Should the U.S. Switch to Year-Round Schooling?

The traditional school year, with roughly three months of vacation time every summer, was first implemented when America was primarily an agricultural society.  We have changed as a nation; today, over 2 million U.S. students attend school on year-round schedules every year in around 3,000 schools in 46 states — and the majority of U.S. K-12 students aren’t spending summers off tilling fields or harvesting crops. The question is, should the American school system switch to year-round schooling?

The phenomena known as the “summer slide,” where students actually lose knowledge with too much time away from school, coupled with kids who must spend those months in camps or child care due to working parents, are two reasons proponents of year-round schooling cite as it needing to implemented nationwide.

As with all change, certain considerations will arise and must be addressed, though. Making the switch would not be easy for students, teachers or their parents – but is it best?  Here are three important considerations when considering year-round schooling as a nationwide norm.

1. How are the students affected? 

Foremost, we must examine the impact a year-round school schedule has on the people it most affects – the students.   A long-time thorn in the side of K-12 educators has been the above mentioned “summer slide.” The National Summer Learning Association often cites decades of research that support the claim that students really do forget or unlearn things they have learned when too much time off is given between classroom sessions.  A study released in 2007 by The Ohio State University, however, found that there are really no differences in learning between students who attend school year-round, and those who are on a traditional schedule.

While the overall student numbers show no significant differences in learning for better or worse, at-risk students tend to do better in year-round setups. Studies have found that disadvantaged students lose about 27 percent more of their learning gains in the summer months than their peers. By being in school the same number of days, but with shorter breaks, these students are able to keep their minds on a learning track that may not otherwise be fostered at home in the off-months.

2.  How are the teachers affected?

Every job comes with its share of headaches and at one point or another, employees in all industries claim that they are “burned out.” Teaching is unique when it comes to burn out, though, because an unmotivated, exhausted teacher has a direct effect on the young people in his or her classroom. Summers off has long been the light at the end of the tunnel for teachers, particularly in urban areas with higher discipline problems and overcrowded classrooms. In a year-round setting, lengthy breaks are gone, replaced with shorter, more frequent ones instead. Though the loss of those summer months may at first seem like a drawback, many teachers end up liking greater frequency in time off. With shorter, more concentrated spurts of instruction, teachers can exert more energy and face the daily struggles with the hope that there will be relief soon. There is still as much time off, but it is more evenly distributed.

One important consideration for teachers is the effect of year-round schooling on their pocket books.In most scenarios, teachers make the same amount of money in their districts whether they work at a year-round or traditional school, though the pay schedules may differ. Teachers who made extra money teaching summer school still have that option in year-round districts that offer remedial courses during break periods. Where some teachers see the biggest economic cut when they teach year-round is in the three months of summer that other teachers often seek out part-time or seasonal work. Based on the type of work, this could mean a loss of income in the thousands every year. For teachers satisfied with holding down just one job and paycheck, a year-round schedule may not have any economic impact on their families at all.

3.  How does year-round schooling affect the economy? 

Each individual community will feel a different economic impact when it comes to year-round schooling. A tourist community with summer attractions, for example, may feel more of a squeeze if its low-cost employee pool of high school students is suddenly in class instead. The same could be said for ski communities though that could benefit from multi-track scheduling of high school students during its busiest seasons. The summer months tend to be when most high school students earn the most money, however, because there is a significant duration of time with no school responsibilities. Without those months of a steady paycheck, students (and parents) stand to lose potential college money. Trying to work and maintain a job alongside classes can have a negative impact on grades according to most research and most employers cannot accommodate students who are only available two or three week spans at a time.

So the potential economic cost of year-round schooling is two-fold: the individual student may suffer financially, and the local businesses may have to pay out more for jobs that are better-suited for high school students who do not have the time off to work them.

What other considerations do you associate with year-round schooling?


Next Generation Science Standards are Smart

Earlier this month California became the seventh state to adopt a new brand set of K-12 science outlines, dubbed Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS. The “real world” approach to science mastery focuses on engineering, problem solving, modeling, and cause and effect experiments. Other states that are on-board with the science outlines are Maryland, Nevada, Kentucky, Kansas, Rhode Island and Vermont. The term “science standards” sounds like a positive one as far as learning is concerned, but do schools need really need another tier of learning accountability – and will students really benefi

What are Next Generation Science Standards?

Over the past year and a half, NGSS have been developed by education experts in several states. They are not an official part of the new Common Core standards but are meant to layer on top of the standards in place for stronger science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outcomes. These standards are intended to teach the overlapping nature of science subjects, rather than to present lessons in topic isolation. In states like California, the value of a strong STEM foundation is critical to individual and state success. Over the past decade, STEM jobs have grown at a rate three times faster than other industries. By equipping K-12 students with better STEM knowledge, the long-term economic outlook will improve.

