Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Service of Leveling the Playing Field for Admission to Top Public Schools

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

Photo: lemongrad.com

Speed reading lessons gave some school kids a leg up in my youth. [My parents didn’t spring to finance that trend.] I didn’t know of test prep in the day though I sure could have used those classes: My pencil-paper-multiple test-taking skills are atrocious.

Leslie Brody reported in The Wall Street Journal that Ronald Lauder and Richard Parsons spent “an additional $1.5 million on their campaign to preserve the admissions test to elite New York public high schools, this time by providing free test preparation and advertisements encouraging more students to take the exam.” The team had previously spent $860,000 for advertising and lobbying. Their initiative is called the Education Equity Campaign

Photo: chalkbeat.org

Lauder graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and Parsons was the CEO of Time Warner. According to Wikipedia, Lauder’s school “is ranked #49 in the National Rankings,” fifth within New York, 6th in the NY metro area and 67th among STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] high schools, reported usnews.com. “Schools are ranked on their performance on state-required tests, graduation and how well they prepare students for college.”

The campaign’s objective: “to help low-income students in underrepresented communities get into the eight specialized high schools.” [Wikipedia listed 9]. In addition to the Bronx High School of Science these are Brooklyn Latin, Brooklyn Technical, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College, High School of American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, Staten Island Technical and Stuyvesant.

What’s the impetus for this initiative now and the philanthropist’s attempts to bolster a different avenue for the underserved population to follow for admission to some of the best high schools in the city? Mayor de Blasio wants to deep six the exam “to better integrate the public high schools.” Specifically he wants to “admit the top 7% of performers from each middle school citywide, using course grades and state test scores.

Photo: twitter.com

In 1970 CUNY, the City University of New York, experimented with changing the standard admissions recipe in favor of open admissions to level the playing field for the diverse city population. Some say that this ruined the stellar reputation of one of the top schools in the state if not the country at the time. CUNY accepted any high school graduate whether or not they had taken the Regents exam. I skimmed nyc.gov “History of Open Admissions and Remedial Education in the U.S.” and read that five and six years later the trustees twice voted to “reestablish admissions standards.” The first plan would have required CUNY applicants to demonstrate 8th grade competency in reading and math; the second would have required those community college students who did not have a minimum high school average, class rank, or General Equivalency Diploma score to obtain remediation through a ‘transitional program.’”

Skipping ahead: “In the 1990s, the university had begun to try to restore the balance between the two and a return to bachelor’s admission standards that emphasized Regents courses, high school grades and standardized testing….”

This is a tough topic and there may be no perfect solutions. Given the unevenness of student competition in public schools in any city, what do you think of de Blasio’s approach–to fill the best specialty public high schools from the top 7 percent of each public middle school in NYC? Or do you think that the Education Equity Campaign’s goal to train underserved students to take the admission tests is a fairer answer and one that would better capture the top students in the city? Is free prep for some and not everyone fair to middle class parents who may not have the means to pay for such classes for their children? What do you suggest?

Photo: educationequity.nyc :

Service of Why Pick on Computer Science Types? Inappropriate Stereotyping

Monday, May 20th, 2019

Photo: collegeexpress.com

Have you ever met a doctor, executive, middle manager, social worker, nurse, PR or advertising exec, engineer or instructor with poor empathy and/or crummy communications skills? I have.

Photo: bw.edu

This is why I want to know why Northeastern University picks on “Computer science types” in this regard. Sara Castellanos wrote that to graduate, these students have been required to take an “Eloquent Presenter” class. I maintain that any student would benefit from such a requirement and that the university is inappropriately typecasting its computer science students–and people in this line of work.

In her Wall Street Journal article, “A Tech Nerd Walks Into a Bar…” Castellanos wrote: “The class is a way to ‘robot-proof’ computer-science majors, helping them sharpen uniquely human skills, said Joseph E. Aoun, the university president. Empathy, creativity and teamwork help students exercise their competitive advantage over machines in the era of artificial intelligence, according to Mr. Aoun, who wrote a book about it.”

Photo: thebalancecareers.com

How many people do you know who aren’t glued to their devices regardless of their profession or industry? Even the UPS delivery person carries a device. And of these, do all have “human skills?” Some five years ago a friend in the nonprofit world, who worked in a one-room office with the boss and another person, was irritated that this manager insisted she email everything. She was forbidden to cross the room to ask the simplest question.

 

Castellanos reported these reasons to justify the class:

 

  • “Many computer-science types say they would rather work at a screen than chat face to face.” I don’t think that they are alone!
  • “Others hate drawing attention to themselves.” Ditto.
  • “In the improv class….computer-science majors not only cozy up with peers, but work in groups and take turns in the spotlight.” Don’t groups like Toastmasters address this kind of thing? They wouldn’t be so popular if participants didn’t feel the need.

