Monthly Archives: September 2014

Compare Lifetime Earnings by College Major

Excerpt of chart showing median lifetime earnings by college major in millions of dollars (The Hamilton Project)New research released by The Hamilton Project today explores median lifetime earnings for select majors, including those with the highest earnings, those with the lowest earnings, and those that are among the most common. “Over the entire working life, the typical college graduate will earn $1.19 million in today’s dollars,” the research shows. “This is more than twice as much as the lifetime earnings of a typical high school graduate ($580,000), and $335,000 more than that of a typical associate degree graduate.” But how does what you study affect your earnings? A new interactive chart allows you to compare the annual and lifetime returns of 80 college majors, and to those with a high school degree only.

Median Lifetime Earnings for Select Majors (in Millions of Dollars), from The Hamilton Project

Visit the project for the complete list, which also compares median earnings by college major to sub-baccalaureate educational levels, plus also get technical appendix and data tables.

The report also contains a number of interactive charts showing how even the highest-earning high school graduates can out-earn the lowest-earning graduates of any major. But, generally speaking, “College degrees may not be a guarantee of higher income, but they come closer than just about any other investment one can make.”

Fred Dews
Managing Editor, New Digital Products


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Survey: Teachers do not favor “integrated” math in high schools

An overwhelming majority of teachers are not in favor of the way math is taught to high school students in Georgia, according to a recent survey conducted for the state Board of Education.

The survey released last week was used to determine whether high school math teachers preferred algebra and geometry to be taught as separate courses – or a more “traditional” model – or for concepts from multiple math areas to be rolled into one course and taught in an “integrated” fashion.

The vast majority of high school math teachers surveyed – some 84 percent – were not in favor of the integrated model, which is what’s currently taught in high schools.

The issue over the method of teaching math in high schools has been debated in recent months,with Fulton County schools superintendent Robert Avossa and other education leaders pushing for schools to be able to teach the more traditional model.

Fulton district leaders say students are struggling with the subject, and Avossa argues the state’s “integrated” method of teaching math in high school – which combines three disciplines such as geometry, algebra and data probability — is not preparing students well enough for college math.

The integrated teaching method has been debated among educators since its implementation in Georgia classrooms in 2008. The change marked a shift by state education leaders from the more traditional approach, which focuses primarily on one kind of math in each course.

Some school districts rallied against the change, and current state superintendent John Barge gave districts a choice of traditional or integrated, with two options for End of Course Tests. But when Common Core performance standards were rolled out and implemented, the choice went away.

Georgia’s End of Course Tests for high schoolers assess math on the integrated model. The state is planning a new standardized testing system for this school year.

State education leaders are conducting a review of all standards, based on Gov. Nathan Deal’s request last year. That review should be completed and any recommended changes – including those to math — brought to the state board by the end of the year, state education leaders say.

By Rose French
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Filed under Common Core, Curriculum

Brookings Study on Local Superintendents

Brookings has another excellent and useful study out this week.  This one examines how much superintendents, on average, contribute to student learning.  The authors, Matt Chingos, Russ Whitehurst, and Katharine Lindqiust, analyze student level data in Florida and North Carolina between 2001 and 2010 to see how much variance in achievement can be explained by changes in superintendents.  The answer is not very much — only .3%.  Other aspects of the school system, including the student, teacher, school, and district matter much more in explaining the variance in student achievement.

The authors are careful to explain that their research does not suggest that there are no dud or superstar superintendents.  It’s just that, on average, superintendents don’t make much of a difference.  They liken this to the effect of money managers who on average add no value, although it is possible that some of them are great and some awful.  Of course, much or all of that difference between great and awful could be random chance.  So when you pick a superintendent (or a money manager) you should rationally expect that they don’t make much of a difference.  It’s a shame that they still cost so much.

This report helps illustrate how Brookings is really the model of what think tanks should be.  It is solid empirical work on a policy relevant question that is written in a way that is accessible to policymakers and other non-experts.  Other think tanks would do well to consider how they could emulate Brookings rather than produce more agenda-driven hatchet  job research.  And more foundations should think about how they could fund this type of quality, policy-relevant work and stop paying for talking points masquerading as research.

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Spurious Correlations – Stop Nicolas Cage Before He Kills Again!

Spurious Correlations

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

This graph of the correlation between the number of Nicholas Cage films and the number of swimming pool drownings in each year (correlation = 0.666004) and many more await you at Spurious Correlations.

Here’s the graph of the age of Miss America and the number of murders by steam, hot vapors and hot objects (correlation = 0.870127):

Spurious Correlations 2

Perhaps you scoff at such weak correlations. It may interest you to know that the marriage rate in Kentucky and the number of people who drown after falling out of a fishing boat correlate at 0.952407! What on earth are newlyweds doing in Kentucky, and how do we put a stop to it?

HT Michael Strain
Jay P. Greene’s Blog

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Cobb school board eyeing interim superintendent for permanent post

Cobb County school board members are lavishing interim superintendent Chris Ragsdale with rave reviews, indicating they want him as the permanent replacement to lead Georgia’s second-largest school system despite his lack of experience educating children.

