Today’s High School Students More Committed to Academics Than Previous Generation

Report: U.S. Students Get Serious About High School

High school students work harder and are more focused on school than they were a generation ago, suggests a special analysis in “The Condition of Education 2012,” and the economic downturn may highlight an opportunity to put more of them on the path to college.

The National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education, released its vast annual statistical snapshot today with a special focus on high schools.

In 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, the NCES reported 14.9 million students were enrolled in grades 9-12, a slight decrease from 2008 but still part of a slow rise since 1990; the NCES expects high school enrollment to recover and increase 4 percent in the next decade.

“The population’s different; it’s poorer and more diverse,” said Mel Riddile, the associate director for high school services at the National Association of Secondary School Principals in Reston, Va., but he noted, “I’ve been in education four decades, and I’ve found the students getting better and better every decade.”

NCES statistics do seem to show a generation more committed to academics.

Student Employment Drops and Rising College Ambitions

The latest of the U.S. Department of Education’s annual Condition of Education reports finds declining percentages of high school students, ages 16 and older, are working outside of school.

Additionally, students whose parents have attained higher levels of education are more likely than those with less educated parents to have plans to earn a four-year college degree. But federal statistics show that the percentages of students aspiring to that level of educational attainment has risen in recent decades, regardless of parents’ education background.

Fewer high school seniors in 2009 than in 1992 reported missing three or more days of school in the past month, and the percentage of 12th graders reporting perfect attendance in the month previous to the survey rose from 35 percent in 1992 to 38 percent in 2009.

Little to no change occurred from 1990 to 2010 in the percentage of students participating in extracurricular activities such as student government, clubs and drama, except for increase in sports participation, from 36 percent to 40 percent.

Lower Employment

During the same time period, however, high school students have become half as likely to work while in school. From 1990 to 2010, the percentage of students ages 16 and older who were employed while enrolled in school dropped from 32 percent to 16 percent. While the economic downturn has certainly contributed to that decline, the report shows student employment has been dropping steadily for the past decade.

“It used to be, you’d go to high school at 11 or noon, and there was this mass exodus of students, seniors with a half day,” Mr. Riddile said. “That’s changed dramatically around the country. The culture in the schools today is much more oriented toward academics and success after high school than they ever were before. Students are required to take full courseloads and rigorous classes,” due in part to higher graduation criteria in 22 states.

That push for more rigorous coursework, coupled with an increasingly inhospitable employment environment for teenagers, could create some leverage for educators to put more students on track for higher academic achievement.

“Being in high school is a lot better than hanging out somewhere trying to get a job when you are competing against adults with families,” noted Jeffrey E. Mirel, a professor of education and history at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

That may be helping to keep students in school. The NCES found that from 1990 to 2010, the percentage of students considered dropouts declined from 12 percent to 7 percent, and the percentage of freshmen who graduated in four years with a regular high school diploma increased slightly, from 73.7 percent in the class of 1991 to 75.5 percent in the class of 2009.

Moreover, seniors may be graduating better prepared than they were a generation ago.

More high school graduates in 2009 had completed rigorous high school classes than had done so two decades before. Of a slew of mathematics and science courses considered important for college readiness—including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, statistics, analysis/pre-calculus, calculus, biology, chemistry, and physics—only Algebra 1 saw a decrease in the percentage of students completing the course between 1990 and 2009. The NCES noted that the decrease in Algebra 1 was more likely due to more students taking algebra in earlier grades than in fewer taking the course at all. And all the other STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math—listed saw a significant increase in students from 1990 to 2009, including 24 percent more students completing geometry and at least 20 percent more completing Algebra 2, precalculus, biology, and chemistry.

“If they are taking courses with genuine academic rigor, that is something to be very pleased about,” Mr. Mirel said. It suggests “we are responding to the Great Recession in a better way than educators responded to the Great Depression.”

In the years of the Great Depression, schools likewise saw a sudden increase in the number of students, including the poor and immigrants, remaining in high school, according to Mr. Mirel, a co-author with David Angus of the 1999 book The Failed Promise of the American High School, 1890-1995. The rate of students staying in high school rose from around 50 percent to 74 percent before and after 1940, but in response, states reduced the rigor of the curricula, he found, replacing college-preparatory courses like calculus with “general math.”

This time around, tighter state graduation requirements have coincided with greater access to online courses, particularly in rural districts.

“Certainly, we do see districts and states use distance education to bring in advanced courses that they wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise,” said NCES Commissioner Sean P. “Jack” Buckley.

