Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Today's Random Thoughts

-Jay Mathews echoes a point I've often made in private: most news stories about the cost of college attendance grossly overstate what the average student actually ends up paying.  Though student loan debt is not a trivial problem, I think there are probably more people scared off by misperceptions of the costs of college than there are people who are bankrupt because of their attendance.

-Aaron Pallas shoots holes in the claims made in a recent op-ed about the miracles worked by a group of CA schools.  In an op-ed I've seen mentioned numerous places, Caitlin Flanagan claims that the ICEF elementary schools closed the achievement gap.  Pallas does some number crunching and finds that's not even remotely true (except for one of the five schools, and only in 2nd grade reading) -- indeed, their students' test scores are only slightly better than district averages for African-American students.  I have to say I'm mildly surprised that her claims made it past the editor's desk.  There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical of the charter school movement writ large, but there's really no arguing the fact that some charters have achieved outstanding test results.  In other words, there's plenty of statistical evidence to support arguments for the proliferation of charter schools -- it seems odd that anybody would need to resort to misrepresenting the test scores of a few select charters.

-Stephen Sawchuck makes a reasonable point about the possibility that value-added scores can save the jobs of unfairly maligned good teachers as well as unfairly maligning good teachers.  Both sides of the debate would do well to remember that there are many positive and negative aspects of value-added scores.

-Kevin Carey writes about a very interesting chart on the growth in college expenditures.  Basically, the chart shows that "student-oriented" expenditures at the top 1% of most selective colleges have skyrocketed, have grown quite quickly at other schools among the top 10%, and haven't grown terribly fast at the rest.  I suppose the takeaway points are that the growing concern about runaway spending in higher education really only apply to a select few colleges (where money isn't really an issue in a lot of ways), and that our colleges are growing further and further apart in terms of resources.

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