 

The jury’s still out about the success of office concepts adopted by companies like GitLab, a company that “offers tools for software developers.” The startup employs 600 over the world, continued Agam Shah in The Wall Street Journal, and has no headquarters. All employees work remotely which seems to be a trend with some working from home at least a few days a week. I have my opinion about the negative impact on the quality of work with little face-to-face but the point for this post is that if this is the way things are going, why bother with being an “Eloquent Presenter?” Or, is the CEO, Sid Sijbrandij, and his clients the result of people who missed taking such a class and feel no need to converse/empathize?

Speech was a gut course when I went to college. Turns out it would have been helpful in my career and in the professions of most of the people I know. Had computer science been around in the day, I wouldn’t have been able to pass a course. Nevertheless, “Eloquent Presenter” should have been right up my alley as a government/history major—yours too? Your thoughts about Northeastern typecasting computer science majors?

Photo: towson.edu

Service of Every Little Bit Helps: Bard College Serious about Education for All

Monday, November 6th, 2017

Photo: bard.edu

I increasingly admire Bard College. We have enjoyed concerts at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, and outdoors in summer before that, for some 20+ years and most recently, during parent’s weekend. We attended a concert at which the students played. [We have most often heard the American Symphony Orchestra replaced by The Orchestra Now, but the student performances are always a treat.] Leon Botstein, conductor, music director and president, reminded the audience made up, I suspect,  of many music lovers like us who had no undergrads in the game, that while each of the students major in music, they all have a second major. So smart for a college known for its outstanding creative offerings. So practical. So necessary today.

Bard president Leon Botstein confers associate degree to member of prison college initiative. Photo: dailyfreeman.com

The college is innovative in more than the arts. Its college program for prisoners made headlines in 2015 when the prison debating team beat Harvard’s. And now Bard has launched a “microcollege,” at the Prospect Heights public library. Leslie Brody wrote about it in The Wall Street Journal in “Bard Launches Free ‘Microcollege,’ in Brooklyn.” The free two year college is for “low-income applicants who haven’t sought degrees due to the price tag or personal hardships.”

The director of both programs–prison and library–is Max Kenner, VP for institutional initiatives at Bard. He calls access to college in this country “a catastrophic failure.” The “intellectual power of prison inmates,” that surprises many and frustrates Kenner, inspired the idea for the microcollege. Kenner mentioned never-ending jokes about his beloved prison initiative with “a punch line something about a captive audience.”

As in the prison program, Bard instructors will teach small seminars. Graduates will receive a liberal arts associate degree. The students will all be from Brooklyn, the program starts in January, 2018 and the goals: To grow to 64 students and that the graduates continue their studies to earn a four year degree elsewhere.

Do you also admire pioneering programs like this? Should it work, do you think it will become a template for other colleges to begin to chip away at one of the many closed doors to education?

Photo: dance.bard.edu

Service of Perseverance Set to Music: A Story That Makes My Heart Sing

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Tyler Schuster. Photo: Amanda Halak

Tyler Schuster. Photo: Amanda Halak

Once 19th century British philanthropist William Edward Hickson retired he focused on elementary education and popularized the proverb “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” attributed to Thomas H. Palmer’s “Teacher’s Manual” and Frederick Marryat’s “The Children of the New Forest.”

The Facebook post that proud grandmother Judy Schuster sent family and friends–that I’ve copied below–is an inspirational testament to that adage. It’s about the perseverance and grit shown by her musician-grandson, Tyler Schuster, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire [UWEC]. In addition to showing the glorious result of determination and hopefully inspiring others, it says a lot about this young man who proves he will achieve just about anything he sets his mind to.

Kudos as well to Michael Shults, PhD, assistant professor of saxophone at UWEC, a dedicated and caring instructor and skilled, exemplary coach who wrote the post. I can’t think of many in any field who would take the time. Dr. Shults is also an award-winning musician and active jazz and concert saxophonist.

He wrote:

So – I love a good underdog story, and maybe you do too.

Tyler was part of the freshman class my first year at UWEC in 2014. Our first year of lessons was long on constructive criticism and, frankly, short on breakthroughs; a LOT of squeezing and not much juice.

Music education majors at UWEC take one credit, half hour lessons. They are practicing more than ever (which means programming vital foundational muscle memory) and ALL 18-year old saxophonists come in with bad habits. The crucial need to correct these early on, coupled with the time constraints, mean that the ratio of positive-to-constructive feedback I’m able to give in the early going can be a little lopsided. It’s not easy for either party, but it’s much more difficult to correct once that muscle memory is programmed in an imperfect way.