Ragsdale, who has a background in information technology and was Cobb’s deputy superintendent for operations, was expected to be interim superintendent a year while the board looked for outgoing Superintendent Michael Hinojosa’s replacement.

But board leaders now say they’d like to keep Ragsdale on and haven’t started a search for a superintendent, even though high-profile education leaders – including state Superintendent John Barge — have inquired about the job. Ragsdale has earned praise for a smooth start to the school year and his visibility in schools. He says he’s qualified enough to lead a district as large as Cobb.

“From my understanding, there’s a high probability he’ll be permanent,” said longtime Cobb school board member David Banks. “Right now, he’s doing an excellent job. I see no reason why we wouldn’t hire him as a permanent superintendent.”

Ragsdale, 45, was appointed in May after the unexpected resignation in February of Hinojosa, who said he was leaving to take a consulting job and assist his aging parents in Texas.

Hinojosa had led the district — which has close to 108,000 students in about 114 schools — since July 2011 and was hired from Dallas schools after a national search.

Some parents think the board should be open to searching nationally again for the best candidate.

Abby Shiffman, who has a son attending Wheeler High School in Cobb, said school board members should be open to a variety of candidates and conducting a national search “would not hurt.”

“I think the last time they were closed-minded because they only wanted somebody from outside” of Cobb, she said. “And we had people inside, who I thought were capable. I think they just have to be open.”

Cobb’s school board is expected to formally appoint a new superintendent in the spring, after two new members join the seven-member board in January. Current board chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci has also voiced support for Ragsdale.

DeKalb’s school system is also searching for a superintendent to replace Michael Thurmond, whose contract ends in June. Atlanta Public Schools named a new superintendent, Meria Carstarphen, a veteran educator from Texas, in March after nearly a yearlong search.

Cobb school board members say they’d like to see someone take over as superintendent who has experience working in the Cobb school system. They also want a superintendent to serve beyond three years. Ragsdale is a Cobb County native who’s worked in Paulding and Cobb school systems nearly 22 years. Most school superintendents in Cobb have typically served 3-5 years.

“We ought to be able to get one (superintendent) that loves Cobb County and we love him or her,” said Randy Scamihorn, the school board’s vice chairman. “And they stay for a while … so we can have some continuity and get some things done.”

Scamihorn says he likes that Ragsdale has a background in information technology and said it should help the system keep track of students’ progress. School systems increasingly are turning to metrics and data to continually gauge how students and teachers perform in the classroom.

Other board members have praised Ragsdale for being visible in schools and accessible to educators and others throughout the system, which employs close to 13,371 people – the second-largest employer in the county.

Gary Ray, president of Ray and Associates, whose firm conducts superintendent searches for school districts across the country, says a local candidate “doesn’t guarantee they’re going to be there forever or there’s going to be strong continuity.” He said he’s heard from a few superintendents outside Georgia who are interested in the Cobb post.

“I think it’s all about matching the person up with the community and what skill set that person has for what the board has in mind for the next X amount of years,” Ray said.

Ragsdale’s lack of education background could hamper him in winning the support of educators and parents, though other nontraditional candidates with backgrounds in business and military have served successfully in superintendent roles, school observers say. Michael Thurmond in DeKalb did not have extensive education experience when he was called on to stabilize the struggling district. Former Atlanta Superintendent Erroll Davis was also a nontraditional choice selected to lead that district past an infamous cheating scandal.

Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, which represents about 2,000 teachers, said there was some question initially about Ragsdale’s lack of education background. But teachers, so far, have embraced him.

“Barring anything terrible happening, I think we would support him becoming the permanent superintendent,” Jackson said. “I think his background being less in education has really not turned out to be an issue because he’s surrounded himself with great people, who do come from an education background. He’s listening to their advice and weighing everything.”

Ragsdale says he’s interested in serving as permanent superintendent. If appointed, one of his major concerns will be Cobb’s ongoing budget constraints. The district had faced a nearly $80 million deficit for this school year, until the Legislature stepped in last spring to provide more funding; property tax revenues were also better than expected.

He also wants to propel the county in its technology development, expanding the tools and data used to track student achievement.

“My mom was a teacher … I understand what the industry of education is,” Ragsdale said. “I’m vested in Cobb. When I came to Cobb in 2006, it was a not a stepping stone to go to another district or to another county. I’m not looking to go anywhere else, regardless of what happens with this position.”

By Rose French
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Chris Ragsdale

A nearly 8-year employee with Cobb schools, in his previous job he oversaw a significant portion of the district’s operations, including technology, projects paid for by SPLOST and construction and maintenance. He worked in the Paulding County school system from 1992-2006 as chief information officer, responsible for all technology-related aspects of the district.

In the early 1990s he served short stints at BellSouth Telecommunications in Atlanta and IBM Corp. in Marietta, providing database programming, technical support and other IT duties.

