Tag Archive | "Education"

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English Language Learners And Special Education Students Will Pay The Price For Hartford Mayor’s Bankruptcy Strategy

By David Medina

Welcome to the Hartford where everything is designed to shield Mayor Luke Bronin from the consequences of his own decisions.

Hartford Public Schools, for example, made two interrelated announcements back-to-back during the week of October 10th, to persuade city residents that their children will receive a better education if certain neighborhood schools are shut down.

In the first instance, the Board of Education unveiled the first draft of Equity 2020, the plan to close four low-performing underutilized neighborhood schools and shove their 3,500 students into the rest of the low-performing neighborhood schools.

The better funded Sheff magnet schools that are focused on luring white students from the suburbs will remain untouched.

The school board, under the direction of chairman Richard Wareing, is expected to approve Equity 2020  in December, so that the targeted schools are eliminated from the budget for the school year that begins in August of 2017.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionIn the second instance, the board appointed a search committee to find a qualified educator to replace outgoing Superintendent Beth Schiavino Narvaez, and be the henchman who implements Equity 2020.

Despite its name, there is no equity in Equity 2020. It is simply a brutal, slash-and-burn blueprint for rapidly shutting down the Martin Luther King, Burns Latino Studies, Thirman Milner and the Simpson-Waverly neighborhood schools.

The plan offers three scenarios under which the four doomed schools would close. The only real difference between them is the pattern for redistributing the displaced students throughout the school system.

Equity 2020 also calls for terminating the leases on schools that operate in rented spaces and doubling them up with schools that are located in city-owned buildings. As such, High School, Inc. and the Kinsella high school students would join the Journalism and Media Academy in the renovated Weaver High School building.

The plan makes no provisions for meeting the educational needs of the displaced students or for such things as after-school programs, transportation services, dental and health clinics, security, custodial services and school meals. That ugly task would have to be completed by whoever replaces Schiavino-Narvaez and the central office staff well before the first day of school in August.

The basic objective of the plan is to use the money saved from closing the schools to help Mayor Bronin eliminate the city’s enormous budget deficit and allegedly avoid bankruptcy without alienating Bronin’s political base. Neighborhood schools, including the ones targeted for closure, have increasingly become a dumping ground for Special Education students and the largely Latino population of English-language learners. Equity 2020 would make them even more of a dumping ground. Latino voters did not support Bronin in 2015. So he owes them nothing.

The city’s deficit for this year stands at $22 million and next year’s deficit is projected to be about $40 million. Meanwhile, Standard & Poor’s has downgraded Hartford’s bond rating near junk levels, based on what it said were Bronin’s unrealistic budget projections. Earlier this year, Bronin tried and failed to have the state legislature grant him the authority to unilaterally cut pensions and nullify labor contracts — a power that even the President of the United States doesn’t have. Lately, he has advocated for lowering expenditures in Hartford and other cities by regionalizing services and tax rates with neighboring towns, grand ideas that have fallen flat before.

That leaves Hartford Public Schools, and, more specifically, the neighborhood schools, as the only service that Bronin can freely disembowel to make it look as though he’s doing everything possible to keep the city from going bankrupt. All he needs is a compliant superintendent who will implement Equity 2020 and take the heat when raging parents demand to know how the city can justify opening an expensive new baseball stadium and closing schools at the same time.

Over the coming weeks, the search committee will interview candidates, check their backgrounds and perhaps hear testimony from parents and community leaders on the type of educator they want to see as superintendent. The committee will recommend a nominee and the Hartford Board of Education will then vote to offer the nominee a three-year contract with a salary of roughly $250,000 a year.

