Ed News Roundup

More stories on the hopeful side.

From Scholastic, a story about the superintendent of what is considered the "best" public school district in the country.  That would be Mooresville Graded School District, outside of Charlotte, NC.  The article is called 10 Lessons From the Best District in the Country.  From the article:

The district undertook a massive “21st Century Digital Conversion” in 2007. Students now frequently work in groups, and they use one of dozens of interactive learning platforms instead of textbooks. Rather than lecturing, teachers act as facilitators, circulating among groups or leading students in interactive lessons.

Results of this transformation are off the charts—the graduation rate for African-American students was 95 percent in 2012, up from 67 percent five years earlier. The overall graduation rate is the third highest in the state, and 88 percent of 2012 graduates are attending college, compared with 74 percent in 2007. Mooresville has accomplished this while keeping spending in check—among the state’s 115 school districts, it ranks 100th in spending per student at $7,463.

In the "no kidding" category, there's the story of the (brave) adults in Rhode Island who accepted the challenge of a student activist group to take the state-required math exam (shortened).  At least 60% of them scored at a level that would have not allowed them to graduate.   

“In total, 50 people—successful elected officials, attorneys, scientists, engineers, reporters, college professors, and directors of leading nonprofits—took a sample version of the Math portion of the New England Common Assessment Program that we put together from released items on RIDE’s website,” said Darren Fleury, a junior at Central High School and a member of PSU. “According to RIDE’s scoring guidelines, 4 of these 50 people would have scored ‘proficient with distinction,’ 7 would have scored ‘proficient,’ 9 would have scored ‘partially proficient,’ and 30 individuals—or 60%—would have scored ‘substantially below proficient,’ meaning they did not get a high enough score to receive a diploma.”

The Providence Student Union’s “Take the Test” event was the latest component of a campaign that students—along with parents and other community members—have been organizing against a new Rhode Island policy that turns the state’s main standardized test, the NECAP, into a make-or-break barrier to graduation.

“This is a fundamental misuse of this measurement tool,” explained Tom Sgouros, a policy analyst who also took the test. “The original goal of NECAP was to evaluate schools, and, to some extent, students within the schools. In order to make a reliable ranking among schools, you need to ensure that the differences between one school and another are statistically significant. To do that, the statistics demand that you design it to ensure that a significant number of students will flunk. If every student passed this test, they would redesign it. That’s what it means to be a diagnostic tool. To attach high-stakes to such an exam is simply an abuse of the tool, and one that will have real consequences for many young people.” 

“We know different people show their knowledge in different ways,” said Dulari Tahbilder, the executive director of Breakthrough Providence. “I did not do very well on that test. But I am more than a single test score, and I think our students are too.”

Here's an interesting story from the San Jose Mercury News about a new toy character, GoldieBlox.

This Goldie is a female engineer character who invents, designs and builds to inspire a future generation of women engineers.

GoldieBlox is the brainchild of Stanford University graduate and engineer-turned-entrepreneur Debbie Sterling. She created GoldieBlox — which includes a construction toy set and storybook starring the tool-wielding Goldie — to teach girls basic engineering skills and open more pathways for women to pursue jobs in the male-dominated industry.

“I’m trying to give girls something more than just dolls and princesses,” she said.

Another "a ha" science story is this one about helping young scientists explain their work to laypersons via a UW class called Communicating Science to the Public Effectively.

The goal of the course, founded by graduate students, is to teach young scientists how to share their passions for cosmology, chemistry or evolutionary biology without putting people to sleep. The program is one of several springing up across the country, fueled by a new generation of researchers who see public outreach as integral to their jobs.

With science at the heart of many of today’s pressing issues, from climate change to energy policy, resource conservation and medical ethics, a scientifically literate public is more important than ever, said Rohde, a doctoral student in fisheries. “If you can deliver information in a way that engages somebody, then they can use that information to make their own decisions.”

The UW students teamed up with Town Hall Seattle last year to create the UW Science Now series. After taking the course, students test their chops in evening talks that usually precede or follow a marquee speaker. The 2013 series runs through early June.


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