By JOE NOCERACharacter matters as much as schoolwork, or maybe even more. And new initiatives are showing how it can
Some of the News Fit to Print
DUELING OVER DEMOGRAPHIC ACHIEVEMENT GOALS
Should states set different education proficiency goals for different demographic groups? Andrew “Eduwonk” Rotherham and Michael “Education Gadfly” Petrilli are at odds over a plan in Virginia that set achievement targets for various subgroups. There is controversy over the state’s 2017 aspirations for its demographic groups: white and Asian students will have proficiency targets of 78 and 89 percent, respectively, but the expectations for blacks (57 percent), Hispanics (65 percent) and low-income students (59 percent) are lower. The post, which links to the dueling articles, is from the EdMedia Commons blog.
REPORT BACKS EVALUATING TEACHERS ON TEST SCORES
Linking teacher job evaluations to student achievement, which Louisiana is starting this year, is a solid indicator of how effective teachers will be in the future, according to a Manhattan Institute report. Under Louisiana's plan, half of the annual review will be connected to the growth of student test scores. The other half will be tied to classroom observations by principals and others. The article is in the Baton Rouge Advocate.
DISTRICTS REQUIRE E-COURSES FOR GRADUATION
This school year, incoming freshmen in the Kenosha Unified School District have another requirement to fulfill as they look ahead to graduation: online learning. "We had very little resistance to it," said Daniel M. Tenuta, the assistant superintendent for secondary schools for the 23,000-student Wisconsin district. "I think people realize that almost every single college student will take an online course. It makes sense to get kids up to speed." While some states, such as Alabama, Florida, Idaho, and Michigan, have laws requiring that students take at least one online course before graduation, Kenosha is one of a small number of districts adopting the mandate on their own, without state pressure. The article is in Education Week.
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A NEW WAY TO TACKLE COLLEGE ALGEBRA
Alexzandria Siprian, a senior at the University of Texas at Arlington who is double-majoring in Spanish and theater, is not a math person. Early in her college career, she squeaked through her required algebra course with a D. Ms. Siprian said that her professor was very difficult to understand, but she also blames herself “because I never tried to get help,” she said. “They have tutoring services, but I never took advantage of it.” Her experience is not unique. Of the 1,041 U.T.-Arlington students who took college algebra in the spring 2011 semester, only about 47 percent earned a C or higher. “Nationally, the single greatest academic barrier to student success is mathematics,” said Michael Moore, senior vice provost and dean of undergraduate studies at the university. Seeking to improve the situation, U.T.-Arlington officials decided to take an approach that is becoming increasingly common throughout the country: letting computers do the teaching. The article is in The New York Times.
The massive open online course (MOOC) provider edX took a step toward boosting the credibility of its “graduates” on Thursday, announcing a partnership with Pearson’s testing centers that would allow students in edX’s free, online courses to take proctored exams. Students who pass the proctored versions of the exams will still not receive credit from edX’s partner universities, which currently include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and the University of California at Berkeley. But the availability of supervised, in-person exams could make it difficult for other degree-granting institutions to deny course credit to students who pass them. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
VIRTUAL ED ADDRESSES TEACHER CERTIFICATION QUESTIONS
Now that 40 states have virtual schools or initiatives in the works to open them, more attention is going to the skills particularly required of online teachers. Such teachers need to rely especially heavily on written communication, ensure academic integrity from afar, and not only be able to understand how new technological tools function, but also to use them in pedagogically sound ways. But how should state education officials ensure that online teachers have those skills? The article is in Education Week.
NEW APPROACH TO MATH TAKES SHAPE WITH IPADS
Holly Blocker’s geometry students at Northeastern Wisconsin Lutheran High School bring to class compasses, rulers and protractors. This year, they’re also carrying iPads. The school, like several others in the area, launched a one-to-one program this year, and is providing tablet computers to each of its 125 students to use both in the classroom and at home. Educators say the devices enhance classroom learning and also encourage students to become familiar with technology they will use later in life. The article is in the Green Bay Gazette.
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LEARNING AS FREEDOM
Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth writes in The New York Times: In March, a task force organized by the Council on Foreign Relations tried to reframe the problems of the nation’s public schools as a threat to national security. “Large, undereducated swaths of the population damage the ability of the United States to physically defend itself, protect its secure information, conduct diplomacy, and grow its economy,” it warned, while also referring to students as “human capital.” While the report focused on K-12 education and called for better college preparedness, its instrumentalist rhetoric has remarkable affinities with that of critics who see higher education as outmoded.
MOOC’S LITTLE BROTHER
The buzz surrounding massive open online courses, or MOOCs, has grown nearly as massive as the courses themselves. MOOCs are the new “thneeds,” the oddly-shaped items peddled by the Once-ler in The Lorax: Everybody seems to want one, even if nobody yet knows exactly what they are or what they mean. But amid all this MOOC mania, the University of Maine at Presque Isle is attempting a different kind of free online offering — one that would swap the scale of a MOOC for the high-touch experience of a conventional online course. Michael Sonntag, the provost, calls it a “LOOC”: a little open online course. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
HIGHER EDUCATION LEADERS LOOK AHEAD WITH OPTIMISM
Higher-education administrators have some mixed and even contradictory views about the financial future of their institutions, according to a new survey. While the national and state economies continues to recover at a sluggish pace, 57 percent of the respondents in the Higher Education Outlook Survey, the first such report by the accounting firm KPMG, said they expected their college to be in better financial shape in five years. And 58 percent of respondents said they expected to maintain or increase the amount of sponsored research they receive during that period. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.