Category Archives: Education

Graduate Students, the Laborers of Academia

Source: Mark Oppenheimer, The New Yorker, August 31, 2016

….While labor supporters have every reason to be gladdened by the N.L.R.B. ruling, there are already numerous graduate-student unions in the United States, as the N.L.R.B. noted—representing sixty-four thousand graduate students on twenty-eight campuses, including the universities of Wisconsin, California, Michigan, and Iowa. But those are all public universities (although private N.Y.U., which had a union and then lost it, won a new contract last year). And until last week the law recognized an arbitrary, and unmerited, distinction between workers at public and private schools. Grade papers on a large, public campus and you were a laborer, with a union and the right to strike; do the same work at Yale or Columbia and you were a student, one who happened to do a little grading, but certainly nobody who needed union protections.

The law has never put the dichotomy so starkly, of course, and students at state schools are just lucky that those institutions are governed by generally more union-friendly state laws, not by the fickle federal board. But the grad-student-union movement at private schools is decades old—by some counts, the fight at Yale is the longest-lasting struggle for union recognition in the country—and throughout its history its opponents, including me, once upon a time, have relied on the élitist logic that unions are for other people, not for our kind.

The standard argument against graduate-student unions, one adopted by the lone dissenter in last week’s federal ruling, is that graduate students are “primarily” students, and that any work they do, like leading discussion sections or grading papers, is educational in nature—that is, they are learning a skill that they will need on the job market. And, the argument goes, if on occasion they do actual labor, they still should not be able to join a union, because the adversarial nature of collective bargaining would threaten to undermine the primary relationship, that of student to professor, advisee to mentor……

…..In the end, of course, the question of graduate-student unionism does not turn on whether the unions are good or bad for students. Whatever else graduate students are, they are workers now. In 1975, fifty-seven per cent of American faculty were tenured or tenure-track, but by 2011 that number had fallen to thirty per cent. As jobs in the professoriate have disappeared, graduate students have become an indispensable source of labor, without whom undergraduates simply could not be taught. They have become workers, not for their own sake as apprentice-learners but because their schools need them as casual labor…..

Increases in Local Unemployment and the Delivery of Trade Adjustment Assistance Services

Source: Justin Barnette, Jooyoun Park, Economic Development Quarterly, Published online before print September 7, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study investigates how service delivery of employment-related federal programs administered at American Job Centers (AJCs) changes as local unemployment increases. The authors analyze the impact of such changes on labor market outcomes of program participants using data for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) participants. The authors find that the demand for TAA services increases substantially when local unemployment increases. A 5% to 10% increase in unemployment raises training enrollment through the TAA program by nearly 13 percentage points and increases participation duration by more than 9 weeks. Our results do not support the concern that a sudden rise in the demand for AJC services might deteriorate the quality of service delivery and outcomes. In fact, although increases in local unemployment are generally harmful to displaced workers, occupational training during this time is effective at reducing the size of wage loss by at least 46%, resulting in a 3.4% average increase for wage replacement rates.

Smart Skills versus Mindless Megadeals: Cost-Effective Workforce Development versus Costly “Buffalo Hunting,” with Proven Policy Solutions

Source: Thomas Cafcas and Greg LeRoy, Good Jobs First, September 2016

From the abstract:
Using data from dozens of programs and deals in Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker database, we draw sharp comparisons between the costs of workforce development programs versus company-specific “megadeals.” Whereas 31 out of 33 training programs have four-figure costs per job, our current megadeals database shows an average cost to taxpayers of more than $658,000 per job.
Press release

Underpaid and Unequal: Racial Wage Disparities in the Early Childhood Workforce

Source: Rebecca Ullrich, Katie Hamm, Rachel Herzfeldt-Kamprath, Center for American Progress, August 2016

From the summary:
More than 3 million children younger than age 6 regularly attend center-based care and education. Formal care arrangements—such as child care centers and preschools—are an increasingly prominent part of children’s lives: 65 percent of young children have all available parents in the workforce. Policymakers, recognizing the importance of these early care and education environments—not just as a work support for parents but also as a means to promote children’s learning and development—are looking for strategies to boost program quality.

