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Free Video Lecture on China, India and the 21st Century Global Economy

global economy

There’s a lot going around re: the 21st century global economy – part myth, part truth, part sense, part insanity. I’ve written several times on the film Two Million Minutes and responded to a few articles about education and the global economy.

The Teaching Company just sent the following bulletin which offers a free video lecture about China, India and the 21st century economy. My experience with TTC has been excellent, and their free lectures are top quality. I’d recommend them to anyone.

There is substantial interest in the future of the global economy because of the rising influence of rapidly growing countries like China and India. As a thank you for being our customer, here is a specially commissioned video lecture on the future of the global economy: Will China and India Dominate the 21st-Century Global Economy? delivered by award-winning Professor Lee Branstetter of Carnegie Mellon University.

Economists predict that China and India are set to dominate the 21st-century global economy and become the new engines that drive economic growth. But how will this transition affect the standing of the United States within the global economy? What are some of the challenges that the United States will face in adjusting to the rise of these Asian economies? What are the opportunities for American growth and prosperity in this situation?

View this free video lecture between now and September 29, 2008, to discover what startling effects the rapid growth of these two countries may have on the economic future of the United States.

Will China and India Dominate the 21st-Century Global Economy? is delivered by Professor Lee Branstetter of Carnegie Mellon University. An Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Professor Branstetter received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His teaching skills have earned him the Thomas Mayer Distinguished Teaching Award and a Harvard University Certification for Teaching Excellence. Professor Branstetter’s award-winning research has been supported by the National Science Foundation.

Feel free to send the link to this free video lecture to family or friends who might enjoy it—it is free for them as well.


Brandon C. Hidalgo, CEO
The Teaching Company

What Public Schools Can Learn From Online Gambling

Over at the GlobalScholar Blog, I commented on Jay Mathews’ piece about great teachers vs. great buildings. Mathews is right that instructional quality matters the most, but as several links and quotes in my entry show, we can’t neglect buildings, either.

Oddly enough, Mathews’ article – and the support/criticism of some of his points – are an argument for increasing online and distance education efforts because they nearly eliminate overhead on structures, grounds and upkeep.

The public education system is notoriously bad [read as "slow, ineffecient and ineffective"] at taking developments in the private sector and translating them into working practices. There’s a practical example right under education’s nose.

Consider online poker rooms, which bring gaming into one’s home [for the purposes of this discussion, ignore morality arguments and gaming privacy/safety/integrity arguments]. Walking from the bedroom to the living room is a shorter and cheaper path than the driveway to the local casino.

Before the financial transaction legislation that hamstrung the industry, online poker rooms brought to gamblers:

Flexibility – the ability to play cards from anywhere, anytime. No commutes, no overhead [other than the monthly fee to their ISP that they were paying anyway]. Total comfort.

Efficiency. Live poker play gives about 20 hands per hour; online play gives about 60 hands per table, per hour. Most serious players are on a few tables at a time.

Cheaper for the consumer. Poker operates on something called the rake, which is a percentage of each hand that goes directly to the casino. Live, brick-and-mortar facilities have overhead that includes paying a dealer for each table, a never-ending list of physical plant construction/maintenance, etc. Online poker rooms just have an IT team that ensures secure software – and then that software is verified as secure by independent gaming authorities.

Live rake is usually 10% of each hand with a cap of $5; online rake is, at its worst, about 5% with a cap of $3. For players, that means more money staying in players’ pockets – and because of the efficiency [3x more hands per hour] and low overhead, the online room can afford such a friendly setup.

Captures the basics. There are certain charms to live play – the sounds, the conversations, the pace of the game. Right now, those elements can’t be replicated by online gaming. The essence of the game, though – the strategy, the skill, the luck – is captured accurately. There are few sectors that innovate, analyze and restructure at the pace of gambling entertainment [hop to Las Vegas if you don't believe me], so I have no doubt that within 5 years, online gambling will inch even closer to an experience that a stale, no-talent Ed.D. might call “authentic.”

Some folks get this [consider IndianMathOnline and GlobalScholar, for example]. They realize that significantly less overhead means that it’s easier to commit to and reward better instruction – and the savings, like friendlier rake, is passed on to the consumer.

Others are stuck in a debate about how much and how best to bloat property taxes and capital projects.

College Application Overview for Homeschoolers: Recommendations

In the first part of this series, I outlined the five major components of the homeschooler’s college application. We’ve looked at both the official transcript and the school profile; now it’s time to examine recommendations.

