OVAE Connection - Issue 154 - June 13, 2013

OVAE Connection

                                                              December 13, 2012  - Issue 131

Good Jobs, Bad Jobs -- America's Polarized Workforce

The rapid economic growth of 1990’s led to the creation of numerous jobs for Americans, but as Arne L. Kalleberg, the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, points out, employment statistics do not fully represent the state of a nation’s economy. In his award-winning Good Jobs, Bad Jobs: The Rise of Polarized and Precarious Employment Systems in the United States, 1970s to 2000s, which the Russell Sage Foundation recently released in paperback, Kalleberg deconstructs the complex dynamics driving the increasing polarization in the American workplace between “good jobs” and “bad jobs” over the past 40 years.

According to Kalleberg, the distinctions between “good” and “bad” jobs break along five dimensions: (1) pay and the possibility of advancement, (2) fringe benefits, (3) autonomy and control over work situations and the experience of having interesting and meaningful jobs, (4) flexibility and control over the scheduling of work and the terms of employment, and (5) permanence/duration of employment.

Kalleberg notes how the economic boom following World War II created many well-paying and secure jobs that helped to create a large middle class. However, by the 1970’s, Kalleberg argues this class mobility slowed, and jobs became less secure because of  greater government deregulation, more significant global competition, increased growth in the service sector, and decreased institutional protection (e.g., unions, minimum wage increases) for workers. Since then, precarious and low-paying jobs are increasingly dominating the American job market.

To reverse this growing polarization in job quality, Kalleberg advocates increased cooperation between the government, employers, and labor organizations to develop long-term strategies like expanding programs that provide a “safety net,” strengthening legal protections for workers, and providing Americans with better job training opportunities.

Although there are differing economic models concerned with the interrelationships of the factors contributing to “good jobs,” unsurprisingly, workers in good jobs tend to be better educated, while workers in bad jobs tend to have limited education and skill levels.

Thus, the problems discussed in Kalleberg’s book have major implications for how students make choices regarding their future and prepare themselves for uncertain job prospects. This transformed workplace also complicates the work of teachers and counselors as well as public education as a whole as they all attempt to better prepare a greater number and percentage of students for entering this changing job market.


NSF Seeks to Create an Ideas Lab for Transforming STEM Teaching and Learning -- Up to $5 Million to Be Available

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking innovative ideas for transforming how K–20 teachers approach teaching and learners approach learning in either formal or informal settings, including ideas for optimizing STEM learning, providing models for next-generation practices, and integrating current formal and informal education practices or providing models for next-generation integration.

In the medium term, NSF aims to foster transformative, multidisciplinary approaches that address the use of large data sets to create actionable knowledge for improving STEM teaching and learning environments. In the long term, the goal is to revolutionize learning. The approaches NSF seeks are those of scientists and researchers who are experts in learning, STEM disciplines, computers and technology, statistics, databases, and  the study and design of learning environments. Integrating approaches from these fields could improve student learning and engagement, optimize personalized instruction, and support rapid decision making that helps educators respond more effectively to the learning needs of individuals and groups of learners in multiple settings. Such approaches will entail risk along with the potential to advance the field rapidly.

Infrastructure development focused on database design and development for education domains are not included. The solicitation does require the new approaches to generate and apply data ranging from the micro-level (e.g., data on individual learners or from online learning sources, such as massively open online courses), to the meso-level (e.g., data from classrooms providing information to students and teachers about how learning is progressing), and to the macro-level (e.g., school, district, state, and national data, such as that from federal science and policy agencies).

Participants in the optional Ideas Lab workshop on Oct. 7–11, 2013, will be selected through an open application process. They will participate in an intensive five-day residential workshop and develop multidisciplinary collaborative proposals through a real-time and iterative review process. Some of these teams will be invited to submit full proposals. Participation in the Ideas Lab workshop or being invited to submit proposals after being in the workshop is not required for submitting full proposals.

The full background, including funding levels and application requirements, is available through the hyperlink given above. Preliminary proposals (required for participation in the workshop) are due Aug. 19, 2013, and full proposals by Dec. 9, 2013, both by 5 p.m. proposer’s time.


U.S. High School Graduation Rate Approaches a Historic 75 Percent ... With Historically Consistent Disparities

According to Education Week and Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center’s Graduates, the graduation rate for the class of 2013 stands at nearly 75 percent—the highest percentage since 1973 and 8 points higher than a decade ago. These improvements suggest higher rates still over time. Yet many young adults are still failing to complete a meaningful high school education, with most non-graduates coming from educationally and socio-economically disadvantaged groups and communities. According to the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center (EPERC), Education Week’s publisher, 1 million students from this year's high school class will not graduate with a diploma. That translates to more than 5,500 students lost each school day. These youths are the focus of Second Chances, an investigation of state and local performance, and recovery interventions that target out-of-school youths.  

The report tracks graduation policies for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and presents a new analysis of graduation patterns for the nation, individual states, and the nation’s 50 largest school systems for 2010. The EPERC calculated graduation rates using the Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) method and data from the Department of Education’s Common Core of Data, an annual census of U.S. public schools and school districts. It also conducted a survey that tracked 18 state policy indicators in three areas: college- and work-readiness definitions, high school completion credentials, and exit exams.  

Second Chances focused on the nation’s recoverable youths—young adults between the ages of 16 and 21 who are not in school, and who have not completed a high school education. According to the report, these individuals comprise nearly 7 percent of this age group, and are crucial targets for recovery interventions leading to either a diploma or other high school credential. The report estimates that, nationwide, there are 1.8 million recoverable youths, with the largest numbers in California, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Texas. Among these, Native American, Latino, and African American youths are disproportionately represented. Importantly, within the out-of-school population, employment rates are 75 percent higher for those who have completed high school, compared with dropouts.  

The report finds that historically large graduation rate gaps remain despite the progress among most groups and in most states. Some of the key findings among these troubling disparities are:

  • Asian-Americans and whites remained top performers, with graduation rates of 81 percent and 80 percent, respectively. 
  • In contrast, 68 percent of Latinos, 62 percent of African Americans, and 51 percent of Native Americans graduated high school with a diploma.
  • Minority males graduated at still lower rates, ranging from a high of 63 percent for Latinos to a low of 46 percent for Native Americans.
  • On average, 78 percent of females and 72 percent of males graduated high school with a diploma, a gender gap of 6.5 percentage points, which has remained virtually unchanged for years.

Thirty-eight states have now defined college readiness, one more since last year. At the state and district levels, graduation rates vary dramatically. According to the report, a 28 percent divide separates the highest- and lowest-performing states. Report data reveal that wide variations are also found among the nation’s 50 largest districts. An example of this can be seen by contrasting Detroit, Mich., schools, which have the lowest graduation rate at 46 percent, and those in Fairfax County, Va., which lead the nation at 85 percent.