Daily News Roundup, March 5, 2013

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

ABOUT K-12

BEST AND WORST TEACHERS CAN BE FLAGGED EARLY, SAYS STUDY
New teachers become much more effective with a few years of classroom experience, but a working paper by a team of researchers suggests the most—and least—effective elementary teachers show their colors at the very start of their careers. The study tracked the individual effectiveness of more than 7,600 incoming New York City teachers in mathematics and English/language arts. Each of the teachers taught 4th or 5th grade from 2000 to 2006. The researchers analyzed teacher records from the New York city and state education departments, along with data on the teachers' students, including achievement-test results in math and English/language arts, gender, ethnicity, home language, poverty, special education status, and absences and suspensions. The article is in Education Week.

TEACHING 2.0: IS TECH IN THE CLASSROOM WORTH THE COST?
Schools across the country are spending billions on various kinds of technology for the classroom. Kristen Purcell of the the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project recently co-authored a new study on technology in the classroom. She says schools aren't just investing in computer stations and keyboards. So far, there hasn't been a way to measure how effective all this technology is and whether or not it's actually helping kids learn. In some districts where schools have invested heavily in computers and e-readers, test scores have remained the same or fallen. Howard Pitler, a former high school principal and now the chief program officer at McREL, an education research and development group, says there are challenges in measuring the changes in student engagement while learning with tech in the classroom. The story is from NPR’s All Things Considered.

 

ABOUT HIGHER ED

ONLINE EDUCATION MAY MAKE TOP COLLEGES MORE ELITE, SPEAKERS SAY
Online education may have arrived at the upper echelons of higher education, but it's not going to make elite colleges any cheaper to attend. Massive open online courses and other online tools, however, may change many aspects of top undergraduate campuses. That was the conclusion of a private summit, held here on Monday and sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, at which many of online education's heaviest hitters discussed the future of residential higher education, particularly at elite institutions, in a digital age. After years of standing by while the online wave gathered momentum at lower-tier institutions, MIT and Harvard last year gave online education a $60-million bear hug by collaborating to found edX, a nonprofit MOOC provider that could also serve as a laboratory for studying the dynamics of virtual classrooms. The universities made it clear then that they intended to use their MOOCs to improve, not supplant, traditional courses. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

PEER GRADING CAN’T WORK
Jonathan Rees writes in Inside Higher Ed: I'm an American historian by training, but ever since I left graduate school a global perspective has become increasingly important for historians of all kinds. That’s why I decided to get some free professional development in world history, courtesy of Coursera. I learned a lot of interesting and useful specific factual information from the MOOC instructor (or superprofessor, as the lingo goes) that has already helped me become a better teacher and scholar. But I didn’t just listen to the lectures. Like any other student (since that’s what I was), I also wrote out all the assignments and helped grade papers written by my peers in class. This peer grading process differs from peer evaluation (which I use in class all the time) since students not only read each other’s work, they assign grades that the course professor never sees. Professors in the trenches tend to hold their monopoly on evaluating their students’ work dearly, since it helps them control the classroom better by reinforcing their power and expertise. On the other hand, superprofessors (and the MOOC providers that teach for them) have begun to experiment with having students grade other students out of necessity since no single instructor could ever hope to grade assignments from tens of thousands of students by him or herself. With MOOCs in their infancy, few precedents exist for designing online peer grading arrangements for humanities courses. For this reason, I don’t intend to criticize my superprofessor’s choices here. However, I do have to describe some of the peer grading process from my class in order for my critique of peer grading in general to make sense.

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