Tyler, in particular, had a lot of things to iron out with his saxophone playing. Lessons were tedious for both parties. But what I could see (and his excellent high school teacher Scott Johnson will attest that this has been present long before I entered the picture) was that Tyler’s instinct when things got tough was to push harder and smarter, instead of shying away from a challenge or being defeatist.

Fall 2015 was really difficult for Tyler as he failed to audition into the Wind Symphony or Symphony Band (I asked him this morning if I could share that publicly, and he said “Of course – that’s an important part of my journey”). It was a really hard dose of reality, I think, but as frustrating as it was, Tyler didn’t challenge the result or place blame. He just put on the hard hat and got in the shed.

I remember a year ago, not too long after that, Tyler sat down in my office and outlined three goals. He wanted to audition into Jazz Ensemble I, Wind Symphony, and, the most ambitious of the three, win the concerto competition and solo with one of the wind bands. At the time I believe Tyler was in Jazz III and, based on the audition results from the fall, would’ve had to leapfrog at least 10 players to audition into Wind Symphony. So – speculative, to say the least.

Then came the fall ensemble auditions. Jazz I: √

Tyler also moved up to playing a principal chair in the Symphony Band (just shy of Wind Symphony).

Then came spring ensemble auditions. Wind Symphony: √

That brings us to last night, when Tyler performed the first movement of the Creston Concerto in our annual wind band concerto competition.

You guessed it: √

Please join me in congratulating Tyler on his incredible progress and for embodying so many of the ideals we preach in music and any other discipline: toughness, hard work, self awareness, ambition, goal-setting, etc. etc. and join us in person or via livestream as he performs as featured soloist with the UWEC Symphony Band – the same ensemble he couldn’t quite make the cut for a year ago – on April 28th.

(But don’t get too comfortable, kid. You have technique juries this week. And a recital next month. And and and…)

Were you—or someone you know–lucky to have a professor, instructor or mentor like Dr. Shults? Do you know young men or women as determined as Tyler Schuster who ignore the odds, carry on and reach their goals?

 

Dr. Michael Shults. Photo: Clint Ashlock

Dr. Michael Shults. Photo: Clint Ashlock

Service of Word Choice: dictionary.com Has The Answers

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

definition

Are you familiar with fracking, incarceration and incendiary? These were words used by presidential candidates for which dictionary.com recorded brisk activity during debates for president.

Some words that President Obama used recently were “incontrovertible and overt.” The President “continues to influence word searches,” according to Rebekah Otto, director of content at the word website wrote Charles Bethea in his New Yorker article “Stumped.” Grace “trended” when the President sang “Amazing Grace” during his eulogy for Reverend Pinckney.

fool“Dictionary.com has a feature called Word of the Day; its lexicographers send vocabulary words to a subscriber list of nineteen million,” wrote Bethea. “Sometimes the linguists appear to be editorializing. Last Friday, after two more town halls, the site offered ‘ninnyhammer’ (‘a fool or simpleton’). Other recent selections, following primaries and caucuses: ‘rabble-rouser’ (‘Our users love agent nouns like this,’ Otto said), ‘rodomontade’ (‘vainglorious boasting or bragging’), and ‘skulduggery’ (‘dishonorable proceedings’).”

The content director loves it when words are misused such as when, in her speech endorsing D. Trump, Sarah Palin spoke of “squirmishes.” Otto described the word as “an unintentional portmanteau marrying squirm and skirmish.” She confirmed that bigly is a word, if little used. Trump chose it when he announced his candidacy.

Photo: cnn

One of the most intriguing aspects of Bethea’s column was Otto’s analysis of words most used by candidates during recent debates. Because unscripted they are more telling–“exploring each candidate’s linguistic essence.” Otto listed: “Clinton: systemic, children, seller. Sanders: speculation, tuition-free, cease-fire. Cruz: utterly, whatsoever, booming. Kasich: blue-collar, surplus, formula. Trump: nasty, sudden, tremendous.” Otto noted that the two Democrats use “concrete language” vs. the Republicans who use “descriptive language,” adding “with the possible exception of Kasich.”

Bet you can guess which candidate made which quote when Clinton and Trump addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee–AIPAC:

  • “If we look at the broader regional context, converging interests between Israel and key Arab states could make it possible to promote progress.”  
  • “What kind of demented minds write that in Hebrew?”

Were you familiar with all the words that Bethea reported generated vigorous searches on dictionary.com or that the staff selected for its Word of the Day? I didn’t know either ninnyhammer or rodomontade. What can you tell about a candidate by his/her word choice? What about the citizens who look up the words—are they curious or uneducated?

