Daily News Roundup, November 13, 2012

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

In 1979, when Jim Stigler was still a graduate student at the University of Michigan, he went to Japan to research teaching methods and found himself sitting in the back row of a crowded fourth-grade math class. Stigler is now a professor of psychology at UCLA and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Foundation who studies teaching and learning around the world, and he says it was this small experience that first got him thinking about how differently East and West approach the experience of intellectual struggle. "I think that from very early ages we [in America] see struggle as an indicator that you're just not very smart," Stigler says. "It's a sign of low ability — people who are smart don't struggle, they just naturally get it, that's our folk theory. Whereas in Asian cultures they tend to see struggle more as an opportunity." In Eastern cultures, Stigler says, it's just assumed that struggle is a predictable part of the learning process. Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle. The article in from NPR.



The Obama administration’s Race to the Top competitive grant program initiated an unprecedented wave of state teacher-evaluation reform across the country. To date, most of the scholarly analysis of this activity has focused on the design of the evaluation instruments or the implementation of the new evaluations by districts and schools. But little research has explored how states are managing and supporting the implementation of these reforms. As U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has remarked: “…because teacher evaluation systems are still a work in progress, it is vital that school leaders and administrators continue to solicit feedback, learn from their mistakes, and make improvements.” It has become increasingly clear that the role of state education agencies will be critical as school districts enter what for most will be uncharted territory. As Edward Crowe argued in his recent Center for American Progress report on teacher preparation, “The capacity and commitment of states to implement these Race to the Top activities will determine success or failure.” And as highlighted in recent news reports, many states are struggling to implement their new teacher-evaluation systems and most of the Race to the Top winners have asked to extend their timetables for completing this work. This report is available at the Center for American Progress website.



A free new online math course on the drawing board at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse could dramatically cut the need for students to take remedial math when they enter college, and put them on a faster, less expensive track to graduation, the UW System announced Tuesday. Approximately 21% of all new freshmen in the UW System need some remedial math education when they start college. Among under-represented minority students, the percentage is significantly higher (40%). This parallels national data that show about 25% of high school graduates do not have the necessary skills to succeed in college-level math courses, according to a news release announcing the new online math course. UW-La Crosse is leading development of the new Massive Open Online Course (known as MOOC) to quickly boost students' math proficiency with a $50,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The free six-week online math course will be available to a wide variety of learners, including high school students who want to assess their college readiness, and non-traditional-aged students either preparing to return to college, or wanting to improve their math skills to advance career goals. The article is in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The clearest path to college credit for massive open online courses may soon be through credit recommendations from the American Council of Education (ACE), which announced today that it will work with Coursera to determine whether an initial group of 8-10 MOOCs should be worth credit. The council is also working on a similar arrangement with EdX, a MOOC-provider created by elite universities. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding that effort as part of a wide-reaching group of new MOOC-related grants, including research projects to be led by ACE, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Ithaka S+R, a research group that will team up with the University System of Maryland to test and study the use of massive open online courses across the system. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.

The American Council on Education has agreed to review a handful of free online courses offered by elite universities and may recommend that other colleges grant credit for them. The move could lead to a world in which many students graduate from traditional colleges faster by taking self-guided courses on the side, taught free by professors from Stanford University, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and other well-known colleges. In what leaders describe as a pilot project, the group will consider five to 10 massive open online courses, or MOOC's, offered through Coursera for possible inclusion in the council's College Credit Recommendation Service. That service has been around since the 1970s and focuses on certifying training courses, offered outside of traditional colleges, for which students might want college credit. McDonald's Hamburger University, for example, is among the hundreds of institutions with courses certified through ACE Credit, as the service is known. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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