Distance-learning enrollment, including online classes, has skyrocketed, from 222,000 students in 2002-03 to more than 1.3 million in 2009-10.

Although students might face a more challenging academic landscape in school, the NCES found it is also a less stressful one from a safety standpoint. From 1992 to 2010, the rates of all school-based crimes dropped dramatically. In 2010, 32 nonfatal violent crimes took place on campus, including sexual assault and robbery, for every 1,000 students ages 12 to 18. That’s less than a third the rate in 1992 of 154 crimes per 1,000 students. Similarly, the rate of theft dropped from 101 to 18 for every 1,000 students.

The NCES found 49.5 million students attend public P-12 schools, continuing a steady rise since the 1980s. Moreover, analysts project enrollment will rise by 7 percent, to 53.1 million, by the 2021-22 school year. The West and parts of the Eastern Seaboard are expected to grow even faster, and three states—Alaska, Arizona, and Nevada—are expected to see a more than 20 percent jump in their student populations.

Female Students Poisoned in Afghanistan

Afghan School Attack: Students, Teachers Poisoned In Takhar Province

Reuters | Posted: 05/23/2012

Afghanistan School Attack

This picture taken in Kabul on September 28, 2011 shows Afghan schoolgirls walking past a shop.(ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

 
  
TALIQAN, Afghanistan, May 23 (Reuters) – More than 120 schoolgirls and three teachers have been poisoned in the second attack in as many months blamed on conservative radicals in the country’s north, Afghan police and education officials said on Wednesday.The attack occurred in Takhar province where police said that radicals opposed to education of women and girls had used an unidentified toxic powder to contaminate the air in classrooms. Scores of students were left unconscious.Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), says the Taliban appear intent on closing schools ahead of a 2014 withdrawal by foreign combat troops.”A part of their Al Farooq spring offensive operation is … to close schools. By poisoning girls they want to create fear. They try to make families not send their children to school,” NDS spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education said last week that 550 schools in 11 provinces where the Taliban have strong support had been closed down by insurgents.

Last month, 150 schoolgirls were poisoned in Takhar province after they drank contaminated water.

Since 2001 when the Taliban were toppled from power by U.S.-backed Afghan forces, females have returned to schools, especially in the capital Kabul. They were previously banned from work and education.

But there are still periodic attacks against students, teachers and school buildings, usually in the more conservative south and east of the country, from where the Taliban insurgency draws most of its support. (Reporting by Mohammad Hamid in Taliqan and Mirwais Harooni in Kabul; Editing by Rob Taylor and Jeremy Laurence)

Original article

“The Most Honest Commencement Speech You’ll Never Hear”

By Lisa Jones, attorney, television commentator, and the author of Swagger

Graduation season is upon us, and with it all the speeches about shooting for the moon, going for the gold, nothing is impossible, yada yada. I myself have delivered three such college commencement addresses in recent years.

But as I’ve spent the last year crunching the numbers and talking to young people, I’ve come to see the striking disconnect between those greeting-card messages from the successful, usually middle-aged adult speakers and the reality of diminished expectations of our debt-ridden young people, anxiously emerging into the unwelcoming job market.

At a charity event recently, I spoke to Stella1, a friendly, socially conscious young volunteer on the verge of her college graduation. Jobless, she was gloomy about moving back in with her parents in a small town upstate. “What’s your goal?” I asked her. “What kind of job would be your first choice?”

“I don’t know,” she said quietly. “To be someone’s assistant, I guess.”

I didn’t know anyone who aspired to be an assistant when I graduated from college a generation ago. This kind of diminished dream is typical today.

Hundreds of teenaged girls were recently asked this question: “When you grow up, which of the following jobs would you most like to have?” The menu they were offered were:

  • The chief of a major company like General Motors
  • A Navy Seal
  • A United States Senator
  • The President of a great university like Harvard or Yale
  • The personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star

I clutched my heart reading this survey, because after speaking at many middle and high schools, I had a sick feeling I knew how this was going to turn out.

It was even worse than I thought.

The top choice? Over 43% chose personal assistant to a celebrity. A usually minimum wage, tedious job, picking up dry cleaning, getting coffee, answering phones, with little or no hope of advancement.

I am painfully aware that young people are obsessed with celebrities. Tabloid media and reality shows are dumbing us down at a frightening rate, as I wrote in my first book, Think. But the option here is not even to be a celebrity — simply to be the go-fer for one. Girls are outperforming boys at every level of middle and high school. Their reading and communication skills are at an all time high. Doors have swung wide open for them. And this is their dream job?

