Education 2015-16

Written by  //  December 22, 2016  //  Education  //  1 Comment

“People often confuse charters and vouchers, but they are very different,” wrote Parag Pathak of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the Louisiana authors. Vouchers are essentially coupons that allow parents to spend their tax money at private schools, while charters are public schools that operate outside of the normal bureaucracy. Voucher-financed schools often have little oversight or accountability, while many charters must demonstrate that their students are learning.
“The larger theme,” notes Douglas Harris, a Tulane professor who co-wrote the New Orleans paper, “is that not all school reform is created equal. The charter system here has significant accountability: Low-performing schools are closed. Students are assigned by lottery, and system leaders limit mid year transfers and discipline policies to prevent schools from cherry-picking students.”The best charters combine flexibility and accountability — and have thrived. The record of vouchers is less impressive.
Unfortunately, DeVos has shown little appreciation for the difference and pushed for education reform regardless of results. It’s the mirror image of school boards and teachers’ unions that have cast all education reform as evil, regardless of results. Both stances end up hurting our schools. (NYT Opinion round-up 22 December)

13 December
Betsy DeVos and God’s Plan for Schools
(NYT) In most news coverage, Ms. DeVos is depicted as a member of the Republican donor class and a leading advocate of school vouchers programs.
That is true enough, but it doesn’t begin to describe the broader conservative agenda she’s been associated with.
Ms. DeVos is a chip off the old block. At a 2001 gathering of conservative Christian philanthropists, she singled out education reform as a way to “advance God’s kingdom.” In an interview, she and her husband, Richard DeVos Jr., said that school choice would lead to “greater kingdom gain.”
And so the family tradition continues, funding the religious right through a network of family foundations  … Like other advocates of school voucher programs, Ms. DeVos presents her plans as a way to improve public education and give families more choice. But the family foundations’ money supports a far more expansive effort.
Jerry Falwell Sr. outlined the goal in his 1979 book “America Can Be Saved!” He said he hoped to see the day when there wouldn’t be “any public schools — the churches will have taken them over and Christians will be running them.”
Vouchers are part of the program. According to an educational scholar, they originally came into fashion among Southern conservatives seeking to support segregation in schools. But activists soon grasped that vouchers could be useful in a general assault on public education.
29 November
In the black community, a division over charter schools
(PBS Newshour) With the election of Donald Trump, a big proponent of school choice, and his like-minded pick for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, the topic of charter schools is likely to attract more attention. But among African-American parents and the NAACP, the debate over school choice and its impact on public education is already a heated one.
26 November
Betsy DeVos and the Wrong Way to Fix Schools
As one of the architects of Detroit’s charter school system, she is partly responsible for what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country.
It’s hardly a surprise that the system, which has almost no oversight, has failed. Schools there can do poorly and still continue to enroll students. Also, after more than a decade of Ms. DeVos’s getting her way on a host of statewide education policies, Michigan has the dubious distinction of being one of five states with declining reading scores.
23 November
Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Big-Donor Education Secretary
(The New Yorker) … it would be hard to find a better representative of the “donor class” than DeVos, whose family has been allied with Charles and David Koch for years. Betsy, her husband Richard, Jr. (Dick), and her father-in-law, Richard, Sr., whose fortune was estimated by Forbes to be worth $5.1 billion, have turned up repeatedly on lists of attendees at the Kochs’ donor summits, and as contributors to the brothers’ political ventures
5 Things to Know About Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Pick for Education Secretary
The prominent Michigan philanthropist is an ardent supporter of charter schools.
(The Atlantic) 3. Expect deregulation to be a priority.
According to Chalkbeat, DeVos’s family poured $1.45 million into an effort to prevent Michigan from adding oversight for charter schools. That effort ultimately failed.
4. She’s politically active, but she doesn’t have a lot of political experience.
DeVos, 58, is married to Dick DeVos, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the governorship in Michigan. He is the former president of Amway, which his father co-founded. Her brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater, the controversial security firm. The family has given to a number of conservative and Christian organizations. While Betsy DeVos has served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, much of her work has been at the state level, and she will now have to, as Chalkbeat wrote, “operate within a complicated web of interests and priorities, including with education officials in states that did not support Trump.” Her ability to navigate Washington is largely untested.
22 November
National parks turn into classrooms to turn a new generation into nature lovers
(PBS NewsHour) At the Muir Woods National Monument just north of San Francisco, students learning by seeing, touching and smelling. The education program is administered by the National Park Service in an attempt to expose the next generation to the nation’s parks. Special correspondent Kavitha Cardoza of Education Week reports.
24 October
(The Atlantic) One likely path to employment might be a good education. But for some students, that’s harder to come by: A new study of black students from impoverished neighborhoods in Baltimore shows how even the most ambitious students may find themselves without job prospects or a degree when for-profit colleges entice them into programs that they can’t afford and that don’t pay off. For those who do complete degrees, there’s also a racial disparity in debt burdens: Within four years of college graduation, the debt gap between black and white graduates triples, and black graduates end up with nearly twice the debt owed by their white peers. It’s hard to tell why black students end up owing so much more, but for-profit schools may once again be a likely culprit.
18 October
The Failing First Line of Defense
Teachers are often the first adults students turn to when struggling with mental health, but educators are not adequately trained to address the crises.
(The Atlantic) According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately one in five children currently have or will experience a severe mental disorder. For some disorders, such as anxiety, the rates are even higher. For people who do experience mental-health disorders, most experienced their first symptoms before young adulthood. Half of all people with mental disorders experienced the onset of symptoms by age of 14; 75 percent by age 24. Half of these students will drop out of school. As suicide is the second-leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults, lack of appropriate mental-health interventions and treatment can mean the difference between life and death. Given the amount of time children spend at school, teachers are likely be the ones to identify and refer children for mental-health services. For children fortunate enough to be identified and given access to those services, treatment will mostly likely take place at school, as schools serve as the primary providers of mental services for children in this country.
However, all the mental-health services in the world won’t help if teachers don’t understand the nature of the services available in school and can’t identify the students in need of intervention.
17 October
The New Focus on Children’s Mental Health
Most teachers don’t feel equipped to meet their students’ emotional needs, but some programs are working to change that.
(The Atlantic) Giving children access to mental-health resources early in their education, however, can play a key role in mitigating negative consequences later in life, said David Anderson, the senior director of the ADHD and Behavior Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute.
“It’s during childhood and adolescence where we have a large concentration of mental-health issues, and school is where many kids are spending a large portion of their day. That makes school the perfect place to focus mental-health resources,” Anderson said. “Waiting too long to pay attention to student mental health can easily lead to school dropouts or other problems later in life.”
10 October
This plantation-turned-university grows environmental entrepreneurs
(PBS Newshour) A former banana plantation in Costa Rica is now a school — but the curriculum still involves growing fruit. EARTH University, founded in 1992, trains students from developing nations in responsible, sustainable agriculture. Graduates then apply their knowledge in their own countries, hoping to improve both the economy and the environment
Forty-three countries are represented here. A majority of the 400 students depend on financial aid. From 1,600 applications, about 110 are admitted each year.
What we attempt to discover there is their interest to go back to their countries, because we are about forming leaders and individuals that really overcome barriers.
5 October
A very long and worthwhile read from The Guardian
How the education gap is tearing politics apart
In the year of Trump and Brexit, education has become the greatest divide of all – splitting voters into two increasingly hostile camps. But don’t assume this is simply a clash between the ignorant and the enlightened
by David Runciman
The possibility that education has become a fundamental divide in democracy – with the educated on one side and the less educated on another – is an alarming prospect. It points to a deep alienation that cuts both ways. The less educated fear they are being governed by intellectual snobs who know nothing of their lives and experiences. The educated fear their fate may be decided by know-nothings who are ignorant of how the world really works. Bringing the two sides together is going to be very hard. The current election season appears to be doing the opposite.