Everything will appear honest and above board, although many suspect that the selection process has already been rigged to favor Dr. Jose Colon-Rivas. Dr. Colon-Rivas became the district’s chief operating officer in July, after more than 30 years of service in both City Hall and Hartford Public Schools. He has been a teacher, principal of Hartford Public High School and a central office administrator. As chief operating officer, Dr. Colon-Rivas is already second in command at Hartford Public Schools and has done much of the day-to-day decision making there while Schiavino-Narvaez transitions to her new job as chief of instructional leadership in the Pacific Ocean for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Dr. Colon-Rivas is also invested in Equity 2020. He sits on the Equity 2020 Committee that will present the final draft of the plan for Board of Education approval in December. He even facilitated the unveiling of the first draft on Oct. 13. The more he fronts for Equity 2020, the better he looks. He has the added advantage of having served as a mayoral appointee to Hartford Board of Education, right up until the day he accepted his current job of chief operating officer. So, he clearly has Bronin’s confidence and is well-known to the board members who would appoint him superintendent.

The only potential candidate who poses a serious threat to Colon-Rivas is Dr. James Thompson. Dr. Thompson, who was educated in Hartford Public Schools, is already superintendent of  Bloomfield Public Schools, widely acclaimed as the most improved district in Connecticut every year since he took it over in 2011. Like Colon-Rivas, he spent most of his career as an educator in Hartford, where he became famous for his data-driven work in transforming low-performing schools, including an amazing turnaround of the Simpson-Waverly Elementary School that led to a coveted national Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education in 2003. Thompson, moreover, would be an attractive choice for Luke Bronin to present to the city’s African-American community that strongly supported him for mayor in 2015.

Dr. Thompson, however, would probably have little incentive to come to Hartford without a free hand to run the district as he saw fit. Being a hand puppet to Board Chairman Richard Wareing is not his style. Dr. Thompson also signed a three-year contract extension with Bloomfield recently, where he supervises 2,500 students instead of 21,000 for a salary comparable to what he would earn in Hartford. Furthermore, Thompson made his reputation as an educational leader who improves schools, not one who closes them.

The search process for Hartford superintendent may attract additional candidates. Some will take it seriously and others will throw their hats in the ring with no expectation of getting the job, thereby legitimizing the process. The urgency to pass Equity 2020 and the short timeline to fill the superintendent’s position makes it hard to imagine any of those candidates matching the experience, credentials, and the value of Jose Colon-Rivas or James Thompson.

That being the case, Mayor Bronin should simply skip the dog-and-pony show and choose the candidate that he has already decided can best satisfy his political and economic needs. Even the shoe-shine boys in Hartford know that Equity 2020’s role in Bronin’s bankruptcy gambit will determine who gets the job. So, be transparent. Don’t insult the public’s intelligence with a charade.

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Ed Department Taps Wentzell to Lead

HARTFORD — The Connecticut Department of Education has a new leader: Dianna Wenzell.

Officials announced on Monday that Wentzell, who currently serves as the department’s chief academic officer,  will head the department while the State Board of Education searches for a replacement of outgoing commissioner Stefan Pryor.  Pryor will leave the state to head the Department of Commerce in Rhode Island. He was also the deputy mayor and director of economic and housing development in Newark.

Pryor resigned after heading the board of education for four years.

Wentzell has a doctoral degree in educational leadership from the University of Hartford, a master’s in education from the University of Massachusettes, and a bachelor’s in Russian Studies from Mount Holyoke College.

Before joining the state department, she was an assistant superintendent for Hartford Public Schools.

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State Approves Schools for Commish’s Network

HARTFORD — The State Board of Education on Wednesday approved two Commissioner’s Network plan revisions for the embattled Dunbar School in Bridgeport and Walsh Elementary School in Waterbury.

Moving forward, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor stressed the difficulty of school turnaround work, saying it requires “a continuous commitment from teachers, students, parents, administrators and the surrounding community.”

He added that Walsh and Dunbar have “demonstrated the grit and determination to build systems designed to last and have successfully navigated unexpected challenges.”

Dunbar has made attempts to improve its profile by revising its plan to include extending the school day and the addition of a new pre-Kindergarten program, state officials said.

And to help shepherd its way to success, Dunbar officials  selected Cooperative Educational Services (CES) to hire and manage academic assistants for the school and to provide high-quality professional development and coaching for Dunbar teachers, among other responsibilities.

