css.php

California: Legislation Proposed Limiting Access to Student Data!

Dear Commons Community,

It is good to see that at least one legislator is concerned about the collection of K-12 student data that potentially can be made available to non-education and for-profit entities.  According to a New York Times article today:

“…[Darrell Steinberg, state senator] plans to introduce state legislation [today] that would shore up privacy and security protections for the personal information of students in elementary through high school, a move that could alter business practices across the nearly $8 billion education technology software industry.

The bill would prohibit education-related websites, online services and mobile apps for kindergartners through 12th graders from compiling, using or sharing the personal information of those students in California for any reason other than what the school intended or for product maintenance.

The bill would also prohibit the operators of those services from using or disclosing the information of students in the state for commercial purposes like marketing. It would oblige the firms to encrypt students’ data in transit and at rest, and it would require them to delete a student’s record when it is no longer needed for the purpose the school intended.

“We don’t want to limit the legitimate use of students’ data by schools or teachers,” Senator Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat who is the sponsor of the bill and the president pro tempore of the California Senate, said in a phone interview. “We just think the public policy of California should be that the information you gather from students should be used for their educational benefit and for nothing else.”

Lawmakers like Mr. Steinberg are part of a growing cohort of children’s advocates who say they believe that regulation has failed to keep pace with the rapid adoption of education software and services by schools across the country.

A federal law, called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, limits the disclosure of students’ educational records by schools that receive federal funding. But some student advocates contend that an exception in the law, allowing the outsourcing of public school functions to private companies, may reveal personal information, hypothetically making children vulnerable to predatory practices.”

This is a step in the right direction but more needs to be done.  The U.S. Department of Education along with a number of state education departments  are establishing databases that provide little protection against the unscrupulous use of student data by for-profit interests.

Tony

 

Maureen Dowd: Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush and their War Legacies or Should We Say Demons!

Dear Commons Community,

In her column today, Maureen Dowd examines the legacies or should I say the war demons of Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush.

On LBJ:

“Luci Baines Johnson and other members of L.B.J.’s shrinking circle are pushing to broaden the lens on the president’s legacy so that it is not merely viewed “through the prism of a failed war.”

They are using the 50th anniversary of Johnson’s more impressive domestic policies — including the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Air Act and Medicare — to yank the focus away from “the agony of Vietnam” and “his cross,” as his daughter calls it.

“Nobody wanted that war less than Lyndon Johnson,” the 66-year-old Luci said, adding that he tried mightily to get out.

Maybe ratcheting up the war with more than 500,000 troops and sending so many young Americans to their deaths halfway around the world based on chest-thumping advice and a naïve theory of democratic dominoes was a deterrent to getting out.”

Dowd then cuts to one of her favorite topics, George W. Bush and Iraq:

“Asked by a reporter about Iraq recently, W.’s eyes flashed and he replied, “I am not happy.”

He shouldn’t be. Afghanistan, which he abandoned to pursue a phony “retaliatory” war in Iraq, is crumbling despite all the money, muscle and blood we have poured into it, with our runaway fruitcake puppet Hamid Karzai fiddling while the Taliban burns, vowing to run America out just as they did the Russians and waging vicious attacks on women.

In corrupt and violent Iraq, women are getting detained illegally and tortured. The country is awash in a blood-dimmed tide, with nearly 9,000 killed last year and almost 1,000 killed last month, as Al Qaeda and another jihadist group fight for supremacy. In Falluja, the city where nearly 100 American soldiers died in the fiercest fighting of the war, the black insurgent flag now flies over buildings.

With the help of his own personal librarian, Laura, W. has been trying to reframe his legacy to take the focus off his botched wars, just like L.B.J.’s family. His presidential library highlights his work on AIDS in Africa, belatedly tapering the roles of his sulfurous regents, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.”

Both wars were disasters.  The wastage of lives and resources on all sides is an appalling testament to what we are capable of inflicting on humanity.

Drawing again today on the New Testament:  Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God!

Tony

 

David Brooks: The Prodigal Son, Authority, and Social Policy!

Dear Commons Community,

David Brooks in his New York Times column yesterday used the New Testament’s   parable of the prodigal son to put a lens on authority and social policy.  If you are not familiar with the story, it is about a father with two sons. The younger son took his share of the inheritance early and blew it on fast and riotous living. When the money was gone, he returned home. His father ran out and embraced him. The delighted father offered the boy his finest robe and threw a feast in his honor. The older son, the responsible one, was appalled. He stood outside the feast, crying in effect, “Look! All these years I’ve been working hard and obeying you faithfully, and you never gave me special treatment such as this!” The father responded, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” But he had to celebrate the younger one’s return. The boy was lost and now is found.

