Juggling College, Child Care Leaves Millennials Impoverished

Juggling College, Child Care Leaves Millennials Impoverished

by Allie Bidwell, Education reporter for U.S. News & World Report

People say millennials are a lot of things – more educated, more entitled, more likely to have student debt. They’re also more likely to be parents, oftentimes while they’re working toward earning a college degree.

Samantha Maggiani, 25, is completing her master’s degree in social work from Texas State University next month. She’s juggled being a full-time student with also holding a full-time internship and being a full-time mother to her 4-year-old son, Kenneth. Maggiani became pregnant toward the end of her general education coursework at a local community college, and started her work toward a bachelor’s degree at the University of Houston–Downtown with a newborn child in January 2012. Although she was able to rely on her boyfriend – her son’s father – to work enough to pay the bills, the three were far from any family who could help babysit, and Maggiani found herself constantly balancing school with her parental duties.

“There were often times I couldn’t go to school because I couldn’t find a babysitter,” she says. “I couldn’t have my boyfriend not work because he was the breadwinner, he was paying the bills. So school kind of took the back burner to living, basically.”

A new report from the youth advocacy group Young Invincibles highlights the obstacles many young parents face, including the startling fact that they’re significantly more likely than past generations to be living in poverty. The report, written by Konrad Mugglestone, found 1 in 5 millennial parents lives in poverty. Among the 4.8 million college students who have children, nearly 43 percent – around 2 million students – lived below the federal poverty line during the 2011-12 school year, according to data from the Department of Education.

That’s because young parents, particularly college students, have several financial responsibilities to balance, and few resources to help.

“When you have a kid, obviously you have a lot less time in your day,” Mugglestone says. “You need to probably be working to support them, and if you’re trying to go to school as well, you’re really not going to have that many hours to devote to your education.”

Added responsibilities and a lack of support is particularly a problem for student parents – research has shown that family responsibilities are among the top reasons students with children drop out of college.

But there are more student parents than ever before. While the proportion of student parents has remained relatively stable, the absolute number has jumped from around 3.2 million in 1995 to 4.8 million in 2011, according to a data analysis from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. At the same time, federal funding for campus-based child care hasn’t kept pace. Despite the burgeoning number of student parents, the proportion of community colleges with child care on campus has fallen from a high of 53 percent in 2003-04 to 46 percent in 2013; the proportion of public four-year colleges with child care resources decreased from 54 percent to 51 percent in about the same time.

And even when colleges and universities do have child care options on campus, they’re often very pricey and sometimes even more expensive than options outside of the school, says Barbara Gault, vice president and executive director of the institute.

Colleges and universities “don’t necessarily see the link between investing in campus child care and student success,” she says. “They sometimes see it more as an extra, a perk, something that’s the first thing to cut if they need to trim the budget, or something that somehow should be paying for itself.”

It’s also a problem that many colleges don’t have solid statistics on how many of their students have dependent children, Gault says. What’s more, many college education reforms pushed by large foundations and the Obama administration, Gault says, are more focused on improving curriculum and learning, delivering online education and addressing issues with adult basic education, but less focused on supports for students, such as accessible child care.  READ MORE



Cheating Problem? Rethink Assessment

Cheating Problem? Rethink Assessment

by Neal Brown, Green Acres School, Head of School

At schools such as Green Acres, we are focused on teaching children “how to think, not just what to think.” In the same way, we are less interested in filling students’ minds with information than we are in opening them up to new understandings about themselves and about the world around them.

And, ultimately, while we ensure that our students leave our school after 8th grade with the skills that they need to be successful in high school and beyond, we are equally interested in instilling in each student a love of learning for learning’s sake. Rather than seeing school as a game to be cynically played in order to achieve the highest grade or to please the teacher, we aim for our students to develop a genuine interest in the material and a sense of satisfaction in the act of learning.