Waterbury’s Walsh School has identified a partner to help with implementation and to ready the school for “transformative changes,” state officials said. The district also selected a new principal to lead the school’s turnaround. Innovative Educational Programs (IEP), chosen at the local level through a competitive process, will assist in the implementation of the improvements.


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More Than 100,000 African-American Parents Are Now Homeschooling Their Children

By Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, NAM Contributor

We hear so much about the plight of Black children and their low test scores. We have not heard that African American children who are home schooled are scoring at the 82 percent mark in reading and 77 percent in math.

This is 30-40 percent above their counterparts being taught in school. There is a 30 percent racial gap in schools, but there is no racial gap in reading if taught in the home and only a 5 percent gap in math.

Dr.-Jawanza-KunjufuWhat explains the success of African American students being taught by their parents? I believe that it’s love and high expectations. I am reminded of Booker T. Washington High School.They were honored several years ago for producing the greatest turnaround as a Recovery school.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionThe principal had the opportunity to pick and choose her staff and emphatically stated, “If you want to teach in this school you must love the students.”  Researchers love promoting that the racial gap is based on income, marital status, and the educational background of the parents. Seldom, if ever, do they research the impact of love and high expectations.

Since the landmark decision, Brown vs. Topeka in 1954, there has been a 66 percent decline in African American teachers. Many African American students are in classrooms where they are not loved, liked, or respected. Their culture is not honored and bonding is not considered. They are given low expectations – which helps to explain how students can be promoted from one grade to another without mastery of the content.

There are so many benefits to homeschooling beyond academics. Most schools spend more than 33 percent of the day disciplining students. And bullying has become a significant issue.

One of every 6 Black males is suspended and large numbers are given Ritalin and placed in Special Education. These problems seldom, if ever, exist in the Homeschool environment.

Another major benefit is the summer months. Research shows that there is a 3 year gap between White and Black students. Some students do not read or are involved in any academic endeavor during the summer. Those students lose 36 months or 3 years if you multiply 3 months times 12 years (grades first -12) Homeschool parents do not allow academics to be forsaken for 3

Finally, in the homeschool environment, parents are allowed to teach their children values. Large numbers of parents are teaching their children faith based morals and principals.

And many are teaching their children with the Africentric curriculum SETCLAE. These children are being taught truths like, Columbus did not discover America; Abraham Lincoln did not free the slaves; Hippocrates was not the father of medicine and that African history did not begin on a plantation, but on a pyramid.

Until public schools give more love, higher expectations, better classroom management, greater time on task throughout the entire year, values and the SETCLAE curriculum, we can expect to continue to see an increase in African American parents homeschooling their children.

Photo Credit: visualphotos.com

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City Libraries, Schools Team up to Maximize Services

HARTFORD — The city’s public schools and libraries have formed a partnership aimed at allowing students to take fuller advantage of library resources, such as online books  and enrichment activities, through programs tailored to the families served by each  school.

The Hartford Public Schools and Hartford Public Library on Wednesday kicked off this cooperative venture seeking to maximize their services for students and their parents, while improving literacy skills, a joint press release said.

The plan divides the city into ten zones, each anchored by a library branch that will collaborate with every school in its zone to create the targeted programs.

The announcement was made at the Goodwin Public Library Branch on New Britain Avenue which will pilot the program, allied with the Breakthrough Magnet School, the Environmental Sciences Magnet School at Mary Hooker, the Expeditionary Learning at Moylan School, the Montessori Magnet at Moylan, Kennelly School  and Batchelder Elementary School.

Plans call for all 10 library branches to have working relationships with their zone schools within two years with the Godwin setup serving as a template.

The school district and the library will also form a citywide leadership team, consisting of a branch manager, a library media specialist and a technology expert to oversee and facilitate expansion of the plan.

Among the features that are expected to be added are new after-school and summer enrichment programs that focus on love of reading and learning, tutoring services, the use of library facilities to display student art exhibits and the development of a special website that grants students and teachers access to the library’s storehouse of online books.

