ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Administration To Issue “Gainful Employment” Rule.

The New York Times  (10/30, Pérez-Peña, Subscription Publication) reports that the Obama Administration is expected to issue a new “gainful employment” rule on Thursday that would cut funding to career-training programs, depending on “whether graduates earn enough to pay off student loans.” The rule “is clearly aimed at for-profit schools and colleges,” which “disproportionately serve low-income and minority students,” continues the Times, adding that the new guideline could mean the end of such programs, “because a majority of their revenue comes from federal student loans and Pell grants.” It says Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters, “While some are strong, today too many of these programs fail to provide students with the training they need. … Our primary goal in this effort is to make sure that all programs funded by taxpayers provide quality training to all students.”

The Washington Post  (10/29, Douglas-Gabriel) quotes Duncan as saying, “Career colleges must be a stepping stone to the middle class. But too many hard-working students find themselves buried in debt with little to show for it. That is simply unacceptable. … These regulations are a necessary step to ensure that colleges accepting federal funds protect students, cut costs and improve outcomes.” According to the Post, ED estimates that “about 1,400 programs would not pass the accountability standards,” but Duncan said “none of the programs will be immediately disqualified.”

According to the AP  (10/30), Duncan said “These regulations are a necessary step to ensure that colleges accepting federal funds protect students, cut costs and improve outcomes.” Duncan explained that the guidelines are aimed at ending abusive practices, but Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities CEO Steve Gunderson criticized this measure as “nothing more than a bad-faith attempt to cut off access to education for millions of students who have been historically underserved by higher education.” The piece also notes that career-training programs “will have to show that the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 20 percent of his or her discretionary income or 8 percent of total earnings.”

The Los Angeles Times  (10/30, Kirkham) also covers this story, noting that Duncan told reporters on Wednesday that “The quality of these programs today varies tremendously. … While some are strong, today too many of these programs fail to provide the training [students] need, while burying them in debt they cannot repay.” The Times reports that ED “will judge schools by tracking their graduates’ finances, using Social Security Administration data.” This is the department’s second effort to regulate such programs.

Bloomberg News  (10/30, Lauerman, Wolfson) quotes the same statement from Duncan, adding that the he promised “the rules will ‘eliminate the worst-performing programs that are poorly serving students and taking advantage of taxpayers.’”

Reuters  (10/30, Ajmera, Jaisinghani) also reports more briefly, quoting Duncan as saying the rules would ensure that programs receiving Federal funds would take steps to improve student outcomes.

On the Huffington Post  (10/30) blog, attorney and advocate David Halperin writes that he obtained a White House press release on the new guideline, and his preliminary assessment was that “The rule is far too weak to address the grave misconduct of predatory for-profit colleges.” However, it is an improvement over the Administration’s first attempt, which “the for-profit college industry convinced a federal judge to strike down.”

Civil Rights Groups Push For Robust Gainful Employment Rule. The Hill  (10/30, Goad) reports a coalition of civil rights organizations issued a policy brief Wednesday arguing that the ED’s gainful employment rule will help minority students instead of hurting them. The groups are encouraging stronger oversight over for-profit colleges “that saddle students with a mountain of student loan debt without sufficiently preparing them for the job market.” The coalition includes the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Higher Education

US Chief Technology Officer Addresses Lack Of Diversity.

The Washington Post  (10/29, Fung) reports in its “The Switch” blog that “Megan Smith, the former Googler who’s now the Obama administration’s chief technology officer,” spoke Wednesday at a conference in Washington about the lack of diversity in the tech field. She pointed out that the United States has fallen behind countries like Vietnam and China in this area, because when the personal computer was introduced, “We culturally decided…that it was for the boys.” The Post notes that this is “actually a departure from the first part of the 20th century, when…women with degrees in math work[ed] to break codes or do scientific research during World War II.”

Blog Post: Redirecting Higher Education Funds To Vocational Training Will Help Economy.

Peter Morici at The Hill  (10/30, Morici) “Congress Blog” argues that Federal and state governments should redirect educational funding to vocational programs instead of 4-year colleges. The use of new technologies in businesses has created good-paying jobs for “more specialized and highly skilled” workers like “technicians, mechanics and other modern tradespersons who are in short supply.” Colleges produce enough engineers and business majors, but not enough skilled tradesmen, he says. Moneys should be used to expand “high school and community college apprenticeship and technical programs, which are currently scarce and terribly underfunded.”

Research Lab Studies Efficacy Of Financial Aid Programs, College Affordability.

A 2,500-word article in the Madison (WI) Capital Times  (10/30) reports on research by the University of Wisconsin-Madison into college affordability. The research looks at the efficacy of programs that are designed to provide financial aid to students. The Harvesting Opportunities for Postsecondary Education program is designed to educate families and students about the costs of getting students on campus and keeping them there for four years.

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Research and Development

Piece Highlights ED’s Small Business Innovation Research Program.