Teenaged girls chose the personal assistant job two to four times as often as the other choices. Just 9 % chose “the chief of a major company like General Motors”; 10% chose “a Navy Seal”; 14% chose “a United States Senator”; 24% chose “the president of a great university like Harvard or Yale.”

Of course all work has dignity. I worked several minimum wage jobs in my teens. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with beginning young adulthood as an assistant, to learn about a field or get one’s foot in the door. But as a fantasy job?

This dream deficit is typical for young people in 2012.

Underperforming at every level of school, dropping out of high school in record numbers, boys’ expectations are even worse than girls’. In the course of interviewing boys for my new parenting book, Swagger, I met Giuseppe, an intellectually crackling eighteen-year-old high school student. I asked him about reading and the conversation pleasantly meandered to his favorite book, about Buddhist philosophy. “If you could have one thing in the world, what would it be?” I asked him. I was expecting an iPhone, the coolest new sneakers or, maybe, given our philosophical discussion, world peace.

Instead, his mood noticeably darkened in response to my question. “A job,” he said, allowing his hoodie to slip over his eyes. “I’ve filled out like a hundred applications. Haven’t even gotten one call. Do you know of any jobs?”

Any?

Any at all?

It’s the subtext of nearly every conversation I have with young people, especially guys. Young male unemployment rates in the U.S. are currently the same as in Arab Spring countries: 18 to 25%. Many I interviewed yearned for jobs, independence and adulthood, intensely, angrily frustrated by their failure to launch.

Yet our culture’s attitude is to belittle these jobless young men. A television producer recently asked me if I’d like to host a new reality show. The premise was that we’d do “interventions” in homes where twenty-something men are living on their parents’ couches. They wanted me to be “big and loud” towards these “moochers.”

Uh, no thanks. “How do you know there are jobs available?” I asked. “How do you know he wants to live this way? Perhaps he’s depressed. Why is it all his fault?”

When did we decide to be so mean?

Perhaps some other television host will run with this concept, and we’ll all sit comfortably in our living rooms and be entertained by humiliating young people whose dreams have been dashed.
No wonder young people are so disheartened.

I can just imagine Stella’s or Giuseppe’s reaction to a graduation speaker who tells them that the world is their oyster, that all they have to do is imagine. One third of people in their twenties is depressed, according to a recent British study. Insecurity about about unemployment and debt tops the list of their concerns. What cynical, dark thoughts run through graduates’ minds as they sit this year in their caps and gowns?

“Get real,” I bet, for starters. And they’re right. They deserve more than clichés this year. A little honesty, even accountability, is in order.

So here’s the real commencement address you’ll probably never hear:

Young Americans, my generation has failed you.

In our time, we enjoyed decent public schools and low college tuition, and many of us sailed through them securely on our way to a middle class life. Today, as class sizes grow and schools crumble, our kids slip to the bottom third of developed countries in math and science. Most of our fourth graders don’t read proficiently. One in five kids graduates high school illiterate — if they finish at all. The majority of our African-American and Hispanic boys drop out. The majority. Far from the outcry this deserves, there’s barely a whisper in the media about our drop in educational achievement, though we can count on hundreds of reporters to turn out for a court date featuring Lindsay Lohan.

Standards have slipped, we’ve deprioritized education and we’ve hardly even noticed. And young Americans, you are suffering as a result, arriving into adulthood without the knowledge and skills you need.

Older adults enjoy ridiculing you for your “slacker” ways, while we brag about how hard we had it. You know — walking uphill through the snow for five miles both ways to go to school.

Young Americans, that you are slated to be the first group in American history to be less educated than your parents is our fault, not yours. While you were children, we allowed college costs to skyrocket 400%, pricing many of you out altogether, as though higher education is a luxury good, like a Rolex or a Ferrari, an extravagant perk for the rich only. More of you shoulder part- or even full-time jobs during college than ever before: the majority of you struggle with twenty or more hours per week of work while attending college. As a result, most — most — of today’s college students drop out, and the top reason is that “the need to work and make money” became too stressful.”

For those who do stay in school, many in my generation have taken advantage of you, hiring you as unpaid interns to do our grunt work in record numbers, when you deserve to be paid for your work just as we are. We ridicule you for living at home, instead of appreciating your family’s willingness to sacrifice and support you during a time of the highest unemployment rates for college grads in over a decade.