In the 1920s, the American political commentator Walter Lippmann updated Plato for the 20th century by arguing that modern citizens simply lacked the mental capacity to process the information needed for intelligent decision-making. …
“It is no longer possible,” he wrote, “to believe in the original dogma of democracy: that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart.” People will vote on the basis of anything that grabs their attention in a passing moment, filtered by whatever deep prejudices they harbour beneath the surface. Evidence means little to the average voter; reasoned argument means even less. Lippmann concluded that democracy could only be rescued by establishing a cadre of specially trained experts, whose job was to steer politicians away from the dubious instincts of the people and back towards what the evidence required. Otherwise, the manipulation of public opinion would become the be all and end all of democracy, which is all the encouragement demagogues ever need. (See Tony Deutsch comment)
1 October
9 Simple Steps that Inspire Inquiry-Based Learning in Science
The details of the process are extensive, but by following the quick outline below, any educator can mold this student-driven approach into an experience that can fit any grade level, topic, unit or project. Using these steps, students studied self-selected astronomy topics, completed individual research projects and presented an astronomy night to our school community.
29 September
The Ticking Clock of Teacher Burnout
On average, American educators spend more hours with students than their international counterparts—and that may not be a good thing.
(The Atlantic) Although American teachers at the lower secondary level work about the same number of hours as their counterparts in Singapore (44.8), TALIS showed that their “hours spent on teaching” are significantly higher. In fact, out of all the 34 participating countries in TALIS, American teachers had the most student contact hours at 26.8 hours each week. To put this data into perspective, the average number of weekly instructional hours per TALIS country, excluding U.S. data, was only 19.3, which means that American teachers reported spending 39 percent more hours, on average, teaching their students than did their international peers.
“Compared to 10 years ago, you know, the evidence I have is that there’s much more stress and time demands on teachers in the U.S.,” said Jon Snyder, a Stanford researcher who is a co-author of a forthcoming case study on student and teacher time in Singapore, “but my research doesn’t show that they spend significantly more time working than teachers in Singapore, but how they use that time is very different.”
Snyder, who is the executive director of Stanford’s Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE), observed a career ladder at Singapore’s Kranji Secondary School (grades seven to 11), where different teachers assume various roles and responsibilities, and have different teaching schedules.
… the TALIS report revealed, as [Dion Burns, one of Snyder’s colleagues at SCOPE and a senior researcher at the Learning Policy Institute] noted in an email, that “opportunities for teacher collaboration were positively related to teacher self-efficacy and teacher job satisfaction.” In a 2014 SCOPE report, Burns and the Stanford education professor emeritus Linda Darling-Hammond analyzed the TALIS data and findings and discovered that, as Burns put it, “in countries where teachers reported having more time for collaboration, they were also more likely to report that the teaching profession was valued in society, and that the advantages of being a teacher outweighed the disadvantages.” (In the TALIS data, Burns helped me to see, too, that the United States had the highest number of weekly instructional hours, on average, rather than the highest number of weekly working hours.)
21 September
The US is failing to invest enough in one of the most critical periods in children’s education
(Quartz) Considerable research shows that well-designed early childhood programs can help children, particularly those who are disadvantaged, build social, emotional and academic skills that can help them as students and in life.
The US seems to have missed that memo.
In 2014, it had one of the lowest enrollment rates for children in early childhood and pre-primary programs among the world’s richest 35 countries.
“We value our children less than other nations do,” Arne Duncan, the former U.S. secretary of education told the Hechinger report, which recently published a five-part series on public preschools. “I don’t have an easier or softer or kinder way to say that.”
6 September
Counting the benefits of teaching math to 3-year-olds
(PBS Newshour) In Boston public schools, 3, 4 and 5-year-olds are getting their first introduction to math. Before they walk through the kindergarten door, the “Building Blocks” curriculum is designed to encourage very young children to think and talk about math concepts throughout the days, by providing lessons through innovative games.
” Early math is surprisingly important. What kids know in their preschool or entering kindergarten year about mathematics predicts their later school success. In mathematics, sure, that makes sense, but it even predicts later reading success, as well as early literacy skills do.
Early math is cognitively fundamental. It’s not just about number and shapes. There’s reasoning and thinking embedded in what we do in early mathematics that forms a foundation for years to come.”
29 August
JFK with Arthur SchlesingerWhy Did We Stop Teaching Political History?
(NYT) The ramifications extend well beyond higher education. The drying up of scholarly expertise affects universities’ ability to educate teachers — as well as aspiring lawyers, politicians, journalists and business leaders — who will enter their professions having learned too little about the nation’s political history. Not least, in this age of extreme partisanship, they’ll be insufficiently aware of the importance that compromise has played in America’s past, of the vital role of mutual give-and-take in the democratic process.
26 August
University of Chicago Strikes Back Against Campus Political Correctness
(NYT) “Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” John Ellison, dean of students, wrote to members of the class of 2020, who will arrive next month.
It was a not-so-veiled rebuke to the protests calling for limits on what kinds of speech should be condoned on campus, and who should be allowed to speak, that have rocked Yale, Wesleyan, Oberlin and many other colleges and universities in recent years. Some alumni, dismayed by the trend, have withheld donations from their alma maters.
The Chicago letter echoed policies that were already in place there and at a number of other universities calling for “the freedom to espouse and explore a wide range of ideas.” But its stark wording, coming from one of the nation’s leading universities, and in a routine correspondence that usually contains nothing more contentious than a dining hall schedule, felt to people on all sides like a statement.
9 August
The Best Schools In The World Do This. Why Don’t We?
(NPR) What could — and should — we do differently?
This question drove a bipartisan group of more than two-dozen state lawmakers and legislative staffers on an 18-month journey. Their mission: study some of the world’s top-performing school systems, including those in Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, Ontario, Poland, Shanghai, Singapore and Taiwan.
Today the group, part of the National Conference of State Legislatures, released its findings, titled No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State.
5 July
From the sublime – this brilliant piece and measured analysis by John Walmsley, Head of UWC Atlantic College encourages maturity in students and preparedness to meet today’s challenges.
Brexit shows how much we need international education
(The Telegraph) … the next generation …need more platforms for debate in school, better engagement from politicians, they need to be taught about global issues in their curriculums, and to continue to challenge and be challenged by their peers from inside and outside the UK.
Only then can we have the type of inclusive, measured, profound debates that were so sorely missed by both sides over the past few months.
To the incomprehensibly ridiculous encouragement of a sense of entitlement
Quebec students to get full marks for history exam essay question
Answer to question 22 was leaked online night before the test
(CBC) After reviewing the exams, the government has decided to give everyone the points regardless of whether the answer was right or wrong.

Stop, Start, Continue: Conceptual Understanding Meets Applied Problem Solving
David B Hawley, International Baccalaureate (IB) Chief Academic Officer
We need young people building an ever-expanding portfolio of skills and experiences of things that they have done, created, and contributed to — things that matter to them, to others, and to the world we share. How might we help to make that happen? I propose three things that teachers need to stop doing, three things to start doing, and three things to continue doing.
Navigating Campus Together
First-generation faculty can steer first-generation college students toward success.
(The Atlantic) Writing centers and campus counselors and diversity-inclusion programs want students to succeed. But as a first-generation college student I avoided all of them, assuming I couldn’t afford the extra bill. Now, as college faculty, I want my students to know what I didn’t.
According to College Board, more than 30 percent of today’s undergraduate students are the first in their families to go to college. Two-thirds of first-generation students attend community college, many part-time. They are disproportionately minorities from low-income backgrounds. And even for those of us who win the elusive admission ticket, three out of five won’t graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Very few of us attend graduate school. (6 May 2016)

1 June
Upheaval Amid ‘Alarming’ Revelations at William Koch’s Florida School
(NYT) The youngest of the billionaire Koch brothers had a dream: to found a private high school where academically gifted students of all socioeconomic backgrounds would do hands-on projects and learn by solving problems. He poured more than $75 million into building the school, the Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches.
