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UNIVERSITIES TEAM WITH ONLINE COURSE PROVIDER
Coursera, the California company that offers free college classes online, is forming partnerships with 10 large public university systems and public flagship universities to create courses that students can take for credit, either fully online or with classroom sessions. The move could open online classes to 1.25 million students at public institutions across the United States, and could help increase graduation rates by making introductory and required classes — often a bottleneck because of high demand — more widely available. Joining Coursera will be the State University of New York system, the Tennessee Board of Regents and the University of Tennessee systems, the University of Colorado system, the University of Houston system, the University of Kentucky, the University of Nebraska, the University of New Mexico, the University System of Georgia and West Virginia University. The article is in The New York Times.
LEARNING 'TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY' SKILLS LINKED TO WORK SUCCESS
A study released today by the polling firm Gallup Inc. finds that students' exposure to so-called 21st-century skills in school correlates positively with "perceived quality of work" later in life. For the study, which was commissioned by Microsoft Partners in Learning and the Pearson Foundation, Gallup asked 1,014 individuals aged 18 to 35 how much experience they had with certain advanced learning skills during their last year of school, including college or graduate school, if applicable. (Cognitive testing conducted by Gallup prior to the survey determined that individuals at the upper end of the age range would have comparable recall of their last school year.) The skills in question—often dubbed 21st-century skills because of their reputed connection to present-day workplace demands—included collaboration, knowledge construction, global awareness, use of technology for learning, real-world problem solving, and skilled communication. The post is from Education Week’s Teaching Now blog.
IN RAISING SCORES, MATH IS EASIER THAN READING
Educators, policy makers and business leaders often fret about the state of math education, particularly in comparison with other countries. But reading comprehension may be a larger stumbling block. At Troy Prep Middle School, a charter school near Albany that caters mostly to low-income students, teachers are finding it easier to help students hit academic targets in math than in reading, an experience repeated in schools across the country. Students entering the fifth grade here are often several years behind in both subjects, but last year, 100 percent of seventh graders scored at a level of proficient or advanced on state standardized math tests. In reading, by contrast, just over half of the seventh graders met comparable standards. The results are similar across the 31 other schools in the Uncommon Schools network, which enrolls low-income students in Boston, New York City, Rochester and Newark. After attending an Uncommon school for two years, said Brett Peiser, the network’s chief executive, 86 percent of students score at a proficient or advanced level in math, while only about two thirds reach those levels in reading over the same period. The article is in The New York Times.
NUMBER OF HIGH POVERTY SCHOOLS INCREASES BY 60 PERCENT
Poverty is getting so concentrated in America that one out of five public schools was classified as a “high-poverty” school in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education. To win this unwelcome designation, 75 percent or more of an elementary, middle or high school’s students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. About a decade earlier, in 2000, only one in eight public schools was deemed to be high poverty. That’s about a 60 percent increase in the number of very poor schools! The article is in the Hechinger Report.
STATE ROLLS OUT TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM
West Virginia lawmakers have singled out a teacher evaluation pilot project for statewide adoption. When the new system is put into place this fall, it will mean that all teachers will be evaluated annually. The system provides for a number of observations and conferences between teachers and principals; it also uses data and test scores to gauge student achievement and, by proxy, teachers' effectiveness. The article is in the Charleston Daily Mail.
SOME STATES PUSH BACK AGAINST NEW SCHOOL STANDARDS
The Common Core standards continue to receive pushback from some policymakers. Lawmakers and governors are reviewing the standards in at least nine states. Meanwhile, some U.S. senators have signed a letter asking the Senate Appropriations Committee to stop the Education Department from linking adoption of the standards to eligibility for other federal dollars. And the Republican National Committee passed a resolution calling the standards an "inappropriate overreach." The article is in The Boston Globe.
STATE CHIEFS: COMMON CORE REQUIRES FLEXIBILITY
The Council of Chief State School Officers is rejecting calls for a moratorium on any high stakes tied to the Common Core State Standards, and is instead suggesting that states have almost all of the power they need to smooth the way for what could be a rocky transition. What the chiefs do want, however, is some flexibility from the U.S. Department of Education and from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan—from No Child Left Behind itself or the waivers already granted—during these next couple of tricky years as the common core is fully implemented and common tests come on line. The post is from Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog.
WANT TO IMPROVE TEACHING? LISTEN TO STUDENTS
NEA Foundation President Harriet Sanford writes in the Huffington Post: Good teachers have long known the importance of knowing their students, both as learners and as individuals. But building and strengthening the relationship between teachers and students has become central to efforts to improve teaching. As broad and ill-defined as the concept of "21st century learning" can be, a few consistent themes emerge. The idea of students taking more control of their learning experiences and guiding their own efforts to solve challenging problems pervades the Common Core and other initiatives. But efforts to foster this kind of complex learning will fall flat if teachers don't build the kinds of relationships with students that give them the confidence to tackle difficult work on their own.
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GEORGETOWN STUDY SAYS NOT ALL COLLEGE DEGREES CREATED EQUAL
Recent college graduates may face tough times landing jobs at first, but things tend to get easier as graduates acquire more experience and education, according to a new report being released today by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. The report, titled Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings, stresses that although college is valuable, students should also know how much it pays based on their chosen field of study, explains Dr. Anthony Carnevale, director of the center and co-author of the report. The article is in Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
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OPEN LEARNING PIONEER HEADS WEST
Since long before the advent of massive open online courses, Candace Thille's project to fuse learning science with open educational delivery, developed at Carnegie Mellon University, has been heralded as one of higher education's most significant and promising developments. Friday, Thille essentially launched stage two of her research-based effort to expand the reach and improve the quality of technology-enabled education, with word that she (and at least part of her Open Learning Initiative) would move to Stanford University. Thille and Stanford officials alike believe that by merging her experience in building high-quality, data-driven, open online courses with Stanford's expertise in research on teaching and learning – notably its focus on how different types of students learn in differing environments – the university can become a center of research and practice in the efficacy of digital education. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
HARVARD PROFS PUSH BACK
Fifty-eight faculty members have called for Harvard University to create a new faculty committee to consider ethical issues related to edX, the entity created by the university and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to provide massive open online courses. The letter urges the creation of the committee to consider "critical questions" about edX and its impact on Harvard and also on "the higher education system as a whole." The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
WILL TEACHER PREP ACADEMIES REPLACE SCHOOLS OF EDUCATION?