Why are NGSS controversial?

A report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute reveals a flaw in the enthusiasm for NGSS. The Common Core math standards and NGSS outlines do not align. The authors of the math review from the Institute say that while there are many strengths on the math side, there are also “a distressing number of weaknesses.” These include science expectations that have math components that are not grade-appropriate, according to an Education Week post by Erik Robelen,

Other critics believe the standards are actually subpar when compared to current state standards. There is also concern that implementing a one-size-fits-all approach to science neglects individual learning initiatives and also regional needs when it comes to science education. Some critics also believe there is a lack of computer learning in the standards which is a disservice to students with how rapidly science technology is changing.

The verdict?

Applying any cookie-cutter standards to any K-12 topic certainly comes with its share of potential problems, as NGSS critics have pointed out. Still, shining the focus on real world STEM learning in real-world settings is necessary to fully equip the present and future workforce. American students also need the extra focus in areas of math and science where they fall behind their peers in other developed nations.

Science, math and engineering topics are also less likely to be discovered by students, in the way that many find a love for reading or music, without some guidance from educators. Let’s face it – science and math are less romantic than other topics and so the “aha” factor takes some navigation. Once students have experienced a science spark of interest, they are more likely to maintain it, particularly if they can see the real-world ramifications.

Like other curriculum standards, NGSS need some tweaking to best impact K-12 learners. The foundation is there though and that is a step in the right STEM direction. The NGSS are a building block of a much larger cultural shift that needs to happen where science and math are concerned. Empowering students with better conceptualization of science in everyday living is necessary for career success and progression as a nation.

Do you like the Next Generation Science Standards? Will students ultimately benefit from these areas of focus?


Survey: Internet helps education, hurts morality

The Pew Research Center has released results to a poll of relatively new internet users in developing countries that found the internet is viewed pretty favorably, particularly when it comes to education.

Sixty-four percent of the respondents felt that the internet had a positive impact on education and 53 percent said the same for personal relationships. When asked the same thing about the internet’s influence on politics and morality, however, only 36% and 29% had a favorable view, respectively. When you look at the way the internet is utilized in America and other developed nations, I’d say these observations align. There are good and bad aspects — but the potential for increased access to education is great.

I’ve said before that I feel technology can be a great equalizer in P-20 classrooms and this survey adds an international element to that stance. The internet allows access to information in ways that were not even dreamed of a few decades ago. Using internet technology to improve educational access on a worldwide scale is so important to elevating the global economy and knowledge base. Imagine the collaboration that will be possible worldwide between this generation of students because of internet access?

While the internet was considered somewhat of a luxury when it first emerged, I think it is vital that all corners of the world gain access in the coming decade. The internet should not be something elite countries have access to; it should be an educational right for all people. Through this mass adoption, knowledge collaborations will continue to grow and it will benefit all of us as world citizens.

Read all of our posts about EdTech and Innovation by clicking here. 

3 Ways to Improve U.S. Students Standing Worldwide

The latest international report on student knowledge and success worldwide once again paints U.S. pupils in a bad light. This is not the first time American students have lagged behind their peers on the OECD PISA global education survey that tests and compares student outcomes in areas like math, science and reading. The results are really just more of the same.

While I take issue with particular parts of the test (leader China reportedly only tested students in elite schools in Shanghai), it is a wake-up call nonetheless. When it comes to American K-12 student achievement, it is not enough to be a big fish in a little pond. To really make a splash and gain international footing, a few things need to change in U.S. K-12 education. Here are just a few:

Teacher support. This starts from administration in individual schools and extends into the community at large. Parents must also respect the role of teachers in order for kids to follow suit. Unfortunately many times teachers are pitted as servants, and not put on the pedestal they deserve. Perhaps I’m biased but what is more important than imparting knowledge to our next generation? Today’s best teachers are not simply reciting facts and expecting their students to regurgitate them; the teachers in contemporary classrooms are “showing their work” so to speak by imparting the life skills necessary for students to find answers on their own and be successful citizens in other ways.

Teachers need backup from the other people in their students’ lives and from their own colleagues and superiors. Traditionally high-performing PISA countries like Sweden, Australia and Japan all have one thing in common – high levels of community support for teachers and involvement from teachers in the course of instruction and curriculum. When new initiatives are handed down in the U.S., like the Common Core standards, teachers should have access to resources to help them reach goals. Teachers need more input in decisions, more access to continuing education resources and more faith from the administrators and families impacted by their classrooms.

