Mike Klein Online

When Economy Cracked, Many Georgians Cracked the Books

Mike Klein

Two young women in my family attend two-year colleges.  The match is perfect.  One works four days per week at a veterinary hospital and takes classes two days.  The other works three or four days per week in a restaurant and attends school days and evenings.  Not too many years ago the family might have expected these young women would be in four-year schools but two-year schools are the best match for their study needs, work schedules and finances.

My own family is an example of the emphasis on using two-year colleges for exceptional value and what they bring to the table.  Young and increasingly older adults recognize they must have a ticket to get onto the economic game playing field but that ticket does not necessarily mean four years of higher education costs and a piece of higher education parchment.

As it turns out, this is happening all over America.  A new Fact Book Bulletin from the Atlanta – based Southern Regional Education Board says two-year college enrollment grew 38.2 percent between 2005 and 2010 in SREB’s 16 southern states.  Growth was up 30.4 percent nationally.

Georgia two-year colleges achieved the second highest enrollment percentage growth in the nation during the 2010 school year when measured alongside 13 states that enrolled at least 200,000 students.   Georgia enrollment grew 23.9 percent to 221,000 students.  Washington state schools enrollment grew 33.3 percent and is comparably sized at 217,000 students.

Explosive enrollment growth was fueled by many factors.   Two-year schools are leaner, generally less elaborate, don’t occupy lots of pricey-to-maintain real estate, often are better focused on training people for local community jobs, do not have the elaborate cost structures of research universities, are easily accessible to commuter students, are a great required courses option for students who have not made career decisions and they have the capability to provide training required for professions that require certification but less than four years of college.

Technical colleges also became a buffer when the recession devastated the economy.   Adults who lost careers returned to school to upgrade skills or acquire new skills.   That changed the face of who engages inside a public two-year college classroom.  Seventeen percent of Georgia technical college students are at least 40 years old and 25 percent are 31 years or older.

SREB analyzed two-year college enrollment data for all 50 states from reports created by the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics.  Georgia’s 23.9 percent growth rate was the largest among all southern states where annual average growth was 7.6 percent.  Virginia grew 14.1 percent and was comparably sized at 231,000 students.   Kentucky grew 11.8 percent to almost 124,000 enrolled students during the same school year.

In Georgia, the Technical College System enrolled the most students in two-year schools, about 197,000, with the remainder enrolled in two-year colleges operated by the University System.  A spokesman for the technical college system said enrollment has declined since 2010 for at least three reasons; students regained employment, HOPE scholarship changes and a transition from quarters to semesters.  Anticipated total enrollment this year is slightly under 171,000.

Technical College System growth occurred during a period of fiscal challenge, especially for students.  TCSG funding from all sources increased from $436 million to $719 million between 2002 and 2011, but the state share of those dollars decreased from 61.6 percent to 43.4 percent.  Tuition increases were largely responsible for bridging the gap.  Operating funds took an $88.3 million reduction during the four fiscal years that will end next June 30.

As SREB noted in its Fact Book Bulletin, two-year public school enrollment in southern states was almost identical to four-year school enrollment with both systems serving 2.8 million students.  The trend has been moving toward nearly identical student populations for decades.   In the year 2000 four-year colleges still enrolled about 400,000 more students annually, but that gap has vanished.

Not surprisingly, the southern region’s two most populous states – Texas and Florida – had the largest systems with 800,000 and 543,000 students respectively.  Their enrollment growth rates were lower, however, at 7.1 percent for Texas and 5.9 percent for Florida.  North Carolina also has a sizable system – 263,000 students – but had a much lower 3.9 percent growth rate in 2010.

Also Worth Noting:  Georgia fourth and eighth graders continue to make better-than-average progress on national reading and math achievement tests.  Georgia was not among five states that SREB highlighted in its assessment analysis of the Nation’s Report Card but a close look at how students here performed is very encouraging.  Click here to read the SREB entire report.  Georgia reading and math improvement scores appear on pages six and seven.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

October 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maryland Leads 4th and 8th Grade Gains; Georgia Steadily Improves

Mike Klein

What’s in the Maryland water?  A student performance analysis that contains encouraging news about Georgia also leads to the inescapable conclusion that Maryland has really gotten its act together during the past decade.  In a comparison of 2003 and 2011 students, Maryland led the nation in fourth and eighth grade reading improvement and it also led in eighth grade math.

