Students from middle-income families incur higher student loan debt

One of the working research papers being presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver this weekend deals with the disproportionate share of student debt that falls on students from families earning  between $40,000 and $59,000.

Here is the official release on the paper by Jason N. Houle of the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

Young adults from middle income families are more likely to rack up student loan debt — and in greater amounts — than students from both lower and higher income backgrounds, finds new research to be presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

“Many middle income families make too much money for their children to qualify for student aid packages,” said study author Jason N. Houle, a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “While at the same time, they may not have the financial means to cover the high costs of …

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Symphony says Cobb high school choirs not performing to give other schools a chance

Several upset Cobb parents alerted me to this story, but their version of why the Lassiter and Walton high schools choirs are not performing with the Atlanta  Symphony Orchestra this year differs dramatically from that of the orchestra leadership.

The orchestra contends it has nothing to do with the lack of racial diversity of the two choirs, but reflects the need to give other choirs a chance to perform with the ASO.

To be fair to the symphony, I have seen several holiday shows over the years, all with different local choirs. I am uncertain why there would be any expectation that once invited, a choir would be back every year.

According to the AJC:

For the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, it never rains but it pours.

On top of money troubles and bitter ongoing contract negotiations, the ASO has provoked a nasty public backlash when it was reported that the orchestra disinvited choruses from Lassiter and Walton high schools from the ASO’s holiday programs because the choirs …

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The arms race for rankings: Emory says student test data inflated for more than a decade

Update Friday evening: AJC reporter Laura Diamond is working on a story for Sunday on Emory and the rankings misinformation. If you are a parent, student or graduate and would be willing to talk with her, please call her at 404-526-7257 or email her. Thanks.

Emory’s announcement today that employees inflated student data to push the university up in the college rankings will spur a renewed debate on the arms race to dominate the “best” lists.

Emory President Jim Wagner said today that Emory has intentionally misreported data about its students to groups that rank colleges for more than a decade.

Emory is not the first college to acknowledge that student academic profiles were tweaked to enhance standings. The New York Times earlier this year reported several schools had acknowledged gaming the system. Iona College in New York admitted lying about test scores, graduation rates, freshman retention, student-faculty ratio and acceptance rates.

The Times reported that “Baylor …

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War of words escalates in charter school amendment fray between Barge and GOP leadership

There is a lot of back and forth on the announcement earlier in the week by Georgia school chief John Barge that he opposes the GOP-scripted charter schools amendment, starting with an email exchange that I had Wednesday with House Majority Leader Edward Lindsey.

After his strong public rebuke of John Barge, I asked Lindsey this question in an email:

Rep. Lindsey,

Wondering if you have any second thoughts on your  initial response to John Barge?

I plan on writing about this escalating battle of words for the Monday education page. One of my points on criticisms that Barge changed his position: It happens all the time in the Legislature, even to the point of folks changing parties. Candidate Deal himself changed his mind on Race to the Top — in a single day. In the morning, he said he would reject the grant if we won and, later that day, he changed his position.

(I was told that a call from Gov. Perdue was a key factor in Candidate Deal quickly changing his mind on that …

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Early retention may help struggling readers boost performance

I am about to listen to a tw0-hour webcast on the issue of promotion and retention by the Center on Children and Families at Brookings.

In the meantime, here is the official release on a new Brookings policy brief that suggests retaining struggling students in early grades pays off:

The policy brief by Harvard professor Martin R. West speaks to the ongoing debate over whether retaining students in early grades is self-defeating:

Recent evidence suggests that policies encouraging the retention and remediation of struggling readers in 3rd grade, as compared with similar students who are not retained, help boost their test scores in reading and math and reduce the likelihood of being held back later, according to a new policy brief released today by the Brookings Center on Children and Families at an event featuring policymakers, academics and practitioners. These findings are especially important because students from poor and low-income families are falling further and further …

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UGA Red & Black staff walks out today in protest. Is it now Red & Dead?


The student staff of the Red and Black, the acclaimed University of Georgia student-run newspaper, walked out en masse Wednesday to protest what the student journalists consider intrusive oversight of what had been one of the nation’s most well known independent campus publications.

Expect a lot of news coverage as many Atlanta journalists worked at the Red & Black while students at UGA. Please keep in mind that the newspaper is an independent, non-profit enterprise that supports itself largely through ad sales. It is not under UGA or President Michael Adams and receives no direct university support. That independence has given it far greater freedom over the years to criticize the university and its policies.

The Red & Black publisher Harry Montevideo has responded to student charges that their role was being minimized and that the board was giving more powers to non journalists to dictate content and that the focus was shifting from “news” to “good …

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