He has a bachelor’s degree in information systems from Kennesaw State University and is enrolled at Shorter University in Rome, Ga., pursuing a master’s degree in business administration, according to Ragsdale’s resume. He is also enrolled at KSU seeking a master’s in education.

Annual salaries for metro Atlanta superintendents:

Cobb – (Interim) Chris Ragsdale — $185,000

Fulton – Robert Avossa — $315,587

Gwinnett – Alvin Wilbanks — $482,280

Atlanta Public Schools – Meria Carstarphen – $375,000

DeKalb – Michael Thurmond — $275,000


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Deal pitches HOPE grant expansion for some tech college students

Gov. Nathan Deal outlined plans Thursday to expand a program that pays full technical school tuition through the HOPE scholarship program for students pursuing degrees in high-demand areas.

The governor’s proposal would expand the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant to include students taking courses in film set design, computer programming, precision manufacturing and certified engineering assistants. Deal plans to include the expansion plan — which would require the General Assembly’s approval — as part of his 2015 legislative agenda.

Expanding the program, he said, “will give us new people who are going to be trained and qualified for the jobs that are already available here.”

The grant already covers seven tech school programs, including commercial truck driving, diesel mechanics, welding, and early childhood care and education. Deal did not have a cost for the expansion. He included $5 million in the current budget for the strategic industries grant.

His plan is part of a broader remaking of the HOPE grant scholarship program for technical college students implemented during the most recent legislative session. Deal, in conjunction with House Democrats, expanded the HOPE grant to pay the full tuition of the highest-achieving tech students in hopes of increasing the ranks of Georgia graduates by 250,000 by 2020.

Despite the initiatives, some Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter, say they don’t make up for cuts to the Technical College System made a few years ago. To prevent the HOPE program from going broke, lawmakers in 2011 approved a plan pushed by Deal to restructure it by increasing the grade requirements for tech students and reducing award payouts. The lower grade requirements were restored during the 2013 legislative session.

“Gov. Deal broke the HOPE grant and it took an election year for him to care about the devastation he caused,” Carter said in a statement released after Thursday’s announcement. “His failed reforms to the HOPE grant led 45,000 students to drop out of technical colleges in a single year. That has real economic consequences.”

The quarter of tech students who have left the system did so mainly because of a lack of financial aid, said Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna.

“The governor tries to pretend that if they are leaving, it’s because there are jobs,” Evans said. “We know that the rate the students have left the system is over 350 percent higher than the job growth rate, so they couldn’t be leaving for jobs. They are leaving because they can’t afford it.”

By Greg Bluestein and Janel Davis
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Filed under HOPE Scholarship, Jason Carter, Nathan Deal

Deal, Carter duel over education at Atlanta forum

ATLANTA | A forum with Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and Democratic challenger Jason Carter turned contentious Monday over public education as each attacked the other’s record and questioned his opponent’s plans to improve it.

It was the first time both candidates have shared a stage ahead of the Nov. 4 election as they battled over one of the major issues in this year’s governor’s race before an audience of educators.

Deal argued he has shielded public education from cuts that other parts of state government had to deal with after the past recession, saying he increased education spending every year he’s been in office. Meanwhile Carter, a state senator, described what he called “the worst contraction of public education in our state” in years.

“Every educator that I know and most of the parents I know would be shocked to hear that they have been spared cuts,” Carter said. “To make excuses about what we’ve tried and what we’ve done and to say we have increased the amount every year just doesn’t deal with … what teachers and parents are seeing in their schools.”

The race has largely shaped up to be a debate on the economy and education, with Deal arguing that Georgia is moving in the right direction on job creation and education spending after a few tough years. He said Carter hasn’t explained how he would pay for an increase in public education funds.

“The question that still remains is, are you simply going to make promises?” Deal said. “Without ways to implement those promises that will never relieve teachers of the burdens they currently bear.”

Carter detailed his proposal to require state lawmakers to set an education budget first before setting the rest of the governor’s spending priorities.

Deal said that plan hasn’t worked in other states and questioned why Carter voted for his first three budgets and not his most recent with a large increase in funding for public education.

After the debate, Carter said he had voted for the first three budgets in a spirit of bipartisanship since they generally pass unanimously but decided he couldn’t do it anymore after touring the state and hearing from educators and parents about growing class sizes, teacher furloughs and reduced school days.

Carter also argued the loss in state education funding has forced counties to raise local property taxes to make up the difference.

“We’ve watched them cut days and we’ve watched them raise taxes. And that’s Gov. Deal’s plan for funding education,” Carter said.

Deal said Georgia was hit harder by the recession than “virtually any other state” and touted his job creation focus for allowing the state to increase education spending as much as it did. He added his budgets have averaged about 54 percent of all spending on education while noting that funding went down when Carter’s grandfather, former President Jimmy Carter, was Georgia’s governor.

The forum was hosted by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the largest teachers’ group in the state. Libertarian candidate Andrew Hunt, the former CEO of an Atlanta nanotechnology firm, wasn’t invited.

By Christina A. Cassidy
Associated Press

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