Daily News Roundup, November 20, 2012

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

GETTING GRITTY WITH PAUL TOUGH
In How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Paul Tough argues that “non-cognitive” skills are just as—if not more—important than IQ in determining a child’s success. Armed with a litany of academic research from fields as diverse as economics and psychology along with vivid storytelling, Tough makes a convincing case that before we invest in Baby Einstein products, we might want to focus on teaching our kids how to cope with stress, how to secure healthy relationships, and how to persevere past failure. It’s a message that should be fascinating to parents, educators, and students alike. In the following interview with The Santa Barbara Independent, Tough discusses his new book.

THE NEW FLAVOR OF MATH INSTRUCTION
In a presentation filmed at a locally organized TEDx conference in Costa Mesa, Calif., last month, former Los Angeles teacher Nigel Nisbet explains how he turned chocolate bars into geometry problems to get kids hooked on math. Nisbet says he spent his first few years as a teacher struggling to engage students who "had switched off to math." While standing in a supermarket checkout line, it hit him that he might be able to capture students' interest by creating problems based on more relatable (and even universally loved) topics—such as chocolate. He then picked up several chocolate bars in the Toblerone-style packaging and devised a lesson around a single question: "Why make a chocolate bar in the shape of a triangular prism?" Forced to think critically, the kids eventually joined forces to investigate the shape, and discovered that manufacturers used it to get a package that looked large but contained little chocolate. "The kids realized they were paying more but getting less—and that got their attention. I hadn't told them how to find the answer," Nisbet says. The article is in Education Week Teacher’s Teaching Now blog.

 

ABOUT K-12

PRINCIPALS, TEACHERS WRESTLING WITH HOW TO CARRY OUT NEW TEACHER EVALUATION RULES
Louisiana’s plan to intensify teacher job reviews to focus on better identifying top-notch instructors and ushering out nonstarters is causing a lot of heartache, particularly for those who teach subjects, such as drama, in which student achievement is difficult to quantify. The change has three main prongs: principals making more frequent and rigorous classroom observations; teachers in core subjects like math and English receiving ratings based on how their students perform on standardized tests; and teachers in grades and subjects where those tests don't apply devising other ways to chart student growth. The formula is a half-and-half mix of principals' evaluations and student progress, each meant to balance the other. So if testing data fail to reflect a teacher's energy and dedication, for example, the principal's review is a chance to give the teacher more credit. And if a principal's assessment is too rosy or harsh, the data could counter it. The article is in The Times-Picayune.

TEACHER EVALUATION ARCHITECT WARNS OF LAWSUITS AGAINST LOUISIANA’S NEW SYSTEM
The new teacher evaluation system Louisiana launched this fall may be too simplistic, according to the architect of one of the most widely used evaluation systems in the country – and the one on which Louisiana’s new system is based. Charlotte Danielson is the creator of a method of observing and rating teachers based on their performance in the classroom known as the Framework for Teaching. Louisiana has adopted part, but not all, of her framework for use in classroom observations, which will factor into a teacher’s annual score and which will ultimately determine whether educators can keep their jobs. Although Danielson helped the state create a shortened version of her system at its request, she’s worried her truncated observation checklist could create problems for teachers and evaluators. The article is in The Hechinger Report.

NEW ISSUE BRIEF: HIGH PERFORMING SCHOOL SYSTEMS
Today, several prescriptions exist for enabling schools and districts to effectively fulfill their missions to systemically improve outcomes for students. Systems thinking helps organizations identify the inter-relationship of the factors that impinge most directly on success and failure, and learning organization structures and processes help organizations to adapt in the face of evolving influences or exigencies. Our newest Issue Brief, "High Performing School Systems to Close Achievement Gaps in NEA Foundation-Funded Communities," highlights several of these processes in two NEA Foundation-funded sites—Columbus, OH and Seattle, WA. The report is available from the NEA Foundation.

 

ABOUT HIGHER ED

MAKING THE MOST OF MOOCS
William H. Weitzer writes this commentary for Inside Higher Ed’s Higher Ed Mash Up blog: Today more than ever, Inside Higher Ed and other daily higher education reports are replete with new ways of using technology that purportedly will transform colleges and universities.  Truth be told, many are not so new, others are not really scalable, and most are not transformative. As Alexandra Logue argues in her recent essay in Inside Higher Ed, “it is not the existence of the latest technology or its potential uses that will help us to maximize student learning, but using what we know and have.” To be sure, there will be major technological innovations that contribute to the shape of higher education.  The expanded use of MOOCs (massive open online courses) may rise to the top of the new ideas and have a very significant impact on higher education.This rapid rise of MOOCs and their endorsement by the most prestigious institutions in the country suggest that all institutions of higher education need to examine whether and how this innovation will change the way they operate. The question for Mash Up is: what impact does the growth and broad institutional acceptance of MOOCs have on institutions which blend the liberal arts with professional training?

COLLEGE OF FUTURE COULD BE COME ONE, COME ALL
Teaching Introduction to Sociology is almost second nature to Mitchell Duneier, a professor at Princeton: he has taught it 30 times, and a textbook he co-wrote is in its eighth edition. But last summer, as he transformed the class into a free online course, he had to grapple with some brand-new questions: Where should he focus his gaze while a camera recorded the lectures? How could the 40,000 students who enrolled online share their ideas? And how would he know what they were learning? In many ways, the arc of Professor Duneier’s evolution, from professor in a lecture hall to online instructor of tens of thousands, reflects a larger movement, one with the potential to transform higher education. Already, a handful of companies are offering elite college-level instruction — once available to only a select few, on campus, at great cost — free, to anyone with an Internet connection. The article is in The New York Times.

 

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