Young Americans, you deserve more than platitudes about reaching for the stars. You deserve a quality public education, low cost college, and more than McJobs upon graduation. My generation has failed to deliver those basic items to you.

At a minimum, you deserve our apologies and our respect. Because you are the ones who are walking uphill through the snow.

1 I changed the names to protect the privacy of the young people in this article.

Original article

Lisa Bloom is a practicing attorney, television commentator, and the author of Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness and Thug Culture and Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, now out in paperback.

Driving While Distracted

Here’s an article on an accident caused by an alleged distracted teen driver in Norwalk.  This is an important reminder for all to put down our cell phones, while driving.

 

New Canaan driver on web when she hit jogger, police

John Nickerson

Updated 10:02 a.m., Wednesday, May 16, 2012

 

In this March 24, 2012, photo, Norwalk, Conn., police stand at the scene of an accident on New Canaan Avenue where Kenneth Dorsey, 43, of Norwalk was fatally struck by an SUV while he was jogging. A 16-year-old girl from New Canaan, Conn., who police say was driving the SUV, turned herself in May 12, 2012, after learning there was a warrant out for her arrest on charges of negligent homicide with a motor vehicle. Photo: Danielle Robinson, The Hour, Danielle Robinson Via AP / Associated Press

In this March 24, 2012, photo, Norwalk, Conn., police stand at the scene of an accident on New Canaan Avenue where Kenneth Dorsey, 43, of Norwalk was fatally struck by an SUV while he was jogging. A 16-year-old girl from New Canaan, Conn., who police say was driving the SUV, turned herself in May 12, 2012, after learning there was a warrant out for her arrest on charges of negligent homicide with a motor vehicle. Photo: Danielle Robinson, The Hour, Danielle Robinson Via AP / Associated Press

 

More Information

New Canaan police announced Tuesday night that they will hold a forum on distracted driving from 7-8:30 p.m. June 6 at New Canaan High School.

Page 1 of 1

NORWALK — A 16-year-old girl was searching the New Canaan High School website on her iPhone when she drove a Toyota 4Runner onto a shoulder and fatally struck a Norwalk man, police say.

The driver, a New Canaan resident, was hysterical seconds after hitting Kenneth Dorsey, according to a witness cited in an arrest affidavit charging her with negligent homicide with a motor vehicle and failure to drive in an established lane.

“I certainly don’t want her to forget what she did through stupidity,” Dorsey’s father, Leo, 67, said in a telephone interview from his Milford home Tuesday. “She was decimated after killing Ken and that is the way it should be. She killed my son and I’m having a hard time with the fact that his death was caused by stupidity.”

“That is the part that is killing me — it was stupid,” said Dorsey of the accident, which occurred around 9:30 a.m. March 24 on New Canaan Avenue in Norwalk. He explained that if a bee had distracted the driver, it would be easier to accept his son’s death.

The girl turned herself over to Norwalk police May 12 after learning there was a warrant for her arrest. She was released on a promise to appear in court. As a condition of release, she is prohibited from driving, her court record shows.

Hearst Connecticut Media Group is not identifying the driver because of her age. She is to be arraigned on the charges in state Superior Court in Norwalk on May 24.

A woman who answered the phone at the girl’s home Tuesday afternoon declined comment and said a lawyer would not be available.

The driver had to have the phone in her hand to access the website at the time of the accident, according to the affidavit.

Kenneth Dorsey, 43, was a quality control manager with 25 years experience at a Shelton manufacturing plant. He had a culinary degree and worked as a chef for several caterers in Fairfield County. Several years ago, he turned down a chance to cook for then-President George W. Bush during a visit to the area because he could not take the time off required, Leo Dorsey said.

“It was a needless accident that could have been prevented through education,” he said.

A witness driving behind the 4Runner told police he saw the vehicle suddenly pull out of the shoulder and dust kicked up. The man, who said the 4Runner was traveling at about 30 to 40 mph, did not notice brake lights.

The witness told police he saw a white sneaker, then Dorsey lying on the shoulder and the 4Runner stopped ahead.

Dorsey was taken to Norwalk Hospital and pronounced dead nearly 3 1/2 hours after the accident, the affidavit said. Injuries included trauma to the head and fractures of the spine.

A man driving just ahead of the 4Runner told police Dorsey was jogging between the curb and the white line at the side of the street when he was struck, the affidavit said.

Original article

Update:

Police charge 16-year-old driver with negligent homicide in jogger’s death

By CHASE WRIGHT
Hour Staff Writer | Posted: Monday, May 14, 2012 11:01 pm

NORWALK — A 16-year-old New Canaan girl was charged this weekend with negligent homicide with a motor vehicle in the death of Norwalk man, who was fatally struck in late March while jogging on New Canaan Avenue.