But on Friday, he fired the head of school and declined to renew the contracts of the athletic director and the football coach. The moves came after a sexual harassment complaint and an internal investigation into accusations of kickbacks, grade-changing, excessive spending and violations of the rules governing high school sports.
Oxbridge graduates have been accepted this fall to nearly all of the Ivy League universities. One senior won a $100,000 Siemens scholarship for inventing a water-purification method.
“The intention was really good,” Mark Bodnar, the school’s former vice president for technology and security, said about Oxbridge. “It sort of went off the rails a couple of years in.”
Mr. Bodnar, who had been on the admissions committee, said the committee’s recommendations were often overruled by the football coaches.
27 May
Pisa tests to include ‘global skills’ and cultural awareness
By Andreas Schleicher, OECD education director
(BBC) Pisa tests, an international standard for comparing education systems around the world, could include a new measurement of global skills in the next round of tests in 2018.
The OECD, which runs the tests in maths, reading and science, is considering adding another test which would look at how well pupils can navigate an increasingly diverse world, with an awareness of different cultures and beliefs.
Education leaders around the world are increasingly talking about the need to teach “global competences” as a way of addressing the challenges of globalisation.
It was one of the key topics at this month’s meeting of education ministers from the G7 group of leading industrial countries, held in Japan.
23 May
Turn Classrooms Into Active Learning Spaces (video)
Opinions (see the Comments below the video) are sharply divided as to whether this is a good idea or NOT.
16 May
(NBR) What do prospective employers really think of online degrees? (video starts at 23:20)
IB or A-levels: which is best?
(The Telegraph UK) Recent research into higher education outcomes has tended to put the IB in a good light. A study by Leeds University academics found that students who took higher level maths at IB were more likely to get a first class degree than those who took A-level maths.
Analysis by the Higher Education Statistics Agency found that IB students were more likely to go to a top 20 ranked university than their A-level peers, more likely to get a first class degree and more likely to go on to postgraduate study.
12 May
Why Free Speech Matters on Campus
‘Safe spaces’ will create graduates unwilling to tolerate differing opinions—a crisis for a free society
By [the unlikely duo] Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch
(WSJ) … this year the two of us—who don’t see eye to eye on every issue— believe that the most urgent advice we can offer is actually to college presidents, boards, administrators and faculty.
Our advice is this: Stop stifling free speech and coddling intolerance for controversial ideas, which are crucial to a college education—as well as to human happiness and progress.
Across America, college campuses are increasingly sanctioning so-called “safe spaces,” “speech codes,” “trigger warnings,” “microaggressions” and the withdrawal of invitations to controversial speakers. By doing so, colleges are creating a climate of intellectual conformity that discourages open inquiry, debate and true learning. Students and professors who dare challenge this climate, or who accidentally run afoul of it, can face derision, contempt, ostracism—and sometimes even official sanctions.
The purpose of a college education isn’t to reaffirm students’ beliefs, it is to challenge, expand and refine them—and to send students into the world with minds that are open and questioning, not closed and self-righteous. This helps young people discover their talents and prepare them for citizenship in a diverse, pluralistic democratic society. American society is not always a comfortable place to be; the college campus shouldn’t be, either.
Education is also supposed to give students the tools they need to contribute to human progress. Through open inquiry and a respectful exchange of ideas, students can discover new ways to help others improve their lives.
4 May
Malia ObamaMalia Obama is taking a ‘gap year’ before attending Harvard — here’s why that’s a great idea
(Business Insider) Gap years are gaining in popularity among American students, as the New York Times reports. For example, Harvard has seen a 33% increase in the number of students taking gap years, and MIT saw their deferments double between 2009 and 2010, according to CIEE, the world’s oldest and largest nonprofit study abroad and intercultural exchange program.
Whether students participate in a service program in the US, travel abroad, or work on a project, there are clear benefits to taking a gap year.
According to Robert Clagett, a former dean of admissions at Middlebury College and former senior admissions official at Harvard, students who take gap years, like Obama, “will frequently be more mature, more focused, and more aware of what they want to do with their college education” when they do enroll in college.
Nicholas Kristof writes approvingly:
“Good for her, and for her parents. I’m a firm believer in gap years, and have written about them and just posted on my blog about them. One misperception is that they are expensive: On the contrary, you can get a job and make some money. On my own gap year before college many moons ago, I worked on a farm in France picking peaches and earning a bit of money. So, Malia, if you get this newsletter, good for you on taking a gap year. You’ll be more ready for college when you arrive!”
Malia Obama Is Taking A Gap Year–And So Should All Students
(Forbes) The gap year hasn’t received its just due as a part of education. Contrary to persisting belief, the gap year is not a “gap” in education, nor a break from learning—it is an extension of it. Why should creative and critical thinking skills and real-world experience be reserved for post-graduation or, at best, start in college? With the academic, career and personal benefits involved in taking a gap year, they should undoubtedly be part of our higher education system. (Slate) Gap Years for Everyone? — Malia Obama’s college plan will probably work out great for her, but taking time off before college isn’t exactly foolproof
20 April
$20 Billion in Tax Credits Fails to Increase College Attendance
Researchers found no impact on increasing education, but eliminating paperwork and delivering dollars at the right time could work.
(NYT) Mr. Bulman and Ms. Hoxby found the predicted relationship between adjusted gross income and the receipt of tax credits in the phaseout region: Credits drop as income rises. But they found no corresponding relationship between income and college attendance. College attendance rises unabated with adjusted gross income, with no change when the credits phase out.
Why no effect? One explanation is that the credits primarily go to middle- and upper-income families, whose decision on whether to send their children to college is unlikely to be affected by $2,500. Another, compatible explanation is that the credits are delivered too late to affect enrollment. Families get them after tuition is due; a family that pays tuition in September won’t get a tax credit until at least the following January. At that point the credit is a nice windfall, but has arrived too late to help pay the bursar.
16 April
272 Slaves Were Sold to Save Georgetown. What Does It Owe Their Descendants?
In 1838, the Jesuit priests who ran the country’s top Catholic university needed money to keep it alive.
(NYT) Now, with racial protests roiling college campuses, an unusual collection of Georgetown professors, students, alumni and genealogists is trying to find out what happened to those 272 men, women and children. And they are confronting a particularly wrenching question: What, if anything, is owed to the descendants of slaves who were sold to help ensure the college’s survival?
More than a dozen universities — including Brown, Columbia, Harvard and the University of Virginia — have publicly recognized their ties to slavery and the slave trade. But the 1838 slave sale organized by the Jesuits, who founded and ran Georgetown, stands out for its sheer size, historians say.
At Georgetown, slavery and scholarship were inextricably linked. The college relied on Jesuit plantations in Maryland to help finance its operations, university officials say. (Slaves were often donated by prosperous parishioners.) And the 1838 sale — worth about $3.3 million in today’s dollars — was organized by two of Georgetown’s early presidents, both Jesuit priests.
Study: More schooling for girls doesn’t guarantee equal job access
Women and girls are better educated, but equal job access continues to elude them, says a study in Journal of African Development. “Improvements in education have been important — and there are still some ways to go — but we really have to shift our focus to the barriers that women face in getting access to high-quality jobs if we want to eradicate gender inequality,” said study author Stephanie Seguino. Thomson Reuters Foundation (4/15)
Save one life, save the world
(McGill Reporter) Last fall, a group of some 15 McGill students – all members of the Solin Hall Living and Learning Community – started a pilot project using Skype to tutor refugees living in Turkey. Specifically, the project helps prepare young Syrians to take the TOEFL exam, which measures ability to use English at the university level, in hope hopes of that they would be accepted to study at a Canadian university.
However, the success of the Skype project begged the question ‘Once these Syrian students pass the TOEFL exam, what then?’ While various sponsorship programs do exist, resources – especially in these austere times – are stretched extremely thin.
