Quarantine Day [n+1]
April 14, 2020
Before we get to the ed policy, the data indicate that California’s rate of COVID growth is relatively slow compared to other locations. The Mercury News says the number of cases doubled in a week, but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has talked about case numbers doubling in the space of a few days in his state (That was several days ago…I gather things have slowed dramatically since then, which is welcome news!). I haven’t done a deep dive on that data, but signs suggest that the things we are doing in California are working! Also, seismologists have said that the Earth is vibrating a little less than usual with so many of us at home – I heard one newscaster compare the Earth’s vibrations to what we see on Christmas Day. So, pat yourselves on the back. But also, remember that flattening the curve has two impacts: (1) it reduces the height of the peak, which helps ensure case volume doesn’t overwhelm capacity at local hospitals; and (2) it pushes the peak outwards, which gives healthcare systems additional time to prepare and maybe get some more Personal Protective Equipment on hand before the peak…so the curse of doing this right is that we may have to do it a little longer. I really wish there was a way to beat this thing that still allowed us to see each other face to face.
Okay…now for what you came for:
I often like to joke with younger millennials (technically, I’m a millennial myself…but I’ve always better identified with the term “Xennial”) that the touch-screen computers in their pockets have the capacity for real-time two-way audio transmission. Well, according to the New York Times, we’ve been spending more time on the phone with each other. Sure, some of this is for work. I think this week we’ve all either written or read some version of, “I don’t think a Zoom is necessary, let’s just hop on the phone.” But if you’re feeling to urge to call your mom or your old friend from elementary school, you’re not alone. I’m one of those people making random calls this week. I highly recommend it.
- Inside Higher Ed turned the Federal Department of Education’s pdf with institutional allocations into a searchable tool. This should be useful for folks looking to find out how much money from the CARES Act will go to a particular college or university more quickly than can be done with a pdf. Also, bless anybody who posts that thing in a csv or excel file.
- The folks at EdBuild have a map that details district poverty and per-pupil spending. They’ve added the New York Times data for COVID cases. In the coming years, there will be lots of research around COVID’s differential impact along demographic lines. I don’t know that this map allows us to draw conclusions, but it’s a place to start. And you all know how I feel about maps and data visualization!
- The Community College Research Center published an essay with a little research and a lot of resources around advising during COVID-19. It is definitely worth a look.
- PPIC’s blog has been pretty on point through the pandemic. Jake Jackson (who serves on our Policy Research Advisory Board) and Hans Johnson discuss implications of closing campuses for students who live in university housing. They also note that, within 24 hours of its establishment, the California College Student Emergency Support Fund had some 65,000 students on the wait list, indicating a huge demand for basic aid by California college students.
- Some of you heard me talking about the digital divide last week. The Urban Institute published a blog piece that showcases data on this topic and discusses ways that colleges in various sectors can work to equitably transition online. Juana Sanchez also wrote a piece for HCM Strategists’ blog on Addressing Equity Concerns as College Instruction Goes Remote. I highly recommend both.
These next few are not COVID-related, but they’re still depressing. Sorry…
- The folks at Ed Trust put out a piece looking at coupling graduation rates with loan default rates to define the College Success Rate. This has the effect of lowering cohort success rates in general, as the methodology essentially down-weights the grad rate by the default rate. When disaggregated by race, we see a college success rate for Black students that is 28.8 percentage points lower than that of their White peers. This is compared to 18.1 percentage points when looking at 6-year grad-rate alone. The Latinx-White gap is also wider under this measure than the traditional 6-year rate by about three percentage points. Unfortunately, this shouldn’t really surprise us. We already know that both graduation rates and default rates exhibit racial gaps in the same direction, so multiplying them together will exacerbate it. It is, however, a clean way to capture multiple pieces of information in one metric. The upshot? We need better data to properly capture success rates defined this way, since current reporting requirements leave us unable to see whether there is a racial gap in default rates at the institutional level. Whether we make this an accountability metric or choose not to, I think we can learn a lot about two institutions with similar graduation rates by comparing them on a measure like this. I think the equity implications of disaggregating the measure are also critical.
- In the peer-reviewed bucket, I would recommend an article published in this week’s Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis journal on affirmative action policies. The authors look at public institutions in states that instituted affirmative action bans (like Prop 209) in the nineties. They note that, in the wake of these bans, many public universities turned to strategies like giving additional consideration to socio-economic status or top X% plans in order to maintain racial diversity. They find that among the public four-year institutions comprising the sample, there is some evidence that there have been very modest improvements in the representation of underrepresented minority students in the applicant pool. The gaps have widened, however, in terms of admission and enrollment. These results hold true when you cut the sample down to only flagship universities, and also when you cut the sample to include selective publics (which includes five or six UCs). The authors also document little progress in underlying social conditions.
One of my weird coping mechanisms when I get a little down is to look through images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Not really sure why, but I find it soothing. Well, Hubble sent back a doozy (see below) this week. At first glance, it’s a fairly ordinary galaxy. On closer inspection, we find something extraordinary – there are two spirals within this galaxy! Also, this thing is “powered by a supermassive black hole.” Pretty cool! They say the devil is in the details, but I find that’s often where the beauty is too.
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Greene
Until next time!
Vikash Reddy, Senior Director of Policy Research