Everyone from President Barack Obama to U.S. Representative Paul Ryan to Bill Gates seems to have a plan for improving the Federal Pell Grant Program for higher education.
Worthy though some of these efforts may be, none get to the crux of the problem: A huge proportion of this $40 billion annual federal investment is flowing to people who simply aren’t prepared to do college-level work. And this is perverting higher education’s mission, suppressing completion rates, and warping the country’s K–12 system.
About two-thirds of low-income community-college students—and one-third of poor students at four-year colleges—need remedial (a.k.a. “developmental”) education, according to Complete College America, a nonprofit group. But it’s not working: Less than 10 percent of low-income students who start in remedial education graduate from community college within three years, and just 35 percent of such students earn a four-year degree within six years.
What if the government decreed that, starting three years hence, students would only be eligible for Pell aid if enrolled in credit-bearing college courses, thus disqualifying remedial education for support?
One could foresee various possible outcomes. Let’s start with the positive. Ambitious,
A first look at today's most important education news:
"Bill Bennett on the state of American education," by Michelle Gininger, Flypaper
"Diane Ravitch—Tea Party Darling," by Terry Ryan, Ohio Gadfly Daily
Yesterday, the parent-trigger bill failed in the Florida Senate for the second year in a row. (Education Week)
The nonprofit NewSchools venture fund, which directs donations to charters and other education groups, has teamed up with a for-profit venture fund. (New York Times)
The final Next Generation Science Standards are attracting criticism. (Curriculum Matters)
The MOOC provider Coursera will offer teacher-education courses for K–12 instructors. (All Things D)
Technology tools and applications to teach students “grittiness” are emerging. (Digital)
Online testing problems have frozen Indiana’s statewide standardized testing for a second straight day. (Digital Education)
A new survey finds that the Department of Education is the fifteenth-most innovative mid-size agency, out of twenty; NASA topped the list. (Politics K–12)
Dr. Bennett recently spoke at the Fordham Institute on the state of American education.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
William J. Bennett, former U.S. education secretary (and former NEH chairman, drug czar, widely published author, radio host, and political commentator) recently spoke at the Fordham Institute on the state of American education.
On the thirtieth anniversary of A Nation at Risk (watch our video retrospective on the paper here), Dr. Bennett talked about where we’ve come with NAEP scores and other indicators—with real gains in fourth grade, modest improvement in eighth, and none whatsoever in twelfth. (That’s true of other high school indicators, too.)
Bennett noted, too, that school choice has made great strides, technology is playing a promising (but as yet unfulfilled) role in education, and Americans now know the difference between teachers and teachers unions. Mostly good news—but not all. Our worst subject, he made clear, is history (U.S. history in particular), as well as civics—and offered the excellent work of E.D. Hirsch and the Core Knowledge Foundation as at least a partial solution to this acute problem.
Michelle Rhee is, without a doubt, America’s best known education reformer. Her new autobiography, Radical: Fighting to Put Students First, chronicles her upbringing as the daughter of Korean immigrants, her career trajectory from Teach For America corps member to Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, and now as founder and CEO of the political advocacy group Students First.
In this installment of the Education Next book club, host Mike Petrilli talks with Michelle Rhee about becoming Michelle Rhee, what she’s learned over these last tumultuous years, and what she thinks the future holds for education reform in America.
Additional installments of the Ed Next Book Club podcast can be heard here.
This post originally appeared on the Education Next blog.
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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