“With the Skype project going strong, we wanted to expand our efforts,” says Anton Zyngier, a member of Students for Syria and the original Solin Hall group. “We knew that money is critical in situations like this, so we decided to start a crowdfunding campaign because every dollar raised helps a refugee get one step closer to starting a new life.”
The McGill group has partnered with two organizations – the Syrian Kids Foundation (SKF) and the World University Services of Canada (WUSC) – with existing refugee sponsorship programs.
12 April
Rise in school bullying connected to US election
“We’ve seen 10 or more years of anti-bullying work get rolled back by a hostile atmosphere in many schools.”
(Al Jazeera) Something ugly is happening inside America’s classrooms.
Headscarf-wearing Muslim girls are being called terrorists. Latinos are warned of deportation and teased about wall-building along the US-Mexico border. The N-word is making a comeback, and children younger than ever before are using it.
Although name-calling has always been a feature of playground life, teachers across the US say it has grown nastier since Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rhetoric during the election campaign.
“I think there’s a real danger of harm taking place in all American schoolchildren,” Maureen Costello, an education expert at the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), a civil rights group, told Al Jazeera.
“We’ve seen 10 or more years of anti-bullying work get rolled back by a hostile atmosphere in many schools. Teachers describe disillusionment, depression and discouragement among kids who feel like they now know what people have thought about them all along,” Castello said.
11 April
How to transfer knowledge from classroom to village
— Science learnt in school is too rarely applied to real-life problems
— But informal learning can help people consolidate knowledge and apply it more widely
–Village-based programmes that question local challenges would drive development
( Formal science education has promised to help lift people out of ignorance, poverty, and disease. But much is still holding back the social and economic development of resource-poor countries. That leads one to wonder what difference it would make if informal science learning (learning outside school) were to be organised around day-to-day problems villagers face.
In many developing countries it is that schools cannot transform ‘textbook’ knowledge into social and economic development. That is, schools are not managing to transfer scientific knowledge into people’s everyday lives.
This transfer of knowledge depends on content, and on how the material is taught — the ‘how’ is as important as the ‘what’.
For instance, one tactic that we know helps transfer knowledge is to use metacognition: a strategy for learners to reflect on the ideas they are acquiring, what techniques they are using to learn the ideas effectively, and what additional information or resources they need in order to learn even better.
In the classroom this works when teachers prompt students to pause frequently to assess whether they have developed a coherent understanding of a topic. They are encouraged to spot gaps in that understanding, and to suggest how the gaps can be filled — perhaps by looking up definitions of terms, or revising concepts covered in a previous topic.
6 April
Yet another article in praise of Finland
This is One of the Reasons Why Finland has the Best Schools
In Finland, children don’t receive formal academic training until the age of seven. Until then, many are in day care and learn through play, songs, games and conversation. Most children walk or bike to school, even the youngest. School hours are short and homework is generally light.
Unlike in the United States, where many schools are slashing recess, schoolchildren in Finland have a mandatory 15-minute outdoor free-play break every hour of every day. Fresh air, nature and regular physical activity breaks are considered engines of learning.
Finland doesn’t waste time or money on low-quality mass standardized testing. Instead, children are assessed every day, through direct observation, check-ins and quizzes by the highest-quality “personalized learning device” ever created – flesh-and-blood teachers.
11 March
Finland ranked world’s most literate nation
Report pooling studies of ‘literate behaviour characteristics’ from around the world puts the Nordic country first
Finland topped a table of world literacy in a new study conducted by John Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. The research looked at literacy achievement tests and also at what it called “literate behaviour characteristics” – everything from numbers of libraries and newspapers to years of schooling and computer availability in the countries.
The report discovered that if it only ranked nations on their reading assessment results, the final tables would have been very different. When this is the only factor considered, Singapore comes in top, with South Korea, Japan and China in second, fourth and fifth places respectively. …
Adding in the numbers of academic, public and school libraries, and the numbers of books in libraries … as well as statistics on years of schooling, computer penetration and newspapers, changes the results significantly. “When factors other than test scores are included, there is not a single Pacific Rim country among the top 25,” says the report.
The World’s Most Literate Nations (WMLN) ranks nations on—not their populace’s ability to read but rather—their populace’s literate behaviors and their supporting resources. The rankings are based on five categories standing as indicators of the literate health of nations: libraries, newspapers, education inputs and outputs, and computer availability. This multidimensional approach to literacy speaks to the social, economic, and governmental powers of nations around the globe.
9 March
The Study-Abroad Solution
How to Open the American Mind
(Foreign Affairs Magazine March/April) To defeat violent extremism and surmount other formidable political and economic challenges in the international arena, Americans will have to stop preening and begin trying to understand how the world looks through others’ eyes—and how determinedly the rest of the world resists U.S. supervision and dominance. The only prospect for beginning that transformation lies in broadening the basic definition of an excellent higher education to include direct exposure to other cultures and their ways of dealing with shared problems.
5 March
Homework is wrecking our kids: The research is clear, let’s ban elementary homework
Homework does have an impact on young students — but it’s not a good one
(Salon) “There is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students.”
This statement, by homework research guru Harris Cooper, of Duke University, is startling to hear, no matter which side of the homework debate you’re on. Can it be true that the hours of lost playtime, power struggles and tears are all for naught? That millions of families go through a nightly ritual that doesn’t help? Homework is such an accepted practice, it’s hard for most adults to even question its value.
When you look at the facts, however, here’s what you find: Homework has benefits, but its benefits are age dependent. …
This is what’s worrying. Homework does have an impact on young students, but it’s not a good one. A child just beginning school deserves the chance to develop a love of learning. Instead, homework at a young age causes many kids to turn against school, future homework and academic learning. And it’s a long road. A child in kindergarten is facing 13 years of homework ahead of her.
Then there’s the damage to personal relationships. In thousands of homes across the country, families battle over homework nightly. Parents nag and cajole. Overtired children protest and cry. Instead of connecting and supporting each other at the end of the day, too many families find themselves locked in the “did you do your homework?” cycle.
How To Make Your Kids Smarter: 10 Steps Backed By Science
Sum Up
Music Lessons
The Dumb Jock Is A Myth
Don’t Read To Your Kids, Read With Them
Sleep Deprivation Makes Kids Stupid
IQ Isn’t Worth Much Without Self-Discipline
Learning Is An Active Process
Treats Can Be a Good Thing — At The Right Time
Happy Kids = Successful Kids
Peer Group Matters
Believe In Them
One final note: Intelligence isn’t everything. Without ethics and empathy really smart people can be scary.
11 February
Schools Are Doing a Terrible Job Teaching Your Kids About Global Warming
The first-ever survey of climate education isn’t pretty.
(Mother Jones) On Thursday, researchers published the first peer-reviewed national survey of science teachers on whether and how they teach about climate change, in the journal Science. The survey, which covered a representative sample of 1,500 middle and high school science teachers from all 50 states, found that classrooms often suffer from a problem also common in the media: the false “balance” of giving equal weight to mainstream climate science and climate change denial.
Science teachers, the study found, have a better grasp of the most basic climate science than the general public: 67 percent agreed that “global warming is caused mostly by human activities,” compared with about 50 percent of all US adults. And most do include some mention of climate change in their lesson plans: 70 percent of middle school teachers and 87 percent of high school teachers spend at least an hour on global warming each year.
But the quality of those lesson plans is inconsistent. One-third of the teachers said they emphasize that global warming “is likely due to natural causes,” and 12 percent specifically downplay the role of human causes.
Catherine Gillbert comments:
This data is for the US. I think Quebec schools , from my experience  with my grandchildren, are doing a better job
30 January
How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off
By Adam Grant, professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. This essay is adapted from his new book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.
You can’t program a child to become creative. Try to engineer a certain kind of success, and the best you’ll get is an ambitious robot. If you want your children to bring original ideas into the world, you need to let them pursue their passions, not yours.