STEM emphasis. There seems to be a general societal consensus that science, technology, engineering and math subjects are somehow boring, or uncool. A lot of attention has been placed lately on young women and finding ways to encourage them in male-dominated STEM fields, but I’d argue that young men need the same opportunities. Overall, more American students need to take an interest in STEM topics if we want to be able to compete on a global scale. The rapidly changing field of technology makes this part of U.S. K-12 education even more pressing. As the digital age continues to modify life as we know it, the students in today’s classrooms must have the tools to lead the country in discoveries, inventions and communication technology the coming decades.

Equal opportunities. In country that claims to be based on equality for all, there are still too many achievement gaps in our classrooms. While it should be a non-issue, the color of a student’s skin does seem to impact his or her academic achievement. It is not a direct effect, of course, but still something that needs even more focus to overcome. The best work on closing the achievement gap is in individual schools and I think that makes the most sense. No blanket national program will be able to answer all of the intricacies of why an achievement gap exists in a particular place or school. From a federal standpoint, however, schools should be encouraged to develop programs for eliminating achievement gaps and reaching individual students where it is most effective – their own classrooms.

Why do you think American students lag the rest of the world? What would you add to my list?

Click here to read all our posts concerning the Achievement Gap.

Colleges Seek New Revenue Streams, As Students Push Back Over Tuition Increases

It’s been said that death and taxes are the only two guarantees in life, but there may be a third one: rising college tuition costs.

The rising cost of tuition has not exceeded annual inflation costs, but rates continue to rise. Colleges are being forced to seek new revenue streams, as students push back over tuition increases.

Universities are finding new sources of income from surprising and creative sources.

Generate more green with gardening

Universities seek unusual ways to supplement their endowments to stabilize tuition costs and prevent them from skyrocketing. That may mean franchising merchandise and finding other creative ways to generate more income.

Unity College in Maine, for example, sells produce from its greenhouses. They also sell gardening implements, outdoor decorations, and offer community workshops – for a fee.

Provide professional development services

Who better to turn to for corporate training than universities known for their outstanding executive education programs? Schools like Harvard University are marketing their services exclusively to multimillionaires, and other universities are finding local training opportunities of their own.

By offering professional development services that enhance and accelerate careers, colleges can generate new income streams.

Capitalize on what matters most to your fans

Fans take football and other athletic games seriously at some universities, and missing a game means missing out one the best plays. University of Texas-Austin fans will never have to miss another moment of important games because they can purchase an annual subscription that allows them to see the game, highlights, and press conferences.

The school launched a partnership with a cable company to provide the subscriptions, and the university collects revenue for each subscription.

Receptive to new ideas

University leaders are welcoming diverse opportunities that will help them secure new funding sources. Alternative sources of revenue may include:

  • Seniors’ marketing programs (weekend retreats, destination travel led by faculty members, retire communities)
  • Banking services (campus banks, loyalty programs, insurance and retirement programs)
  • Consulting and outsourcing services (education, nursing, technology, business, and marketing)

Also, universities are seeking ways to increase their brand by offering décor, license plates and designer labels on everything from clothing to wine.

Discount rates

 Universities are also hoping to lure bargain shoppers to their schools.

By offering discounted rates for tuition, universities have hoped to increase their enrollments. The idea is that more students will mean more revenue, even if these students aren’t paying full price for their degrees. In 2016-2017, discounted tuition rates reached 49.1%, the highest it’s ever been.

Generous financial aid packages may attract students, but will likely not be sustainable long-term.

Applying resets

Some colleges and universities have tried tuition resets, which is another way to discount the cost of a college education. They reset the price of tuition to what it had been several years ago, in the hopes that students will feel as though they are getting a good deal on tuition costs.

A reset gives an arbitrary picture of tuition costs. In reality, some students may be paying more for tuition after a reset because other students at the same school are given deep discounts that exceed the benefits of a reset. The actual cost of a degree at the same university can vary widely between students enrolled in the same program, leaving students who pay the reset price to pay a higher price in tuition.

Graduate school

Encouraging students to continue their studies may be one of the best revenue-generating strategies universities have in their financial war-chests. Tuition paid for graduate studies is filling the sinking coffers of undergraduate tuition costs. Online graduate degree programs, with their greater flexibility, are helping to generate revenue quickly.

Simmons College, for example, has doubled its tuition revenue as a result of increasing their graduate school programs and attracting more students to them.

Diversified income sources are becoming more common as nontraditional ways to generate revenue. As students continue to push back over tuition increases, universities will explore more strategies to keep their schools open.