Senator Bennett from the state of Colorado has re-introduced the Growing Excellent Achievement Training Academies for Teachers and Principals (GREAT) Act, a bill to reshape teacher preparation, drastically lowering the standards for those doing this crucial work. The bill boasts support from the New Schools Venture Fund, Democrats for Education Reform, Stand For Children, Teach For America, TNTP, NCTQ and many more "reformers." This bill reflects groundwork that has been laid by Gates Foundation-funded non-profit advocacy and policy groups such as the National Council on Teacher Quality, which has been highly critical of our nation's schools of education. The post is from Education Week Teacher Living in Dialogue blog.
WHAT WE NEED: FEWER SMALL COLLEGES
One of the more popular predictions about the future of higher education is that hundreds of colleges will go out of business in the next decade, victims of the current economic crisis and an unsustainable financial model. Perhaps there will be fewer small colleges, with some closing and others merging. More than half of American colleges and universities—some 2,500 institutions—enroll fewer than 2,000 students. While their loss would certainly be felt in their communities and among their alumni, when it comes to the grand challenges of higher education, we can’t worry so much about small colleges. What we really need are bigger public institutions willing to serve the coming generation of students who need access to a high-quality degree. The post is from the Quick and the Ed.
MINNESOTA REQUIRES FEWER CLASSROOM HOURS THAN OTHER STATES. DOES IT MATTER?
Minnesota trails many states in the amount of instructional time students receive, according to a new report by ECS and the National Center on Time & Learning. Despite states' varying definitions of a school day, a growing number of parents and educators acknowledge the benefit of more instructional time. But it's hard to show a direct link between more class time and improved achievement. The article is in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press.
THE SERIOUS RISKS OF RUSHING NEW TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEMS
Morgan S. Polikoff and Matthew Di Carlo write in The Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet blog: One of the primary policy levers now being employed in states and districts nationwide is teacher evaluation reform. Well-designed evaluations, which should include measures that capture both teacher practice and student learning, have great potential to inform and improve the performance of teachers and, thus, students. Furthermore, most everyone agrees that the previous systems were largely pro forma, failed to provide useful feedback, and needed replacement. The attitude among many policymakers and advocates is that we must implement these systems and begin using them rapidly for decisions about teachers, while design flaws can be fixed later. Such urgency is undoubtedly influenced by the history of slow, incremental progress in education policy. However, we believe this attitude to be imprudent. The risks of excessive haste are likely higher than whatever opportunity costs would be incurred by proceeding more cautiously. Moving too quickly gives policymakers and educators less time to devise and test the new systems, and to become familiar with how they work and the results they provide.
TEACHER EVALUATION: AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE
How do we define teaching quality? How should teachers be evaluated? And how should school systems make use of the evaluations? Vivien Stewart, senior advisor to Asia Society and the author of the Summit reports, shares some of the discourse from the 2013 International Summit on the Teaching Profession, held in the Netherlands, March 2013. The article is from the Asia Society.
SAN JOSE TEACHERS, BOARD ADOPT LANDMARK TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM
Breaking new ground in California, San Jose Unified has adopted an innovative teacher evaluation process that gives teachers a role in reviewing their peers and greatly revises the current – and some say outmoded – method of measuring teacher success. The new system would deny automatic raises to unsatisfactory performers and give evaluators the option of adding another year to the probationary period for new teachers – a provision at odds with the state teachers union. Bucking a national trend, the new system will not use standardized test scores as a direct measure of performance. The article is from EdSource.
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HOW OUR COMMUNITY COLLEGES ARE FALLING BEHIND
Pop quiz: What’s the biggest category of college or university in the United States? Is it big public research universities like UC Berkeley or the University of Texas at Austin? Or is it their private equivalents, like Boston University and Brigham Young? Maybe all the small liberal arts colleges, like the University of Mary Washington or St. John’s in Annapolis have, between them, the most students. Correct answer: None of the above. According to Delta Cost Project, the biggest category of schools, by full-time enrollment, is actually public community colleges. In 2010, 4.25 million students were enrolled full-time in community colleges, accounting for a third of the whole full-time student population. And that’s not even taking into account the many part-time students who rely on community colleges. The trouble is that America’s community colleges are underfunded and underperforming. While research universities are increasing spending at a rapid pace, community colleges are actually spending less. The post is in The Washington Post’s Wonkblog.
PROPOSED STRATEGY FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGES: COURT UPPER INCOME STUDENTS
Usually when a call is made for more diversity on campus, it entails increasing the proportion of poor students and students of color at selective institutions that grant baccalaureate degrees. But at a press conference on Thursday, a group of thought leaders called for a different type of diversity at institutions that grant associate’s degrees. Specifically, they said more should be done to attract students from middle and upper class backgrounds to community colleges. The idea is to end the racial and economic isolation and stratification that exists at many community colleges and thereby bring about improved outcomes in terms of graduation and other measures. That’s according to Richard D. Kahlenberg, senior fellow at The Century Foundation and executive director of the foundation’s Task Force on Preventing Community Colleges from Becoming Separate and Unequal. The article is in Diverse: Issues In Higher Education.