The girl, whose identity was not released by police, was also charged with use of a handheld telephone under age 18 and failure to drive in the proper lane. She is due in juvenile court on May 24.

The investigation, which took six weeks to complete, wrapped up on Saturday when the girl turned herself in to the police after learning there was a warrant out for her arrest.

Police Chief Harry Rilling said a forensic analysis of the girl’s cell phone records determined she was texting while driving when she fatally struck 44-year-old Kenneth Dorsey on the morning of March 26.

Connecticut’s distracted driving laws, which are among the toughest in the nation, prohibit minors from using mobile phones or any mobile electronic devices, including the hands-free type, while driving. Texting while driving is not permitted for any Connecticut driver.

Police say the teenage driver received her license three and a half months before the accident occurred. She was traveling south on New Canaan Avenue in her red sport utility vehicle at about 9:30 a.m. when she veered over the white fog line and struck Dorsey from behind.

The fog line varies between three and four feet in width and is often used as a breakdown lane for motorists. There are no sidewalks on New Canaan Avenue.

Dorsey was badly injured but breathing on his own when police arrived on the scene. He was rushed to Norwalk Hospital, where he died several hours later.

Rilling called the accident “a tremendous tragedy” for everyone involved, and said the case underscores the need for drivers to avoid the use of cell phones and other electronic devices while driving.

“Distracted driving is very hazardous,” he said. “People who are driving need to be focused on the road and their surroundings.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teen drivers are more likely than other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported. In 2009, 16 percent of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were reported to have been distracted.

Following Dorsey’s death, pedestrian advocates renewed their call for safer roads, while Norwalk Police stepped up enforcement of distracted driving laws. During the two-day initiative, which was held in mid-April, police issued 215 tickets, including 45 for cell phone use.

Rilling said after the accident that pedestrians would be wise to avoid walking on New Canaan Avenue, a major artery that connects Norwalk and New Canaan.

“That is a very busy road,” Rilling said. “It is also a road where people tend to go quite a bit faster than they should … That is not a road meant for jogging.”

Avid runners have argued in letters to The Hour that Dorsey should have been running against the flow of traffic, this way he could have seen the SUV coming and avoided being hit.

Police say Dorsey’s exact cause of death is still pending.

Original article

“Why I’m Raising My Son to be a Nerd”

LZ Granderson

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) — You know the kind of dad who registers his son for soccer almost as soon as he takes his first step?

That was me.

You know that dad who yells so much on the sideline that he leaves the game a little hoarse?

Yeah, that was me too.

You know the dad who cheers when his kid brings home an A?

No?

Well me neither … until I became that dad a few years ago.

I used to beam with pride watching my son rack up the trophies as he bounced from soccer to hockey to tae kwon do. Over the past couple of years, track has been his focus, as he crushed several school records during citywide meets.

What can I say? My kid’s a stud.

But one thing I’ve noticed over the years is that while everyone from his coaches to other parents and even family members are quick to point out his potential to earn a college scholarship, they do so with all of the emphasis on his athletic prowess.

No one — and I mean, no one — ever brings up his grades, a shame considering he has a 3.86 in an international baccalaureate program, studies Chinese, currently is in debate camp and has wanted to go to Stanford since the fifth grade.

Cornell’s his back up plan.

In short, as good as he is in sports, I’m not raising him with the hopes of him being a jock. I’m raising him to be a nerd.

And I couldn’t be happier.

And by happier, I don’t mean the lukewarm “well, at least he’s not selling drugs” kind, but the same genuine thrill I used to reserve only for the trophy ceremony at the end of tournaments.

Jocks go on to play for your favorite team but nerds go on to own the teams for which those jocks play.

Jocks go on to play for your favorite team but nerds go on to own the teams those jocks play for.

I know it’s hard to find a job in this economy.

But I also know that at the beginning of the year, Google gave its employees a $1,000 bonus and a 10% raise because it kept losing its brightest employees to competitors, so somebody’s hiring.

And it looks as if they’re hiring nerds.

I was shocked during the GOP debate earlier this month that in two hours no candidate brought up education. They all talked about job creation and innovation but not education, as if they were not connected.

We know because of our culture’s negative attitude toward nerds, our kids are discouraged from being bookish from an early age. We also know that there is a high drop out rate for college students in nerdy subjects such as science and math, which in turn affects how the country competes globally in fields such as medicine and engineering. So to me, there can be no innovation and job creation talks without talking about education.