Did the father do the right thing? Is the father the right model for authority today?

Brooks analyzes the story as follows:

“The father’s critics say he was unjust. People who play by the rules should see the rewards. Those who abandon the community, live according to their own reckless desires should not get to come back and automatically reap the bounty of others’ hard work. If you reward the younger brother, you signal that self-indulgence pays, while hard work gets slighted.

The father’s example is especially pernicious now, the critics continue. Jesus preached it at the time of the Pharisees, in an overly rigid and rule-bound society. In those circumstances, a story of radical forgiveness was a useful antidote to the prevailing legalism.

But we don’t live in that kind of society. We live in a society in which moral standards are already fuzzy, in which people are already encouraged to do their own thing. We live in a society with advanced social decay — with teens dropping out of high school, financiers plundering companies and kids being raised without fathers. The father’s example in the parable reinforces loose self-indulgence at a time when we need more rule-following, more social discipline and more accountability, not less.

It’s a valid critique, but I’d defend the father’s example…I’d even apply the father’s wisdom to social policy-making today.

We live in a divided society…In many cases, we have a governing class of elder brothers legislating programs on behalf of the younger brothers. The great danger in this situation is that we in the elder brother class will end up self-righteously lecturing the poor: “You need to be more like us: graduate from school, practice a little sexual discipline, work harder.”

But the father in this parable exposes the truth that people in the elder brother class are stained, too. The elder brother is self-righteous, smug, cold and shrewd. The elder brother wasn’t really working to honor his father; he was working for material reward and out of a fear-based moralism. The father reminds us of the old truth that the line between good and evil doesn’t run between people or classes; it runs straight through every human heart.”

Brooks’ conclusion:

“The father’s lesson for us is that if you live in a society that is coming apart on class lines, the best remedies are oblique. They are projects that bring the elder and younger brothers together for some third goal: national service projects, infrastructure-building, strengthening a company or a congregation.

The father offers each boy a precious gift. The younger son gets to dedicate himself to work and self-discipline. The older son gets to surpass the cold calculus of utility and ambition, and experience the warming embrace of solidarity and companionship.”

Get we get an Amen!

Tony

Larry Summers: Taxing the Rich Would Play a Major Role in Reducing Income Inequality!

Dear Commons Community,

Larry Summers, a former economic advisor to President Obama and the treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001, argued in a Washington Post op-ed on Sunday that closing tax loopholes that largely benefit the wealthy — like the capital gains exemption, certain estate tax provisions and corporate tax breaks — could help middle-class and poor Americans.

“Today’s tax code allows a far larger share of the income of the rich to escape taxation than the poor or middle class,” Summers wrote. “Closing loopholes that only the wealthy can enjoy would enable targeted tax measures such as the earned-income tax credit to raise the incomes of the poor and middle class more than dollar for dollar by incentivizing working and saving,” he continued.

Summers’ comments came as some 1-percenters such as venture capitalist Tom Perkins blasted those who would tax the super rich and compared them to Nazi persecution of the Jews in Germany.   Former Mitt Romney advisor Greg Mankiw didn’t go that far in a New York Times op-ed titled “Yes, the wealthy can be deserving,” but he argued that tax-dodging corporations and billionaires aren’t the norm.

However, according to a 2013 study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, when you consider things like sales and state and local taxes, the poor pay a larger share of their income to to the federal government than their richer counterparts.

Tony

 

State of American Higher Education: More Adjuncts, More Administration, More Tuition, Fewer Full-time Faculty, and Less State Support!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times editorial today (see full text below) blares out at the current state of American higher education wherein the dependence on adjunct faculty combined with the rise of administrative costs is threatening the quality of what many still consider the best system in the world. These developments have been addressed in this blog before most recently two weeks ago on the issue of rising administrative costs.  The editorial cites two reports.

First, “The Just-In-Time Professor,  released last month by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, describes a growing population of more than one million adjunct and other nontenure-track instructors. “In 1970, adjuncts made up 20 percent of all higher education faculty,” the report says. “Today, they represent half.”

As a rule, adjuncts have few or no benefits. They are generally paid per course, and paid poorly. (The Coalition on the Academic Workforce estimates that the median pay for a standard three-credit course is $2,700.) Because adjuncts often teach several classes in order to cobble together a living, they have little time for the research necessary to advance their careers.

This increasing dependence on inexpensive adjuncts may be bad for students, as well. According to the report, students who took more courses taught by adjuncts “experienced lower graduation rates, lower grade point averages, and fewer transfers from two-year to four-year colleges, compared to other students.”

