Some of the News Fit to Print
FREE ONLINE CONTENT FORCES PUBLISHERS TO ADJUST
Commercial publishers are accustomed to battling with one another for control of state and local markets for textbooks and other academic materials. Now they face a more complicated task: how to cope with what's being offered to schools for free. The menu of products available to educators today includes not only textbooks and digital products offered at a cost, but also a growing number of "open educational resources" developed or supported by nonprofit groups, universities, philanthropies, individual teachers, and entire states. While those materials come in many different forms, they are generally defined as free resources that can be revised and redistributed by teachers and other users to meet their specific needs. The article is in Education Week.
CENGAGE FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY PROTECTION
Cengage Learning, Inc., the second largest publisher of higher education course materials in America, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday. The move had been expected by financial analysts. The company hopes to eliminate about $4 billion of its $5.8 billion in debt, the company said in a statement. The company's chief financial officer, Dean Durbin, blamed the company's woes on the move away from traditional printed textbooks to digital offerings, cuts in government spending since the recession, and piracy of its materials. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
MOST STATES UNDECIDED ABOUT DUNCAN’S EXTRA WAIVER FLEXIBLITY
In the wake of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's offer to shift the teacher-evaluation timeline by one year for waiver states, Politics K-12 decided to survey all of the eligible states to see if they plan to apply for this new flexibility. The takeaway? Most are undecided, but a sizable number of states—or 14—say they don't need or want the flexibility, for a variety of reasons. Some, such as those headed by members of Chiefs for Change, believe any delay is a delay in accountability. Other states, such as New York, Colorado, and Tennessee, told us they won't pursue it because their timelines are set out in state law or regulations. The post is from Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog.
MARYLAND EVALUATION FEUD REACHES UNEASY RESOLUTION
After an inconclusive fight over teacher and principal evaluations, Maryland education officials will try to sort out their differences with district superintendents and union leaders, in light of possible new flexibility from Washington on when those evaluations must begin to impact personnel decisions. But a tough road lies ahead. The details of new evaluations—specifically the weight state assessments will have in personnel decisions in coming years—have been at the heart of the feud, along with the importance of local control. The article is in Education Week.
INDIANA PONDERS NEW MEASURING STICK FOR STUDENT TEACHERS
Kneeling on the classroom floor, student teacher Adam Samuels helps second-graders count Goldfish crackers and paper clips. Sure, this lesson quizzes the students on their math skills — but it’s also a test of Samuels’ ability to teach. He is submitting video recordings of this lesson, along with 70 pages of lesson plans and reflections, through a pilot program of a teaching assessment that’s catching on as a new national standard. The pre-teaching assessment, known as edTPA, is a practical evaluation of teacher candidates. Hoping to bring it to Indiana, proponents say that unlike pencil-and-paper tests, edTPA makes teachers prove they are ready to teach before leading their own classrooms. The article is from the Hechinger Report.
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COLLEGE DEFAULT RATES HIGHER THAN GRAD RATES
More than 260 colleges and universities in 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have students who are more likely to default on their loans than full-time freshmen are to graduate, an analysis of federal data shows. The article is in USA Today.
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STUDY SEEKS TO EXPLAIN BLACK/WHITE GAP IN COLLEGE COMPLETION
The tendency of black students to enroll in urban and less-selective public universities and the fact that they attend high schools of lesser quality contribute to their lower graduation rates in college -- but the "primary driver" of the black-white graduation gap is a difference in "pre-entry" traits such as ACT scores and high school class rank, according to a study published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Though the study is based on data from Missouri, the researchers suggest that the findings could apply nationally, although they cite several limitations, including that the data are derived only from public four-year universities in the state. The information is from Inside Higher Ed’s Quick Takes.
A STATEMENT FOR DIVERSITY
In response to the recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action, 37 college associations issued a joint statement in The New York Times on the importance of diversity in higher education. The advertisement noted that the justices did not revere past decisions upholding the right of colleges to consider race or ethnicity in admissions, but it did not mention that the ruling could pose difficulties for colleges wanting to do so. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
PROPOSALS TO REMAKE STUDENT AID WILL HURT ACCESS
A key Congressional advisory committee is raising serious doubts about recent proposals for remaking the federal student-aid system. In a report released late Sunday night, the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance urges lawmakers to give "special scrutiny" to five ideas that it says could "worsen inequality in college completion," including plans to tie student aid to completion rates and to replace Pell Grants with block grants to states. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
TEACH THE FUTURE, FOSTER INNOVATION
The Common Core State Standards, along with the recently released Next Generation Science Standards, have educators mobilized, even if uneasy. Many are hopeful these rigorous new standards will fix whatever is wrong with American education and boost U.S. standing in international comparisons. Why shouldn’t U.S. students be scoring at the top on these tests, along with Singapore and Finland? The commentary, by Teachers College professor Deanna Kuhn, is in Education Week.