The evidence for widespread cynicism about learning is nowhere more acute than in the all-too-common examples of cheating at schools and colleges. Students are most often seen as the root of this problem; however, teachers and schools/colleges also bear some of the blame. In a recent article from The Atlantic, former teacher Jessica Lahey shows ways in which schools both contribute to cheating and have the power to lessen instances of cheating.

In “A Classroom Where No One Cheats,” she cites the causes of cheating explored in Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty by James M. Lan. Lan points to the pressure students experience to compete against one another for scores or grades. While some degree of competition in school (and life) is inevitable, students often internalize the message that getting a good grade and out-competing one’s classmates is much more important than learning/mastering the material. This seems especially true in schools where tests have high stakes consequences and where they are over-used to determine student understanding at the expense of other types of assessments.

So how can educators and parents create an environment that engages children in learning for learning’s sake, while also preparing them for the pressure of grades and testing? One way is to ensure that a range of assessments is being used to measure student mastery. Among these assessments should be ones that authentically measure not just what student know, but what they can do with this knowledge. There should be opportunities for students to demonstrate their creativity, rather than simply to find “the answer,” and there should be opportunities for students to interact with classmates and the teacher in completing assessed tasks, rather than overly assessing what a student knows by him or herself in a traditional paper and pencil assessment.

Of course this isn’t just a recipe to avoid the problem of cheating; it’s an approach to teaching and assessing students that acknowledges that what a student can do in context, what he or she can create that is unique, what he or she can discover with input from others, and what he or she gains from reflecting upon a learning experience has the most lasting value. It’s also an approach that enables a school to communicate to students the value it places on teaching skills and understandings that are in many ways inseparable from what is valued outside of school. We know that students, especially beginning in middle school, need to prepare for tests and for other closed-ended assignments; however, these should represent only a fraction of how students are motivated to learn and how their success is assessed. This approach also demonstrates to students that while learning and any type of true accomplishment is often challenging, it also can be joyful, creative, and assessed in a less-pressured environment—one also were cheating would less likely thrive.

While it would be impossible to claim that students at Green Acres School or other progressive school never cheat, I would argue that students in these environments spend more time focused on learning and less time worried about competition. I also would suggest that teachers in these schools spend less time determining what students don’t know or figuring out which students know more than the others—and much more time, as Lahey says, “catching students in the act of learning.”

5 Tips for Your Private High School “Search”

5 Tips for Your Private High School “Search”

by Trevor Waddington, DCschoolHUB Founder

It’s August 5, 2014.  Do you know what high school your rising 8th grader will be attending in the fall of 2015?

You don’t?  Uh-oh!  Now is not the time to perfect your tan on the beach.  Now is the time to PANIC!!

I’m only half kidding, but over the next several weeks parents will put themselves (and their child) in a perpetual state of Hyper-High School Anxiety (H-HSA).  Symptoms of H-HSA including sweating, nausea, irritability, demanding to speak with the high school placement counselor while he/she is on vacation, and emailing (because no one is answering their phones in August) high schools wondering why they still have last year’s open house dates the website.

Take a breath…that’s it…everything will be fine.

Beginning in September and lasting until March 1, everything you do will be focused on getting your child into his/her your school of choice.  Here are a few tips:

  1. (If your child is an athletic Phenom skip to number 2)  Listen to the high school counselor and be reasonable.  If your child is not an A/B occasional C student then top area schools (you know which ones I’m talking about) are not likely to accept your student.  If the counselor suggests you look at other schools; take that advice.
  2. Don’t get into a power struggle with your child over high school choices.  After all the open houses and shadow days, it’s likely you will have the same schools on the short list.
  3. Don’t push your child into ‘last minute’ extracurricular activities to bolster his/her application.  If all of a sudden this past summer they went from couch potato to Mother Teresa admission offices will notice.
  4. Don’t “go above” the admission office because you know someone unless you absolutely have to.  In that case be very humble.
  5. Don’t take rejection personally unless you did something personal to the school.  They don’t hate your kid, so don’t be that parent.