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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Project Lead the Way's new exam could be the future of testing

Project Lead the Way's new exam could be the future of testing

This exam feels more like a game. It could be the future of testing.

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Imagine a high school final that feels more like a computer game than a test. Instead of only answering questions with A, B, C or D, you also demonstrate you can hone a set of materials into a functional object – like a water filter. You keep working until the water runs clear.
Meanwhile, the test is scoring how creatively you approached the challenge or how critically you thought through the steps.
In short, imagine being tested on what you can do rather than only on what you know.
That's exactly what hundreds of thousands of high school students nationwide will experience this school year as an Indianapolis-based STEM education nonprofit rolls out its new end-of-course assessments, which one teacher described as "gamified."
Project Lead the Way— which trains teachers and offers biomedical science, engineering and computer science curriculum to schools in all 50 states — created the test to more accurately reflect students' classroom experience. As many as 400,000 high schoolers in Indiana and across the nation are expected to take the new test this school year.
Sure, the problems are about science or engineering, not fighting zombies, and the simulations aren't made to look like a game. But some educators say it will still be more engaging, and more akin to what students do during class.
Some experts familiar with the new test say this could be the direction all tests are heading, although it may be more difficult for standardized exams such as the SAT or ACT.

How the test will get rid of familiar multiple choice questions

Instead of multiple choice questions, Project Lead the Way students will watch videos, respond to scenarios and go through simulations, some of which won't have a right or wrong conclusion. The test, administered entirely on a computer, will use artificial intelligence to measure students' success against all potential outcomes.
The simulations will echo projects students do in class. Some may encourage them to test a few different options before selecting the best one.
The old test would have been limited to asking, "What is your next step?" and listing Continue reading: Project Lead the Way's new exam could be the future of testing

Is Education a Fundamental Right? | The New Yorker

Is Education a Fundamental Right? | The New Yorker

Is Education a Fundamental Right?

The history of an obscure Supreme Court ruling sheds light on the ongoing debate over schooling and immigration.

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Before sunrise on a morning just after Labor Day, 1977, Humberto and Jackeline Alvarez, Felix Hernandez, Rosario and Jose Robles, and Lidia and Jose Lopez huddled together in the basement of the United States Courthouse in Tyler, Texas, the Rose City, to decide just how much they were willing to risk for the sake of their children, for the sake of other people’s children, and for the sake, really, of everyone. Among them, the Alvarezes, Hernandez, the Robleses, and the Lopezes had sixteen children who, the week before, had been barred from entering Tyler’s public schools by order of James Plyler, Tyler’s school superintendent. On the first day of school, Rosario Robles had walked her five children to Bonner Elementary, where she was met by the principal, who asked her for the children’s birth certificates, and, when she couldn’t provide them, put her and the kids in his car and drove them home.

This hadn’t been the principal’s idea, or even Plyler’s. In 1975, when Texas passed a law allowing public schools to bar undocumented immigrants, Plyler ignored it. “I guess I was soft-hearted and concerned about the kids,” he said. Also, there weren’t many of them. About sixteen thousand children went to the schools in the East Texas city of Tyler, which considered itself the rose-growing capital of America and was named for John Tyler, the President of the United States who had pushed for the annexation of Texas in 1844, which led to a war with Mexico in 1846. Of those sixteen thousand students, fewer than sixty were the children of parents who had, without anyone’s permission, entered the United States from Mexico by crossing a border established in 1848, when the war ended with a treaty that turned the top half of Mexico into the bottom third of the United States. Jose Robles worked in a pipe factory. Humberto Alvarez worked in a meatpacking plant. They paid rent. They owned cars. They paid taxes. They grew roses.

Nevertheless, in July of 1977 Tyler’s school board, worried that Tyler would become a haven for immigrants driven away from other towns, insisted that undocumented children be kicked out of the city’s schools unless their parents paid a thousand dollars a year, per child, which few of them could afford, not even the Robleses, who owned their own home. Turned away from Bonner Elementary, the Robleses sent some of their kids to a local Catholic school—Jose did yard work in exchange for tuition—but they were put in touch with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which sent an attorney, Peter Roos, who filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Eastern District Court of Texas. It was presided over by a judge whose name was Justice. “There were two judges in Tyler,” Roos liked to say. “You got Justice, or no justice.”