Colleges ask for recommendations for obvious reasons – they want to hear about your strengths and weaknesses from those who know you in an academic setting. Schools have varying requirements on recs; some require one math/science, one social studies/English, one of your choice, while others give you the freedom to choose. It’s important to check with a college’s admissions office or website to determine with certainty which particular recommendations they ask for. You can always give them a call and ask how those requirements apply to a homeschooled applicant.

The homeschooler faces a few main challenges with recommendations:

Lack of teachers. Relative to a public school student who has had upwards of 20 different high school teachers by the time they apply to college, a homeschooled student may have just one or two teachers.

Sincerity. A homeschooled student has to contend with a parent recommendation being seen as a “note from Mom” that may be biased.

Non-traditional language. Admissions officers are often taught to focus on key phrases from teachers who have had hundreds of students, such as, “one of the best students I have ever taught,” or “in the top 10%.” These phrases don’t apply to a homeschooled student.

As with the other parts of the application, these hurdles can be turned easily into opportunities to strengthen your child’s candidacy.

You can and should:

Be honest. Be honest, be honest, be honest. Your child has strengths and weaknesses; take advantage of your insight as both an educator and parent and give them both. You’ve got a unique perspective – take advantage of that in a way that demonstrates sincerity and adds value to the application.

No one is perfect and no one is perfectly awful. A good, honest recommendation recognizes this. Maybe your child is a better ‘starter’ than a ‘finisher.’ Maybe he too often tackles projects that are too large. Whatever it is, be honest about it – and usually you can present these difficulties in a way that doesn’t reflect negatively on your child.

Be specific. You’re intimately familiar with your child and his curriculum, so you can add detail that describes your child’s abilities and accomplishments to a higher degree than most recommendations.

Consider the following two sample portions of a recommendation.

From a public school teacher: “Rebecca was one of the most interested students during the poetry unit. Although it is one of the more challenging units in our Honors English class, she was able to handle the material and led classroom discussion on most days. I have no doubt that she will be able to handle the challenging curriculum required for an English major.”

Compare that to a homeschool parent/teacher: ““Rebecca has a keen interest in Emily Dickinson’s poetry and has passionately explored Dickinson’s works. Rebecca has exceeded all expectations, reading two additional books not required by her curriculum as well as corresponding with a local college literature professor for further Dickinson analysis. Her commitment and dedication to literature will serve her well as an English Major in college.”

The public school teacher knows Rebecca’s abilities and judges her favorably, but she’s presented within the context of her class. Unfortunately for Rebecca, her class isn’t applying to college – she is.

The homeschool parent/teacher is able to describe very specific achievements and gauge her dedication in a way that the average teacher wouldn’t be able to do with believable authority. Make these details a strength of your recommendation.

Find a community member or outside instructor who has observed your student’s intellectual capabilities or mastery of a challenging situation and ask them to write a recommendation. It is imperative to find additional support for the admissions application outside of the family constructs. If these interactions and relationships aren’t already built into your curricula, put them in.

You want a recommendation that is specific, honest and relevant – just like yours – that can build on or support your child’s application. That means the recommendation has to say more than, “Will is a good, smart kid and I like him.” Rich recommendations come from real relationships. Think about the relationships your child has [or needs to have] and decide accordingly.

In summary: Be honest, be specific and find others who can do the same.


College Application Overview for Homeschoolers: The School Profile

In the first part of College Application Overview for Homeschoolers, I summarized the five elements of the college application and detailed the homeschooler’s official transcript: what it is and how it matches up with a traditional applicant’s transcript. Before addressing the school profile, those five elements are:

  1. Official Transcript
  2. School Profile
  3. Recommendations
  4. Application with essays/resume
  5. Standardized Test Scores

School Profile. When a traditional public school student submits an application, it’s usually accompanied by a school profile created by or filled out by the student’s guidance counselor. The purpose of the profile is to give an admissions committee information about the school from which the applicant is coming – this helps the committee place a student’s performance in the context of school-wide achievement from the prior academic year and/or the current graduating class.

The data usually includes:

  • the number of students in the graduating class;
  • percentage of students who continued [or plan to continue] to 2-year and/or 4-year degree programs;
  • percentage of students entering the workforce;
  • percentage of students entering military service;
  • description of academic options such as a listing of Advanced Placement [AP] or International Baccalaureate [IB] offerings.

Some schools provide additional information about available extra-curricular opportunities, information about the school district or results of state exams [i.e., percentage of a New York school's students who graduate with 'advanced designation' Regents diplomas].

Admissions committees depend on this context to determine the degree to which a student has challenged himself. Has he excelled in a ‘school-level’ curriculum but failed to challenge himself with available Advanced Placement courses? Is a student’s lackluster GPA a result of taking the most difficult curriculum available? Is his 4.0 GPA truly impressive or does his school suffer from grade inflation? The school profile works in conjunction with the transcript to answer these questions.