(NYT Sunday Review) Child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world. We assume that they must lack the social and emotional skills to function in society. When you look at the evidence, though, this explanation doesn’t suffice: Less than a quarter of gifted children suffer from social and emotional problems. A vast majority are well adjusted . …
What holds them back is that they don’t learn to be original. They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they perform in Carnegie Hall and become chess champions, something unexpected happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.
19 January
Rhodes Scholars Laud Unique Canadian Learning Program
It’s difficult to draw similarities between Rhodes Scholars with varied backgrounds and interests, but for the most recent Canadian recipients of the prestigious award, three had participated in a unique learning program open to high school students.
SHAD, a Waterloo-based charity that operates at host universities across Canada, offers one-month summer learning programs open to high school students. It introduces the students to a multi-disciplinary program combining science, technology, engineering, and math, with each campus offering an immersive program of lectures, workshops, projects, and activities.
The aim is to help the students “expand their intellectual, creative, and leadership skills and find their own Uncommon Purpose,” according to SHAD’s website. The program is followed by internship opportunities, and an Entrepreneurship Cup is held every October.
Thirty participants in the program have gone on to become Rhodes Scholars.
5 January
Mom: What do I expect from my children’s elementary school? Certainly not this.
Why has elementary school become the time for instructional and assessment methods that are more appropriate for high school and college students?
(WaPost) My wish is not overly naive or idealistic, it is simply that they enjoy their day at school. I want them to have had enough positive experiences, enough moments of engagement, enough creativity and fun built into their day that “good” is the predominant mood descriptor.
The children that I get off of the bus are exhausted. They are frustrated. They are overworked. They are burned out.
For my elementary-school-age children, I care more about whether or not they love going to school than I do about their academic progress. I am clever enough to know that if they are enjoying themselves at school, they will learn. Academics follow naturally if the proper environment for learning is there.
From a parental perspective, a good learning environment is one with positive energy. The teachers want to be there, and the children want to be there. No one is counting the minutes to the end of the day before it has even started.
From an educator’s perspective, an environment that is engaging, hands-on, with opportunities for meaningful learning, practice, discussions and creativity, makes kids happy. When kids are happy, they learn more, and without having to resort to bribery. It’s not rocket science.
When the learning environment becomes very serious and relies heavily on assessment and grades, learning targets and goals … It is “work,” and children don’t enjoy work. It’s not in their nature to enjoy work; children are created to learn through play.


To Remember a Lecture Better, Take Notes by Hand
Students do worse on quizzes when they use keyboards in class
Take notes by hand, and you have to process information as well as write it down. That initial selectivity leads to long-term comprehension.
(The Atlantic) A new study—conducted by Mueller and Oppenheimer—finds that people remember lectures better when they’ve taken handwritten notes, rather than typed ones. (1 May 2014)
“Every Major’s Terrible,” as Performed by an Actual University Chorus
Randall Munroe’s cynical ode to undergraduate indecision is a clever parody of Gilbert & Sullivan’s I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General, performed by the Simon Fraser University Choir.
education-word-cloud-19119234Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity
Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. One of the wisest and most entertaining TED talks I have seen
(CBC|The National) Education Revolution: Sal Khan’s Big Idea — How a plan to help family members with homework online turned into an education revolution (video)
All about MOOCs — Whether you see them as a catalyst for change or mostly as hype, MOOCs are fundamentally different from other forays into open online learning.
Ron Clark Academy (RCA) — a nontraditional approach to teaching is starting a ‘revolution’ in education (videos); CNN Segment on RCA Teacher Training Program
At the opposite end of the spectrum: Inside Le Rosey, the World’s Most Expensive Boarding School
Nestled in the Swiss Alps and alma mater of princes, shahs, and baby billionaires, Le Rosey has been educating the children of the global elite for more than a century.
3 December
How international schools could help solve world divisions’
By John Walmsley, principal of UWC Atlantic College
The approach we take to education will dictate the decisions pupils make for us in the years to come – so we better get it right, says John Walmsley
UWC Atlantic College is made up of 350 students from 90 countries, with students from the UK studying alongside others from around the world, including conflict areas such as Syria, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Ukraine and Armenia. Though they didn’t occur on UK soil, these atrocities do not feel far from our door.
Moments like this make us even steelier in our determination that what we’re doing here is the right thing.
I believe international education – bringing together young people from totally diverse areas of the world with different beliefs, attitudes, experiences – can be a long term solution to some of the problems the world faces. …
Regardless of an individual student’s background, be it poverty or privilege, these shared experiences often have a monumental effect on young people. The stories of others become personal, as does the mission to use their education to work towards a more peaceful world in their adult lives.
It is the reason why, this Monday, a group of UWC Atlantic College students took centre stage at an event at the House of Lords to share these stories, asking the audience to recognise how an internationally minded approach to education can provide young people with the tools and understanding to be a force for positive change.
16 October
Former Stanford dean explains why helicopter parenting is ruining a generation of children
By Emma Brown
( Washington Post) Julie Lythcott-Haims noticed a disturbing trend during her decade as a dean of freshmen at Stanford University. Incoming students were brilliant and accomplished and virtually flawless, on paper. But with each year, more of them seemed incapable of taking care of themselves.
At the same time, parents were becoming more and more involved in their children’s lives. They talked to their children multiple times a day and swooped in to personally intervene whenever something difficult happened.
[Helicopter parents are not the only problem. Colleges coddle students, too.]
From her former position at one of the world’s most prestigious schools, ­Lythcott-Haims came to believe that mothers and fathers in affluent communities have been hobbling their children by trying so hard to make sure they succeed and by working so diligently to protect them from disappointment, failure and hardship.
Such “overhelping” might assist children in developing impressive résumés for college admission, but it also robs them of the chance to learn who they are, what they love and how to navigate the world, Lythcott-Haims argues in her book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.”
15 October
Wisdom from four decades of education reporting
Special correspondent John Merrow has reported on education for more than four decades, and for the PBS NewsHour since the 1980s. Now retiring, he joins Judy Woodruff to talk about what he’s observed over the years.
(PBS Newshour) I would say that probably a third of our schools are better than schools have ever been in this country. But that creates a real problem. We tend to focus on the achievement gap, and we say, well, you know, there’s this big difference between whites and non-whites and so on. It would be useful if we talked about an opportunity gap, and maybe even an expectations gap, because if you close the opportunity gap and the expectations gap, I have a hunch the outcomes would take care of themselves. … Kids — you and I, even our own children, went to school, you had to go to school because that’s where they kept the knowledge. Today’s kids are growing up in a sea of 24/7. But it’s information, not knowledge.
So, schools need to be teaching kids how to ask questions. How do you figure out what’s true? Instead, too many of our schools get kids regurgitating. So what we have to do is get away from regurgitation. It’s Aristotle. We are what we repeatedly do.
If we repeatedly fill in bubbles, that is not much of a preparation for the future. Kids need to be taught to — not to be cynical, but to be skeptical, to look for evidence. They need to be taught to be good journalists.
11 October
What Works in Girls’ Education: Evidence for the World’s Best Investment
with a foreword by Malala Yousafzai
(Brookings) Hard-headed evidence on why the returns from investing in girls are so high that no nation or family can afford not to educate their girls.
Gene Sperling, author of the seminal 2004 report published by the Council on Foreign Relations, and Rebecca Winthrop, director of the Center for Universal Education, have written this definitive book on the importance of girls’ education. As Malala Yousafzai expresses in her foreword, the idea that any child could be denied an education due to poverty, custom, the law, or terrorist threats is just wrong and unimaginable. More than 1,000 studies have provided evidence that high-quality girls’ education around the world leads to wide-ranging returns:
Better outcomes in economic areas of growth and incomes
Reduced rates of infant and maternal mortality
Reduced rates of child marriage
Reduced rates of the incidence of HIV/AIDS and malaria
Increased agricultural productivity
Increased resilience to natural disasters
Women’s empowerment.