At times, my son gets concerned that his bookish qualities may interfere with his social life. I just remind him that in the heart of hard economic times, 33 of 50 states increased the amount spent on prisons while decreasing dollars spent on K-12 and higher education. So while he’s worrying about being cool, the job market is getting smaller and more competitive and our government is preparing to send more people to jail.

But again, it starts with me.

I finally figured out that if I wanted my son to really embrace education, I had to take the lead. Not by downplaying his accomplishments on the field but by elevating the importance of his work in the classroom. So I smile in the doorway when I walk into a room to see him reading for fun the same way I smile when I look out into the backyard to see him working on his dribbling.

It sounds a bit odd, I will admit, but if exuberant positive reinforcement is acceptable for tossing a ball in a hoop, why is it out of place to be just as excited for our kids getting good grades?

Being good students. Being, dare I say, a nerd?

American kids my son’s age rank 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math and it’s not because of bad teachers and a broken public school system.

OK, it’s not just because of those things.

We also don’t believe in the value of education, culturally — we just like to say we do because as citizens of an industrialized nation, we’re supposed to. But we can tell our children that school is important until we’re blue in the face, they’re not stupid.

They see the loudest applause is for the kids on the field. They know teachers are paid poorly and don’t drive fancy cars. They know people plan Super Bowl parties but mock the National Spelling Bee.

In other words, they see the hypocrisy, and we can’t expect society to correct itself.

If we want to have any lasting influence on the way our kids approach education — the way future generations approach education — then we have to grab our pom-poms and paint our faces and celebrate intellectual curiosity with the same vigor we do their athletic achievements.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

Original article

“A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College”

A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College

Photographs by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times and Ty William Wright for The New York Times

Taking on debt has become a central part of the college experience for many students.

By and
Published: May 12, 2012

ADA, Ohio — Kelsey Griffith graduates on Sunday from Ohio Northern University. To start paying off her $120,000 in student debt, she is already working two restaurant jobs and will soon give up her apartment here to live with her parents. Her mother, who co-signed on the loans, is taking out a life insurance policy on her daughter.

“If anything ever happened, God forbid, that is my debt also,” said Ms. Griffith’s mother, Marlene Griffith.

Ms. Griffith, 23, wouldn’t seem a perfect financial fit for a college that costs nearly $50,000 a year. Her father, a paramedic, and mother, a preschool teacher, have modest incomes, and she has four sisters. But when she visited Ohio Northern, she was won over by faculty and admissions staff members who urge students to pursue their dreams rather than obsess on the sticker price.

“As an 18-year-old, it sounded like a good fit to me, and the school really sold it,” said Ms. Griffith, a marketing major. “I knew a private school would cost a lot of money. But when I graduate, I’m going to owe like $900 a month. No one told me that.”

With more than $1 trillion in student loans outstanding in this country, crippling debt is no longer confined to dropouts from for-profit colleges or graduate students who owe on many years of education, some of the overextended debtors in years past. Now nearly everyone pursuing a bachelor’s degree is borrowing. As prices soar, a college degree statistically remains a good lifetime investment, but it often comes with an unprecedented financial burden.

Ninety-four percent of students who earn a bachelor’s degree borrow to pay for higher education — up from 45 percent in 1993, according to an analysis by The New York Times of the latest data from the Department of Education. This includes loans from the federal government, private lenders and relatives.

For all borrowers, the average debt in 2011 was $23,300, with 10 percent owing more than $54,000 and 3 percent more than $100,000, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports. Average debt for bachelor degree graduates who took out loans ranges from under $10,000 at elite schools like Princeton and Williams College, which have plenty of wealthy students and enormous endowments, to nearly $50,000 at some private colleges with less affluent students and less financial aid.

Here at Ohio Northern, recent graduates with bachelor’s degrees are among the most indebted of any college in the country, and statewide, graduates of Ohio’s more than 200 colleges and universities carry some of the highest average debt in the country, according to data reported by the colleges and compiled by an educational advocacy group. The current balance of federal student loans nationwide is $902 billion, with an additional $140 billion or so in private student loans.

“If one is not thinking about where this is headed over the next two or three years, you are just completely missing the warning signs,” said Rajeev V. Date, deputy director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal watchdog created after the financial crisis.

