Can public libraries offer high school degrees? (hi future)

by on January 10, 2014 at 8:35 am in Economics, Education, Web/Tech | Permalink

The Los Angeles Public Library announced Thursday that it is teaming up with a private online learning company to debut the program for high school dropouts, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

It’s the latest step in the transformation of public libraries in the digital age as they move to establish themselves beyond just being a repository of books to a full educational institution, said the library’s director, John Szabo.

Since taking over the helm in 2012, Szabo has pledged to reconnect the library system to the community and has introduced a number of new initiatives to that end, including offering 850 online courses for continuing education and running a program that helps immigrants complete the requirements for U.S. citizenship.

The library hopes to grant high school diplomas to 150 adults in the first year at a cost to the library of $150,000, Szabo said. Many public libraries offer programs to prepare students and in some cases administer the General Educational Development test, which for decades was the brand name for the high school equivalency exam.

But Szabo believes this is the first time a public library will be offering an accredited high school diploma to adult students, who will take courses online but will meet at the library for assistance and to interact with fellow adult learners.

The article is here, and for the pointer I thank Robert Tagorda.

ummm January 10, 2014 at 8:41 am

today’s good news: job miss means no further taper

Anti-Ummm January 10, 2014 at 11:11 am

350K people left the work force in December compared to 74K entries. The labor force participation rate dropped another 20bps and is now at 1978 levels. Thousands of people line up outside big box retailers and new factories to submit applications for dozens of low paid, no benefit jobs. Target’s job acceptance rate rivals elite universities like Harvard, MIT, etc.

The “official” numbers are three unemployed persons for every job opening yet many organizations receive hundreds of resumes per single job opening.

The issue isn’t demographics – prime age workers are leaving the workforce while the boomers and their elders are clinging to their jobs fo dear life because the median retirement aged worker in the USA only has $200K in retirement savings.

Offshoring, automation and outsourcing have killed labor. Average is over.

zz January 10, 2014 at 12:46 pm

“Offshoring, automation, and outsourcing”

and immigration

Rahul January 10, 2014 at 8:54 am

Next step: merger with the Public School system?

albatross January 10, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Voluntary high school is likely to be a lot nicer all around–nobody forced to be there who doesn’t want to be there probably means a whole lot less trouble with badly behaved students. If you can throw people out who are disruptive, so much the better.

Dan in Philly January 10, 2014 at 9:19 am

It’s no secret that you can get a high quality education for free through either the library and/or online. Public schools are more or less day care services to keep dangerous kids from hurting themselves or others until they’re old enough to be held accountable for their own actions. Anyone interested in actually learning anything has more resources to do it on their own than ever before.

Sam January 10, 2014 at 9:27 am

You need a lot of skills to be a self-learner like that. First, you need strong reading skills, which plenty of students lack. You also need a lot of soft skills like self-motivation and the ability to focus on something for hours at a time, as well as the patience to stick with a difficult passage/topic when it doesn’t click immediately.

Almost everyone needs to be taught those skills, either by their parents or in school. Students who don’t have those skills yet need a teacher to guide them. One thing that’s come out of MOOCs is that the students who are able to pass a MOOC class are mostly people who are already well educated and very self-motivated, pretty much the opposite of high school dropouts.

The Anti-Gnostic January 10, 2014 at 9:57 am

Ergo, public schools will increasingly become where we warehouse the dummies.

anon January 10, 2014 at 11:36 am

>lumping all public schools together

I think you mean inner city public schools. There are many fine school districts around the country that are well funded and provide high caliber education.

Careless January 10, 2014 at 8:55 pm

And many, many terrible but well-funded inner city schools.

Axa January 10, 2014 at 10:42 am

Perhaps adults have a skill than young ones lack: motivation. Do high school really needs the ability to focus for “hours”?

Not a bad idea at all, high school dropout rate was 12% back in 1990 and 7% in 2011. Lots of people need a second chance. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16

john personna January 10, 2014 at 10:54 am

Is a self-learning bootcamp itself hard to teach?

Early MOOC students would include a lot of self-starters, indeed they pull from multiple cohorts of them.

But how would a high school “let’s do a MOOC together” course change the game going forward?

Marie January 10, 2014 at 11:39 am

There’s a school of thought that contends human beings are natural self-learners and that schools work very hard to teach that out of them.

Ad Nauseum January 10, 2014 at 11:57 am

So, primary education should focus on reading skills and library and internet use so that a majority of students can start self learning by 5th grade?