According to the public library’s chief executive officer, Matthew K. Poland,  “Sharing collections, technology and staff expertise in both organizations will facilitate the development of literacy skills that are key to successful and productive careers”

Hartford Schools Superintendent Christina M. Kishimoto said, “I expect that our collaboration with Hartford Public Library will have very positive implications for our efforts to have every child reading at grade level by third grade and for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.”

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Education Department Receives Grant to ‘Lead’ on Teacher Preparation

HARTFORD — Flanked by state officials, local and national educators, the State Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor on Wednesday  announced that Connecticut was awarded a $100,000 grant to participate in a two-year pilot program supported by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The CCSSO selected Connecticut as one of seven states to participate in the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation to receive technical assistance to support teacher training programs that will gear up to graduate teachers and administrators that are  “learner-ready” on day one of their careers, officials said.

These seven states, officials said “will lead the way and serve as models for other states as they begin similar work.”

“States across the nation have raised expectations for students, and that means that we have a responsibility to ensure that educators are prepared to help all students graduate ready for careers, college and lifelong learning,” said Chris Minnich, CCSSO Executive Director. “These seven states are among those on the leading edge of making substantive changes in the policy and practice of educator preparation.”

During the first year, Connecticut is expected to concentrate on strengthening the educator preparation program approval process to ensure that all program completers are “learner-ready” and equipped with the knowledge, skills and dispositions needed to prepare all students for success in college or careers.  In addition, the state will focus on developing a system for the collection and analysis of data to inform improvements to the preparation of educators for the workforce.

“In order to meet our goal of preparing every student for success in college and career, we must prepare each future educator for success.  Our work regarding the rethinking and enhancement of teacher and leader preparation programs has been a collaborative effort.  I am grateful to all the participants in Connecticut’s process—including classroom teachers and college professors, school superintendents and university presidents—for focusing on this high priority work,” Pryor said.  “The NTEP initiative will assist us in advancing efforts, already underway in Connecticut, that are aimed at positioning preparation program graduates for success as they begin their careers as teachers and school leaders.”

Photo: The Hartford Guardian

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Our National Educational Dilemma and Back Breaking Student Debt

By Glenn Mollette, Op-Ed Contributor

Every American must have the opportunity to pursue college or vocational training. We are living in an era during which even previously trained persons need to sharpen their skills or retool for the future.

Too many people are completing their education facing a massive dilemma of debt. Their next dilemma is trying to break into the job market saddled with backbreaking debt.

We must make education within reach of all American citizens. The following will help make college possible for all:

Colleges and all institutions of higher education must work as all businesses to guard against escalating costs.

The government should provide low interest college or vocational loans to students who must borrow money for their education.

Graduates should be given a three-year grace period before the payback begins.

The government should forgive up to 20% of the loan if paid back in 10 years.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionColleges should be encouraged to develop three year college programs which could cut as much as 25% of the cost of education. Everyone who has attended a four-year college knows they had four or five courses along the way they did not need for their degree program. This would also save tremendously on housing, food and fuel costs.

Colleges are throwing extra courses at their students and keeping them longer to make more money. This means the students borrow more and end up financially crippled. Schools like all businesses must be financially competitive and non-traditional in their programs in order to survive this new era. The number of struggling colleges is growing.

Already I hear someone screaming, “How are we going to compete with the Chinese, Japan and other foreign countries if we are cutting classes from education?” Most college programs have required approximately 30, four-hour classes or 40, three-hour classes. Everyone’s degree program will vary as they add additional courses. I like education as well as the next person. Hurrah for anyone who has the luxury of spending the time obtaining a 150-hour degree! This means a much greater expense, but if you can afford it, then so what? School can be fun and with that many additional classes you are surely learning a lot! My beef is that most American families cannot afford the luxury of a four-year degree being crammed into five, six or more years. We must keep the general college experience to four years to complete. If the college can help students complete the degree in three or three and a half years it saves students, the families and even the government a lot of money.

College trustees, administrators and faculty you are being served notice. Start doing your part to be part of America’s solution and not a central part of our problem. The people in America do not need another dilemma.

glen mollettGlenn Mollette is the author of American Issues, Every American Has An Opinion. He can be reached at gmollette@aol.comIllustration courtesy of occupyforaccountability.org.