Mr. Date likened excessive student borrowing to risky mortgages. And as with the housing bubble before the economic collapse, the extraordinary growth in student loans has caught many by surprise. But its roots are in fact deep, and the cast of contributing characters — including college marketing officers, state lawmakers wielding a budget ax and wide-eyed students and families — has been enabled by a basic economic dynamic: an insatiable demand for a college education, at almost any price, and plenty of easy-to-secure loans, primarily from the federal government.

The roots of the borrowing binge date to the 1980s, when tuition for four-year colleges began to rise faster than family incomes. In the 1990s, for-profit colleges boomed by spending heavily on marketing and recruiting. Despite some ethical lapses and fraud, enrollment more than doubled in the last decade and Wall Street swooned over the stocks. Roughly 11 percent of college students now attend for-profit colleges, and they receive about a quarter of federal student loans and grants.

In the last decade, even as enrollment at state colleges and universities has grown, some states have cut spending for higher education and many others have not allocated enough money to keep pace with the growing student body. That trend has accelerated as state budgets have shrunk because of the recent financial crisis and the unpopularity of tax increases.

Nationally, state and local spending per college student, adjusted for inflation, reached a 25-year low this year, jeopardizing the long-held conviction that state-subsidized higher education is an affordable steppingstone for the lower and middle classes. All the while, the cost of tuition and fees has continued to increase faster than the rate of inflation, faster even than medical spending. If the trends continue through 2016, the average cost of a public college will have more than doubled in just 15 years, according to the Department of Education.

Read more

“Ask the Teachers”

 

Here’s an interesting article from Dr. Roni Cohen-Sandler, a local clinical psychologist and parenting expert, on the value of gathering information from teachers prior to the conclusion of the school year

Ask the Teachers

Now that school is winding down, many parents are assessing how successful this year has been–for example, how well their kids performed, what went smoothly, and what they hope will be better next year. When kids have struggled academically, socially, or behaviorally, mothers and fathers often have nagging questions: Should they be concerned, or are they just expecting too much? Do students have the skills they need for the next grade? Should kids work on improving their weaknesses during the summer? As you know, by the time students are in middle school and, especially, in high school, it is harder for parents to know what is really going on and to get answers to these sorts of questions.

If you have found yourself in this situation, you know that without definitive information you’re left to do a lot of speculating: “Maybe it was all the absences from the flu…,” “She just didn’t get along with her teachers this year,” “Not making varsity basketball killed his confidence…” In desperation, you may also turn to friends or relatives you think will be knowledgeable, only to become more confused by conflicting or unwise advice. In the past, maybe you decided to just wait and see how things went the following school year.

But I’m proposing an alternative. Before school empties for the summer, why not take advantage of an invaluable resource: The teachers and guidance counselors who have gotten to know your teen or tween best during the past school year? When I observe students in school or attend school meetings, I am continually impressed by teachers’ insights. By reaching out, you might tap into a wealth of information that can either reassure you or guide you in how best to help your child.

Why Ask Educators

In my experience, teachers and guidance counselors are the exact right people to whom you should turn with your questions and concerns because they are:

Objective. A close family friend, aunt, or grandparent is hardly able to offer an objective view. Chances are, they will jump at the chance to champion your teen and assure you that you’re worried for nothing (“she’ll outgrow it,” “many teens go through this,” “my own son was like that, and look how he turned out”). The problem with these comforting words is that they may be based solely on the fact that these people adore your child–and you–and therefore desperately hope that everything is okay. Teachers, on the other hand, can offer neutral, matter-of-fact answers to your questions.

Knowledgeable. Because teachers have spent part of every single school day with your teens, they have had ample opportunity to get to know them. Just because high school and middle school teachers spend less time with students compared to their elementary school counterparts, you should not discount their insights. Just recently, a high school sophomore told me that her teacher asked her why she suddenly started sitting in the back of the classroom and stopped participating. When Jasmine confessed that three girls were publicly humiliating and systematically ostracizing her from her social group, her teacher not only initiated an intervention with the teens, but also added lessons on bullying and bystanders to her curriculum.

Able to observe progress over time. Because they’ve seen your kids for a period of ten months or more, teachers are in the best position to say whether they improved over the year, held their own, or are demonstrating an ever-widening gap between their skills and those of their classmates. Teachers can describe your tween’s struggle to keep up with the pace of work or the content of the curriculum. They can suggest what your student can work on over the summer. Educators can also recommend placements for the upcoming year.

Able to offer broad perspectives. As you think about whether your teen’s issues are typical, you probably compare only to siblings, cousins, or family friends. Teachers, on the other hand, work with dozens of students every year of similar ages and educational backgrounds. Now multiply this number by the number of years they’ve been teaching and their reference group expands to the hundreds or thousands.