Second, the adjunct boom has been accompanied by a parallel rise in the number of college administrators. A February report from the American Institutes for Research says that between 1990 and 2012, “the average number of faculty and staff per administrator declined by roughly 40 percent in most types of four-year colleges and universities.” By 2012, there were only 2.5 instructional or “nonprofessional support” employees (like secretaries and maintenance workers) for every one administrator (like business analysts and guidance counselors). Median salaries for administrative employees ranged between $55,000 and $60,000 in fiscal year 2013 — less than tenured professors but much more than adjuncts.

However, the New York Times does not go far enough in laying out the problems.  For the past several decades, state support for public higher education which provides access to the majority of American college students has been declining.  Most public colleges and universities have made up for this loss of funding by raising tuition and passing the costs of running their operations onto students.  The passing of costs onto tuition can only go so far  since students are already taking on significant debt in the form of federal financial aid.

We are gambling with our future.   While the US Department of Education invests much of its energy trying to figure out a college ratings system, the entire enterprise is eroding at its very foundations.

Tony

=============================================

The New College Campus

New York Times Editorial

February 17, 2004

Imagine meeting someone who says she works at a university. Some years ago, it would have been fairly safe to assume that she was a professor, and a member of the middle class with enviable job security. Not anymore. Two reports make clear that the nature of the college work force has changed substantially, possibly to the detriment of educational quality.

The Just-In-Time Professor,” released last month by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, describes a growing population of more than one million adjunct and other nontenure-track instructors. “In 1970, adjuncts made up 20 percent of all higher education faculty,” the report says. “Today, they represent half.”

As a rule, adjuncts have few or no benefits. They are generally paid per course, and paid poorly. (The Coalition on the Academic Workforce estimates that the median pay for a standard three-credit course is $2,700.) Because adjuncts often teach several classes in order to cobble together a living, they have little time for the research necessary to advance their careers.

This increasing dependence on inexpensive adjuncts may be bad for students, as well. According to the report, students who took more courses taught by adjuncts “experienced lower graduation rates, lower grade point averages, and fewer transfers from two-year to four-year colleges, compared to other students.”

The adjunct boom has been accompanied by a parallel rise in the number of college administrators. A February report from the American Institutes for Research says that between 1990 and 2012, “the average number of faculty and staff per administrator declined by roughly 40 percent in most types of four-year colleges and universities.” By 2012, there were only 2.5 instructional or “nonprofessional support” employees (like secretaries and maintenance workers) for every one administrator (like business analysts and guidance counselors). Median salaries for administrative employees ranged between $55,000 and $60,000 in fiscal year 2013 — less than tenured professors but much more than adjuncts.

Colleges may well require more administrators in the 21st century than they did in the 20th. The American Institutes for Research report suggests, among other factors, a growing need for employees wholly dedicated to fund-raising as state legislators reduce support for higher education. Nevertheless, the new college campus, rife with adjuncts and administrators, does not seem geared to fulfill what is, after all, the major mission of universities: educating students.

 

 

 

Symposium on Proposed College Ratings System: USDOE Needs More Data!

Dear Commons Community,

Last week at the one-day symposium held by the USDOE on its planned rollout of its controversial college ratings system, the only agreement by the participants was that more data was needed.  According to The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“If any consensus arose last week at the Education Department’s daylong symposium on the technical challenges facing the Obama administration’s college-ratings system, it was on the need for better data about colleges and universities.

Tod R. Massa captured the sentiment in the opening line of his presentation: “To the department, I say this: We need better data. Let me rephrase that: You need better data.”

Mr. Massa, who directs policy research and data warehousing for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, echoed other data experts when he highlighted the gaps in data the department collects through its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or Ipeds.

In some of the most important measures of college accountability—graduation rates, net prices, postgraduate wages, and community-college outcomes—the Ipeds data fall short, the experts said.

Several experts who spoke at the symposium, including Mr. Massa, said a unit-record data system that could track every student’s progress was the best solution to the bad-data problem. Alas, such a system is currently prohibited by law.

Without getting too deep into the weeds of the IPEDS data, it is woefully inadequate in tracking students especially those who transfer from one school to another.  As an example, a case can be made that a student who attends a community college who transfers to a four-year college should be treated differently than a student who transfers to another community college.  One could argue that in the first situation, the community college fulfilled an important education goal/outcome by providing access to a four-year degree.  IPEDS does track nor differentiate this type of transfer yet many students follow this path to a college education.

The USDOE under Arne Duncan has been quick to rush policies through without careful vetting.  The college ratings system is setting up to be another such case.

Tony

Bill de Blasio’s Decision to Keep Schools Open during Thursday’s Snow Storm!