How the Pathway to the College Presidency is Changing

Leadership in higher education can be a challenge, but aspiring college presidents aren’t letting obstacles get in their way when it comes to assuming the reins of a university.

At one time, the traditional trajectory to the college presidency was to become a dean and then a provost, among other roles.

Now, however, the pathway to the college presidency is changing.

The Office of Provost

College deans today have discovered that they no longer must include a term as provost to secure the top position in a college or university. Many deans are making the transition to the president’s office without having ever been a provost.

A globalized community and integrated technologies have made campus leadership more dynamic. As a result, colleges have discovered that there’s more than one way to acquire the experience necessary for higher education leadership.

Interestingly, more men than women skip the position of provost before becoming a college president. Nowhere is this truer than at smaller colleges and universities.

Talent Incubators

You may be wondering where to go for the experience you need. A handful of universities in the country will prepare you with the hands-on experience you need, although it won’t come from the provost’s office. Some of them include:

  • Arizona State University
  • Brown University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Georgia State University
  • Harvard University
  • Texas A&M University
  • Yale University

Bringing Business Acumen

Colleges and universities are also looking beyond the ivory tower for their next presidents. Leaders with business backgrounds lend a different skill set to the job than academic candidates. Non-traditional college leaders with a business background have a different perspective on the role and can lead the campus in the right direction.

According to the Education Advisory Board (EAB), non-traditional business leaders

  • Have skills that apply in a variety of situations,
  • Demonstrate excellent communication skills, and
  • Are engaged with the community.

They bring fresh eyes to the challenges the school has been facing.

As the role of the university president continues to change, the pathway to landing this position is changing, too. Provosts tend to turn their immediate attention inward to the campus, faculty, and students, whereas presidents look out to the horizon at what the future may hold for the school.

As the role of the president metamorphoses, the pathway to this position will continue to change.

Which Universities Have the Highest Dropout Rates?

Would it surprise you to know that more than of half of students attending a university dropout without finishing their degree?

While some schools like Columbia University and Yale have high graduation rates (99%), other universities have low graduation rates. By checking your university’s freshmen retention rates (how many freshman come back for their sophomore year), you’ll have a good idea whether your school will help you make it to graduation.

Which universities have the highest dropout rates? Let’s take a look at five low-performing schools.

Southern New Hampshire University: 61% retention rate

This university has made a tremendous comeback in the last decade, with its intense focus on getting their students graduated. Although their retention rate is low, they respond quickly to inquiries and provide standardized instruction at reduced costs. By doing so, they’ve been called the Amazon of higher ed.

If students at SNHU enroll for their sophomore year of college, their chance of graduating on time is 12.3% better than the national average.

University of Charleston: 66% retention rate

Located in Charleston, SC, this university’s first-time freshmen comprise 18% of the total freshman class. The college offers low-cost tuition, and there’s plenty to do in Charleston for entertainment when studying is over. That may not be enough, however, to keep, a significant portion of freshmen in school and on track for graduation.

Southeastern University: 67% retention rate

Although their enrollment is up, Southeastern has a 39% graduation rate and falls under the national average for retention. The low retention rate may be due to a high number of part-time students.

Brigham Young University – Idaho: 68% retention rate

Affiliated with the Church of Latter Day Saints, BYU-Idaho offers low tuition costs for a private university. Nearly 60% of the students here are part-time, which means that the workforce lures students away before they graduate. Others transfer to another university.

Southern Wesleyan University: 69% retention rate

Another private Christian school, SWU in Central, South Carolina is affordable. This university also offers an online program for undergrads. Less than 15% of the students at this university are first-time college applicants, so retention rates for various sub-populations of students may be a more appropriate indicator of college satisfaction.

Why are students dropping out?

The average retention rate for freshmen at American universities is 71.2%. A number of factors can entice students to drop out of college. In fact, students with a 2.2-3.0 GPA are the most likely to drop out of college.

Ultimately, other demands on freshmen may be forcing them to drop out of school, especially if they are not a first-time freshman. Some students find they need to join the workforce fulltime. They leave their studies, hoping to return one day.

Until that time, universities must continuously work on reducing their high retention rates.



Is Algebra Really Necessary to Earn a College Degree?

If you said racism or gender identity is the hottest topic at colleges today, you’d be wrong. One of the most disputed issues in college isn’t about equality. It’s about whether the schools should make intermediate level algebra a requirement for earning a bachelor’s degree.

Many people are debating the necessity of algebra to earn a college degree.

What is college algebra?