5 October
makoko-floating-schoolThe 13 most innovative schools in the world
(Tech Insider) Innovation in education can look like lots of things, like incorporating new technology or teaching methods, going on field trips, rejecting social norms, partnering with the local community.
It can be a floating school in an impoverished region, like the one in Lagos, Nigeria.
Or it can be a school that’s blind to gender, like Egalia, in Stockholm, Sweden.
See what the future of education can, and probably should, look like.
4 September
Fewer tests, more play: Qatar asked Finland to open a progressive school in Doha — and it’s a huge success
(National Post) The Qatar-Finland International School was an experiment, really, the first “export” of a child-centric educational program that eschewed standardized testing and rigid curriculum in favour of play-based learning. Hence the skipping ropes.
But I was intrigued by Finland’s approach. The country has routinely ranked among the top countries on the Program for International Student Assessment, ironically a standardized test that measures the educational outcomes of 15-year-old students in 65 developed countries around the world.
Finland’s success has been especially remarkable because it’s happened relatively quickly — 30 years ago the country ranked dismally compared to its OECD peers. And because neither a child’s social background nor their innate ability seem to be a huge factor in Finland’s academic prowess; it has one of the slimmest achievement gaps in the world.
1 September
The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues
(WaPost) As parents and teachers strive to provide increasingly organized learning experiences for children (as I had once done), the opportunities for free play – especially outdoors is becoming less of a priority. Ironically, it is through active free play outdoors where children start to build many of the foundational life skills they need in order to be successful for years to come.
29 August
The Coddling of the American Mind
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health
(The Atlantic September 2015) The press has typically described these developments as a resurgence of political correctness. That’s partly right, although there are important differences between what’s happening now and what happened in the 1980s and ’90s. That movement sought to restrict speech (specifically hate speech aimed at marginalized groups), but it also challenged the literary, philosophical, and historical canon, seeking to widen it by including more-diverse perspectives. The current movement is largely about emotional well-being. More than the last, it presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche, and therefore elevates the goal of protecting students from psychological harm. The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into “safe spaces” where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable. And more than the last, this movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness. It is creating a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse.
The dangers that these trends pose to scholarship and to the quality of American universities are significant; we could write a whole essay detailing them. But in this essay we focus on a different question: What are the effects of this new protectiveness on the students themselves? Does it benefit the people it is supposed to help? What exactly are students learning when they spend four years or more in a community that polices unintentional slights, places warning labels on works of classic literature, and in many other ways conveys the sense that words can be forms of violence that require strict control by campus authorities, who are expected to act as both protectors and prosecutors?
The contagious madness of the new PC
Obsessive searching for hurt and offence will create it where once it never existed
(The Spectator) Back in the 1990s, PC students would stamp about with placards demanding equal rights for minorities and talking about Foucault. This new PC doesn’t seem to be about protecting minorities so much as everyone, everywhere from ever having their feelings hurt. It came from America, this virus, incubated in the closed minds of the Land of the Free, but it’s here now, and contagious.
We have a right not to be offended, think these kids, but this has horrible implications, as Brendan O’Neill pointed out in his Spectator cover story ‘The Stepford students’ last year. Brendan arrived to speak in defence of abortion at Christchurch, Oxford, only to find his debate had been cancelled. Why? Because it was offensive and might damage the ‘mental safety’ of students to hear ‘a person without a uterus’ speak on abortion. What about free speech? Overrated, said the students. Just an excuse for bigots.
Students have also decided they need protecting from disturbing bits in books. There have been recent calls for content warnings — ‘trigger warnings’ — to be inserted into great books. …
Here’s how twisted it’s all become: in December, Jeannie Suk, a professor of law, wrote a desperate piece for the New Yorker about the situation at Harvard, a sort of SOS. Her students, she said, had complained to the authorities that rape law was too ‘triggering ‘ to be taught at all.
Mathieu Bédard — Pedagogical Autonomy and Accountability: A Recipe for Improving Academic Results
(MEI) Giving teachers and school principals more control over course content and teaching methods, all while rewarding or penalizing them according to the consequences of their decisions, could improve academic results. When autonomy and accountability are jointly applied, students generally achieve better grades, even when standard of living variances are taken into account.
Pedagogical autonomy refers to the ability of teachers and school principals to decide for themselves what educational materials to use in their classrooms and their schools. Such autonomy allows schools to offer a variety of courses and programs, to innovate in terms of teaching methods, and to better adapt themselves to the specific needs of their students. It is opposed to the vision of a centralized educational system in which content and teaching methods are entirely determined by a Department of Education and are the same for everyone.
Making teachers and school principals accountable means that their performance can be compared to that of other teachers and other schools, and that they are rewarded or penalized based on these results. Teachers and principals are thereby incentivized to adjust their pedagogical methods in order to improve results.
According to numerous international studies, when these two principles are jointly applied, they become key factors in the achievement of good academic results in high school.(1) Together, they tap into what the founder of several schools in France calls an education in which “each principal and each teacher [is] able to give his best.”(2)
24 August
Professors at odds over technology’s role in the lecture hall
(Globe & Mail) … there’s discord in the academic community about whether to embrace digital tools in the lecture hall. Academics banishing laptops from their classrooms say they are part of a growing call to put an end to the distractions caused by the ubiquitous portable computers. Some say the temptation for students to check social media instead of listening to a lecture is just too strong, and they point to studies that show students retain less information when they take notes on a keyboard compared with writing them by hand.
But some professors say it’s traditional teaching methods – not the computers – that don’t belong in the classroom. To engage students, they argue, the way instructors use and talk about technology with their students needs to change.
12 August
When Success Leads to Failure
The pressure to achieve academically is a crime against learning.
(The Atlantic) Marianna is very smart and high-achieving, and her mother reminds her of that on a daily basis. However, Marianna does not get praised for the diligence and effort she puts into sticking with a hard math problem or a convoluted scientific inquiry. If that answer at the end of the page is wrong, or if she arrives at a dead end in her research, she has failed—no matter what she has learned from her struggle. And contrary to what she may believe, in these more difficult situations she is learning. She learns to be creative in her problem-solving. She learns diligence. She learns self-control and perseverance. But because she is scared to death of failing, she has started to take fewer intellectual risks. She has trouble writing rough drafts and she doesn’t like to hypothesize or think out loud in class. She knows that if she tries something challenging or new, and fails, that failure will be hard evidence that she’s not as smart as everyone keeps telling her she is. Better to be safe. Is that what we want? Kids who get straight As but hate learning? Kids who achieve academically, but are too afraid to take leaps into the unknown?
1 August
Such a good initiative!
Teachers and students retrace the lives of those who died at Normandy
(PBS Newshour) To make the history of World War II more vivid and meaningful, teams of students and teachers are tracing the footsteps of those who served and died during the invasion of Normandy. Participants in National History Day’s Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Albert H. Small Student & Teacher Institute spend months doing intensive research on a single “silent hero,” before offering a personalized graveside eulogy.
20 July
Vocational Education Should Be For Everyone
When you separate vocational education from academic work, you emphasize class differences, Zelikow said, instead of helping all students build skills they will need in the future.
(Think Progress) Vocational education is changing, but many still see it as something only low-income, mostly minority students are pushed into and an option that upper class students and white students wouldn’t be encouraged to take. As academics and authors on national education trends point out, when our society devalues anything that isn’t academic prep work and a pathway to a four-year university, it’s easy to see why people are suspicious of vocational education, which encourages students to gain practical, hands-on skills in a certain industry, versus learning about economic theories in a lecture format. …
Philip Zelikow, co-author of America’s Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected Age, and White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia, said the best way to provide vocational education would be to integrate elements of vocational education into the rest of the academic curricula. He pointed to Camden County High School where you learn the theory in order to use the skills, such as learning how to investigate a crime scene and using instruments and writing up reports for actual hands-on skills.