Dear Commons Community,

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina caused their own  storm during  Thursday’s snow storm by keeping the public schools open.   It was a difficult call.  Most of the media have trounced on de Blasio for keeping the schools open. Al Roker, everybody’s favorite weatherman, attacked the mayor on Twitter on Thursday for keeping them open. Yesterday during a broadcast from Sochi, where he is covering the Winter Olympics, Mr. Roker stood by most of his comments but he apologized to Mr. de Blasio for one particularly tough message, in which he predicted the mayor would have one term.

“That was a little below the line,” Mr. Roker told his co-hosts, explaining that he had become heated in the moment.

He added, “I’m very passionate about the weather.”

In retrospect, it might have been a poor decision but these decisions are ”iffy” at best.  New York City has a history of keeping schools open during stormy weather.  In addition, one of de Blasio’s rationales was that parents who work need the schools open to nurture, feed, and care for their children.

The media will continue to play this story up a bit New York has already gotten over it.

Tony

 

Photos: Snow, Snow Everywhere Snow!

Snow Storm 2014 1

Dear Commons Community,

It seemed every conversation in the Big Apple yesterday mentioned the snow.  The refrains:  “Not another snowstorm”.  “How many inches have we had this year”.  “Enough already”.  “Spring is only five weeks away.”

 

Enjoy the photos!

 
Tony

Snow Storm 2014 3

Snow Storm 2014 2

Snow Storm 2014 4

Snow Storm 2014 5

Derek Jeter to Retire: 2014 His Last Season!

Deek Jeter

Dear Commons Community,

New York Yankee fans have known for a while that the day was coming sooner than later when Derek Jeter would be retiring from baseball.  He made the announcement yesterday that 2014 would be his last season in pinstripes.  He has meant so much to the team, to baseball, and to New York.  A class act both on and off the field.

I have been a Yankee fan my entire life and was born and raised several blocks from Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx.  With my brothers, I saw all the great teams and players of the 1950s, the down years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the comeback years under the ownership of George Steinbrenner.  I have to put Derek Jeter as the best all-around Yankee that I have ever seen.  Hitting, fielding, running the bases, and making clutch plays – he could do it all!

Tyler Kepner, the New York Times sports correspondent, has an article today entitled:   Derek Jeter Lived a Dream, and Never Disappointed!  How true!!!

I will relish watching him this season and hope that injuries do not prevent him from going out on the top of his game.

Tony

Pew Study: Earnings Gap Between College Grads and High School Grads Reach Highest Level in 48 Years!

Pew College Earnings II

Dear Commons Community,

According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, the earnings gap between young adults with and without bachelor’s degrees has stretched to its widest level in forty-eight years. Young adults with just a high-school diploma earned 62 percent of the typical salary of college graduates. That’s down from 81 percent in 1965, the earliest year for which comparable data are available.  As reported in The Huffington Post;

“The analysis by the Pew Research Center shows the increasing economic difficulties for young adults who lack a bachelor’s degree in today’s economy that’s polarized between high- and low-wage work. As a whole, high-school graduates were more likely to live in poverty and be dissatisfied with their jobs, if not unemployed.

In contrast, roughly nine in 10 college graduates ages 25 to 32 said that their bachelor’s degree had paid off or will pay off in the future, according to Pew’s separate polling conducted last year. Even among the two-thirds of young adults who borrowed money for college, about 86 percent said their degrees have been, or will be, worth it.

“In today’s knowledge-based economy, the only thing more expensive than getting a college education is not getting one,” said Paul Taylor, Pew’s executive vice president and co-author of the report. “Young adults see significant economic gains from getting a college degree regardless of the level of student debt they have taken on.”

The latest findings come amid rising college tuition costs, which have saddled young adults in the so-called Millennial generation with heavy debt amid high unemployment…

The report found that not only does a college degree typically yield much more inflation-adjusted earnings than before, but a high-school diploma also is now worth less. That adds to a widening earnings gap that Pew researchers found mirrors the U.S. gap between rich and poor.

For instance, college graduates ages 25 to 32 who were working full time now typically earn about $17,500 more annually than employed young adults with just a high school diploma ($45,500 vs. $28,000); those with a two-year degree or some college training earned $30,000. In 1965, before globalization and automation wiped out many middle-class jobs in areas such as manufacturing, the inflation-adjusted gap was just $7,449.

Meanwhile, median earnings for high-school graduates have fallen more than $3,000, from $31,384 in 1965 to $28,000 last year.”

Pew based its findings on the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey as of March 2013, as well as its own survey of 2,002 adults interviewed by cellphone or landline from Oct. 7-27, 2013. The Pew poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

It is obvious that we need to continue to push for policies in this country emanating in Washington, D.C.  and in state governments that ease the way for attaining a college degree and that investments in colleges and universities are good for our young people and good for our economy.

Tony

 

Pew Study College Earnings