INDIANA’S NEW EDUCATION CHIEF IS CHANGING THE GAME ON TEACHER EVALUATION
When former Gov. Mitch Daniels and then State Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Bennett pushed a massive overhaul of teacher evaluation through the legislature in 2011, the promise was a bold new system that would reward the best teachers, weed out the worst and for the first time tie pay raises to student test scores. Two years later, the teacher evaluation landscape is dramatically changing with Bennett’s successful challenger, Glenda Ritz, in office. Ritz is making big changes to systems Bennett put in place to help districts create new evaluation systems. She argues Bennett’s model was too centralized and prescriptive. Her approach, she said, will give school districts more latitude while maintaining teacher accountability. But to some school reformers, Ritz is subtly backing away from what was supposed to be a tough new system of accountability, possibly squandering a chance to greatly improve teaching in the state. The article is in The Hechinger Report.
WHY TEACHERS SHOULD BE TRAINED LIKE ACTORS
Teaching is a lot like acting, a high-energy, performance profession that requires a person to act as a role model. But when teachers go through training and professional development, the performance aspect of the job is rarely emphasized or taught. Acknowledging this aspect could be a missed opportunity to restructure ways teachers learn new skills and tactics. Actors, musicians or acrobats spend hours perfecting their craft because that’s how they improve. Teachers on the other hand, are often asked to identify teaching tools and tactics they’d like to try and to reflect on how those new elements could be integrated into the classroom. “Knowing what you want to do is a long way from being able to do it,” said Doug Lemov, managing director of Uncommon Schools, a non-profit school management organization and author of Teach Like a Champion and Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better in a recent Future of Education conversation with Steve Hargadon. He started trying to improve teaching by identifying the best practices of exceptional teachers and giving workshops on those “gold nuggets” to less experienced teachers. While many teachers found what they learned helpful, they couldn’t put the new methods into practice. “Every other performance profession prepares people by practicing and breaking things down into sections,” said Lemov. So he shifted his professional development workshops to emphasize practicing good teaching strategies rather than just thinking about them. The article is in the KQED MindShift blog.
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INNOVATION EXHAUSTION AND A PATH TO MOVING FORWARD
Dan Greenstein writes this commentary in Inside Higher Ed: So many exciting and innovative efforts are under way to deliver the best educational value to as many students as possible. Since joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation a year ago, I’ve spent considerable time talking to college presidents, chancellors, faculty members, grantees, and other partners. We continually learn from higher education leaders and use what they tell us to assess how we can support their creative and inspiring efforts. Their commitment to innovation is real and exciting. However, I’m also finding that some institutions are chasing innovation without exactly knowing why they are doing it, leading to a very clear rumbling of what I call "innovation exhaustion." I encountered this at the Education Writers Association (EWA) national seminar, held recently at Stanford University. From reporters to college officials, everyone is after the next big thing, whether it’s MOOCs (massive open online courses), online education, ed-tech startups, competency-based courses or e-portfolios. But to what end?
COMMUNITY COLLEGES WE NEED
With interest rates on some student loans set to double, millions of students and families across the nation may be forced to re-consider whether it is worth taking on even more debt to finance a college education. While the data are clear -- it is much better to have a college degree than not -- it is also true that not all valuable degrees need to put families into serious debt. Many community colleges today prove that value can be had at a reasonable price. Our nation's 1,200 community colleges educate 13 million students -- including the majority of college freshmen and sophomores. These schools are growing much faster than the four-year college sector. They also serve as a central point of access for the rapidly growing populations of minority students. And according to a recent study by Sallie Mae, two-year colleges are becoming an increasingly popular choice for upper middle-class students too. We serve together as co-chairs of the biennial Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which reveals what a great bargain community colleges can be for students and our country. The Aspen Prize process involves an in-depth investigation of the outcomes, contexts, and practices of the nation's community colleges. After two years of awarding the Aspen Prize, we have learned of innovative approaches that colleges are taking to increase academic rigor, measure and improve students' learning, support low-income and minority students, build partnerships with K-12 schools and four-year institutions and create strong ties with local industries that rely on well-prepared community college graduates. John Engler and Richard W. Riley posted this commentary in the Huffington Post.