Daily News Roundup, January 30, 2013

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


Bill Gates provides this commentary in CNN: Today I released my annual letter. Each year, I reflect on what I learned in the last year through our travels and work with the foundation and how that will shape my thinking over the coming months. This year, my letter focuses on how important it is to set clear goals and measure progress in order to accomplish the foundation's priorities, both here at home and around the world. Setting a clear goal lets you know what you're driving at: Picking the right interventions that will have the most impact on that final goal, using that information to understand what's working and what's not, and adapting your strategy as necessary. One of the clearest examples of the power of measurement was the work of our partners to support great teachers. In the past few years, the quest to understand great teaching has been at the center of the public discussion about how to improve education in America. But for the country's 3 million teachers and 50 million schoolchildren, great teaching isn't an abstract policy issue. For teachers, understanding great teaching means the opportunity to receive feedback on the skills and techniques that can help them excel in their careers. For students, it means a better chance of graduating from high school ready for success in life.

The system for preparing and licensing teachers in the U.S. is in such disarray that the American Federation of Teachers is proposing a "bar exam" similar to the one lawyers have to pass before they can practice. Currently, there's a patchwork of different certification requirements that vary state by state. There's no single standard to determine who's fit and who's not fit to teach. It's an archaic system that Randi Weingarten, president of the teachers union, says must be replaced with one question in mind. Weingarten, who was a lawyer before she was a classroom teacher, is convinced that something akin to a bar exam for teachers is the answer. It would test a person's knowledge based on the subject he or she was hired to teach, and it would gauge one's understanding of how children learn. The story is on NPR.

School districts around the country are facing obstacles as they attempt to finalize new teacher evaluation systems in time for the 2013-14 school year. At least 30 states have passed laws requiring new evaluation systems, but many cities are experiencing pushback from teachers and unions, particularly on requirements to include student test scores as a part of a teacher’s rating. The article is in the HechingerEd blog.



An associate degree is typically a cost-effective investment, for both students and state governments, yet community colleges continue to draw the short straw during budget season. That's the bottom line of a newly released report from the American Association of Community Colleges, which tries to bolster the sector’s case for its efficient use of state funding by estimating community college graduates' annual tax payments. The estimates show that workers earn bigger paychecks and pay more in taxes for each level of education they have completed, from high school graduates to bachelor’s degree-holders. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.

Eric Hellweg reports in Bloomberg: The advent of massively open online classes (MOOCs) is the single most important technological development of the millennium so far. I say this for two main reasons. First, for the enormously transformative impact MOOCs can have on literally billions of people in the world. Second, for the equally disruptive effect MOOCs will inevitably have on the global education industry. While at Davos, I was fortunate to attend an amazing panel — my favorite of the conference — with a murderer's row of speakers. Moderated by Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, the list of speakers: Larry Summers, former president of Harvard; Bill Gates; Peter Theil, a partner at Founder's Fund; Rafael Reif, president of MIT; Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Udacity; Daphne Koller, CEO of Coursera, and a 12-year-old Pakistani girl who has taken a number of Stanford physics classes through Udacity. Below is a collection of some of the highlighted comments from this remarkable panel as well as a couple from audience members who were given an opportunity to comment.

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