“You unite theory and practice, which is actually a very interesting way to learn the theory and makes it much more accessible.” Zelikow said.
He argued that a child choosing one vocation early on in their high school career may be too rigid, since students often change their minds sometime in high school, if not college.
17 July
Joshua MuskinQuality and the SDGs: What will this really mean for education? (Part II)
(Brookings) With the Incheon Declaration and the SDGs, it would seem that the moment to translate the idea of relevance into actual practice has finally come. As indicated, imbuing teaching and learning with content and competencies that spill over into “real” life will not be easy; and there will be many who argue that relevance, despite its clear value, is a luxury that systems cannot afford until all children are reading and calculating at grade level. However, as hinted above, such an argument will be a smokescreen, for two reasons. One, relevance is a vital factor in helping children learn to read and calculate well, not a competing strategy; and two, reading and calculating are only really valuable when they can be used to serve various life functions. If the world has finally embraced the idea that education is not quality education without learning, it must also accept that there is no quality without relevance, and then it must act purposefully and strategically towards this goal, with policy and action at all levels of the system, and beyond.
What will the Sustainable Development Goals really mean for education? (Part I)
(Brookings) Well, the World Education Forum in Incheon has come and gone with clear excitement, apparently some controversy, and ultimately another universal commitment to education for all, but now through the full secondary cycle and highlighting “equitable quality.”
Unfortunately, there is still no indication in the document of what an education that aims purposefully and strategically to endow its students with such personal competencies and attributes actually looks like in practice. This might be less worrisome if Incheon were truly the first time countries of the world were embracing such educational goals, but it is not. Instead, national education reforms and plans around the globe have featured among their goals those of equipping students with “21st Century Skills,” “Life Skills,” “Citizenship,” “Workplace Skills,” “Personal Competencies,” “Entrepreneurial Skills,” “Financial Literacy,” and other versions since at least Dakar and even some since Jomtien, 25 years ago. Yet only a few education systems around the globe are moving in this direction[1]. More, it seems, are actually moving in the opposite direction, caught in a testing and accountability trap.
[1] For example, Tan (2010: p. 53) reports that Singapore, a regular “high flyer” on the major international assessments, has been re-orienting its education system towards other priorities, finding that “…the price of high academic performance can be staggering.” It is not, however, the financial cost that worries the country but rather the costs in terms of lost “creativity and thinking skills among students and members of the workforce.” (18 June)
16 July
Everyone Wants to Leave No Child Left Behind Behind
But no one can agree on how to fix it.
6 July
Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children
(NYT) While Internet addiction is not yet considered a clinical diagnosis here, there’s no question that American youths are plugged in and tuned out of “live” action for many more hours of the day than experts consider healthy for normal development. And it starts early, often with preverbal toddlers handed their parents’ cellphones and tablets to entertain themselves when they should be observing the world around them and interacting with their caregivers.
Heavy use of electronic media can have significant negative effects on children’s behavior, health and school performance. Those who watch a lot of simulated violence, common in many popular video games, can become immune to it, more inclined to act violently themselves and less likely to behave empathetically, said Dimitri A. Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
Teenagers who spend a lot of time playing violent video games or watching violent shows on television have been found to be more aggressive and more likely to fight with their peers and argue with their teachers, according to a study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
Schoolwork can suffer when media time infringes on reading and studying. And the sedentary nature of most electronic involvement — along with televised ads for high-calorie fare — can foster the unhealthy weights already epidemic among the nation’s youth.
Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.
Texting looms as the next national epidemic, with half of teenagers sending 50 or more text messages a day and those aged 13 through 17 averaging 3,364 texts a month, Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Research Center found in a 2012 study. An earlier Pew study found that teenagers send an average of 34 texts a night after they get into bed, adding to the sleep deprivation so common and harmful to them. And as Ms. Hatch pointed out, “as children have more of their communication through electronic media, and less of it face to face, they begin to feel more lonely and depressed.”
29 June
The Supreme Court might destroy affirmative action because this white woman’s grades weren’t good enough
(Salon) In 2008, Abigail Fisher, who is white, sued the University of Texas–Austin for race discrimination. The school rejected her, and she blamed its affirmative action program, which considers race and ethnicity in a “holistic review” of certain candidates. … And on Monday, the Supreme Court took her case, again. …
… most liberals aren’t optimistic. With that said, there’s an argument—from Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation—that an end to race-based affirmative action will spur the country toward class-based affirmative action, which would assist poor and working-class students of all backgrounds, who are underrepresented at selective colleges. Because of disparities of wealth and income, minorities are as likely as whites to benefit under a class-based arrangement.
On that score, Texas—with its Top 10 program—is a pioneer. Top 10 doesn’t adjust for neighborhood or school quality; the best student at an older, rural school is just as qualified for admission as the best student at a gleaming, suburban complex. With that said, Top 10 comes with two serious problems: Highly qualified students at great schools miss the cutoff, on account of high competition, while the best students from low-achieving schools are often unprepared for university work. Indeed, there’s a certain perversity to Top 10, which achieves its racial diversity by leveraging neighborhood—and thus public high school—segregation. But, under a legal regime that only tolerates a “narrow” use of racial preferences in education—forcing race-neutral means for race-conscious ends—that outcome is inevitable
5 June
Why Free Play Is the Best Summer School
The more time children spend in structured, parent-guided activities, the worse their ability to work productively towards self-directed goals.
(The Atlantic) for many kids, the coming of summer signals little more than a seasonal shift from one set of scheduled, adult-supervised lessons and activities to another.
Unscheduled, unsupervised, playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children. It is fertile ground; the place where children strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills, and shore up their physical health. The value of free play,  daydreaming, risk-taking, and independent discovery have been much in the news this year, and a new study by psychologists at the University of Colorado reveals just how important these activities are in the development of children’s executive functioning. (June 2014) George Monbiot: Rewild the Child — A week in the countryside is worth three months in a classroom. (October 2013)
5 June
Is today’s university the new multinational corporation?
According to the Cross-Border Education Research Team (C-BERT) at SUNY-Albany, 51 US universities now operate 83 branch campuses outside of the United States. … Globally, universities in 32 countries export 235 branch campuses across 73 nations. … Proponents argue that branch campuses provide needed educational capacity in underserved areas, while allowing the home institution to diversify its revenue and enhance its reputation. Critics claim that operating under authoritarian governments hampers the academic freedom of faculty and students.
With declining government subsidies at home, concerns about rising tuition rates and heightened competition for students, some colleges and universities are looking for new ways to expand their economic base, through the delivery of courses overseas, foreign research monies and relationships with donors in other countries. …
Foreign universities have demonstrated interest in locating branches near rapidly expanding academic markets and being part of the emergence of Asia as a power player in the higher education landscape. It is no accident that most of the IBCs built in the past decade are located around the Indian Ocean and Pacific Rim.
Indeed, some countries have developed strategies and enacted policies to encourage international branch campus development through an “education hub.” Hubs usually indicate a country’s intention to promote itself as a regional or international destination for students.
2 May
The Big Problem With the New SAT
(NYT) The revised SAT takes some important, if partial, steps toward becoming a test of curriculum mastery.
2 May
Can a professor fail his entire class? Texas A&M says no way.
Irwin Horwitz had had enough. His students, he thought, weren’t performing well academically and they were being disruptive, rude, and dishonest. So he sent the students in his strategic management class an email … The Texas A&M–Galveston professor said he would fail every single student. … The university has said that Horwitz’s failing grades will not stand.
29 April
‘World’s best teacher’ does not believe in tests and quizzes
For 25 years, Nancie Atwell has run a small, independent K-8 school in Maine, where the goal is not just teaching young students, but also teachers. At the Center for Teaching and Learning, the school day is driven by a simple motto: let kids have choices. Now Atwell’s work and philosophy have earned her education’s highest honor, the Global Teacher Prize.