Curious George 2

Service of Ears to the Ground: Boards that Listen

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

ear to the ground

Last September I wrote a post “Service of Bigger is Better,” about institutions feeling pressure to grow bigger no matter what or how, a kneejerk impulse I disagree with.

Little Red Schoolhouse Photo: Thomas Schoeller, New Preston, CT

Little Red Schoolhouse Photo: Thomas Schoeller, New Preston, CT

At the time the school I attended from first through 12th grades was seriously exploring a move to a larger building. Responding to uproar from alumnae the board of trustees subsequently scotched that move. Good for them! My guess: trustees feared a deafening sound–the click of closing purses–although there were countless other sensible reasons to stay put.

In that fall post I also mentioned the Frick’s plans to expand which are again derailed. Granted the reason for the turnaround was to save the garden, not a protest over expanding simply for expansion’s sake. It  certainly counts as an example of directors listening.

Sarah Cascone shared details in artnet.com in “New York Times Reports Frick Museum Board Backs Down Over Plan to Destroy Garden.” She quoted an anonymous museum official: “There was just a number of voices out there, and we heard them.”

This is the fourth overturned Frick expansion since 2001. Cascone referred to all the other fat cat museums–Whitney, MoMA and The Metropolitan Museum of Art–and their dramatically increased exhibition space that must sorely tempt the Frick to follow suit.

Frick garden. Photo: Timesunion.com

Frick garden. Photo: Timesunion.com

Cascone wrote that her publication “was among the first to advocate for the preservation of the garden as an important green space and visual respite in the neighborhood” followed by the president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, Charles Birnbaum, who let it be known that the garden was the only example in NYC of landscape architect Russell Page’s work. Bringing up a 38 year old press release, Birnbaum parried Frick Museum director Ian Wardropper who called the garden a “temporary placeholder for an addition.” The release described the “garden as a permanent addition to the institution’s grounds.”

The list of voices against destroying the garden grew louder, from a former Frick Museum director to a “Unite to Save the Frick” initiative involving high profile protestors such as architects Robert A.M. Stern and Maya Lin as well as former directors of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Quoting Wardropper, Casone wrote: “Preserving the unique residential character and intimate scale of the Frick will remain our top priority.” And that’s my point.

Have you seen happy endings like these? Do you think the Frick trustees will try for a fifth expansion? If an institution can’t grow physically, what does an art museum director or president do to make his/her mark? Is growth and change necessary to keep an institution alive?

Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

Service of What Am I Worth To You?

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Graduation 1

It’s hard to place values on earnings these days: Writers are paid a pittance, far less than garbage collectors or sports figures, and college presidents’ compensation averages in the six figures—up to $6 or $7 million in public and private colleges respectively—while students fall into deep-dish debt to pay the freight.

Valerie Strauss shared the list of college presidents’ compensation in her Washington Post article, “The surprising top 10 highest paid private college presidents.” She read the information in The Chronicle of Higher Education which, she noted, just reported on the latest data. It’s from 2012.

The amounts surprise me, not the people—about whom I graduation 3know nothing, with one exception: The man whom she listed at the $6 million level, according to a May 2014 report by the Chronicle. He was E. Gordon Gee. But she didn’t identify where he earned it so I turned to Google to find out.

That’s where I discovered Jordan Weissman’s article in slate.com: “This State College President Earned $6 Million Last Year. Should You Be Mad?” He confirmed the amount Ohio State University paid Gee, $6,057,615, much of which “came from built-up deferred compensation and severance,” wrote Weissman. He continued: “Gee retired from his post last summer after he was caught on tape disparaging Notre Dame and Catholics. (He’s now running West Virginia University). But his $851,000 base salary was also the highest among state school leaders.” Some model for students and a real fundraising magnet, right?

graduation 2So whose compensation–$7,143,312–was the top among private college presidents? Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y.

According to the Chronicle, “on average, a private-college president’s salary accounted for about 0.5 percent of his or her institution’s overall budget in 2012,” wrote Strauss. I have no way to determine the impact of the $6 and $7 million on Ohio State’s and Rensselaer’s budgets.

How do boards of trustees justify such figures? What makes one president worth so much more money than anyone else—their fundraising track record? Do you find that the range of compensation these days is unrelated to what a talented person in certain industries made 10 years ago?

graduatuin 4

 

 

Service of a Mistake You Wish Hadn’t Happened

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

oops 2

My senior year in high school was one of the most stressful of my life. That’s why this mistake caught my attention. Someone in the admissions department of Johns Hopkins sent an email with the subject line, “Embrace the Yes,” to 294 students telling them that they had been accepted when, in fact, they had been rejected.

