Another Best Buy Trip: Or, Are Public Ed Solutions Easier Than We Think?

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Since education is much in the news, here’s another interesting Megan article that might reveal much. She reports:

The legislature’s higher education committee discussed several bills Tuesday that it hopes to raise in the current session, including one that would enable the tracking of individual students through college.

Here’s the breakdown of significant items

The committee also discussed bills that would:

*Address the Connecticut State University System. Exactly what this bill would do has not yet been decided because legislators are waiting for a report from the state’s program review and investigations staff that is expected to assess the operation of the system.

*Address the agreements among the state’s public colleges and universities to ensure the easy transfer of credits from one institution to the next.

*Work toward the elimination of sexual violence on college campuses.

*Require institutions of higher education to provide financial counseling to students receiving financial aid.

*Require early childhood educators to have either a bachelor’s or associate’s degree by 2015.

*Address the University of Connecticut Health Center. This bill is also uncertain and will depend on what the legislators learn during hearings about the next step for the proposed renovation and expansion of the health center. Late last month, the state learned that it would not be getting a $100 million grant from the federal government for the work.

*Help prepare students to join Connecticut’s manufacturing and technological workforce.

*Create a strategic plan for higher education.

A couple of comments: Connecticut, therefore, does not have a “higher ed” strategic plan. CT will be hiring more financial aid staff. CT will grow Early Childhood ed programs. CT will explore its manufacturing and tech workforce, whatever this may mean. But this might be a hint. CT will persist in the “transfer” problem for yet another legislative round. Furthermore, Megan reports

State Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, and the committee’s co-chairwoman, said that the bill — which is still in the “concept stage” — would tag students with a “unique indentifer” so that their records could be followed at any public or private college or university that receives government funding.

“A high number of our students need remediation,” Bye said. “This will give us a way to understand where students are coming from, how can we support them … so community colleges aren’t using so many resources on remediation.”

Technically speaking, this “tracking” is not so difficult. It wouldn’t even require a “unique [sic] identifier.” All the state would have to do is ask for the numbers. The real problem is what the numbers will say. The legislature is actually after information that is readily knowable now: we know where students are coming from and we also have a pretty good idea why students need “remediation,” which is a word I don’t like, as the root “remedy” is improper. Enormous scholarship exists on the problem. Community college teachers teach these students and our professional staffs have much knowledge about them.

From my perspective, the early years of college should be the equivalent of “intellectual bootcamp.” The concepts, knowledge, and frameworks of higher education have developed from thousands of years of knowledge in philosophy, science, ethics, and language. To be successful, a student must be mature, patient, resilient, and curious. But the solutions to our current “public” education problems are actually simple to fix but impossible at the moment to make real, and, of course, they’re arguable:

1. A 1:10 teacher-student ratio across the board
2. Intuitive learning spaces for all students
3. Grueling study in knowledge frameworks for teachers, with plenty of flexibility for their own research and initiatives
4. Integrate all schools into their communities so that it’s difficult to see where the school starts and the community begins
5. Make real alternatives to higher ed so that the “Everyone needs a college degree” philosophy isn’t necessary. If high school has general rigor and can be viewed as “terminal” and someone can seek good quality of life with the high school degree, is this not a good thing?

I assume a general agreement with the above by most people. But if the money can’t be found, then “weaker” solutions should simply be seen as “workarounds.”


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