Comprehensive data from the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) also shows Georgia fourth and eighth graders made great strides during the same eight-year span.  Georgia students did not lead the region or nation in any category but cumulatively, Georgia students posted some of the best overall gains achieved in any of SREB’s 16-member states.

SREB used data from National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) achievement tests to report state results in math and reading, and some other categories including high school graduation and college enrollment rates.  SREB did not create a side-by-side comparison for its 16-member states but a Georgia Public Policy Foundation analysis shows that Maryland clearly led the field and Georgia should take heart that its students are moving in the right direction.

Extensive data is available in 16 individual state reports posted on the SREB website.  NAEP achievement tests show Maryland students improved by 13 percentage points in fourth grade math, 13 points in fourth grade reading, and 9 points in eighth grade reading.  Those were the best results nationwide, although in some cases the results tied other states.  Maryland ranked fifth in the SREB region with a 7 percentage points improvement in eighth grade math.

There likely are reasons other than water for Maryland’s performance.  SREB notes Maryland has a statistically lower percentage of students approved for free or reduced price meals, 42 percent in the state vs. 58 percent in the SREB region and 52 percent nationally.  The childrens’ poverty rate is 9 percent lower than the U.S. rate and 13 percent lower than the SREB region.  Poverty itself is not an indicator for academic performance but it can be a contributing factor.

Maryland – like Georgia, a national leader – had publicly funded preschool program enrollment that was 400 percent greater than the number of 4-year-olds living in poverty in 2008.  However, that declined to 274 percent by 2010, which could show up in later school readiness analysis.

Here is another potential reason Maryland students perform well: parents emphasize education.  SREB noted, “The percent of working-age adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher in Maryland topped the region and nation.”  Maryland’s average beginning teacher salary is also higher than salaries in neighboring states, the SREB region overall and the nation.

If you’re looking for another SREB region sleeper state in this report, consider Kentucky.  Blue Grass state fourth graders improved NAEP math achievement scores by 13 percent, which equaled Maryland’s performance.  Compared against other SREB region states, Kentucky fourth graders had the third best improvement rate in fourth grade reading, fifth best in eighth grade math and ninth best in eighth grade reading.

Overall, most SREB region states performed better than national averages in fourth and eighth grade testing, and as we wrote above, there is good news for Georgia which has been much maligned in recent years for sometimes real and sometimes perceived poor academics.

Mathematics has long been one of education’s greatest classroom challenges.  States including Georgia have tried several teaching methods as they realigned curriculum.  For instance, should algebra and geometry and other math disciplines be taught simultaneously or consecutively?

Georgia students transitioned through at least two different methods of learning math within the past decade.  Performance suggests they transitioned well.  Fourth graders improved their NAEP test scores by 8 percent and eighth graders boosted their scores by 9 percent between 2003 and 2011.  Fourth graders nationally improved 6 percent and eighth graders by 5 percent.

Georgia eighth grade students posted a 59 percent achievement score on 2003 NAEP math tests.  That improved to 68 percent in 2011, a 9 percent gain that is well above the 5 percent improvement for eight graders nationally and better than 6 percent achieved in SREB states.

Georgia’s high school graduation rate was 68 percent last year, lower than the average of all 16 SREB states (75 percent) and lower than the national rate (76 percent).  It is, however, up from eight years earlier when just 57 percent of Georgia students graduated.  The state has a distinct focus on how to increase graduation rates from both high school and higher education.

The bottom of this post contains links to NAEP 2011 state snapshot reports on Georgia.  These sites have deep level data about how Georgia is positioned against other states nationally.  For instance, Georgia eighth graders achieved the second best reading improvement rate in the 16 SREB states.  But where does that place them nationally?  The answer is middle of the pack: equal to one dozen states, higher than ten states and lower than the others.

This SREB biennial report was the fifth released over ten years.  It comes at a unique moment because nearly every state – not Texas, not Virginia – will launch common core standards this fall. In simplest terms, common core is an attempt to standardize what Jack and Jill are taught so if they move between school districts or between states what they learn in their new school will have some common threads with their previous learning.

At surface level this idea sounds terrific but as with most new ideas, it comes with its share of controversy.  Some contend that common core is the start of a nationally mandated curriculum.  Others are not pleased the Obama administration made some federal education grants to states dependent on teaching to common core standards.  Bill Gates is heavily invested in common core, pushing its creation and investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the project.

Georgia adopted common core.  We will be writing more about that soon.

