Daily News Roundup, April 19, 2013

Perspectives: News You Can Use
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Some of the News Fit to Print


Clive Belfield and Davis Jenkins write in Inside Higher Ed: Economists are often criticized for treating colleges as if they were factories: using models that evaluate college efficiency in creating outputs (student completions) for a given input (cost). In fact, in many ways a college education is like the factory production process: students start at the beginning and then, after a sequence of “inputs” in the form of courses and support services, some graduate successfully at the end. Unfortunately, economic analyses of college efficiency typically do not look at college as a process. Much more work needs to be done in this area. But to better understand the economics of college completion we need to more accurately model the resources that are required as students progress through college.

The credit hour is currently the basic unit of measurement for student progress in higher education in the United States. The credit hour informs aspects of administration of higher-education institutions throughout the United States, including establishing teaching loads and graduation requirements, and is the basic structural unit of most college-level courses as well as the basis for federal student aid. Despite this fact, the term was formally undefined until 2010 when the U.S. Department of Education reluctantly defined a credit hour as the amount of work associated with intended learning outcomes that can be verified with evidence of student achievement. There is growing dissatisfaction with credit hours, however, because they measure time instead of educational attainment and fail to provide any useful understanding of what students actually learned. This criticism is heard most loudly in the debate around credit transfers from one institution to another. In reality, however, this distrust of credits earned elsewhere reflects the fact that it’s difficult to place accurate value on earned credits even though those hours came at a great price to the student, his or her family, and taxpayers. The article is from the Center for American Progress.

Larry Gordon, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, documents his experience taking a MOOC offered through Coursera: The public health class got ready for its first lecture: Attending were the pharmacist from Pakistan, the psychologist from Brazil, the dietitian from Louisiana, the journalist from Los Angeles — and 4,500 other people. It's a good thing we didn't have to hustle for a decent seat. This classroom was a virtual one. We communal strangers were among the pioneers in the emerging universe of massive open online courses — MOOCs, as they're called, an acronym that sounds like an insult from my New Jersey childhood. Instead of lining up at the bookstore, I was fiddling with Internet browsers and deciding how many videos about tuberculosis and droughts I could watch in one late-night stretch. Instead of chatting across the aisle with classmates, I posted group messages online. And rather than gathering nervously en masse for our final exam, we tested in uncertain solitude, at kitchen tables and office cubicles.



In 2014, Mississippi plans to adopt a statewide teacher evaluation procedure, which was recently developed by the Mississippi Department of Education. The new system will rate teachers by looking at student test score data, as well as the scores teachers receive from observations conducted by administrators. The new system is the first of its kind for the state, which had previously left the process of evaluating and rating teachers largely up to individual districts. The shift to a statewide system comes at a time when at least 30 states across the nation are rolling out new evaluations using more rigorous criteria about what makes a good teacher. A growing body of research indicating that teachers are the most influential in-school factor impacting student achievement has pushed many states to more closely examine how teachers are teaching. Under old systems, the vast majority of teachers were rated satisfactory – even if the vast majority of students were falling behind. The article is in The Hechinger Report.

A significant number of Delaware’s teachers are leaving the state after only a few years on the job, while new teachers are often getting assigned students who need the most help, according to a study commissioned by the state “We have a serious problem retaining our new teachers,” said Gov. Jack Markell. “Close to two in five new teachers leave teaching in our state within four years. In our high-needs schools, that number is close to three in five. We have to do better.” Markell and top school leaders were on hand Thursday for an announcement of findings by the Strategic Data Project, a group based at Harvard University that compiled and analyzed statistics about the state’s teachers. Delaware is the first state to work with the group, which previously operated on the district level. The study shows more than 15 percent of teachers don’t continue in the same school the following year. The loss is more serious among new teachers and at high-poverty schools, which have a turnover rate of more that 23 percent. The article is in The News Journal (Delaware).

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