Category: Education

Life at the Extremes — Not Really

DAVID TREUER, professor of English, USC Dornsife.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

During the election cycle we tend to ask: What does America mean; where are we going? And then someone decides to check on the Indians to find out the answer, as though Indians represent America’s soul hidden in the attic. And of course politicians have long stood next to their “souls” and posed for pictures on the campaign trail.

Within the last year, Diane Sawyer and “20/20” did a special on the sorry conditions at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and the New Yorker featured a grim photo essay on Pine Ridge too. The New York Times published a piece on brutal crime at the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and another on the deep financial problems at Foxwoods, the Pequot-owned “world’s largest” casino in Connecticut. Indians make the news, but the news

The Ivory Tower Can No Longer Ignore K-12 Education

C.L. MAX NIKIAS, president of USC, and WILLIAM G. TIERNEY, university professor and director of the USC Pullias Center for Higher Education.

This op-ed originally appeared in Education Week.

As we look back on research universities in the 20th century, one regrettable legacy we see is the firewall between too many of them and our public schools.

University administrators and professors missed meaningful opportunities to help K-12 educators manage and overcome the challenges they face daily. There was little sustained interaction between public school teachers and professors. Commonalities across high school and college curricula were largely nonexistent. What students learned in a math class in their senior year in high school, for example, frequently did not prepare them for freshman-level math. And the academic and social gulf between high school and university left too many of our poorest children unprepared for the transition.

This disengagement has much to do with how research universities were born and evolved in the 20th century. Institutions that were small, parochial scholastic backwaters morphed into academic powerhouses whose raison d’être was research. Faculty members doing research earned new respect within and outside the academic world, a development reinforced by the rise of nonacademic funding sources, such as foundations. By the end of the 20th century, research-oriented professors received higher compensation than their peers who only taught in the classroom. Growth and distinction became the new watchwords. Admired throughout the world, these universities helped drive American economic pre-eminence, especially in the second half of the 20th century. But the rise of the American research university had little to do with the creation or sustenance of K-12 education.

Times have changed and so, too, must the research university’s lack of engagement with public schools. No problem is clearer and more compelling where those of us in the research university might add our voice, knowledge, and support.

While not as bleak as commonly perceived, data on K-12 student achievement have remained sobering for over a generation. Many of our urban high schools are “dropout factories,” with up to half of the entering students never graduating. At too many schools, fewer than half the seniors will qualify to enroll in a four-year college or university. At many of our state universities, more than half the entering freshmen require courses in remedial math or English—or both. Several recent studies show that the performance gap between affluent and poor students in terms of test scores, high school completion rates, and, ultimately, wage earnings continues to grow at an alarming rate.

Liberated From Paper

RANDOLPH W. HALL, vice president for research at USC.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

I was probably among the last doctoral students to write a thesis entirely on a typewriter. In 1982, barely nine months after the release of the IBM PC, the personal computer was out of reach for me. Cut and paste (literally), Liquid Paper, rub-on Greek symbols, and the correcting back space were my editing tools. Punched cards were my computer code.

Today almost all research papers are born digital. Words, images, data, models—all of the things that research creates—have been liberated from paper to the more malleable and dynamic world of bits and bytes. Yet when it comes to reviewing, publishing, and distributing research, the academy runs the risk of discouraging digital scholarship through structures that inhibit innovation and fail to reward innovators.

Why Do We Continue to Ignore Military Students?

RON AVI ASTOR, professor USC School of Social Work

This op-ed originally appeared at HuffingtonPost.

For half a decade now, Congress has failed to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind. The principal stumbling block has been how to rewrite the law’s accountability requirements for student achievement. That’s certainly a debate worth having. But the continuing disagreement has had an unfortunate consequence. It has foreclosed an opportunity to help one the most neglected populations in public education: military students.

The vast majority of the 1.2 million school-aged military children attend public schools. While there are schools that are models of how to support military students, most are still not equipped to help these students manage the stresses of military life: adjusting to new schools year after year because of their parents’ changing deployment orders; dealing with a revolving door of friendships; handling the

You Can’t Export American Universities

C.L. MAX NIKIAS, president of USC:

This op-ed originally appeared on CNN.com

“America’s research universities have been franchising their campuses overseas, in an effort to reach students in emerging markets that seem to promise an academic gold rush. These universities would better serve the national interest by revaluing the benefits of recruiting the best of the rest of the world to the United States.

The United States’ 50 best research universities have emerged as the American asset that other nations most envy. So it was only a matter of time before other nations would begin to

Rule Changes That Could Boost Minority College-Going

LINDA J. WONG, executive director of USC’s Center for Urban Education, ESTELA MARA BENSIMON, professor of higher education and co-director of the center, and ALICIA DOWD, associate professor of higher education and co-director of the center:

This article originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

“The Obama administration’s decision to make it easier to consider race in promoting diversity in our schools comes at a propitious time for California.

Race and ethnicity are front and center in the state’s education system with minorities now representing 70 percent of public school students and more than half of those attending community colleges. The billions of dollars in education budget cuts have and will continue to hit these students the hardest. But new federal diversity guidelines, if followed, hold out

Back to the 1960s

SHERRY BEBITCH JEFFE, senior fellow at USC’s School of  Policy, Planning, and Development: “Reports of the recent cancellation of a UC Regents meeting, because of fears of student protests, disturbed the ghosts of the student movement of the 1960s. Already,…

How to Make Remedial English a Success

WILLIAM G. TIERNEY, professor of higher education and director of the Center of Higher Education Policy Analysis, and STEFANI RELLES, former community college instructor: “Every summer for the past decade, we have conducted a writing program for college-bound, low-income minority…

Saving the U.S. Research University

C.L. MAX NIKIAS, president of USC, and WILLIAM G. TIERNEY, professor of higher education and director of the USC Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis: “The problems that confront American higher education today are arguably the greatest in more than…