Monthly Archives: June 2016
High school and adult level education programs differ significantly. As a result, different types of skills and qualities are required to succeed as an adult student.
The primary difference between high school and adult education programs aren’t the programs themselves, it’s the students. High school students don’t typically have full-time jobs or families to support–adults do. Adult students must juggle the responsibilities of working, attending to family and other duties, while trying to complete their degree, certificate or diploma.
There is also a different set of expectations for adolescents and adults. Since adolescents are still maturing, teachers are more willing to accept excuses and poor effort, but teachers in adult education programs are less likely to accept excuses and will expect a higher level dedication and performance from their students. They will work with students needs, but will not tolerate laziness or apathy.
Adults enrolling in adult education programs should always maintain a positive attitude and be willing to put in the work necessary to succeed. Since adults usually have work, family and other responsibilities, teachers in adult education programs will assume their students are mature, hard workers and up to the task. Notwithstanding, even for mature dedicated adults, school can be challenging.
The following are a few proven strategies that will help you succeed as an adult students enrolled in an adult education program:
Goal setting typically isn’t high up on the list of priorities for most high school age students, but for adult students, who want to be successful–while maintaining some sense of sanity–it’s an imperative. Adults students have to juggle so many different responsibilities that compete for their time and attention outside of school that setting goals becomes a very important aspect of academic success. Even for responsible adults, it’s easy to get behind or arrive at the end of the semester unprepared if they don’t set realistic, achievable goals at the beginning of the semester and review their goals on a regular basis. Teachers and professors can help their students brainstorm goals, but ultimately it’s the students’ responsibility to develop goals and follow through with them. It’s very difficult to complete a demanding adult education or college program without setting and following through with goals. We recommend setting daily, weekly and monthly goals. Daily goals should be oriented toward accomplishing weekly goals, weekly goals should be oriented toward accomplishing monthly goals, and monthly goals to longer-term goals.
Most adults returning to college or enrolling for the first time will likely take classes much more difficult than those they’ve taken in the past or during high school. They’ll be tested in tough courses and will frequently be overwhelmed with what they’re required to learn–and quickly they must learn it. Moreover, students must deal with a myriad challenges outside the classroom, such as relationship, family or work problems. Often, school and non-school related stress can make quitting seem very appealing to adult students. However, you must work through challenges and persevere until you reach your education goals. If you have clearly defined goals and self-confidence, you can find the drive to work through challenging times and complete your degree or diploma.
The American public is displaying its independent streak. Critics of testing will take no comfort from the findings of the 2015 Education Next poll—but neither will supporters of the Common Core State Standards, school choice, merit pay, or tenure reform. The unions will not like the public’s view on their demands that nonmembers contribute financially to their activities. Teachers will be unhappy to hear that public enthusiasm for increasing teacher pay falls through the floor when people are told current salary levels and asked if they are willing to pay additional taxes for that purpose. The Obama administration will be equally unhappy to hear what both teachers and the public think about its proposals to require similar student suspension and expulsion rates across racial and ethnic groups.
These are among the many findings to emerge from the ninth annual Education Next survey, administered in May and June 2015 to a nationally representative sample of some 4,000 respondents, including oversamples of roughly 700 teachers, 700 African Americans, and 700 Hispanics (see methodology sidebar). The large number of survey respondents enabled us to ask alternative questions on the same topic in order to determine the sensitivity of opinion to new information and particular wording. We also posed many new questions in 2015, allowing us to explore opinion on curricular and other issues that have never before been examined in a nationally representative survey of the American public.
Testing and Accountability
In early 2015, as Congress began rewriting the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), no issue loomed larger than the use of student testing to measure the performance of schools and teachers. Media reports featured teachers decrying a scourge of overtesting. By spring, hundreds of thousands of parents had chosen to have their children “opt out” of state tests, garnering the rousing approval of the teachers unions. Out on the hustings, Republican presidential candidates escalated their critique of the Common Core. The movement to put “the standardized testing machine in reverse,” in the words of New York mayor Bill de Blasio, seemed to have legs.
It is perhaps surprising, then, that in July a bipartisan Senate supermajority of 81–17 passed a revision of NCLB that keeps the federal requirement that all students be tested in math and reading in grades 3 to 8 and again in high school. Has the upper chamber ignored the people’s will? Or, is the public’s appetite for the information provided by regular student testing broader and more robust than the media coverage would indicate?
Our polling suggests the latter (see Figure 1). A solid 67% of members of the public say they support continuing the federal requirement for annual testing, while just 21% oppose the idea, with the remainder taking a neutral position. Parental support for testing (66%) is about as high as that of the public as a whole. Teachers are divided down the middle, with 47% saying yes and 46% saying no to continuing the policy.
In 2012, the last time we asked this question, 63% of the public said they supported annual testing, and only 12% opposed. In other words, the shares of supporters and opponents are both slightly higher in 2015 than they were three years ago, with the share taking a neutral position declining from 25% to 13%. This shift could suggest that public opinion has crystallized in the intervening years (but it may also reflect the fact that our survey presented the neutral response option more prominently in 2012). Either way, the backlash against standardized testing appears less potent than opponents claim.
