Monday, July 17, 2017

Education News Roundup

New Study Backs Academic Rigor for Preschoolers. Oh, Please; from the Washington Post:
A new study finds that preschool classrooms — those in which teachers provide “high doses” of activities “emphasizing language, preliteracy and math concepts” — give “positive” academic benefits to children as measured by standardized tests, and that black students generally get a bigger boost than others. Think flashcards.

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early-childhood-development expert, recently wrote:

We have decades of research in child development and neuroscience that tell us that young children learn actively — they have to move, use their senses, get their hands on things, interact with other kids and teachers, create, invent. But in this twisted time, young children starting public pre-K at the age of 4 are expected to learn through “rigorous instruction.”
And never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that we would have to defend children’s right to play.
Should a study that found a 2½-month gain in academic skills when taught in preschool influence early childhood policy and practice? How can one argue for giving up big chunks of playtime for academic teaching to make such minimal gains in academic performance — with little consideration of what other areas might have lost out because of the focus on academic skills? 
Next to kindergarten via Business Insider:  I've been in education for 20 years, and there's a disturbing trend afoot in kindergartens around the US
When I asked the teacher, who I interviewed for the short film, why she covered so much material in a few hours, she stated, "There's pressure on me and the kids to perform at a higher level academically." 

So even though the teacher admitted that the workload on kindergartners was an awful lot, she also said she was unable to do anything about changing it.
To teenagers from Singularity University, 6 Tips on the Future of Learning from Actual Teenage Exponential Thinkers
  • The first thing that became very clear during our conversation was that our group of “Generation Me” millennials expect their learning to be highly personalized. It should be “my choice” to pursue “my interests” at “my pace,” they argued. Although this may at first sound childish, these demands are far from selfish. Why? Because personalization is necessary to compete in today’s intricately specialized world.
  • With 4.7 billion pages of information available on the web, the biggest challenge to students today is in developing the skills to navigate, assess, and synthesize information.
  • We expected excitement when we asked the group about online learning. Instead we heard this: “online Learning is NOT the answer.” The teens told us online courses are “great for educated specialists” but don’t cater to beginners. They cited a lack of time to complete online coursework and internet connectivity issues faced by many schools as additional issues.
  • Students still want great teachers.  The role of the educator, however, is shifting from an individual who delivers facts to that of a guide who can help learners navigate a vast maze of information. Our teens wanted to interact with adults who are relatable, knowledgeable and inspiring.
  • The teens told us they value traditional subject matter, but opportunities to build more practical skills were lacking. Interest in learning more about money management and soft skill development — like teamwork, problem solving and conflict resolution — was mentioned multiple times.
  • Finally, we landed on our biggest question: What is the purpose of all this learning, anyway? Their answer: education should “make people confident in their ability to learn anything.”
    Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls this a “growth mindset.” In her words, this is “the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems.”  

Solving the Mystery of Underachievement; from The Atlantic
As enrollment in higher education reaches record-levels-69.7 percent of all high-school graduates in 2016, a hidden danger awaits thousands at the starting line: Being "eligible" for college admission doesn't mean that students are academically prepared. This collision of expectations and reality creates a revolving door in higher education that can stifle individual talent and exacerbate inequality at the highest levels of the American education system. This is the story of how Travis Hill, growing up blocks from the White House in northeast Washington, D.C., learned what “college readiness” means when the pursuit of higher education becomes a reality.
Over the course of a decade, beginning with two years as a classroom teacher followed by doctoral work in sociology at Princeton University, I witnessed a significant number of students develop a sophisticated logic of underachievement that challenged popular accounts for how inequality in higher education is created and sustained. For many students, their pursuit of long-term educational success was grounded and strategic. Educated in environments that measured academic success primarily by enrolling in college—not necessarily graduating with a degree—they developed strategies to achieve that goal with minimal effort in school.
The goal of the “free-college” movement is, of course, to help more students access the benefits of a college education. To make that happen, it is necessary for policymakers to examine why that’s not happening today. At the root of that story is academic preparation in high school (combining both course rigor and achievement in those classes), the single strongest predictor of college completion according to a landmark study.
Following on the heels of that story, Should Students Get ‘Grades 13 and 14’ Free of Charge? from the New York Times Magazine