Educators also can see the bigger picture: how your child fits into the context of her entire class and the overall grade. Recently, a guidance counselor assured the anxious mother of a late blooming eighth grade boy that he would do fine in high school because he was not alone; there were many boys like James in this particular class. Knowing whether the school perceives your student’s struggles as typical or unusual can be the first step in figuring out whether there is an issue to be addressed and, if so, what you might do about it. If summer tutoring is needed, teachers may be available themselves or make referrals to their colleagues.

What to Ask

The most common questions parents have are about their kids’ academic progress. Report cards give some information about mastery of subjects, but they rarely tell the whole story. Did your child perform differently on the various components that made up her grade, such as tests and quizzes, homework completion, projects, and class participation? How were his work habits, level of organization, and preparedness for class?

Teachers can give you insight into your child’s behavior in the classroom, as well. What have they observed this year? Does your tween seem to know when he needs help? Can she ask questions and seek additional help appropriately? Does your teen respond well to criticism? How do kids work within groups and use unstructured time? It might give you additional clues if you learn that your child’s teachers see him as similarly as an engaged and conscientious learner–or if she blurts out answers impulsively in, say, Spanish but not in her other core subjects.

If you have concerns about how your teen is doing socially and emotionally, don’t hesitate to ask what she’s like at school. Many parents wonder whether their kids seem generally happy and comfortable with their friends at the lunch table. They would give anything to be the proverbial fly on the wall to see if the monosyllabic teen who lives in their home actually has fun and laughs in school. This is your chance to find out. Teachers can essentially be your eyes. Does your son sit only with his teammates in the cafeteria, or does he branch out? Is your daughter still walking with her head down in the hallway?

What you learn may be unexpectedly illuminating. For example, it was only when Marni’s mother found out from her guidance counselor that she often asked to go to the nurse during math, but not in other classes, that she became aware of an escalating conflict between her daughter and this particular teacher.

How to Get Information

Once kids are in middle school, they usually have teams of teachers. So it’s harder for parents to know who to ask. Most often, it is best to direct questions through your teen’s guidance counselor, who can email her team of teachers to gather information. Or, you can contact one or two teachers directly if circumstances warrant–for example, if your student has had difficulty in that subject, formed a strong relationship with the teacher or, conversely complained about anything throughout the year.

Because teachers are extremely busy, perhaps send an initial email and find out whether they prefer to email you back or to schedule a brief phone conversation. Make sure to convey to any teachers you contact that you welcome their honest feedback and will be open to their suggestions. Otherwise, I find that many educators are reluctant to speak candidly with parents; they are understandably hesitant about how their concerns will be received.

To get unbiased information, ask clear, open-ended questions. For example, how does the teacher describe your son’s strengths and weaknesses? Should any skill deficits be addressed over the summer or next year? If you want to know if your child has been affected by a stressful life event, ask his teachers if they have seen a change within a certain time frame. For example, to learn whether her daughter’s trial of new medication had been effective, the mother of a 7th grader asked the guidance counselor to survey her team of teachers to ask about her behavior during the previous two weeks.

Because the end of the school year is extremely busy for educators, be extra respectful of their time. Don’t wait until they are headed off for summer vacation to approach them, and make it easy for teachers or guidance counselors to respond to your questions. Of course, it is always thoughtful to express your appreciation not only for the teachers’ input about your teen or tween, but also for their efforts throughout the year.

Original article

About Roni Cohen-SandlerDr. Roni Cohen-Sandler is a clinical psychologist specializing in parenting; the issues of women and adolescent girls, mother-daughter relationships; and neuropsychological assessments (e.g., for learning difficulties, attention disorders, etc.). Described as an energizing, humorous, and inspiring speaker, she presents lectures and workshops to public and private schools, community organizations, hospitals, corporations, and universities. She is the author of three books, including the national best-seller I’m Not Mad, I Just Hate You! , Trust Me, Mom–Everyone Else is Going! and her most recent, Stressed-Out Girls: Helping Them Thrive in the Age of Pressure.Dr. Cohen-Sandler is a frequent expert for national media, appearing on The Today Show, Good Morning America, NPR, and Oprah. She has been quoted in publications such as Newsweek, The New York Times, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, Marie Claire, Better Homes and Gardens, Seventeen, Parenting, Teen People, Family Circle, Teen Vogue, Redbook, Working Mother, and Glamour.