The Hartford Guardian values diversity of thought and therefore fosters and advance conversations about issues relevant to Greater Hartford residents. We  present opinions from all perspectives, including opinions NOT shared by our editorial staff.



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Online Learning Democratizes Higher Ed, But Can It Get You a Job?

By Jonah Harris

As a recent high school graduate, I have a lot of options when it comes to higher education.

There are big colleges and little colleges, urban campuses and rural campuses, liberal arts colleges, trade schools, community colleges, research universities, and non-research universities. Now there’s the new trend in higher education, Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, which proponents say have the potential to revolutionize the college experience.

For me, the more pertinent question is: Can they replace it?

MOOCs are online college courses that ultimately aim to make elite education available to all. Unlike most online colleges, they generally do not give credit or confer diplomas, but make up for it with courses of quality and prestige not found in any other form of distance education.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionCoursera, perhaps the most prominent company offering online courses, was founded in 2012 by two computer science professors from Stanford. It offers courses from 33 universities, including Stanford, Brown, Caltech, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, the University of California system, and many other top-tier universities. Edx, another Palo Alto-based company, founded in 2011, offers courses from MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, and Georgetown, among others. You can study hundreds of different subjects; most deal with technology, science, or math, but you can also take courses in philosophy, ancient Greek history, and a multitude of other humanities subjects.

Statistics show that some 60 percent of Americans aged 25 to 34 years old do not have a college degree; many are hindered by the cost. Online courses could offer hope to millions of people who cannot attend traditional colleges.

The lofty objectives and practical benefits have a clear draw. Coursera attracts 70,000 new users a week and reached its millionth member faster than Facebook. The industry as a whole has attracted tens of millions of dollars of investment capital from universities and private investors. The lack of prerequisites, age cutoffs, or price tag has attracted millions of users who would otherwise not be able to take college courses from top universities.

And the State of California has its own interest in the phenomenon. Both Governor Jerry Brown and state Superintendent Tom Torlakson have supported increased investment in online education and implementation across California’s university system. As part of this push, Silicon Valley-based Udacity is partnering with San Jose State University (SJSU) and local community colleges to develop a mix of in-house and online courses that – for the first time ever – will offer credit.

But what about me? I ask myself whether I am willing to replace a traditional college with a MOOC. And the answer is, not yet.

First of all, if higher education’s overarching objective is to mold a teenager into an adult, the peripheral aspects of the college experience — living away from home, forming new communities, and taking part in the traditions of a unifying experience — are just as important as advanced instruction in a particular field.

Even if MOOCs perfectly replicate classes, they can’t replace the growth that comes with independence and the challenge of gaining new experience.

Second, in strictly economic terms, it comes down to prestige. The difference when it comes to quality of instruction between top and middle-tier universities may be small, but the prestige of a Harvard diploma can make all the difference when it comes to job offers and salaries.

And that is precisely the problem with MOOCs. Even if an MIT student takes exactly the same course as an independent MOOC learner, employers will ultimately see that one student worked hard enough to gain entry to one of the most prestigious institutions in the world and the other simply logged onto the course from his computer. It would take a radical shift in how society views college to make a MOOC certificate of completion as impressive as a college degree.

Ultimately, I can’t help but think the benefits of a degree from a relatively less prestigious institution would serve me better in the job market than one from an online course.

So while I will continue to root for the success of this great experiment, which seeks to make premier higher education available to everyone, for now I remain unconvinced. College is more than classes. For the tens of millions of full- or part-time college students across this country, it serves as a place and a time to build new social networks, to foster intellectual risk taking and greater independence, things MOOCs cannot provide.

Jonah Harris is a recent high school graduate from San Francisco.