Homeschoolers, by definition, don’t have a school profile or school-wide data to reference. They’ve got to make their own to provide the detailed context that admissions committees need to evaluate an applicant properly. It’s not as overwhelming as it seems and it’s an opportunity to stand out from the applicant pool.

You can and should:

  • Obtain your local school district’s School Profile as early as possible in your child’s academic career; you can, should and likely already compare the district’s curriculum to your own. Highlight differences between the two, especially areas in which your home curriculum is stronger or gaps in the school’s curricula that yours has filled. This information will be useful when you…
  • Create a document outlining your homeschool experience. Keep in mind that an admissions committee reviews thousands of applications; the document should be clean, efficient and easily understood. Make it a snapshot.
  • Find ways to describe your student’s relevant experiences outside of the classroom. Has he attended summer enrichment programs? Has he furthered courses of study by engaging in the community? Though these will be detailed on the student’s resume, the school profile is about context. The committee can better understand a student’s curricula if his school profile relates his achievement to what’s around him. The transcript paints the portrait; the school profile fills in the background.
  • Relate to curriculum of siblings or others. If your student isn’t the first in the family to be homeschooled, you may be able to use a sibling’s achievements through the same [or similar] curriculum as evidence of your homeschooling rigor. If you homeschooled Billy’s sister and she now has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, she’s evidence that your homeschooling curriculum is adequate. And do you team-teach with any others in the community? Be creative.

An applicant’s achievements – like GPA – are often relative to many factors; the school profile eliminates some mystery. A homeschooler’s burden of proof to provide context for his education is necessarily higher than for traditional applicants.

But that doesn’t have to be a liability. Creating a substitute for the school profile allows for personalization that most traditional applicants only wish they had. Take advantage of the opportunity.

The next piece in this series will address the homeschooler’s teacher recommendations.


College Application Overview for Homeschoolers: The Official Transcript

The media hype surrounding college admissions is cyclical. One obvious swell comes in April/May as decision envelopes slim and fat go in the mail. The other – the one that’s gearing up now – is the back-to-school/welcome-to-senior-year/time-to-start-the-process blitz that starts in August/September.

Lost in this shuffle is the homeschooler who’s looking forward to the next phase of their education and who, along with their family, would like some guidance in getting there. Unfortunately for the homeschoolers, most of the available resources are tailored to the overwhelming majority who attend public and private high schools.

This means that most college application resources are focused on – and in the language of – public school students. Homeschoolers often have to translate the popular public education speak to find college application guidance that’s relevant to their own situation.

They shouldn’t have to, but they do. I’ll help ease that process and explain the elements of a complete application from a public school student and how a homeschooler can approach the admissions process.

The typical public school student has five basic elements to their application:

  1. Official Transcript
  2. School Profile
  3. Recommendations
  4. Application with essays/resume
  5. Standardized Test Scores

The first part in this series addresses how a homeschooler with a unique, non-traditional application can provide a description of their curriculum and their academic accomplishments. I’ll start by describing a traditional applicant’s transcript – then I’ll look at how a homeschooler can produce a similar document or, in most cases, a better one.

The official transcript is a document produced by a public school’s guidance department and lists all the courses a student has taken and the grades received. Transcripts may also list attendance/absenteeism; despite popular myth and occasional threats from teachers/administrators, the official transcript very rarely documents suspensions or other disciplinary action.

The homeschooled student doesn’t always have an official transcript, so how do you demonstrate to a college that your academic efforts have been rigorous and completed successfully?

You can and should:

  • Prepare a copy of your academic curriculum as approved by your state department of education [or other appropriate authority], preferably with a note from that body certifying its approval;
  • Highlight any college-level courses you’ve taken at accredited institutions or through accredited on-line programs and submit official transcripts as proof;
  • Report scores for CLEP exams. Even if the college to which you’re applying does not award credit for CLEP tests, submitting your scores shows the college that you can handle rigorous, college-level coursework
  • Create an academic portfolio [digital or hard-copy] that shows off your academic achievements. This is a growing trend in admissions; it gives the homeschooler an opportunity to demonstrate the unique value they’ll bring to the campus and provides context and evidence that can help an admissions officer understand your non-traditional application [it also lays the foundation for a rich pre-admissions interview].

The homeschooler has an excellent opportunity to stand out in the college application process by taking advantage of the freedom they have in constructing their own application; simply put, the homeschooler isn’t constrained by the norms of a public school.

A homeschooler can make that a strength by approaching the college process – starting with the transcript – as an opportunity to craft a remarkable, singular application reflective of the homeschooler’s experience.

The next piece in this series will address the homeschooler’s School Profile.