Briefly Stated: March 15, 2023

March 14, 2023 8 min read
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Jaded With School, More Americans Are Skipping College

This is no fluke. College attendance has taken a big hit.

Hundreds of thousands of young people who came of age during the pandemic have eschewed college. Many have turned to hourly jobs or careers that don’t require a degree, while others have been deterred by high tuition and the prospect of student debt.

What first looked like a pandemic blip has turned into a crisis. Nationwide, undergraduate college enrollment dropped 8 percent from 2019 to 2022, with declines even after returning to in-person classes, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. The slide in the college-going rate since 2018 is the steepest on record, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Economists say the impact could be dire.

Fewer college graduates could worsen labor shortages in fields from health care to information technology. For those who forgo college, it usually means lower lifetime earnings—75 percent less compared with those who get bachelor’s degrees, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. And when the economy sours, those without degrees are more likely to lose jobs.

“It’s quite a dangerous proposition for the strength of our national economy,” said Zack Mabel, a Georgetown researcher.

America’s college-going rate was generally on the upswing until the pandemic reversed decades of progress. Rates fell even as the nation’s population of high school graduates grew, and despite economic upheaval, which typically drives more people into higher education.

Most states are still collecting data on recent college rates, but early figures are troubling.

In Arkansas, for instance, the number of new high school graduates going to college fell from 49 percent to 42 percent during the pandemic. Kentucky slid by a similar amount, to 54 percent.

Even more alarming are the figures for Black, Hispanic, and low-income students, who saw the largest slides in many states.

There’s some hope the worst has passed. The number of freshmen enrolling at U.S. colleges increased slightly from 2021 to 2022. But that figure, along with total college enrollment, remains far below pre-pandemic levels.

The Most Popular Education Technology Tools Don’t Meet ‘Evidence-Based’ Requirements

Just because they’re popular doesn’t mean they’re fit for the classroom.

Only about a quarter of the most popular ed-tech tools in schools meet Every Student Succeeds Act requirements, according to a new report from LearnPlatform, an education technology company that helps districts measure the use and effectiveness of their digital products.

The report examines how the 100 most accessed tools stack up based on key factors, such as data privacy, interoperability, federally aligned evidence, and other indicators.

When the pandemic hit, many companies provided products to schools and teachers for free. And schools used them even if companies didn’t provide evidence of standards alignment, because educators needed something that would help engage their students.

The average number of technology products that districts access in a given month has almost tripled over the last several years, but oftentimes, the efficacy of those products aren’t clearly shown.

Federal, state, and district policies are increasingly asking companies to show evidence of alignment to ESSA. Large districts, such as Los Angeles and Chicago, are now requiring evidence information from vendors during the purchasing process.

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, Congress passed Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to help districts recover from the pandemic. The term “evidence-based” was used 17 times in the first 20 pages of the bill, which shows there’s more desire for proof that a tech tool works, said LearnPlatform co-founder Karl Rectanus.

“With tech-enabled learning here to stay, understanding which tools are effective, interoperable, compliant, accessible, and safe are table stakes,” he said. “While not ubiquitous, this report indicates that the use of evidence is taking flight across education.”

For the report, LearnPlatform analyzed data on more than 11,000 products based on the engagement of 2.8 million students and more than 320,000 educators.

Teachers Worry a Proposed Parents’ Rights Bill at the Federal Level Will Hurt, Not Help Schools

A GOP-sponsored parents’ bill of rights purports to give parents more power over what is taught in classrooms, but teachers worry it would drive a wedge between schools and families.

The measure spells out five rights: to know what children are being taught, be heard by school leaders, see budgets and spending, protect their child’s privacy, and keep their children safe.

While the bill appears straightforward—and even details rights parents already largely have at the local level—some teachers worry it will push parents to fear and distrust educators and drive teachers out of the profession.

It would “make teachers’ jobs harder by creating a narrative of teachers as shadowy bureaucrats or petty tyrants suppressing parents,” said Chris Dier, a history teacher at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans and the 2020 Louisiana teacher of the year.

Rep. Julia Letlow, R-La., and other lawmakers supporting the bill say parents were “disheartened” by what they saw when students participated in virtual learning during the pandemic. In some cases, parents argued that schools were indoctrinating students with political agendas related to race, gender identity, and sexuality.

