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Not All STEM is Equal

The Huffington Post – Jim Conwell

“As engineering and other STEM degrees become more fashionable due to the benefits they provide – good jobs and starting salaries – more colleges and universities find themselves developing programs to serve this need. The reason is simple economics – students want to leave college with jobs, and STEM majors—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—continue to be in demand. Colleges want to build pipelines of students. Students, however, shouldn’t be misled. Not all STEM is equal…There is a difference between a STEM curriculum and a college that “now offers an engineering degree.” So what tend to be the differences?”(more)

The College Debt Crisis Is Real, But Let’s First Talk About Getting Our Kids to College and Graduating

Education Post – Kayla Patrick

“…the growing college debt crisis is a critical issue that should be addressed through policy change, but I also know that the real barriers keeping students from being successful in college begin much earlier than their first day on campus. Schools across the country are inadequately serving many of their students long before they get to college. ACT recently reported that 76 percent of high school graduates were not adequately prepared for first-year college courses…What can be done to enable students to feel better prepared to accomplish their goals? Schools need more rigorous curriculum…”(more)

New tech program would push hands-on learning to give teens real-world skills

The Washington Post – Moriah Balingit

“At a busy, sprawling campus in Arlington, students are learning how to be car mechanics, physical therapists, emergency medical technicians, chefs, cybersecurity specialists and engineers — all while they are still in high school. The Arlington Career Center hosts a variety of programs aimed at getting students ready for the workforce immediately after high school and giving them a head start for careers they might train for in college…“It’s project-based learning, and the academics are anchored in career-technical education,” said Margaret Chung, principal of the career center. The program is designed to give students a taste of various career and technical education programs during their first year in high school…Students also would take all their core academic courses at the school, including English and history, but Chung is urging teachers to collaborate and formulate lessons that reach across all disciplines.”(more)

Is it time to redesign your curriculum for the 21st century learner?

E-School News – Stephen Noonoo

“A new framework advocates for carefully curating what students learn. Is it time to rethink your curriculum? It’s not a stretch to say that today’s educational paradigm is preoccupied with the “how” of learning. Educators are grappling — either by choice or decree — with how to incorporate digital devices, new learning standards, and more collaboration and critical thinking into the already-packed school day. With so much to do, who has time to take a fine-toothed comb through the curriculum or debate whether students still need to know the date of the Battle of Hastings? But maybe it’s exactly the right time, according to Charles Fadel, the founder of of the Center for Curriculum Redesign and a visiting practitioner at Harvard’s Graduate School for Education. Fadel has previously written about 21st century skills and recently turned his attention to the “what” of learning as co-author of a new book, “Four-Dimensional Education,” which is less of a teach this, not that manual and more of a framework for exploring the modern competencies students will need in a world where job titles and career choices are changing faster than schools can keep up. Recently, Fadel spoke with us about his framework, the appeal of inter-disciplinary subjects, and whether it’s time to retire the old Capitals of the World quiz once and for all.”(more)

Senator Pushes For Mandatory Cursive Curriculum, Again

WFYI – Megan Powell

“Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, continues the fight to place cursive writing back into the curriculum after the Indiana Department of Education made cursive optional in 2011. Wednesday afternoon, the Education and Career Development committee met to discuss Senate Bill 73. If passed, this bill would add cursive writing back into the elementary curriculum for third and fourth grade as well as mandating reading cursive…As Indiana keeps debating SB 73, about half dozen states have made the move already to make cursive writing mandatory. “It’s very important for children to write in cursive because they won’t be able to read historic documents,” Amanda Krause, elementary student teacher, said. Leising asked members of the committee to look at the issue, not only looking at the issue on a state level, but on a global platform. She said Mexico recently reinstated cursive writing in their curriculum.”(more)

Third party, curriculum-based testing, the wave of the future?

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

Studies suggest that the process of preparing for and taking a test can enhance learning and information retention. Research also confirms that testing can be a useful assessment tool.

 

Recently there has been a great deal of discussion of the pros and cons of various types of testing. Because money, college admissions, and careers are tied to testing, it is difficult to separate facts from marketing rhetoric.

 

There are three basic types of tests: 1) tests prepared by teachers, 2) curriculum-based tests prepared by others (third party, curriculum-based testing), and 3) standardized tests.

 

Tests prepared by teachers have little standardization. These tests can cover class lectures, material from books or learning aids, homework, projects, behavior, and other things. While this type of flexibility makes teaching interesting, it does not assure a student has mastered the required material. In fact, it is difficult for school management to know how much students have learned until they enter the next grade level.

 

For this model to work well good teachers must be retained for many years, since the consequences of poor teaching do not show up for at least a year (in some cases many years if a student has a string of underperforming teachers).

 

The second type of test is a curriculum-based test that is prepared and administered by a third party. These tests provide unbiased data on teacher and student performance. If these tests are administered quarterly, teachers can use the data to adjust lesson durations (spend more or less time on subjects) and identify students who need extra reinforcement on specific concepts. Early identification of student strengths and weaknesses means remediation can begin early. With targeted help and focused teaching, more students can master the required material by the end of the year. This data also helps school management coach and place teachers based on strengths and weaknesses.

 

The last type of testing is standardized testing. Standardized testing can provide information in baseline proficiency in some subjects. These tests are best used for topics with little ambiguity. For example, grammar and mathematics are easily tested using standardized methods. Unfortunately, standardized testing does not provide specific information that can be used to improve day-do-day classroom instruction or provide data on whether schools are building a foundation that prepares students for advanced learning.

 

While all types of testing are helpful, more focus on third party curriculum-based testing would be a way to improve learning outcomes quickly.