Odds & Ends about college completion, homework loads and seniority layoffs

03/26/2014 12:00 AM

03/20/2014 2:16 PM

Californians who delayed starting college until 25 or older were more likely to finish, a study released today finds. We were among only five states where this was true, one of dozens of statistics included in the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center study.

Overall, 69 percent of Californians who went to four-year universities had a diploma in hand within six years and 17 percent were still enrolled, compared with 63 percent graduating, 15 percent still trying, nationwide. Best grad rate was in Iowa, 80 percent; worst showing was 41 percent in Idaho.

Those in the traditional track, going straight to full-time enrollment at a four-year campus, did best statewide, with 9 out of 10 graduating.

Homework Update

The 2014 Brown Center Report on American Education, released by the Brookings Institution Tuesday, tackles the thorny issue of families drowning in homework. Bottom line: It’s not so bad and hasn’t changed much since you went to school. If teens are staying up too late, the study suggests, it’s more likely because of the time they spend chatting with friends before buckling down to the books.

Short on time yourself? Catch the movie.

Lawsuit update

The potentially pivotal lawsuit seeking to overturn California’s strong job protections and seniority layoff system for teachers winds up Thursday, March 27. Administrators, students and parents have testified on both sides during Vergara v. California. In an impressive amount of spin, both sides saw each others’ witnesses as bolstering their own views. Whether viewed as a case for educational equity or a politically motivated attack on the teaching profession, it is a verdict to watch.

For one thing, it could change laying off teachers based solely on seniority. Research shows teachers do better after at least two years on the job. Beyond that, seniority does not appear to be the best predictor of great teaching.

While much was made in the case about the turnover at inner city schools caused by seniority layoffs, I would argue the strongest evidence against the statute comes from looking through cases where laid off teachers sue to bump other teachers. Such cases come down to bare-knuckled fights about money, a profoundly unflattering look at the profession.

In one local case, a community college instructor who had never taught a technology course sued to take over cutting-edge digital design classes. Her qualifications? Decades earlier she made a flier using a computer and she had seniority over the expert then teaching the classes. While the law seemed fuzzy on the issue, the judge ruled 20-year-old computer skills did not qualify as qualified.

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