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Fate of Affirmative Action Hangs on Fisher v. Univ. of Texas

New America Media, Question & Answer, Khalil Abdullah,

Editor’s Note: On October 10 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Fisher v. University of Texas, a case that could upend affirmative action policies nationwide. The plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, is suing the state over her rejection for admission into the University of Texas, which considers race in allotting a percentage of available seats after the top 10 percent of high school seniors are admitted. Fisher, who is white, did not place in the top 10 percent. She contends the race-based portion of the institution’s admission policy is a violation of her constitutional rights. Veteran education reporter Scott Jaschik spoke with New America Media’s Khalil Abdullah on the potential ramifications of the hearing and what it could mean for minority college students across the country. Jaschik was the editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education from 1999 to 2003 before co-founding Inside Higher Ed, where he now serves as editor.

New America Media: How will this decision affect college admissions policies throughout the country?

Scott Jaschik: I think this will have a large impact in different ways. There are places like the University of Texas, other flagship universities and also elite private universities that consider race in admissions. These institutions are very hard to get into, places that typically make their admissions decisions based – in large part – on test scores and course grades. On average — and it’s very important to say on average because there are exceptions to this — if they eliminated the consideration of race, most of these institutions would admit fewer black, Latino, and Native American students. Many of them might see an increase in Asian-American students. In fact, when affirmative action was eliminated in California, there were initial spikes in Asian-American enrollments more so than white enrolments.

So, first of all, the decision will be important for the highly competitive admission institutions, but it [may have] other impacts. It could well affect the way many colleges, and not just the elite institutions, administer financial aid or how their summer programs operate.

NAM: Could you give an example of how a financial aid formula might be affected?

Jaschik: Scholarships that are based on income level are race-neutral and wouldn’t be affected, but some campuses have scholarships in which race and ethnicity are considered for certain awards, and you also have some summer programs and outreach programs that use race as a criteria.

NAM: How else could a ruling upholding the suit change a school’s demographics?

Jaschik: There were very interesting briefs filed with the Supreme Court by community colleges, for example. At first glance, you would say, community colleges are open admissions, so why would they be concerned? But community colleges want some of their students to transfer into flagship universities. In that process, race and ethnicity are sometimes considered … If affirmative action is radically scaled back, some [non-flagship] institutions might see an increase in black and Latino students. The impact of the court’s decision could really be quite broad, but we don’t know what the court will do.

NAM: What’s your sense of where court is headed?

Jaschik: Most experts think the current court isn’t generally sympathetic to affirmative action. The court could scale affirmative back partially or fully. You really don’t know until the decision comes out. Even then, if it’s a decision that drives a major change in current policies and the colleges start to adjust accordingly, there will probably be more lawsuits and court decisions. I think the ramifications of this decision could be quite dramatic over a period of time.

NAM: What is some of the possible fallout given the court’s timing in hearing this case? 

Jaschik: Because this case is going to be argued in October, in the middle of a presidential election … you’ll see a lot of campus debates. Generally when affirmative action becomes a hot issue, it can create difficulties for minority students on campuses who feel that people are raising questions about whether they are welcomed there or not, or whether they deserve to be there or not. If the court rules against Texas, anyone who has been admitted [under the current policy] wouldn’t be kicked out, and remember that not all of the minority students on that campus were admitted under affirmative action criteria. But it could be a very difficult time for people who are already on campuses.

NAM: With Justice Kagan recused from this case, what’s your read on the eight justices who will be voting?

Jaschik: A tie vote would mean that the University of Texas wins, but a tie doesn’t have the same precedential value as a majority five-three decision. Likely to back Texas would be Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. I think these three are fairly safe predictions. As the court’s health care decision shows, you can never be sure what’s going to happen. Nobody expected Justice Roberts to be the savior of Obama’s health care. So you don’t want to say you can be sure, but if you look at what the justices have written in the past, the remaining justices are skeptical of affirmative action. Sometimes people vote for what they’re skeptical of, but one of those five would have to change for Texas to win [by getting a four-four vote].

NAM: California and Florida are among the states with policies guaranteeing admission to high school students in the top-percentage of their class. Can you share some thoughts about Texas’ Top 10 Percent (TTP) admissions policy?

