March 1, 2016

Should Your Kid Go To College? Mike Petrilli, European! Tomorrow’s Testing Trainwreck Today, Whitmire On The Pet Market, Principals No On Opt-Out, Walton Yes On Giving, ESSA, John King’s Scalia Dividend, Awesome Baristas!

By Bellwether

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Mike Petrilli continues to be bothered and concerned that your child might go to college even if they’re not ready.  He’s looking out for your best interests!

Look, at one level he’s obviously right. People go to college who are not ready. We know that from the remediation data and you also know it if you spend any time on college campuses. For some of them, who don’t finish, it can be worse than not going at all. But Petrilli’s point fundamentally falls in that large bucket of things that are true but useless. That’s because:

1) We’re not very good at identifying who is “college material” unless you believe that poor kids and kids of color are, as a class, less likely to be college material. Schools track kids in various ways, resource and opportunity disparities abound, and gaps in expectations lead to a two-tiered education system where economically better off Americans are on a conveyor to college while poor Americans struggle to get there. 9 percent of low-income Americans get a bachelors degree by age 24. That’s a fraction of the rate for more affluent Americans. Is that choice or a structural problem?

2) Our system is a heterogeneous second chance one. It seems Petrilli would be happier in a country with high stakes tests that help set your life path. Who knew he is so European! The beauty of the American system – for all its problems – is that we don’t formally set limits on people. Even if your course is nontraditional you can keep going back. That’s one reason why community colleges are inspiring places. Even if you were late to figuring out what you wanted to do, or if you were failed by the K-12 system, you can still keep going.

So rather than debates (mostly among people who take it for granted that their own kids will go to college, natch) shouldn’t we be working to ensure kids are exposed to a variety of choices and life paths? There are plenty of wonderful ways to go through life that don’t involve college but it’s a credential that on balance does more good than harm. And more importantly, shouldn’t we be trying to make sure that elementary and secondary experiences are robust enough so students can change their minds regardless of what they think they might want to do at 18 years of age – whether that’s choosing college or not?

Right now we have the worst of both worlds, a system that is informally full of structural barriers without any formal logic to it. Working for quality and freedom seems to be a better path than the sort of planning or limit setting Petrilli is implicitly arguing for.

On the other hand, you don’t need college for Ernst and Young.


It would be easier to talk to your NYC teacher about a whole bunch of things if there were not such short time limits for parent-teacher conferences.

Higher ed trends.

Matt Barnum v. Linda Darling-Hammond on education evidence. Vergara part deux.  Richard Whitmire with dogs and cats news. Time marches on at the Walton Family Foundation. Here are ESSA FAQs. And here are some questions for the presidential candidates about education. Illinois teacher pensions are a mess. So are the Detroit schools.

Is the education establishment waking up to the threat opt-out proposes to their vision of public schools?  Pearson says we’re undervaluing artificial intelligence in education. And after completely letting politics and capacity problems screw up education assessment the education sector is now setting its sights on even more complicated and politically contentious assessment ideas. 

Make your teenage kids read this.

Looks like John King is going to get through the Senate without too much trouble. Call it a Scalia dividend. Republicans need to present their opposition to a SCOTUS nominee in the best light and that means probably releasing other high-profile nominees. Last week’s hearing was a win for the Administration and the Senate. Rare!

Last week for U.S. News  I wrote a think piece about a midlevel band struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom.  You’ll wet yourself. Actually, no, it’s just about education ideas and how big becomes too big to nail or when is boldness needed to change how people think?

Here’s a great story.

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