Experts know that effective teachers are central to quality early care and education. It is no surprise, then, that many quality improvement efforts have focused on increasing education requirements for teachers and bolstering access to professional development and training. Children’s learning and development is supported by thoughtful instruction and warm, engaging interactions. It takes a skilled and effective workforce to provide the level of instruction necessary to promote positive outcomes—including social skills and early literacy and numeracy skills—but the United States continues to pay most early childhood educators embarrassingly low wages. Preschool teachers and child care workers rank in the bottom 20th percentile for mean annual salaries. Moreover, many teachers lack access to important benefits such as health insurance and paid leave.

New analyses presented in this report suggest that poor compensation and benefits are felt most acutely by African American women in the early childhood workforce. On average, African American female teachers working full time make 84 cents for every $1 earned by their white counterparts. White teachers working full-time make an average of $13.86 per hour: This 16 percent wage gap means an African American teacher would make $366 less per month and $4,395 less per year, on average. When differences in educational backgrounds, years of experience, and employment characteristics are taken into account, the wage gap between African American and white female, full-time teachers is reduced to roughly 93 cents on the dollar. However, this is still a meaningful difference in a workforce that makes less than $30,000 per year, on average…..

Midyear update on student loan complaints: Income-driven repayment plan application issues

Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, August 2016

This report analyzes more than 3,500 private student loan complaints, 2,400 federal student loan servicing complaints, and approximately 1,500 debt collection complaints related to private and federal student loan debt handled between October 1, 2015 and May 31, 2016. The information included in this report represents the Ombudsman’s independent judgment and does not necessarily represent the view of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau….“This midyear update analyzes complaints submitted by consumers from October 1, 2015 through May 31, 2016. During this period, the Bureau also began handling complaints about problems managing or repaying federal student loans; this is the first report released by the Bureau discussing data on federal student loan servicing complaints. This report highlights the problems that borrowers face when seeking to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan, and provides recommendations to policymakers and market participants to better serve student loan borrowers.”…

The teacher pay gap is wider than ever: Teachers’ pay continues to fall further behind pay of comparable workers

Source: Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel, Economic Policy Institute, August 9, 2016

From the summary:
What this report finds: The teacher pay penalty is bigger than ever. In 2015, public school teachers’ weekly wages were 17.0 percent lower than those of comparable workers—compared with just 1.8 percent lower in 1994. This erosion of relative teacher wages has fallen more heavily on experienced teachers than on entry-level teachers. Importantly, collective bargaining can help to abate this teacher wage penalty. Some of the increase in the teacher wage penalty may be attributed to a trade-off between wages and benefits. Even so, teachers’ compensation (wages plus benefits) was 11.1 percent lower than that of comparable workers in 2015.

Why this matters: An effective teacher is the most important school-based determinant of education outcomes. It is therefore crucial that school districts recruit and retain high-quality teachers. This is particularly difficult at a time when the supply of teachers is constrained by high turnover rates, annual retirements of longtime teachers, and a decline in students opting for a teaching career—and when demand for teachers is rising due to rigorous national student performance standards and many locales’ mandates to shrink class sizes. In light of these challenges, providing adequate wages and benefits is a crucial tool for attracting and keeping the teachers America’s children need.
Press Release

The Never-Ending Struggle to Improve Head Start

Source: Lillian Mongeau, The Atlantic, August 9, 2016

The federal government has invested billions in preschool, but there’s still lots of room to grow….. Today, Head Start is nearing the end of a decade of big reforms, meant to improve quality and get closer to meeting the goals that Johnson laid out for it when he announced this new front in his War on Poverty. Simultaneously, cities and states are increasing their public preschool enrollments slowly, but steadily. If all continues apace, the largest public program in the country could be just one step ahead of the locals, creating a roadmap for how to operate a public preschool program big enough to serve more than 1 million children without sacrificing quality…..

The Underestimation of America’s Preschool Teachers
Source: Lillian Mongeau, The Atlantic, August 16, 2016
One city’s attempt to professionalize early education could be a model for the nation.

