Some of the News Fit to Print
SMALL, FREQUENT TESTS COULD HELP KIDS PAY ATTENTION, LEARN
New research is showing that the key to keeping students focused on learning material while in the classroom could be frequent tests, according to Boston.com. Cognitive psychologists, long charged with figuring out how to keep young minds from straying while learning, have hit upon an unusual solution of springing little tests and quizzes throughout the lecture — at the exact time that students are most likely to drift away from the “topic in hand.” The issue of how to keep students’ noses to the grindstone has become even more serious since the introduction of online courses which many people think will be a fix to what ails the education system in in the U.S. and abroad. However, without teachers watching over the classroom in real time to keep kids from giving into temptation of the internet or distractions, designing programs that will be no worse at keeping children learning than real-life teachers would is tricky. The article is in EducationNews.
TEACHER LESSONS: A CONVERSATION WITH THOMAS KANE
A central focus of education reform efforts over the last decade has been the premise that classroom teachers are the single most important in-school variable affecting student learning. The idea that there are big differences in teacher performance is axiomatic to anyone who recalls sitting at a classroom desk, or to any parent who has marveled at the impact of a great teacher on a child—or fretted over the lack of learning when that child was saddled with a clearly ineffective teacher. But researchers, school leaders, and teachers unions have argued over how to measure differences in teacher effectiveness and how to translate any such findings into policy and practice. Thomas Kane, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has been at the helm of the largest research study to date that has tried to address many of the questions roiling the teacher effectiveness debate. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded a massive, $45 million, three-year study under Kane’s leadership, the final report of which was issued in January. The article is in CommonWealth Magazine.
ON TEACHER EVALUATIONS, BETWEEN MYTH AND FACT LIES TRUTH
Matthew Di Carlo writes in the Shanker Blog: Controversial proposals for new teacher evaluation systems have generated a tremendous amount of misinformation. It has come from both “sides,” ranging from minor misunderstandings to gross inaccuracies. Ostensibly to address some of these misconceptions, the advocacy group Students First (SF) recently released a “myth/fact sheet” on evaluations. Despite the need for oversimplification inherent in “myth/fact” sheets, the genre can be useful, especially about topics such as evaluation, about which there is much confusion. When advocacy groups produce them, however, the myths and facts sometimes take the form of “arguments we don’t like versus arguments we do like.” This SF document falls into that trap. In fact, several of its claims are a little shocking. The design and implementation of teacher evaluations is complicated, and there are few if any cut-and-dry conclusions that can be drawn at this point. Suggesting otherwise stifles desperately needed discussion, and it is by far the biggest myth of all.
ABOUT HIGHER ED
PANEL CALLS FOR OVERHAULING STUDENT GRANTS
A blue-ribbon panel is calling for an overhaul of the federal Pell-grant program for low-income college students, reflecting concerns that not enough of the award recipients end up graduating. The report—set to be released Tuesday by a panel of educators convened by the College Board, a trade group of universities and colleges—adds to the debate about federal student-aid programs, which have grown rapidly under President Barack Obama. The president is expected to propose a budget Wednesday that would again spend heavily on grants and loans, despite complaints from some Republican lawmakers and other critics that the programs, which require congressional approval, have become too costly and often ineffective in helping Americans get jobs. The grants are exempt from the sequester, the across-the-board spending cuts that began in March. The article is in The Wall Street Journal.
TEACHER KNOWS IF YOU’VE DONE THE E-READING
Several Texas A&M professors know something that generations of teachers could only hope to guess: whether students are reading their textbooks. They know when students are skipping pages, failing to highlight significant passages, not bothering to take notes — or simply not opening the book at all. “It’s Big Brother, sort of, but with a good intent,” said Tracy Hurley, the dean of the school of business. The faculty members here are neither clairvoyant nor peering over shoulders. They, along with colleagues at eight other colleges, are testing technology from a Silicon Valley start-up, CourseSmart, that allows them to track their students’ progress with digital textbooks. They know when students are skipping pages, failing to highlight significant passages, not bothering to take notes — or simply not opening the book at all. The article is in The New York Times.