College Algebra in college is a step above high school’s Algebra II. Students should expect to graph linear equations, solve word problems that include fractions, and simplify radicals, to name a few topics of study.

The material covered is similar to content learned in high school, but with more rigor.

Why is algebra a necessity?

The algebra requirement was a response to the Soviet satellite Sputnik, which was launched in 1957. Afraid to be left behind in science and math, the United States embarked on a singular focus that demanded more rigorous courses be taught in colleges.

For decades, algebra has been considered the standard math course for earning a college degree. Professors have continued the tradition because it’s always been that way.

You’ve seen the memes that state, “Another day has gone by, and I still haven’t used any algebra.” They may be right because 95% of jobs today do not require the use of algebra.

An algebra requirement sounds like a good idea, right?

In theory, yes.

What reason could someone possibly have to veto teaching students higher level quantitative reasoning skills? As it turns out, there are several reasons to nix an algebra requirement in college.

The first reason to skip algebra altogether is that other courses in mathematics, such as computer science or statistics, may be more appropriate for some degrees. Humanities majors may not need algebra in their careers but would benefit from a different math course. Algebra is not the only math course requiring higher order thinking skills. It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to developing higher level quantitative reasoning skills.

Another reason to avoid an intermediate level algebra requirement to earn a degree is because of the time and cost involved. Already universities provide extensive remedial instruction to teach what students should have mastered in high school. Students and parents concerned about college expenses want to avoid remedial courses because they are not accepted for credit toward earning a degree.

In summary

The answer to the question, “Is algebra really necessary to earn a college degree?” is maybe.

Depending on the student’s course of study, algebra may be the right choice or another mathematics class might be better. The department awarding the major should determine which quantitative reasoning course will best prepare graduates for their futures.


What Community Colleges Do that Universities Won’t

Community colleges once were considered the step-child of higher education.

Academics looked down at coursework taken at a two-year college, considering it to be a weak bridge between high school and a university. That perception has changed drastically in the last decade.

A two-year school is a valid option for many students because community colleges do what universities won’t do.

Provide excellent instruction in a flexible environment

Classes at a two-year college are comparable to those at a four-year university.

The professors at community colleges have master’s degrees, and most have a doctorate. Their classes are every bit as rigorous as a university class. University professors are often engaged in research, leaving instruction to inexperienced teaching assistants. Community colleges, on the other hand, assure that the professor will be your teacher.

Also, community colleges have the flexibility to hire subject matter experts from industry, especially science and business. These professionals offer student insight that professors cannot. Community colleges can create authentic learning experiences for their students by helping them build tangible products and create personal meaning.

Smaller class sizes and lower tuition costs

Smaller class size means better student engagement. Attending lecture-style classes at the university along with hundreds of peers can make students feel disconnected from the instruction as well as their university experience. Two-year colleges, however, are more likely to encourage student participation in class because smaller class sizes permit it.

One of the top reasons for attending a community college is the cost. Not only is tuition more affordable, but many students live at home because the community college is often closer, which saves more money. The cost difference per year between a two-year and a four-year university can be as much as $20,000.

Community colleges can keep their expenses down because they have fewer extracurriculars, such as athletics teams.

Partner with the workforce

When industry tells schools exactly what they are looking for in employees, and colleges produce candidates with those skills, it’s a win for everyone.

Students with associates degrees are finding work in their chosen fields, and the community colleges are doing an excellent job helping them prepare for their careers.  Almost 35 million grads with associate degrees are employed, and their number is steadily rising.

Community colleges are doing what universities won’t do, and they are doing it successfully.

What is a “No-Zero” Grading Policy?

Over the last decade, a growing number of school districts have implemented grading systems that ban educators from giving students grades below 50% (this amount can vary from region to region). This type of policy has been given the term “no-zero” grading, and it usually operates like this: If a student finishes an assignment, regardless if it is late or represents low quality, the student still deserves at least a grade of 50, just for their effort.

Educators who support this policy believe that zero grades can put students in too deep in a hole, making it mathematically impossible for them to pass, which may cause them to disengage from the learning process. They believe that you should always give students a grade of at least 50%, so they can feel as though they can catch up. Also, giving a student a grade of zero is an oxymoron of sorts and not an accurate representation of what a child can do academically.

Skeptics, on the other hand, believe that “no-zero” grading policies send the wrong message to students. At the end of the day, “no-zero” grading policies are not an accurate representation of how life works, well at least for most people. In the real world, you have to earn everything you get. Skeptics also believe that “no zero grading” can artificially inflate student grades, which can hide their academic deficiencies and socially promote students who don’t know the material.

What do you think? Are no-zero grading policies a good or bad idea? What would be a better option?