What Boston’s Preschools Get Right
Source: Lillian Mongeau, The Atlantic, August 2, 2016
After a relentless focus on quality in the early years, the city is even bringing lessons learned to later grades.

Why Does America Invest So Little in Its Children?
Source: Lillian Mongeau, The Atlantic, July 12, 2016
How the U.S. became one of the worst countries in the developed world for kids under 5

CNA Training Requirements and Resident Care Outcomes in Nursing Hom

Source: Alison M. Trinkoff, Carla L. Storr, Nancy B. Lerner, Bo Kyum Yang and Kihye Han, The Gerontologist, Advance Access, First published online: April 8, 2016

From the abstract:
Purpose of the Study: To examine the relationship between certified nursing assistant (CNA) training requirements and resident outcomes in U.S. nursing homes (NHs). The number and type of training hours vary by state since many U.S. states have chosen to require additional hours over the federal minimums, presumably to keep pace with the increasing complexity of care. Yet little is known about the impact of the type and amount of training CNAs are required to have on resident outcomes.

Design and Methods: Compiled data on 2010 state regulatory requirements for CNA training (clinical, total initial training, in-service, ratio of clinical to didactic hours) were linked to 2010 resident outcomes data from 15,508 NHs. Outcomes included the following NH Compare Quality Indicators (QIs) (Minimum Data Set 3.0): pain, antipsychotic use, falls with injury, depression, weight loss and pressure ulcers. Facility-level QIs were regressed on training indicators using generalized linear models with the Huber-White correction, to account for clustering of NHs within states. Models were stratified by facility size and adjusted for case-mix, ownership status, percentage of Medicaid-certified beds and urban-rural status.

Results: A higher ratio of clinical to didactic hours was related to better resident outcomes. NHs in states requiring clinical training hours above federal minimums (i.e., >16hr) had significantly lower odds of adverse outcomes, particularly pain falls with injury, and depression. Total and in-service training hours also were related to outcomes.

Implications: Additional training providing clinical experiences may aid in identifying residents at risk. This study provides empirical evidence supporting the importance of increased requirements for CNA training to improve quality of care.

Early Learning in the United States

Source: Jessica Troe, Center for American Progress, July 19, 2016

The United States is home to almost 24 million children younger than age 6. Sixty-five percent of these children have all available parents in the workforce, making access to high-quality early learning programs a necessity. These programs benefit parents and children alike, allowing parents to work while their children are in safe, nurturing environments that facilitate learning and development.

For too many families, high-quality programs are out of reach. The average cost of center-based care in the United States comprises nearly 30 percent of the median family income. However, the high cost of care does not guarantee quality: Only 10 percent of child care programs in the United States are considered to be high quality. While there is some public funding available at the preschool level, only 14 percent of 3-year-olds and 36 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in a public preschool setting, such as Head Start or a state-funded preschool program, and even among these publicly funded preschool programs, quality varies greatly.

The following fact sheets provide an in-depth look at both the need for and the current state of early learning programs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The fact sheets include:
• State-specific costs of child care and cost as a percentage of income for families of color and families living in poverty
• Brief descriptions of state-funded preschool programs and the proportion of children in each state who access these programs
• How access to affordable, high-quality early childhood programs can boost states’ economies
• How policies such as the High-Quality Child Care Tax Credit and voluntary universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds can benefit children and families in each state

Overqualified: Changing the Culture of Hiring Practices in a Public Library Special Collections Department

Source: Eddie Woodward, Public Library Quarterly, Volume 35, Issue 2, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
All too often, applicants for low level paraprofessional positions in libraries are passed over or rejected, not because they are not qualified, but because they have professional experience or advanced degrees. The rationale behind these decisions is that the overqualified staff member in a low level position will continue to look for a better position more aligned with their skills, experience, and education; and when they find another job they will leave and their positions will have to be filled again. This essay argues that this reasoning is flawed and, regardless of the perceived inconvenience, library managers and administrators should want the best and the brightest working in all levels of their library.