RPLong January 10, 2014 at 9:59 am

Two points. First, why is the program only for adults? Why not also home-schooled children and students trapped in the “alternative high school” system?

Second, this strikes me as a bad idea:

Unlike traditional high school students, the online adult learners must choose a career path so their education can be geared toward their future job.

TMC January 10, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Bad idea? They are adults, time to grow up and get a job.

RPLong January 10, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Should it be a requirement in order for them to pursue a H.S. diploma? As in, they don’t gain access to this unless they agree to specialize in something?

Not in my opinion.

AndrewL January 10, 2014 at 1:27 pm

whats the point in getting an HS diploma if you’re not using it to look for work? Just hang it in your parent’s basement to look at all day?

RPLong January 10, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Indeed, for some elderly retirees who seek H.S. diplomas in their twilight years, that is precisely the point. (Except that they hang it in their own basements.)

Either way, I didn’t have to answer that question when I enrolled in high school, so why should anyone else?

AndrewL January 10, 2014 at 4:54 pm

I think the state mandates that you have to attend x years of education. if you choose not to graduate, that’s on you. If you want to go back and get that diploma, you’re more than welcome, but at that point, why bother unless you’re trying to get a job?

AndrewL January 10, 2014 at 1:25 pm

home-schooled children have their own program…. at home. Why would you want to trade in personal tutoring for a library program?

RPLong January 10, 2014 at 1:28 pm

It does depend on how the library program is designed, but suppose I were comfortable teaching my child history, literature, grammar, and natural science, but didn’t feel up to the task of teaching her about math, physical science, and/or foreign language. I would appreciate being able to explore my options.

Slocum January 10, 2014 at 10:27 am

Libraries pretty clearly see the writing on the wall and are casting about desperately for new missions before voters finally realize that libraries really don’t make as much sense as they used to. In an era of eBooks and digital delivery of music and movies, what is there left for libraries to do? They would certainly like to extend the existing book lending model to ebooks, but publishers are resisting. And even providing computer terminals and internet access makes less and less sense in an era of household broadband, cheap laptops, and ubiquitous tablets and smart phones.

chuck martel January 10, 2014 at 10:34 am

The increasingly easy and inexpensive access to information means that being ignorant is a matter of choice, not circumstance, at least in the US. More proof that the existence of poverty isn’t determined just by oppression or bad luck.

john personna January 10, 2014 at 10:57 am

That is shocking to me, because I do love libraries as a place for physical books. Perhaps I am the funding, supporting, cohort and libraries have another 20 years.

Cellphone kids are not yet on city councils.

Slocum January 10, 2014 at 11:54 am

A while back, I had the choice of getting a book I wanted in 3 ways:

1. ‘Free’ at the public library (it was on the shelves, not checked out)

2. A used copy online for about $6 with shipping.

3. A Kindle copy for $10.

I ruled out #1 because avoiding the cost and time of driving, parking, and checking out the book and then doing the same thing over again in a few weeks to return it (and being able to keep the book when I was done) was definitely worth more than $10 (let alone $6). And I went with 3 over 2 because I could read the book right away, keep it without having to find shelf space to store it, and be able to take it in my library when traveling. That was worth the extra $4.

But — my Mom uses the library a lot, and I don’t have any problem keeping libraries around for another decade or two in their existing form. I do strongly object, though, to expensive attempts at reinvention/self-preservation. Here the library system tried to push through a $65M proposal to demolish and rebuild the main downtown library with a coffee shop! and meeting rooms! and performance spaces! Thankfully, voters rejected it. But they’ll probably be back to try again.

john personna January 11, 2014 at 9:48 am

The time strapped (over) use our library hold system, make selections online and pick up by the door.

Actually heading to the stacks takes a bit more effort .. but as has been noted one sees a lot of cellphone kids camped out for WiFi.

Zubon January 10, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Library use is increasing, not decreasing, in terms of daily visits and total borrowing. You might try visiting one sometime. They’re busy places.

Gary January 12, 2014 at 3:08 pm

It’s surprising that many people think that libraries are dying out because of ebooks and the internet, but instead, the internet has caused MORE people to read, and libraries have increased usage and checkouts dramatically over the past 10 years.