Opting out. The House of Representatives also passed a reauthorization bill requiring that states maintain annual testing regimes, but its version differs from the Senate’s in one key respect: it allows parents to “opt out” of state tests, despite the fact that the federal government does not require that the tests be used to evaluate the performance of individual students. The difference between the two bills looms large, because one cannot assess school performance accurately unless nearly all students participate in the testing process.
What happened to the New Orleans public schools following the tragic levee breeches after Hurricane Katrina is truly unprecedented. Within the span of one year, all public-school employees were fired, the teacher contract expired and was not replaced, and most attendance zones were eliminated. The state took control of almost all public schools and began holding them to relatively strict standards of academic achievement. Over time, the state turned all the schools under its authority over to charter management organizations (CMOs) that, in turn, dramatically reshaped the teacher workforce.
A few states and districts nationally have experimented with one or two of these reforms; many states have increased the number of charter schools, for example. But no city had gone as far on any one of these dimensions or considered trying all of them at once. New Orleans essentially erased its traditional school district and started over. In the process, the city has provided the first direct test of an alternative to the system that has dominated American public education for more than a century.
Dozens of districts around the country are citing the New Orleans experience to justify their own reforms. In addition to being hailed by Democratic president Barack Obama and Louisiana’s Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, parliamentary delegations from at least two countries have visited the city to learn about its schools.
The unprecedented nature of the reforms and level of national and international attention by themselves make the New Orleans experience a worthy topic of analysis and debate. But also consider that the underlying principles are what many reformers have dreamed about for decades—that schools would be freed from most district and union contract rules and allowed to innovate. They would be held accountable not for compliance but for results.
There is clearly a lot of hype. The question is, are the reforms living up to it? Specifically, how did the reforms affect school practices and student learning? My colleagues and I at the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans (ERA-New Orleans) at Tulane University have carried out a series of studies to answer these and other questions. Our work is motivated by the sheer scale of the Katrina tragedy and the goal of supporting students, educators, and city leaders in their efforts to make the city’s schools part of the city’s revitalization effort. The rest of the country wants to know how well the New Orleans school reforms have worked. But the residents of New Orleans deserve to know. Here’s what we can tell them so far.
Before the Storm
Assessing the effects of this policy experiment involves comparing the effectiveness of New Orleans schools before and after the reforms. As in most districts, before Hurricane Katrina, an elected board set New Orleans district policies and selected superintendents, who hired principals to run schools. Principals hired teachers, who worked under a union contract. Students were assigned to schools based mainly on attendance zones.
The New Orleans public school district was highly dysfunctional. In 2003, a private investigator found that the district system, which had about 8,000 employees, inappropriately provided checks to nearly 4,000 people and health insurance to 2,000 people. In 2004, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued indictments against 11 people for criminal offenses against the district related to financial mismanagement. Eight superintendents served between 1998 and 2005, lasting on average just 11 months.
This dysfunction, combined with the socioeconomic background of city residents—83 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch—contributed to poor academic results. In the 2004‒05 school year, Orleans Parish public schools ranked 67th out of 68 Louisiana districts in math and reading test scores. The graduation rate was 56 percent, at least 10 percentage points below the state average.
As a result, some reforms were already under way when Katrina hit in August 2005. The state-run Recovery School District (RSD) had already been created to take over low-performing New Orleans schools. The state had appointed an emergency financial manager to handle the district’s finances. There were some signs of improvement in student outcomes just before the storm, but, as we will see, these were relatively modest compared with what came next.
A Massive Experiment
After Katrina, state leaders quickly moved almost all public schools under the umbrella of the RSD, leaving the higher-performing ones under the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB). Gradually, the RSD turned schools over to charter operators, and the teacher workforce shifted toward alternatively prepared teachers from Teach for America and other programs. So new was the system that a new name was required—longtime education reformer Paul Hill called it the “portfolio” model.
Researchers often refer to such sudden changes as “natural experiments” and study them using a technique called “difference-in-differences.” The idea is to first take the difference between outcomes before and after the policy, in the place where it was implemented—the treatment group. This first difference is insufficient, however, because other factors may have affected the treatment group at the same time. This calls for making the same before-and-after comparison in a group that is identical, except for being unaffected by the treatment. Subtracting these two—taking the difference of the two differences between the treatment and comparison groups—yields a credible estimate of the policy effect.
We have carried out two difference-in-differences strategies:
1) Returnees only. We study only those students who returned to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The advantage of this approach is that it compares the same students over time. One disadvantage is that it omits nonreturnees. Also, we can only study returnees over a short period of time—after 2009, they no longer have measurable outcomes to study.
2) Different cohorts. We consider the achievement growth of different cohorts of students before and after the reforms—for example, students in 3rd grade in 2005 and students in 3rd grade in 2012. The advantages here are that we can include both returnees and nonreturnees, and we can use this strategy to study longer-term effects. But the students are no longer the same.
In both strategies, the New Orleans data set includes all publicly funded schools in the city, including those governed by the district (OPSB), since all public schools were influenced by the reforms. The main comparison group includes other districts in Louisiana that were affected by Hurricane Katrina, and by Hurricane Rita, which came soon afterward. This helps account for at least some of the trauma and disruption caused by the storms, the quality of schools students attended in other regions while their local schools were closed, and any changes in the state tests and state education policies that affected both groups.