(PBS Newshour) As they would in public schools, Atwell’s 75 students follow a curriculum in every subject. But within the traditional framework, her kids choose what topic they want to explore in history, or what they want to research in science class. … When we evaluate our students, it’s on the basis of portfolios of their work, and students self-assess as part of the portfolio process. They answer question on every discipline about what they have been thinking, doing, learning. It’s a question not of being accountable to the state, but of being accountable to our students’ parents.
Atwell believes this gets them to invest in what they are learning.
27 April
Prioritizing the Arts Over Test Prep
In an age when public education has become synonymous with high-stakes exams, an inner-city charter-school network is using culture and creative expression to teach the Common Core standards.
(The Atlantic) Ascend Learning, a network of seven charter schools in Brooklyn, is going to great lengths to ensure students living in the world’s cultural capital aren’t deprived of art—as so many poor, minority kids in urban America are. Inside renovated buildings that could pass for high-end galleries, students are not only taking art and music classes, but teachers also incorporate art into academic subjects. School operators say this approach—using Pieter Bruegel’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” for example, to help fifth-graders learn about the myth of Icarus and Daedalus—makes complex literature accessible to struggling readers. And while they carefully monitored student readiness for this month’s high-stakes state exams, they refused to throw out their curriculum in favor of test prep. They point out that many students from neighborhoods like Brownsville get to college and flounder from culture shock. What good is a high score then?
14 April
Cheryl’s Birthday: Singapore’s maths puzzle baffles world
(BBC) A school maths question posted on Facebook by a Singaporean TV presenter has stumped thousands, and left many asking if that’s really what is expected of Singaporean students.
The question asks readers to guess the birthday of a girl called Cheryl using the minimal clues she gives to her friends, Albert and Bernard.
Cheryl’s Birthday was initially reported to be an examination question for 11-year-olds.
Students stressed by tough examinations is a perennial issue here, and Cheryl’s Birthday reignited concerns that the education system was too challenging. (Business Insider) Here’s how to solve the ‘simple’ high-school math problem stumping everyone on the internet
13 April
Are master’s degrees on their way out? Alternatives grow as enrollment fades
(WaPost) When George Washington University announced last week that it was laying off nearly 50 employees to reduce costs, the university’s president, Steven Knapp, blamed a decline in enrollment in graduate and professional programs.
Graduate degrees and professional certificates have been the fastest-growing segment of higher education in recent years, and the thinking has always been that when the economy improves, fewer people go back to school for such credentials because they can more easily get jobs instead.
But GW and thousands of other college and universities are mistaken if they think that any downward trend in graduate enrollment is a temporary blip caused by an improving economy. Rather, what is happening now is a permanent shift in how today’s working adults acquire education throughout their lifetimes.
2 April
Stanford Will Now Be Free To All Students From Families That Earn Less Than $125,000 Per Year
“Our highest priority is that Stanford remain affordable and accessible to the most talented students, regardless of their financial circumstances,” said Provost John Etchemendy in a press release. “Our generous financial aid program accomplishes that, and these enhancements will help even more families, including those in the middle class, afford Stanford without going into debt.” The school says that 77 percent of undergraduates leave without student debt.That makes Stanford graduates somewhat unique, as about 70 percent graduate with debt, owing an average of $29,000 at the end of last year. Student loan debt has tripled over the last decade. Meanwhile, nearly a third of those who have started to pay back the loans are more than three months behind on payments.
The death of the exam: Canada is at the leading edge of killing the dreaded annual ‘final’ for good
For all the energy and attention they demand, educators are pushing to marginalize exams. These are not just dying out as an irrelevance, like the slide rule. They are being killed off as an affront to human nature and dignity, like the strap.
Alberta is a leader in this, deciding this month to give less weight to standardized high-school exams and more to daily work. Ontario is following, with a pilot project for a new model of evaluation informed by the view high-stress exams give a false picture of a student’s abilities. … where teachers and parents might once have emphasized preparation to overcome exam anxiety, now the goal is to alleviate distress as much as possible by cutting exams or downplaying their importance.
Critics …  argue ditching exams simply coddles immature students who would benefit from a bit of temporary pressure to prepare for the real world.
26 March
How I teach about climate change in a state that relies on fossil fuels
(PBS Newshour) As a science teacher, it is not my duty to force a belief in climate change or global warming on someone else, but rather to allow the scientific method and inquiry process to take hold and provide evidence from multiple sources so that the students can draw their own conclusions. I want to develop my students into independent thinkers so that they can make well-informed decisions by looking at many sources of information. Science has made major contributions to social advancement, and students need to learn how to evaluate the potential effects of new scientific advancements on both human society as well as the natural world.
No, Finland isn’t ditching traditional school subjects. Here’s what’s really happening.
(WaPost) …the stories are overblown, according to Finnish educator and scholar Pasi Sahlberg. In this post, Sahlberg explains what is actually happening in Finland.
despite the reforms, Finnish schools will continue to teach mathematics, history, arts, music and other subjects in the future.
But with the new basic school reform all children will also learn via periods looking at broader topics, such as the European Union, community and climate change, or 100 years of Finland’s independence, which would bring in multi-disciplinary modules on languages, geography, sciences and economics.

23 March
Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with ‘topics’ as country reforms its education system
(The Independent) For years, Finland has been the by-word for a successful education system, perched at the top of international league tables for literacy and numeracy.
Only far eastern countries such as Singapore and China outperform the Nordic nation in the influential Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings. Politicians and education experts from around the world – including the UK – have made pilgrimages to Helsinki in the hope of identifying and replicating the secret of its success.
Subject-specific lessons – an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon – are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.
More academic pupils would be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union – which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography.
There are other changes too, not least to the traditional format that sees rows of pupils sitting passively in front of their teacher, listening to lessons or waiting to be questioned. Instead there will be a more collaborative approach, with pupils working in smaller groups to solve problems while improving their communication skills.
19 March
Supreme Court rules Quebec infringed on Loyola High School’s religious freedom
Montreal school wanted to opt out of Quebec’s ethics and religious culture course
6 March
Teachers in Teach for America aren’t any better than other teachers when it comes to kids’ test scores
A new study comparing test scores among elementary school students who had Teach for America instructors and who had other teachers finds it’s a wash.
The leaders of the controversial organization, which recruits graduates of selective universities and places them in classrooms after only several weeks of training, are pleased with the results. Chief executive officers Elisa Villanueva Beard and Matthew Kramer write online that the other teachers had an average of 13.6 years of experience, compared to only 1.7 years among the Teach for America group.
Teach for America was established on the premise that highly qualified young people could do as well or better than experienced educators in the nation’s most disadvantaged schools after only minimal training. While the organization has recently lengthened its training schedule and begun recruiting older people to teach as well, the results are arguably another vindication of Teach for America’s model. The group has become a focal point in the larger debate over whether the existing system of education colleges and certifications are doing enough to meaningfully prepare teachers for the classroom.
29 January
Skip the fairy tales, and tell your daughter science bedtime stories
(PBS Newshour) When our daughter, Maxine, was about seven, my husband, Charlie, began a new bedtime routine with her. Every night, he would tell her one science story. It could have been a story he’d read about in the morning’s paper or heard on the radio. Sometimes the stories centered on the stars and planets, sometimes on bugs or bats, sometimes on the human body. I remember there were lots of stories about new findings and experiments. The Mars rover provided a ton of fodder for their little talks. Whatever the subject, Charlie always managed to put a contemporary spin on the science, making it relevant to Maxine’s little world.

One Comment on "Education 2015-16"

  1. Antal (Tony) Deutsch October 7, 2016 at 1:19 am ·

    Re: How the education gap is tearing politics apart
    This is interesting and well-thought-out analysis of two English-speaking countries. We also observe similar splits in Hungary and Poland, where they show up as city vs. country, the former being considered a proxy , if not necessarily of formal education, but of a worldliness acquired by contact.
    Political sociologists should find all this a goldmine.

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