Most districts already give parents and families access to curriculum and books when they ask for it, teachers say.

“This claim of indoctrination and teachers hiding things from parents, I think it’s a little bit of a red herring,” said Ben Hodge, a performing arts teacher at Central York High School in York County, Pa. “At least in my experience, teachers have always been able to be accessible to parents, and I don’t know what these parents’ rights bills will do other than give more power and pathways to things like book banning and elimination of resources.”

Teachers worry that restrictions on classroom materials and how they can talk about issues like race, gender, and sexuality will have negative long-term effects on society.

“The long-term consequence is that we have a society that doesn’t know how to engage difference and doesn’t know how to be with folks who are not exactly the same as them,” said Gerardo Muñoz, a social studies teacher at the Denver Center for International Studies at Baker and the 2021 Colorado teacher of the year.

What Do Teachers Think of ChatGPT? They’re Fans

A lot of ink has been spilled over how ChatGPT will make it easier for students to cheat. But a new survey shows that not only are many teachers big fans of the artificial intelligence technology, they use it more often than do their students.

Fifty-one percent of teachers say they have used ChatGPT, with 40 percent saying they use it weekly and 10 percent almost every day, according to a survey of more than 1,000 K-12 teachers and 1,000 students by Impact Research for the Walton Family Foundation.

By comparison, only a third of students ages 12-17 reported using ChatGPT for school, and just 22 percent said they use it on a weekly basis or more.

And teachers who believe “ChatGPT will likely have legitimate educational uses we cannot ignore,” outnumber those who don’t by far, 59 percent to a quarter.

Teachers reported they are using the AI program for lesson planning, generating creative ideas for their classes, and putting together background knowledge for their lessons.

Of the teachers using the AI, the survey found that 88 percent gave the program a good review, saying it has had a positive impact on instruction. Seventy-nine percent of students said the same thing.

Teachers report they have been much more likely to allow students to use ChatGPT than they have been to catch students using it without permission. Thirty-eight percent of teachers say they have given their students the green light compared with 10 percent who say they have caught their students using ChatGPT without their permission.

Fifteen percent of students said they have used ChatGPT without their teachers’ consent.

Around three-quarters of teachers say that ChatGPT can help their students learn more and help them grow as teachers. Among students, 68 percent believe the program can help them become better students and 75 percent think it helps them learn faster.

Schools Ruled Immune From Mass-Shooting Suits

A Michigan judge has ruled that staff and administrators at Oxford High School cannot be sued for a mass shooting that left four students dead and seven others wounded.

Oakland County Circuit Judge Mary Ellen Brennan also dismissed the Oxford Community district from civil lawsuits, stating that the district and staff are protected by governmental immunity.

Authorities have accused Ethan Crumbley, 16, of using a semi-automatic handgun to open fire Nov. 30, 2021 on other teenagers in the hallway at the school.

Crumbley, who was 15 at the time, pleaded guilty in October to terrorism and first-degree murder charges.

School officials have been criticized by the county sheriff and Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald for not alerting a school resource officer about their concerns with Crumbley and not searching the teen’s backpack before allowing him to return to class about three hours before the shooting.

The day before, a teacher saw Crumbley looking at ammunition on his phone while in class. School officials left a voicemail informing his mother about it. On the morning of the shooting, Crumbley’s parents were summoned to the school and confronted with his drawings, which included a handgun and the words: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”

Authorities said his parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, refused to take him home after the 13-minute meeting and were told to get him counseling.

A lawyer representing some families of the victims who filed the lawsuit has said some teachers and a counselor at the high school were aware of Crumbley’s troubling interest in guns and violence months before the mass shooting.

But the judge placed the responsibility on Crumbley, writing that the “act of firing the gun, rather than the alleged conduct of the individual Oxford defendants, was ‘the one most immediate, efficient, and direct cause of the injury or damage.’”

The Associated Press, Wire Service; Lauraine Langreo, Staff Writer; Arianna Prothero, Assistant Editor; and Libby Stanford, Reporter contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared in the March 15, 2023 edition of Education Week as Briefly Stated


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