Jaschik: Texas has a fairly highly segregated system of high schools. [The state] knows, with a TTP, there are a number of high schools that are overwhelmingly black, so it will get some African-American students. It knows it has high schools that are almost all Latino, so some Latino students will get in. Now, obviously Texas [is] not de jure segregated like before Brown v. Board of Education, [it’s] de facto segregated. The question a lot of people have is whether this is the best way forward for American society.

A key criticism of the top TTP plan is that it doesn’t encourage high school districts to improve. They know the top 10 percent is getting in, whether they offer AP courses or not; whether they offer advanced calculus or not. Historically, one way in which flagship universities can promote quality education in a state is by having certain admissions standards. A TTP policy sort of takes them away from that.

NAM: If Texas loses the suit, what might be some short-term outcomes?

Jaschik: State universities would have to look to other approaches if they wanted to get a decent number of minority students. Some advocates of race neutral policies urge using economic status as an alternative. You could give a preference to a low-income student. This would still be legal if the Supreme Court said you couldn’t do affirmative action admissions. You’d get some black and Latino students and the benefit would also go to low-income white and Asian students. But I think most colleges would say that this approach and others would not add up to the level of diversity they have no

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What’s a College Degree Worth These Days?

New America Media Commentary  by Kelly Goff

That seems to be the topic on everyone’s mind as millions of American students head toward graduation this month. And by everyone, I don’t mean my classmates, the ones who have scrimped, saved, borrowed and begged to pay for their degrees. I mean the professors, parents and education reporters who just can’t stop talking about how bleak the job market is for new graduates.

According to a recent Associated Press analysis of government data, 53.6 of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 are unemployed or underemployed. News flash: the job market is tough for everyone. It has been since before we entered college.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in 2000 was at a 30-year low at 4 percent. We are now hovering around 8 percent, and that’s pretty positive. Still, in 2000, 41 percent of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 were unemployed or underemployed.

It’s not just college students being hit hard by the economy, or even being hit much harder, but it seems we are just a focus group that has been spotlighted. Maybe because we know this, and because we know that it’s going to be difficult, none of my classmates are asking each other where they’re going to be working after graduation, but rather we are asking each other what we’re going to be doing.

For some, it’s time to decompress, travel and start exploring the world. After navigating the labyrinth of paperwork and red tape of completing an ever-more-challenging requirement list, it’s time to take some time.

For others, yes, it’s time to work. And this may be at our retail, waitressing or freelance jobs. But if it pays the bills, then it’s ok for the time being.

No college degree can ever guarantee a job. And even if it does, it can never guarantee a job you’ll love. In a good job market or a bad job market, an education has more worth than the monetary value that a Gallup poll places on it, and the more I think about it, the more I begin to resent this monetization of the college experience.

Thirteen years after graduating high school, I’m about to finally obtain my bachelor’s degree. Perhaps because I took time off, went out there in the “real world” and found positions that were well-paying and didn’t require a college degree, it doesn’t feel like I’ve wasted my time or my money to get this degree. Those jobs might have paid the bills, but they didn’t make me happy.

As cliché as it may sound, the degree is about learning, about gaining knowledge and skills that will serve me well in any job that I do end up obtaining. Critical thinking, multitasking and the expansion of my worldview cannot be measured in a starting salary.

Yes, I might have to wait tables a little longer than I’d like, but if there’s anything that the last decade has taught me, it is that my degree holds more value than the dollar amount someone is willing to pay me just to see it on a resume.

It has also taught me that for those willing, able and determined, there is a place in the workforce. It may not be in their field of study, but it may be something that they love even more.

Those graduates who will get jobs are either in one of the few fields that have lots of openings, or the ones who are willing to try, try, and try again no matter how many rejections – or worse yet, unreturned phone calls – they must face.

They will take unpaid or low-paid internships (now that’s a whole other conversation) and hope to work their way up. They will sling burgers or fold cardigans until whatever debt they’ve accumulated is paid off, hopefully taking on projects that interest them on the side until they can secure a full-time position.

Despite all the reports of doom and gloom, don’t worry about us. We’re going to be just fine.

Kelly Goff is graduating from San Francisco State University with a degree in journalism. 

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