Some of the News Fit to Print
LOS ANGELES TEACHERS' EVALUATION VICTORY BUCKS A TREND
The recent groundbreaking agreement over evaluations for educators in the Los Angeles school district is a major victory for the teachers union because it limits the use of a controversial — but increasingly widespread — measurement of teacher effectiveness. The tentative pact puts the nation's second-largest school system at odds with a national trend to gauge the effect of teachers on student achievement by using a value-added analysis. The new system was to include an individual growth rating as a key measure of teachers, along with a rigorous new observation process, parent and student feedback and an instructor's contribution to the school community. Instead of the growth rating for individual teachers, the district and United Teachers Los Angeles agreed to use a mix of individual and schoolwide data, such as raw state test scores, district assessments and high school exit exams, along with rates of attendance, suspension, graduation, course completion and other indicators. The article is in the Los Angeles Times.
IT’S THE CURRICULUM, STUPID
Sociologist Aaron M. Pallas writes in The Hechinger Report: If some districts are using an older curriculum not aligned with the new standards and assessments, while others are using a newer curriculum that is aligned, then there’s a risk that differences in student performance on the new assessments will be improperly attributed to differences in the quality of the students’ teachers, rather than differences in the curriculum to which students were exposed. That’s the inference that would be drawn from a value-added model that doesn’t take into account variations in curriculum. And value-added models rarely, if ever, do so.
U.S. STUDENTS STILL LAG GLOBALLY IN MATH AND SCIENCE, TESTS SHOW
Fourth- and eighth-grade students in the United States continue to lag behind students in several East Asian countries and some European nations in math and science, although American fourth graders are closer to the top performers in reading, according to test results released on Tuesday. Fretting about how American schools compare with those in other countries has become a regular pastime in education circles. Results from two new reports, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, are likely to fuel further debate. South Korea and Singapore led the international rankings in math and fourth-grade science, while Singapore and Taiwan had the top-performing students in eighth-grade science. The United States ranked 11th in fourth-grade math, 9th in eighth-grade math, 7th in fourth-grade science and 10th in eighth-grade science. The article is in The New York Times.
GOT A PROBLEM? STUDENTS CAN FIND THE SOLUTION
Schools are the perfect breeding ground for fostering students’ questions, a place to spark students’ interests and ideas for designing innovative solutions to real problems. Everyday, educators have opportunities to help kids develop the tools, skills and habits to come up with meaningful, lasting solutions to problems. Take, for example, an incident that occurred in a first-grade teacher’s classroom at Marin Country Day School in Northern California, which provided an opportunity to understand design thinking. Students were struck by the sound of a bird that crashed into the classroom window and died. After the teacher brought in a lower school science specialist to give an in-depth look at the qualities and characteristics of the bird, from sight to body structure, she challenged students to come up with designs to prevent another bird from crashing into the window. The teacher took her students through the design thinking process to figure out a way to save the birds. The article is in the MindShift blog.
ABOUT HIGHER ED
5 WAYS TECHNOLOGY WILL IMPACT HIGHER ED IN 2013
2012 was a transformative year in education. Between the introduction of the MOOC (the ‘Massive Open Online Course’), and the explosive growth in the number of online offerings, all eyes were on higher ed. In the past twelve months, students were increasingly able to learn from leading faculty at elite institutions beyond the four walls of their classrooms, and soon, professors will be collaborating across universities to collectively create and distribute for-credit curriculum for an online semester. New high growth players entered the online education marketplace, and universities began to align around interactive platforms. As online certificate programs became more robust and hyper-targeted towards professional development, more and more students looked to gain these credentials as a differentiator in the work force. After such a dynamic year, the discussion naturally turns to what the higher education environment of 2013 will look like and to what extent it will be impacted by technology. The article is in Forbes.
THE FLIPPED ACADEMIC: TURNING HIGHER EDUCATION ON ITS HEAD
Education models are turning inside out. First came the concept of the 'flipped classroom' in schools: pupils completing course material ahead of lessons to free up time with their teachers and apply the knowledge they have just learned. Now a related philosophy is developing in higher education. Can we also flip academics – or even academia itself? Alex Bruton, associate professor in innovation and entrepreneurship at Mount Royal University in Canada, thinks so. The 'flipped academic', as he sees it, is an academic who informs first and publishes later, seeking usefulness as well as truth in their research and striving to publish only after having had an impact on students and society. This is an opportunity, says Bruton, "to reinvent the brand of the academic (ie. the perceived promise an academic makes to society) as more than just a teacher and academic publisher; as someone who also wants to engage deeply with communities and find new ways of developing, delivering and discussing knowledge." The article is in the Guardian.