Participating in a lawsuit as an undocumented immigrant is a very risky proposition. In a closed-door meeting, Roos asked that the parents be allowed to testify in chambers and so avoid revealing their identities, which could lead to deportation. They had come to the courthouse knowing that, at any moment, they could be arrested, and driven to Mexico, without so much as a goodbye. Judge William Wayne Justice refused to grant the protective order. “I am a United States magistrate and if I learn of a violation of the law, it’s my sworn duty to disclose it to the authorities,” he said. Roos went down to the basement, near the holding cells, to inform the families and give them a chance to think it over. They decided to go ahead with the suit, come what may. Justice did make efforts to protect them from publicity, and from harassment, decreeing that the Continue reading: Is Education a Fundamental Right? | The New Yorker

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Why there's so much inconsistency in school shooting data

Why there's so much inconsistency in school shooting data

Why there’s so much inconsistency in school shooting data

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How many school shootings happen in the U.S. in a single school year? The answer is surprisingly hard to figure out.
In April, the U.S. Department of Education released a report on the 2015-2016 school year, stating that “nearly 240 schools (0.2 percent of all schools) reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting.” However, the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety’s database lists only 29 school shootings for the same period.
When National Public Radio investigated the inconsistency, they found that 161 of the Department of Education’s 240 shootings either did not occur or could not be confirmed by the school districts involved. Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union contacted each school that allegedly had a shooting and found that 138 of the reported shootings were errors.
So where does school shooting information come from? How could these counts be so far apart?

The laws on guns in schools

Students are legally prohibited from bringing guns to school. That means they can be in serious trouble, even if they never fire the gun.
The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 requires schools in any state receiving certain federal funding to implement a one-year expulsion rule for students who bring a firearm to school. Students found in possession of a firearm must also be referred to the criminal justice or juvenile justice system.
Each year, schools must report any firearm-related expulsions. Those can include shootings, but also firearm possession and other firearm crimes. Schools report firearm offenses like these to the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), which is operated by of the Department of Education.
In a biennial survey, the CRDC asks schools and other public local educational agencies like charter schools: “For the regular (…) school year, not including intersession or summer, was there at least one incident at the school that involved a shooting (regardless of whether anyone was hurt)?”
The U.S. Department of Education used the results of this question to estimate the number of school shootings for 2015-2016.
Schools are expected to report any incidents that occur during school hours on school grounds. In addition to shootings, schools report the number of incidents that involved possession of a firearm, as well as the number of robberies, homicides, physical attacks and physical fights that involved a “firearm or explosive device.”

Room for error

A closer look at this survey shows why the U.S. Department of Education’s data was so inaccurate.
First, there are problems with the definition of the term “shooting.” Nowhere in the CRDC survey is that word clearly defined. Is it a shooting if a student has a gun that accidentally Continue reading: Why there's so much inconsistency in school shooting data

"Local Context." The New Gates K-12 Strategy is Coming Into Sharper Focus — Inside Philanthropy

"Local Context." The New Gates K-12 Strategy is Coming Into Sharper Focus — Inside Philanthropy
"Local Context." The New Gates K-12 Strategy is Coming Into Sharper Focus

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced the first $92 million in grants for its new K-12 initiative Networks for School Improvement. The first of three planned rounds included 19 grantee organizations. The foundation plans to invest $460 million in the initiative over the next few years.
Under the new initiative, groups of schools will work together to identify challenges and implement solutions. The goal is to increase the number of black, Latino and low-income students who graduate high school and enroll in higher education.
The new initiative arrived as Bill Gates himself conceded that the results of the billions the foundation has poured into K-12 education had been disappointing. 
The foundation has admitted failure and moved onto new strategies and ideas in the past. In 2009, Gates determined that the $650 million the foundation invested to break up large high schools into smaller ones had largely fallen short of the funder’s goals. Last year, Gates said the foundation would no longer invest directly in teacher evaluation, an idea that once had a central place in the foundation's education strategy. A RAND study revealing that the foundation’s five-year Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching initiative did not improve high school graduation rates, teacher effectiveness or retention of the best teachers followed the announcement several months later.
Some critics argue that it is not enough for Gates to learn from past missteps. Instead these failures should discourage the foundation from future work in education. Diane Ravitch, a professor at New York University and long-time critic of the foundation, says the funder’s work has demoralized teachers and pulled attention away from the need to adequately fund schools with public money.
Ravitch would like to see the foundation move away from education and instead use its experience in global health to promote better medical care for low-income kids at home. “The schools are not failing,” she said. “Our society is failing.” 
But Bill and Melinda have said that they have no intention of abandoning their commitment to improving education. To its credit, the foundation has acknowledged its past failures and responded to underwhelming K-12 results by changing tactics. Earlier this year, Gates launched a national initiative to take on poverty at home at the urging of education leaders, who insisted that the foundation needed to consider factors outside the classroom that affect learning. 
The anti-poverty work is a major departure for Gates, a grantmaker that long resisted engaging the larger social and economic problems that heavily shape the education outcomes and life chances of young people. 
Meanwhile, the Networks for School Improvement initiative represents a major about-face in its own right. 
A striking feature of the new initiative is the emphasis on local leadership and solutions. It fits a growing Continue reading: "Local Context." The New Gates K-12 Strategy is Coming Into Sharper Focus — Inside Philanthropy