Additional NAEP Resources

Click here for Georgia 4th grade math and click here for 4th grade reading.

Click here for Georgia 8th grade math and click here for 8th grade reading.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

August 3, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Georgia High School Graduation Rate Could Take a Steep 15% Plunge

Mike Klein

Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Erroll Davis recently described high school graduation rates as “great works of art.”  Next week the state Department of Education is expected to release new data that will make it seem like the rate fell off a cliff, down perhaps 15 percent.

Also next week, the Southern Regional Education Board will warn policy makers, educators, parents and anyone else who listens that the new national model for tracking students might result in significantly lower graduation rates.  The number will be more honest if not perfect.

SREB’s “Transitioning to the New High School Graduation Rate” will say “some states may see a decline, especially those that have mistakenly counted dropouts as transfers and those that have counted as a graduate a student who earned a credential other than a regular diploma.”  SREB is headquartered in Atlanta; it advocates for improvement in K-12 public schools and higher education in 16 states, including Georgia.

Nine months ago Governor Sonny Perdue’s office announced the state’s 2010 graduation rate rose to an all-time high at 80.8 percent – up 17 percentage points in seven years.  The governor credited his graduation coach program. “We did something no other state had even thought of – put a graduation coach in every middle and high school and focused their efforts on students at risk of dropping out,” Perdue said.

This was a watershed moment for the outgoing administration because Perdue had made an 80 percent graduation rate an important goal of his education initiatives.  The state reported actual graduates grew from 65,213 to some 91,561 seven years later, a real improvement.

A source who is familiar with the anticipated Department of Education report indicated the 2011 graduation rate “will likely be at least 15 percentage points lower.”  How does that happen?  Well, that takes us back to how Erroll Davis described graduation rates – “great works of art.”

Georgia and 31 other states have used what education insiders describe as the “Leaver Rate” – which is defined on the Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement website as “an estimate of the percentage of students who entered ninth grade and graduated four years later.”

Beginning with the 2011-2012 school year all states must adopt exactly the same formula that tracks every high school student from ninth grade through graduation or any other result that includes dropouts and GED credentials.  It also requires a better effort documenting transfer students.  It has a name – Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate.  Georgia will report it this year.

Actually, the state Department of Education will report two graduation rates next week … a “Leaver” traditional rate that will be used in the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) calculations and the “Cohort” rate that will be the new standard rate going forward for all states.

“Georgia is reporting its new graduation rate even before the federal regulations take hold requiring states to report the new rates, which reflects well on the state’s leaders,” said SREB communications director Alan Richard.

As the SREB will report next week, “Cohort” will produce more honest results because “it is not an estimate and requires states to follow students from school to school in the state – no longer mistaking students who drop out as transfers.  For years, states have over-reported transfers and under-reported dropouts, which produced inflated graduation rates.”

All students who enter ninth grade in any given year become the new freshman cohort.  Each student will have a unique identifier.  Student progress – or lack of progress – during the next four years will be tracked.  Because each student will have his or her own unique identifier it will be possible to know who graduated, who transferred and to where, and who dropped out.

Besides “Leaver” – the calculation method Georgia has traditionally used – some states have used the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate.  AFGR compares graduates to ninth graders four years earlier and it makes no attempt to account for transfers.  Using the AFGR method, next week SREB will report Georgia’s 2008-2009 graduation rate was 67.8 percent.

Remembering what Erroll Davis said about “great works of art” – there is yet another method, the Cumulative Promotion Index which simply tracks how many students advance year-to-year. Using that method, next week SREB will report Georgia’s 2006-2007 rate was 57.8 percent.

That would mean at least four methods to calculate graduation rates have been in play for several years, and no wonder it causes confusion.  “Because states were allowed to choose among these types, the results were not comparable from state to state,” SREB will report next week.  “Even states using the same type of calculation did not figure the data the same way.”

SREB communications director Richard said the new Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate “likely will be the most accurate high school graduation rate yet and is considered by all to be ‘the gold standard.’   We now have the data systems to track more accurately whether students really transfer between schools and districts and states, or whether they leave school entirely.”

SREB’s “Transitioning to the New High School Graduation Rate” will name Georgia among six southern states that use data effectively and seem well-positioned to change how they report graduation rates.  Others are Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Maryland and Virginia.