Education Week  (10/29, Cavanagh) reports on ED’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which “is housed within the Institute of Education Sciences” and aims to bridge the gap between technology entrepreneurs in need of capital and school officials seeking helpful tools and devices for their students. The piece notes some examples from “this year’s class of awardees,” which “is focused on developing a range of commercial K-12 products.” The contribution of program director Edward Metz is also mentioned.

Oregon College Receives $5 Million Title III Grant.

The Wagoner (OR) Tribune  (10/30) reports on a five-year Title III ED grant of $5 million awarded to Connors State College of Oregon to develop online hybrid courses and online support services, and to create a Native American Success and Cultural Center. The article notes that other institutions receiving the same award received less than half of the CSC grant amount.

Vanderbilt University Gets $1.8 Million ED Grant.

The AP  (10/30) reports that ED gave Vanderbilt University a $1.8 million four-year grant renewing a center’s designation as a National Resource Center. The “One Vanderbilt in Latin America” model will expand collaboration in research, teaching and public engagement in Latin America.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Gallup Poll: Teachers Who Use Common Core Like Standards.

NBC Nightly News (10/29, story 6, 2:45, Williams) reported that a Gallup poll released this week shows that “most teachers in schools where the common core standards are already being taught have come to like them” and “while most states agree to them, there have been a lot of protests against them.” Opponents see the standards “as a giant Federal government overreach.” However, a problem has emerged with the standards—the homework requires non-traditional methods for basic math problems, creating problems for many parents, students and teachers.

Gallup  (10/30, Saad) reports on its findings from 854 K-12 public schools nationally, where 41% of teachers view the standards positively compared to 44% negatively; 15% claim “very positive” perceptions while 16% hold “very negative” views. When asked how teachers believe their peers perceive the standards, 56% of teachers said peers held “mixed” opinions, 7% said they held positive opinions, and 32% said they held negative opinions. The article goes on to state that those most familiar with Common Core like it best, that elementary schools are more positive than others, and that those transitioning to Common Core are likely working in a stressful environment. Gallup reported an error margin of 5%, with demographic weighting of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, and region.

Education World  (10/30, Granata) features long quotations from the Gallup report, attesting to a lack of variation between Common Core states when compared to national responses. Education World also notes that, in schools where Common Core has been implemented, 61% view the standards positively, while 35% disapprove; in schools that have yet to, 37% approve versus 43% who disapprove.

Education Week  (10/30, Sawchuk) adds that over half of teachers said having unified standards was the best feature of Common Core; the second most popular aspect was its emphasis on critical thinking (12% of teachers). The most common reasons for disapproval were impracticality and too much added pressure (15%), poor implementation (14%), and opposition to standardized testing (12%).

Common Core Emphasizes Focus On Math Strategies.

The St. George (UT) Spectrum  (10/29, Paystrup) reports that “three years into implementation of Common Core standards, some elementary teachers in Southern Utah have a positive view of what it does in their classroom because it allows them to reach students who understand math differently.” Amy Barton, a first-grade teacher, said the standards haven’t “fundamentally changed” the way she teaches math, but have “reinforced” what she was already doing.

Coopersville Students Awarded Science Grant.

MLive  (10/30, Moroney) reports “Coopersville Area Public Schools recently received a $10,000 grant that will help establish an Advanced Placement chemistry class and purchase items, such as a 3-D printer, for its science clubs.” The grant, which is funded by Monsanto, was awarded Sept. 17 by America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education. Students plan to “use a new 3-D printer to learn how to use remote-operated vehicles they built for research.”

KIPP Charter Schools Show Using Technology In Blended Learning Can Be Successful.

The Hechinger Report  (10/29, Robinson) looks at how KIPP, the nation’s largest non-profit charter network, is successfully blending the use of technology into its charter schools throughout the nation, with each school choosing the level and manner in which the technology is used. Mike Kerr, KIPP Foundation’s elementary school leadership development director, and others “say strong teaching is key, but technology can help.” A 2014 report on blended learning by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation noted that most children “adapted quickly” and appeared to be “more engaged in their work.” Teacher Rebecca Saxon notes that technology makes groups “more purposeful” because “we’re meeting every kid where they need to be met.” Although “hard evidence” of blended learning’s effects on student achivement is not yet available, high scores at KIPP schools “seem to support its use of technology.” The story was also run by US News and Word Report.

New Survey Illustrates Various Ways Teachers Integrate Gaming Into Class.

Forbes  (10/29, Shapiro) reports on the increasing use of digital games in classrooms, with polling from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at the Sesame Workshop showing 74% of K-8 teachers utilize the technology as of fall 2013, with 55% reporting weekly use and 9% daily. Only 5% are commercial games, while 8% are educational hybrids, leaving the majority educational. The study found a relationship between personal game play (among 82% of teachers) and in class use, identifying four profiles in great detail based upon comfort with gaming and the degree to which the teachers employ them. “Dabblers” (20%) employ games the least often; “Players” (23%) see limited benefits educationally; “Barrier Busters” (22%) strive to use them and are younger on average; and “Naturals” (34%) integrate them regularly and effectively into education due to frequent personal use and resultant familiarity.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories


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