Sara Goldrick-Rab, a self-described “scholar-activist” who teaches higher education policy at Temple University, has a more expansive idea: Make the first two years free for everyone who attends a community college (all of which are public) or four-year state school. Directing more resources to the first two years of college would help people from lower-income families overcome the biggest barrier to their success, which is the living costs associated with housing, food, transportation and books while they attend school.

The federal government currently gives tens of billions of dollars in grants and subsidies each year to private colleges and for-profit trade schools in the United States, despite the fact that public colleges educate three-quarters of the students pursuing a postsecondary degree. “I say let the privates and for-profits fend for themselves,” Goldrick-Rab says, and put that money instead toward what she sometimes calls Grades 13 and 14.

Goldrick-Rab, a sociologist by training, started thinking about fixes for the price of higher education around 2008, when she started following 3,000 Pell recipients who entered a community college or publicly financed four-year program in Wisconsin. Six years into her project, only half of them had completed their studies. The subjects whom Goldrick-Rab featured in her book “Paying the Price” last year worked so many hours just to cover their bills that most of them never had a chance. “Community college is where the working class gets stuck,” Goldrick-Rab says. “It’s where the lower middle class gets stuck.”

Why, in these lean times, spend any money paying the tuition on behalf of wealthy families who don’t qualify for financial aid?

One reason is that treating the first two years of college as an extension of high school would probably generate wider support than a plan meant only for the needy. Offering a benefit to everyone proved to be crucial a few years ago when New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, sold the notion of universal prekindergarten, or “Pre-K for All,” on the basis of its availability to rich and poor alike. Bipartisan support for two free years of college might be more likely if presented as a universal benefit — and one critical to the country’s economic competitiveness, internationally speaking.


Jet City mom said...

All families actually qualify for financial aid, if you consider that government backed loans provide much of the aid for many students.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the New York Times article is suggesting Universal Running Start. I'm for it. Running Start not only saved me two years of college tuition, it got my daughter a full-paid scholarship to UW. In our experience (and I don't mean to speak for others), Running Start was of more value than all the HCC, AP, and IB programs put together that any high school offers. They aren't "college equivalent" or "college credit" courses. They are college courses, period. I get that this isn't necessarily the best option for everybody.

As to the comment above, with DeVos on the job, I wonder how much "aid" a government-backed loan, provided by a predatory lender, that saddles recipients with years of spiraling debt, really is.

-- Ivan Weiss

Michael Rice said...

Ivan does make a good point about Running Start. It is a good option for some, but not most high school students. Most of them are not ready for the pace of a college course at age 16 or 17. As an example, I have taught at North Seattle CC the past 6 years. On more than one occasion, I have taught Math 146, which is the Intro Statistics class. With the exception of one minor topic (combinations & permutations), AP Statistics is any exact match for Math 146. The big difference is that Math 146 is 12 weeks and AP Statistics is a whole school year. AP Stats is a much better class. We are able to go more in-depth, do more activities that make the topics real and able to really help the students with understanding. You don't get that in Math 146, time just does not allow it.

If you are ready to be 100% responsible for your own learning, then Running Start can be an option. If you are heavily involved in your school, say student government, or clubs or on a team, Running Start might not be your best option.

Jet City mom said...

Combined with Running Start and attending an instate college, I do not think it is unreasonable for students to assume some debt in exchange for a college education.
I would like to see programs expanded that reduce the debt of graduates when they go into careers that contribute to the community.

I also think that people assign greater value towards something when they have some buy in.
Direct loans are meant to be paid back within 10 years.
People take out loans for practically that long to buy cars, surely a college education which is yours for a lifetime, has more value than a depreciating asset.
I realize some families think it's horrific that their children have loans, and so they give them the gift of paying them off at their graduation.
Then I hear them complaining because their kids still live at home and are underemployed.

My kids are first gen college, and they haven't lived at home since jr yr. They are also both working in their field, more or less.
They also worked throughout high school and college, which perhaps enabled them to get a better job at graduation.
( Neither one did Running Start, it just wasnt a good fit unfortunately given our location and public transportation)

Anonymous said...

I took off my senior year for running start and still regret missing the social time with my friends who FINALLY made it and won the state volley ball tournament and had various opportunities to lead the class and school organizations. Looking back, I wish I didn't rush off to college. It took me until my fifth year to find a major I really liked, and that was short lived.

Enjoy School

Po3 said...

Running Start classes are taught to learn; AP classes are taught to test.
And the 4-6 weeks after the AP test can be a huge waste of time, unless you get a teacher who cares about learning, not just testing.

It's no wonder students flock to Running Start. High schools don't care about the quality of the AP class, just the number of students signing up for them. And that is unfortunate because students miss out on the high school experience.

Jet City mom said...

Enjoy school, mine didnt take Running Start, but they did both take a gap year before high school.
I encouraged them both to do so, feeling that they would make better use of their time once they got there.
CityYear programs are set up for this, especially for those students who did not start to apply themselves until the last couple yrs of high school.
It is fairly structured, which can be very helpful for some, as being successful in college csn be much harder than getting good grades in high school.
It also comes with money attached, a living stipend while you are participating and an education voucher at completion which can be used either for tuition or for education loans.

Michael Rice said...

Po3 wrote:Running Start classes are taught to learn; AP classes are taught to test.
And the 4-6 weeks after the AP test can be a huge waste of time, unless you get a teacher who cares about learning, not just testing.

Well, the AP and IB classes at Ingraham are taught to learn. We follow the course syllabus (just like in a college class) and that prepares the students for the exam in May. But beyond that, the students learn to think and write critically. those are life long skills that will serve any student well.

I have been teaching both IB and AP for 6 years. The weeks after the exam are some of the best parts of the year. I have the AP Stats students do a project where they take everything they have learned over the year and apply it. In addition, I teach them a statistical software package (JMP) because this is a skill they will need if they take any quantitative class in college. In IB Math Studies, I give the students an intro to inferential statistics (something they will get in greater depth in AP Stats). They then do a project where they make a hypothesis, gather some data, run a test and draw a conclusion.

I don't think this makes me unusual that I care about learning rather than testing. One thing I say to my students in AP Stats over and over again is that why I would love it if they all took the AP Exam and scored a 5, what I want more than anything else for the students is to leave the class a more sophisticated and savvy consumer of data and information.

Po3 said...

I think you are an anomaly Michael Rice. What you describe has not been our families experience in AP classes and as such we favor Running Start over AP classes.

Anonymous said...

Michael Rice, if you get the chance to teach your kids MiniTAB too that would cover all the bases for statistical software. More companies use MiniTAB than JMP in my experience. I've found MiniTAB to be easier to use than JMP.


Michael Rice said...

HP wrote: Michael Rice, if you get the chance to teach your kids MiniTAB too that would cover all the bases for statistical software. More companies use MiniTAB than JMP in my experience. I've found MiniTAB to be easier to use than JMP.

This is true. However, I was able to get an unlimited 5-year site license for $500 for JMP. Minitab was way more expensive.

Jet City mom said...

gah- before college not before high school.

Anonymous said...

It's all dependent on the individual teacher and class. I had a stellar AP US History teacher who wanted us to pass, but also wanted us to think critically, make connections, etc. Her pass rates were still great. I attended a small college with small, discussion-based classes and you know what? My freshman politics class was still boring and students were just learning to pass the course. The teacher knew it was a course of non-majors and didn't bring much passion to it. Very similar subjects and level, and the AP class was far superior.


Po3 said...

Jet City mom, I was wondering about that gap year timing. Thought wow she must have been the coolest mom on the block with her kids taking a year off after 8th grade.

Anonymous said...

Fun how the high school article says that the want to choose what to learn and at what pace... and then the college article points out that freshman find out they are not prepared for college coursework. This is exactly why high school or elementary cannot pander to student led education. Students just don't know what they need to know until it is to late. "You don't know what you don't know."- it's still true. That is why we have courses, curriculum, and instructors.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Rice, while you may follow the IB and AP syllabi, which puts students in a better position to do well on the IB and AP exams and assessments, this is unfortunately not true of all teachers, even at Ingraham. Students just receiving their scores can probably attest to that (scores most likely reflect the shell shock experienced during exams, or in other cases, confidence from being prepared, either through class or through hours of self study). It truly varies by teacher. Thank you to those teachers who do their job well and whose teaching both promotes learning and provides solid preparation for external exams.

mixed experience

Anonymous said...

This discussion underscores why the erosion of professionalism in the SPS is so destructive. Teachers should be paid and trained like the professionals they are, and this involves freedom to specialize and a degree of autonomy. The best teachers should be paid more than administrators and their methods should serve as a model for other teachers. You might ask: how to you determine who the best teachers are? Student test scores? Well, lucky for us, you don't have to use any baroque methods like test scores - everyone already seems to know exactly who the great teachers are!! By the time you've spent a few years in the district it is obvious.
The SPS model for teaching that I have seen from afar, as a parent, seems to involve increased homogenization (for example, the policy that all teachers should teach all learning styles, from struggling students to advanced). Conversely, the poor teachers (and we've had a few) tend to remain in the district because they do not make trouble for the central administration (IMO) - at least those we've seen just tread water and do what they are told. It could be that they are burnt out or it could be that they are in over their heads regarding the course material (we've observed this as well) as the district seeks to stretch limited numbers of teachers over greater breadth of material. Regardless, the district is not interested, as I can see, in rewarding the fantastic dedication, skill, experience and professionalism the we've observed in the best SPS teachers (a group that includes Mr Rice).


Anonymous said...

@ Mr. Rice,

I'd be interested in hearing more on your thoughts re: AP vs Running Start classes. One thing that struck me in your comments above was that AP Stats is better because you have more time and can work through the material more slowly, whereas the North Seattle CC intro stats class (Math 146) is too fast-moving to go into as much depth and/or "do more activities that make the topics really help the students with understanding."

That makes sense on some level, but I'm trying to reconcile that with the complaints I've heard that intro level college classes move too slowly for many students. I've heard that re: UW undergraduate classes, and assume it's even more the case with community college classes. If these "fast-moving" 12-week classes are too easy for many students, is it really true that a year-long AP class is going to be a better fit? Even if a college course doesn't go as in-depth, you get to take three times as many classes (since there are 3 quarters per year), so theoretically you'd cover a lot more material than what you'd cover in an AP Stats class.

Is it partly that high school students are busier, so they can't spend as much time on the classes and need something a little less labor-intensive, so drawing it out over a longer period makes sense--and as a bonus, allows time for more practice and activities?

How do the needs of highly gifted learners factor into your analysis? Highly gifted students tend to learn much more quickly and require much less repetition and practice than other students, and also tend to more easily see connections and how to apply information/methods to other situations. Since AP classes are designed to be accessible to anyone, do you feel they move at the right pace for all types of students, or are they more appropriate to some and not others? I know my HCC student has been incredibly frustrated by the pace and shallowness of HCC classes in the past, and "honors" courses often don't seem to provide much challenge. Are AP classes really the answer to the rigor and speed some students desire? Or would students who want more challenge be better off with Running Start classes, which will, as a bonus, allow them to bypass many of those boring, too easy undergrad classes when they ultimately do make it to college?

Your further insights on this would be helpful as we consider our future options... Thank you!

HS soon