“Some SREB states expect their graduation rates will drop when they begin reporting the four-year ACGR,” the report says. “Those states need to focus on direct communication with key constituencies and the media to ensure that messages about what has changed are timely, clear and accurate.”

Now we return you to “great works of art” – Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, Lady Gaga!

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

July 15, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SREB: Graduating One-Third of College Students is not Success

Think very long about an economy that does not have enough highly educated people and you fairly quickly  conclude that economy will not be able to sustain itself, much less create real growth.  The headline-making message here is, we’re already there, particularly in southern states where college graduation rates are below the national average.

The Southern Regional Education Board has established a bold goal as a first step to turn around this losing formula: 60% of working age adults in southern states should hold an advanced degree within 15 years.  SREB President David Spence, whose writings suggest he is both an education optimist and education realist, has said reaching the 60% goal would require “a sea change in state policy and how higher education operates, starting now.”

The 60% advanced degree goal is the major headline from SREB’s new report, No Time to Waste: Policy Recommendations for Improving College Completion. This education white paper discusses the relationship between the workforce we are creating and the workforce we expect to need.  It sends a warning:  “For the first time, today’s school-age generation in America likely will have proportionately fewer college graduates than their parents’ generation.”

SREB challenged political and learning leaders in its 16 member states to create initial access for more students, improve graduation rates from two-year-and-four-year schools, bring greater focus to career / technical certifications and attract working-age adults back to the classroom.

It also said six-year graduation rates between 52% and 56% for the past decade, four-year graduation rates that rarely exceed 35% and first-time college freshmen dropout rates at 25% should no longer be acceptable.

SREB cited Georgetown University researcher Anthony Carnevale’s estimate that the national economy will need 22 million new workers with associate or higher degrees within eight years.  But we already graduate 300,000 fewer per year than the economy needs.  Nationally just 37.9% of working-age adults hold post-secondary degrees or career / technical certifications.  Thirteen of 16 southern states including Georgia (36.2%) are below the national average.

No Time to Waste focused on changing the approach: “States currently look to public colleges and universities as points of student access – but they must also become institutions of success.”  SREB said graduating one-third of college students is no longer an acceptable learning outcome; “This view of college success should become a relic of the past.”

SREB’s recommendations are extensive – several dozen – but the major ideas are found in four categories: Creation of a statewide plan that takes into account all public institutions; Increased access to post-secondary education; Institutional changes that make the degree a priority; and, Increased cost-efficiency that reduces unnecessary credits and streamlines transfer credits.

Among the major recommendations:

** Each state should establish a specific plan that will enable it to reach the 60% goal by 2025.

** Universities, post-secondary leaders and presidents should be held accountable for the goals.

** States should create performance indicators that will be used by all college and universities.

** States should create university funding strategies tied in part to college completion goals.

** Financial strategies should enable more students to complete career certification degrees.

** States should ensure most high school graduates are prepared for college or career training.

** States should ensure working-age adults receive the support they need to return to school.

** States should require that institutions make graduation a primary campus culture.

** Cost-efficiency should be achieved by reducing the number of unnecessary credits.

** States should streamline transfer policies to reduce course duplication and lower cost.

The complete report is available on the SREB website.

Mike Klein writes about education as Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

October 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barnes, Deal Education Agendas Should Emphasize Online Learning

Education agendas proposed by Georgia’s two major candidates for Governor leave wide open a hole that any running back would appreciate.  Nathan Deal and Roy Barnes put forward plans that give only slight mention to online education.  That misses a significant education priority for Georgia children.

Georgia’s candidates have the opportunity to take a bold step.  They could declare Georgia will become a national leader in online education offered by the Department of Education.  They could say every high school student will participate in at least one online course each semester.  They could say it will happen within their first term.  Georgia is a long way from being able to provide those resources, but Georgia can get there.  One of them could make it happen. Continue reading

September 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SREB Analysis: “In Most States Adult Learning Is Not A Priority”

The perfect storm in Georgia education often focuses on funnel clouds we’ve all come to know that include layoffs, furloughs, classroom pupil head counts, performance pay, local control, mandates from state government, standardized test cheating, charter schools and occasionally, conversations about how to blend online learning into traditional classrooms.

In comparison, much less is said about adult learning that almost silently tries to address 1.3 million working age adult Georgians who do not have a high school diploma or GED credential.

Georgians who are not prepared to participate in new economy jobs will suffer, perform near the bottom, incur costs that become a public burden and ultimately, Georgia will decline. Continue reading

August 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment