Thursday, April 16, 2015

Will college survive? For many, it never existed

"The failure to account for our most needy students should be of grave concern to all who desire equality from our education system, and indeed from our society. The “end of college” futurists presuppose that all students will equally benefit from increased access to online learning nodes and the self-paced credentialing they promise. I suspect the opposite will occur: if this world comes to be, those conditions will end up exacerbating rather than mitigating inequality, as the most well-off and the most advantaged students — the ones who have had years of encouragement and support, years of positive reinforcement to buffer their motivation, and yes, the interested hand of a parent to help work through that online module — distance themselves further from those who need the most support. To date, we don’t have any reason to believe that the kind of attentive teaching that correlates with student achievement gains can be replicated in a virtual setting, to say nothing of the gaping disparities in Internet access observable along lines of race and class.

"If we have learned anything from the decades of research in both K-12 and higher education, it’s that student success depends above all else on the support of great educators and mentors. We know, for example, that it is not course-taking, class size, or a particular curriculum that has the biggest impact on student achievement, but rather one’s exposure to an effective teacher....

"The fact is that the vast majority of our nation’s would-be college graduates are funneled into under-resourced technical schools, community colleges, and lower-tier public universities where they languish, unsupported and unlikely to graduate. Depending on the institution, up to 60 percent of these students entering for the first time do not graduate within six years. Will a freer, more open marketplace for digital credentials change those odds? Will it dissolve the cruel fate of geography and its stratifying effects on those born into impoverished zip codes, where too many public schools, despite their efforts, can only offer a slippery ladder with which to clamber into the middle class?"

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