EraseAccording to coverage in thedailybeast.com, in an article by Jonathan Ernst for Reuters, the college immediately admitted its mistake and apologized. “Admissions decisions days are stressful enough. We very much regret having added to the disappointment felt by a group of very capable and hardworking students, especially ones who were so committed to the idea of attending Johns Hopkins that they applied early decision,” Ernst quoted David Phillips, vice provost for admissions and financial aid at the University.

Mistakes happen. The university did what it could to address the matter and with speed. But oh, gosh! In this discussion I’m not including fatal mistakes by physicians, surgeons or parachute folders. Have you made such an error, been the recipient of one or heard of slip-ups with no happy ending that make you slap your head and exclaim, “Oh no!”

slap head

Service of a Timely Partnership: Tourneau Just in Time

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

watch 4

Sohpia Hollander’s story, “Time Tinkerers: Finding a Future Repairing the Workings of Watches,” she wrote about students who are saved by a time-honored profession: Clock repair.

A partnership program between a school for kids who’ve not made it in traditional high schools and the Tourneau Repair Center in Long Island City trains the students. Of 25 from the Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School who finished this program–twice a week for two months–Tourneau employed six. Hollander quotes one student who “couldn’t focus and felt embarrassed asking questions or speaking in groups, he said. ‘I felt I was a kid with a hoodie on his head,’ he said. ‘I thought I didn’t have much to say.’

“But seeing the inside of watches sparked questions, he said. He was astonishedwatch 2 by the sheer number of parts. He found a new ability to concentrate as he tinkered with the tiny pieces. Understanding watch innards has become as addictive as a new videogame, he said. ‘Now I can take something that’s broken and fix it,’ he said…. ‘It’s a good feeling to solve other people’s problems.’”

Hollander reports that watch sales and production are brisk but that there are only six repair schools today as compared to 50 in 1955. She quotes Terry Irby, technical service director at Tourneau who told her that “If they didn’t make another watch, I think there’s enough work for another 50 years.” He admits there aren’t enough watchmakers. Where Irby works, some of the watches are in the $36,000 range. You’d want to take good care of such a piece.

Hollander continued: “Pablo Gonzalez, 19, enrolled in the program’s first class last spring. He was flunking his courses, clashed with his parents and hung out ‘with a bad group of kids,’ he said.

“‘I was really going downhill,’ he said. ‘Everything was going wrong.’ But he found peace in the three-dimensional puzzle of hundreds of miniature watch pieces. He began experimenting with other activities, learning how to play handball and rediscovering his love of skateboarding. ‘It makes you confident about what other things you could do,’ said Mr. Gonzalez, who was one of the first program graduates hired by Tourneau.”

Do you know of other such programs? Do you agree that while small, this apprenticeship approach, multiplied by businesses around the country, could have the kind of impact we need to get back on our economic feet?

watch 5

Service of Student Coddling on Steroids

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

 

Application form 3

NPR’s coverage of Goucher College’s innovative application process was an eye-opener and not in a good way.

Juana Summers, in “Lights, Camera College? Goucher College Introduces Video Applications,” wrote “Goucher College, a liberal arts school in Baltimore, is offering students the opportunity to skip submitting standardized SAT and ACT scores, as well as the traditional college application packet that includes a transcript, letters of recommendation and essays. Instead, students can apply with a self-produced, two-minute video that explains how they see themselves thriving at Goucher, and why they want to go there. Students are also asked to submit two ‘works of scholarship.'”

She quotes the new president, José Bowen: “The college admissions process is broken. The Application form 1application process is complicated; it’s stressful.”

Summers reports that the president hopes to increase “diverstiy of thought” and, she posits, add to the number of applicants and the student body. She quoted Cornell professor and former Tufts dean of arts and sciences, Robert Sternberg, who agrees with the concept of “overhauling a college admissions process that he says lacks creativity and doesn’t serve students well…But, he warned, video applications might backfire for some students. ‘It puts an emphasis on how well you perform for a camera,’ says Sternberg, the author of College Admissions for the 21st Century. ‘Unfortunately, people can’t help things like interpersonal skills and attractiveness.'”

Will cushioning students’ path to college entrance help them in equally stressful internship and job searches and the inevitable knocks that life brings or is keeping a college open at all costs more important?  Is the idea for a college to gather and educate the brightest students or to get any old student who can pay the freight or collect enough scholarships to do so? Is the goal to reinforce the easy out when successful people work hard? Will lowering the bar help students and a college in the long run?

Linus

 

 

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics