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Monday, January 10, 2011

News Roundup

Good 2010 education news roundup at The Washington Post blog, The Answer Sheet. I suspect many of you have read most of these articles but it is good to have them all in one place. (Thanks to Dorothy Neville for this link.)

From the NY Times, an article about the popularity of buying iPads for use in schools. Fad or not? If this is of great use, wouldn't a smart phone do the same thing but more cheaply?

As part of a pilot program, Roslyn High School on Long Island handed out 47 iPads on Dec. 20 to the students and teachers in two humanities classes. The school district hopes to provide iPads eventually to all 1,100 of its students.

The iPads cost $750 apiece, and they are to be used in class and at home during the school year to replace textbooks, allow students to correspond with teachers and turn in papers and homework assignments, and preserve a record of student work in digital portfolios.

Pro and Con:

“There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” said Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, who believes that the money would be better spent to recruit, train and retain teachers. “IPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning.”

“I think this could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector,” Mr. Wolfe said.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which developed the iPad algebra program in California, said it planned to compare the test scores of students using a textbook in digital and traditional book formats. The iPad version offers video of the author solving equations, and individualized assessments and practice problems.

Educators also laud the iPad’s physical attributes, including its large touch screen (about 9.7 inches) and flat design, which allows students to maintain eye contact with their teachers. And students like its light weight, which offers a relief from the heavy books that weigh down their backpacks.

Where are these districts finding the money? Race to the Top funds paid for them in Durham, N.C. for two low-performing schools.

About 5,400 educational applications are available specifically for the iPad, of which nearly 1,000 can be downloaded free.

There was also an article in the NY Times about the possibility of cutting back of HOPE scholarships in Georgia.

The largest merit-based college scholarship program in the United States it offers any Georgia high school student with a B-average four years of free college tuition.

When it was begun in 1993, the program was covered easily by Georgia’s state lottery. Politicians enjoyed how happy it made middle-class constituents. Educators praised the way it improved SAT scores and lifted Georgia from the backwaters of higher education.

This is to attend any Georgia university or technical school and covers tuition, some books and fees but not housing costs.

It is funded by their state lottery money (which also funds a free pre-kindergarten program). But naturally the money is running short because of the economy. However, it would mean not funding 100% and maybe just 80%.

I remember reading about this years back and thinking what a good idea. Can you imagine our state funding even 80% of the costs to go to one of our state schools? I still don't even know for sure how much money education ever got from our state lottery and where it went.

Another interesting thread from The Answer Sheet, this time from a high school principal in Ohio about standardized testing. Speaking of the Secretary of Education:

The secretary goes on to promise that new consortiums working on assessments will produce “a new test” he claims will “measure what children know across the full range of college and career-ready standards, and measures other skills, such as critical-thinking ability.”

Allow me to express a bit of doubt. For starters, I hope he doesn’t define “new test” as “one test” because that will never accomplish what he claims he wants: an assessment that measures a broad spectrum of student abilities. Further, unless these new tests are uncoupled from the high stakes they currently invoke—such as punishments for schools and teachers—they will be just another standardized, easily scored exam that tell us little about what is really going on in our classrooms.

I liked this line (bold mine):

Duncan applauds No Child Left Behind for disaggregating data—but bad data disaggregated is still bad data.

And let’s be honest. All this so-called “data-driven decision-making” talk should really be called what it is: test-driven decision making. Ohio’s school report cards consist of 26 “data” points, and 24 of them—92%--are test scores.

From USA Today, a story about Pittsburgh's version of the HOPE scholarship.

Like Davis, more than 300 adults give their time to kids through a 2-year-old mentoring program — one of many ways in which residents have rallied around the belief that education is the key to Pittsburgh's future.

It centers on the Pittsburgh Promise, a 3-year-old scholarship — worth up to $40,000 over four years — for public school graduates. Students can use the scholarship at just about any college or trade school in the state. Their only requirements: attend class regularly and maintain a 2.5 grade point average.

However, there was no lottery money. Here's what the University of Pittsburgh medical center did:

The center gave $10 million upfront, and said it would match donations up to $90 million over nine years toward a $250 million permanent endowment. For every $3 citizens raised, the center said it would chip in $2.

Residents sprang into action. A group participating in the Pittsburgh Marathon raised about $20,000. Students are coordinating a springtime Promise Week, including fundraisers and service projects. A parents' letter-writing campaign brought in $5,800. Other parents sponsored a luncheon last year, raising more than $5,000.

Before- and after-school programs aim to complement classroom activities. Every ninth-grader gets invited to Heinz Field for a pep talk by Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. And because ninth grade is a make-or-break point for many students, a Promise Readiness Corps meets daily to make sure no one falls through the cracks.

What I really liked what the goals in Pittsburgh schools; something about the phrasing strikes a chord with me (bold mine):

Goals are threefold: to ensure that students master academics, develop behaviors and habits that are consistent with success in college or a career, and explore ambitions and dreams.

21 comments:

Jet City mom said...

Apparent the ipad is more useful than the Kindle, but while it is sexy, I never buy first gen anything.

ipads in college

Patrick said...

Who pays when they break or get lost?
Books are relatively durable, and not that expensive if they get lost.

none1111 said...

The debate over paper vs. digital is an interesting one with advantages on both sides right now. But whether we like it or not, eventually digital will rule the world of text books due to production costs, rights management (ugh), resale (none, ugh again), and various conveniences. If you can remember back to college days, carrying a backpack with 30 pounds of books (and still not having everything you wanted to bring!), that alone will sway it for a lot of college kids. Less resources used for photocopies, tons of copyright-free material available to the class at a moment's notice, etc.

But the point I really wanted to comment on was about this: If this is of great use, wouldn't a smart phone do the same thing but more cheaply?

Until you've really used an iPad, one might think so. But the size makes a huge difference. Imagine trying to squeeze your kid's calculus or physics text book so the material fits on a 3.5" screen, as compared with a nearly life-sized version of the textbook on an iPad. There's no comparison. Even if the resolution was high enough on the smaller devices, the physical size just isn't there. This is why some very smart people think even the mid-size 7" iPad clones will have difficulties; better than a smart phone, but they still have less than 1/2 the usable screen area of an iPad.

If anyone still has doubts, just swing by one of the local Apple stores, or Best Buy, and try one in person. It's not surprising to me that they are selling like mad. And no, I don't work there!

I do question why they had to spend $750/ea. Seems like they should have bought the $499 base model, some cheap cases, and that's it.

Jet City mom said...

I think that digital books ( thinking of college or maybe high school), would be much cheaper than paper.
Easier to keep updated, much lighter- & cheaper.
For example, my daughter attended that college & for just one required freshman level class- just for one semester, there were 18 books on the required reading list.
She also was a science major & science textbooks are very expensive. Very.

I do most of my pleasure reading on my ipod, I like that it has back lighting, I can't lose my place, I can carry hundreds of books around with me at once & pages don't get yellowed or torn.

We often trust our high school kids with autos that weigh 5000 lbs and have the potential to cause property damage. I think if they have buy in ( that is, if they have to pay for it), they can be trusted with ipads.

why I love tech for special education

chunga said...

As someone who works in high-tech, I really like cool gadgets like the iPad. And, I can even see the potential for it to be used constructively in the classroom. But, I'm highly suspicious of whether it was a good use of tax payer dollars ($750/iPad NOT including software purchases which could be significant, or maintenance). In today's budget climate, this purchase seems negligent considering there's NO research cited showing any benefits. The textbook company reported they'll look at test scores. If they want to do such research, shouldn't they pay for the hardware and software?

This seems more like a giveaway to Apple than a benefit to schools.

none1111 said...

Patrick brings up a good point that I hope these districts have a handle on.

Textbooks are more expensive than most people think (and ridiculously more expensive than they should be!), but they still cost much less than the current generation of iPads. Hopefully the benefits will outweigh any costs due to damage, for these early adopters.

But remember, these devices can replace several textbooks at once, potentially over multiple years. In high school and college, a year's worth of textbooks can cost more than an iPad.

And over the long run, prices will continue to come down and eventually it's not going to be an issue.

Personally, I love paper, and I will mourn the loss of books as we've known them for generations, but I think for textbooks in particular, there is no doubt where things are headed.

none1111 said...

Yes, I know physical textbooks are reused from year to year in high school. I was mostly thinking of college when I wrote the above. So some edge is taken off the case, but the main point being that an iPad isn't a single book, it's potentially many books over several years.

Jet City mom said...

lets see if this link will work
NPR iPad

Jet City mom said...

I know Portland isn't perfect, but when looking at districts trying to reduce " the achievement gap", we don't have to look far.

The school's Advanced Placement Scholar Program also helps set an important tone, says English teacher Susan Bartley. Students in the program pledge to take at least four AP classes before they graduate. Teachers encourage low-income, minority and special education students who show promise to join.

"It has dramatically increased the number of students, especially Latino, African American and special education students, taking AP classes," Bartley says. "It is pushing the bar higher at Franklin. There is more of a buzz about success."



Southeast Portland's Franklin High is one of the highest-poverty high schools in the metro area to earn an "outstanding" rating from the state this year.

Patrick said...

I don't believe the costs of e-books will come down to the level of print. What makes books expensive is not the production. It's the editor, probably several managing editors who approve the book, the illustrator, the layout person, lawyers to clear the rights if any non-original material is used, marketing, the author and illustrator, and profit for the publishing company. The reason college textbooks is so much more expensive than popular works is they sell far fewer copies and the book has a short life before it's superseded, so there are fewer sales to distribute the fixed costs. Well, and a captive audience.

Comparing iPads to cars doesn't make sense. Most people don't have cars while they're in high school, and when kids wreck the car their schoolwork isn't on hold until they get a new one.

What I remember from college is that you don't have to take your books to class most days. All you needed in class was paper for taking notes. You might take one or two books if you had study time between classes.

Rights management will make the books even more expensive for students. They will no longer be able to sell the book after the term is over, and they will no longer have any chance of buying a used book. Destroying the used market is a boon for publishers, of course, but the smarter students will account for that if they have a choice of e-book vs. paper.

I think e-books will reach a certain amount of market penetration, and then level off far short of a majority.

hschinske said...

What I remember from college is that you don't have to take your books to class most days.

Oh, we did -- in-class discussions meant you absolutely had to have your books with you. There was one term where I had three classes in a row on M-W-F, one of which was Shakespeare, meaning I had the Riverside Shakespeare with me all day. That sucker is heavy.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

This is a repost from the Friday Open Thread:

it looks like there is no longer going to be guaranteed assignment to APP for eligible students

From the Draft (bold added):

If more students apply for a school than space is available, tiebreakers determine assignment and waiting list status. There are two types of tiebreakers:

1. Tiebreakers for assignment to general education at schools

2. Tiebreakers for assignment to some other programs at schools, including:
• Montessori
• Spectrum
Accelerated Progress Program (APP)

Both types of tiebreakers have already been approved in the NSAP (“NSAP Tiebreakers at Full
Implementation”). During the transition period, interim tiebreakers (“Transition Plan Tiebreakers”) are used
in some cases.

kid not like the others said...

but there ain't nothin' like touchin' the paper of the book... and what about writing in the margins? i love looking back at my old notes in my books from college-i even use them a examples of "bad note taking" in reader's workshop.

personally i find the new "pads" oversized palms. palm had all this on it. i use mine for my grade book. i can put it in my pocket. it has an aluminum protective case if i happen to drop it...

same question as patrick, how durable are these things? i can tell you that paying what i paid for my palm keeps me from being careless with it. if it were free, who knows ...

Bird said...

Regarding APP tiebreakers. There were tiebreakers last year as well.

See this
NSAP FAQ

These go into effect for families assigned to Thurgood Marshall, but who wish to go to Lowell on space available basis.

anonymous said...

In reference to the Ipads "“There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” "

That may be true. But as the parent of a child who attended a school district that gave out laptops to students, I can tell you that a huge plus is homework never gets lost or forgotten. It's all in a folder on the laptop. Was a huge, huge, help for my disorganized teen.

anonymous said...

"The largest merit-based college scholarship program in the United States it offers any Georgia high school student with a B-average four years of free college tuition. "

Florida does this too.

Why can't we help middle class families here in WA.

I feel like we (middle class) get trampled. And honestly, I don't know how my family is going to be able to pay for college.

anonymous said...

"Who pays when they break or get lost?"

The school my kid went to that provided laptops to students had families pay for insurance. It was about $80/yr and covered, loss, theft, and damage. Families who couldn't pay received a scholarship.

Jet City mom said...

I have so many bookshelves in my house, that I am constantly weeding out books to make room for more.

But I can see so many advantages for learners, especially those with differences, in electronic texts.
You can read your annotations. ( legibility)
the class can share their annotations.
You can hear how a word is pronounced correctly.
You can highlight words & unhighlight them.
You don't have to physically haul all your related works along with you, they are right there.

Many classic works are free.
like through Project Gutenberg
& when publishers realize that the costs are minimal compared to printing a hard copy, more publishers will offer a wider range of texts.
fewer hard copies does not mean people are reading less

The digital textbooks promise a slew of options to take advantage of the medium, according to ScrollMotion. Students can mark text in any of six different colors to visually categorize each highlight. They can write notes or use the microphone built into the iPad and iPhone to record audio notes.



Wouldn't it be nice to be able to choose the textbooks for your district that aren't limited to what California & Texas decide to use?

none1111 said...

Patrick said: The reason college textbooks is so much more expensive than popular works is they sell far fewer copies and the book has a short life before it's superseded, so there are fewer sales to distribute the fixed costs. Well, and a captive audience.

I agree with you on this part. But the nice thing about digital distribution is that many of the costs you mention are far less (or even zero) for updated revisions. New versions of textbooks are essentially the same price, so they get to milk the districts because of your last point - captive audience. But with digital distribution, they could charge much less. That's not saying they will, but that's more of a free-market discussion. ;-)

I think e-books will reach a certain amount of market penetration, and then level off far short of a majority.

I agree with this as far as typical fiction or popular reading goes, but not textbooks. I think the centralized nature of purchasing, along with the conveniences of carrying one single device everywhere you go with all your class material will eventually sweep up the vast majority of that market. Like Helen, I also remember having to lug around several books most days. Unless you live right on campus I'm not sure how else you would manage it and get any work/studying done.

Another thing that I didn't see mentioned is the ability to do text searches to find material. Not critical if you're reading Harry Potter for fun, but really, really helpful when you're trying to find a reference in your anthropology text!

There's no way either of us can prove our theories now, but if we're both on this blog in 10 years or so, we can come back and see who's right! ;-)

emeraldkity said: Wouldn't it be nice to be able to choose the textbooks for your district that aren't limited to what California & Texas decide to use?

Oh yes, yes, yes! MGJ wouldn't allow that, of course, but perhaps a future super would. In any case, it's a lovely dream. Some schools might even be able to get a real math text!

anonymous said...

The other great thing about the laptops used in my kids school was that teachers were trained on how to utilize them to their fullest. They fully used ical (calendar) where they could set reminders, and list every homework assignment with rubrics or other info. When students completed their homework they simply dropped it into the teachers folder (on the laptop)! No more lost or missing papers (by the student or teachers). No more questioning whether or when a paper was turned.

All worksheets, reference materials, and other documents were available for download at the push of a button and most could be done online (no more lost papers)!

It was sooooo convenient.

And of course you can't forget the benefits for the environmental by the reduction in paper usage at a large school.

dan dempsey said...

Chunga said:

"In today's budget climate, this purchase seems negligent considering there's NO research cited showing any benefits. The textbook company reported they'll look at test scores. If they want to do such research, shouldn't they pay for the hardware and software?"

Welcome to Race to the Top = No Vendor Left Behind.

It is apparent why USA Education leads the world in Spending. (Vendors like it that way) Research is rarely used or wanted.

Look at the SPS:

(0) TfA (Pay money to send under qualified teachers to low income schools) .. Newbies filling spots that otherwise would be filled by fully credentialed high qualified teachers.

(1) Discovering Math for HS ($1.2 million) = Black Pass rate drops to 12.5% Achievement GAP at 55.6%.

10th Grade Math for SPS Limited English students
Year District State

2004-05 WASL 13.40% 11.90%
2005-06 WASL 16.30% 12.80%
2006-07 WASL 13.60% 10.70%
2007-08 WASL 19.50% 12.70%
2008-09 WASL 11.20% 8.10%
2009-10 HSPE 7.00% 9.30%

(1b) Porter, McLaren, Mass and friends will spend approximately $20,000 on this case ... How much is SPS spending to continue ongoing discrimination?


(2) New Tech Network ($800,000) = results from a true sample of NTN schools shows an expensive complete disaster for kids.

(3) School Closures and reopening ($ ?? millions)

(4) NWEA/MAP testing .. lots of money for crappy info and less time to teach or use library.

.... ad infinitum