People read MUCH more now than they did 20 years ago, and more than double than 50 years ago.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/the-next-time-someone-says-the-internet-killed-reading-books-show-them-this-chart/255572/

Rahul January 10, 2014 at 10:38 am

The primary goal of management is to ensure its own survival. When an organization starts becoming irrelevant it’d rather reinvent itself than gracefully close. Sadly, that’s the source of so much redundancy & inefficiency in organizations.

john personna January 10, 2014 at 10:59 am

Remember that under our system of copyright the big libraries are the only protectors of orphan works.

Slocum January 10, 2014 at 12:08 pm

What orphaned work can’t you find with a used book search? I buy used books when no ebook is available, and it’s not unusual to get an ex-library copy. Public libraries aren’t that great at keeping orphaned books in their collections. The main challenge seems to be to get the old books out of libraries in some other way than tossing them in dumpsters. And given attempts to reinvent themselves and move away from being warehouses of dead books their utility as an out-of-print book archive is going to decline further.

john personna January 11, 2014 at 9:50 am

It is considerably different to browse such works rather than to order such books. And speaking of driving (above) it is much more of a drive to the nearest big used bookstore.

James January 10, 2014 at 11:09 am

My wife used a program like this to finish high school after she dropped out. I think it helped her that she was a good student in grade school and could read and write well. She probably had more motivation than most because she eventually went on to college and graduate school.

Alex Godofsky January 10, 2014 at 11:17 am

So basically libraries are abusing their vestigial funding and cachet to become a state enterprise that spends money on whatever it wants?

AB January 10, 2014 at 11:25 am

There is no such thing as a “high school degree.”

Marie January 10, 2014 at 11:45 am

LA is hardly ahead of the curve on this one.

Everyone wants the home education money. This can be a really bad thing, when schools and libraries both angle to scam students into thinking that they can only get an online education through their institution. Since the point is not education, but funding, the education suffers.

But there’s a lot of outside creativity going into this, also. We have an excellent nearby library that has got it right, both for K-12 and post. It only provides the resources, and in an integrated manner. They have a vital brick and mortar stock, so you can educate yourself or kids by having them pull books from “The Flame Trees of Thika” to “The Road to Serfdom” to “One Summer”. They also use their building — give space for home school groups, for competitive science organizations; they have a room set up once a week for families to come in and bring their lab experiments for a home science lab, and another with Rosetta Stone installed so folks can get their kids that language curriculum without the hefty expense.

What they don’t do is set up a program with administrators directing people about how to educate themselves. Give people the resources, be there to “support”, then leave them alone.

It’s a very busy library.

Mark Brophy January 10, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Mechanics’ Institutes of the 19th century held libraries of books and convened classes. Some of the institutes remain in business in the older cities such as San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, and New York; vestiges of free enterprise remain even in the USA.

JKB January 10, 2014 at 1:17 pm

And the antiquated library transforms to be yet again a learning center.

This is a far better solution than turning them into pop video, CD and book repositories.

Albigensian January 10, 2014 at 1:40 pm

I’m not sure I see the e-book as necessarily replacing paper books. In some ways it is more convenient but in others less. Perhaps it is just a different form of book and, just as paperbacks did not replace hardcovers, will not replace paper books in the next decade or the next century.

Then again, an e-book does not have to be just another edition of a book- it could evolve into something quite different. At a minimum, an e-book can incorporate live links, and can easily include non-text (video, audio). An e-book does not have to be static like a paper book because it can easily be updated. In time it may become more interactive, perhaps blurring the line between “e-book” and “video game.”

I’d guess that publishers have always chafed under copyright’s “right of first sale,” and now with e-books (and other non-tangible electronic media) they don’t have to. It’s never been in their interest that a single copy should be used by dozens but paid for only once. They’ve had to put up with this (and used bookstores, etc.) but now (since e-books are licensed, not sold) they don’t have to. So why should they?

Which does put libraries out in the cold regarding electronic media. But public libraries would seek to expand their mission whether or not paper books become obsolete just because they are government entities, and it’s just the nature of such to expand whenever possible.

(Interestingly, Netflix is running up against the same “licensed vs sold” problem as public libraries. It could always obtain a DVD for retail price, but streaming rights could cost a whole lot more. When they’re available at all, of course.)

Steve Sailer January 10, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Lots of guys earn their GEDs in prison. James Heckman says that’s one reason the GED doesn’t do you much good in the job market.

Rahul January 11, 2014 at 1:57 am

How hard is it to simply ask “Were you ever in prison?” Or is there yet another law that forbids asking that.

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