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Boston Scientific steps up its involvement in STEM education

The Boston business Journal – Don Seiffert

“The company recently formed its first-ever STEM Council to bring together various efforts to encourage learning among kids about science, technology, engineering and math. And in the past couple years, those efforts have resulted in millions of dollars donated and the benefit hundreds of kids, many of them around the company’s Marlborough headquarters. David Bee, vice president of development processes at Boston Scientific, says the company has long been involved in FIRST Robotics, an effort founded 26 years ago by inventor Dean Kamen to encourage STEM education in kids first through building with Legos, then later through building actual robots that compete against one another.”(more)

How one urban high school climbed from worst to first — and taught Boston some key lessons about reform

The Hechinger Report – Tommy Chang and Laura Perille

“School improvement takes time. That was the message from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s speech last month when he visited the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Four years ago, Jeremiah Burke was designated one of the worst schools in the state. It jettisoned its “underperforming” label three years later, the first high school in Massachusetts to do so. This fall, the school won the Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move prize. The prize is awarded annually to recognize Boston’s most-improved school. The lessons that the Boston education community has learned in ten years of giving out this $100,000 award underscore Secy. Duncan’s sentiments about time. School improvement is a marathon, not a sprint.”(more)

Common Core Not Dead Yet

Education Next – Michael J. Petrilli

“First, let’s deal with Massachusetts, where the state board of education has decided to use a hybrid of PARCC and the Bay State’s own MCAS. In what must surely be a first, Commissioner Mitch Chester and Common Core opponent (and one-time Senior Associate Commissioner) Sandra Stosky concur: This move is no repudiation of PARCC. As Chester wrote in a letter to the Times, “Neither my recommendation to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education nor the board’s Nov. 17 vote rejected PARCC or the Common Core. In fact, both embraced PARCC as part of the future of statewide assessment in Massachusetts.” And as Stotsky tweeted, “It looks like a compromise between MCAS and PARCC, but it’s really PARCC.” Indeed, there’s every reason to believe that MCAS 2.0 is going to look much the same as PARCC 1.0. This is akin to a state dropping the “Common Core” label but keeping nearly all of the standards. It’s essentially a rebranding exercise undertaken for political reasons. But let’s widen the lens and scan the bigger picture. Just how fragile is the Common Core effort today? Is a death watch warranted? Let’s look at its markers of health against five big aims.”(more)

How to pick the right preschool for your child

The Boston Globe – Jennette Barnes

” As adults begin the day’s chores or power through a morning meeting, 3- and 4-year-olds have their own to-do list: Play maracas, watch caterpillars turn into butterflies, try on costumes from around the world — the business of play. Preschool is founded on play; experts say it’s how children learn best. But not all play is the same. How, then, should parents decide what school is right for their child? They can readily compare cost and location, but quality is tougher to discern. Scituate mom Jen Nylen, who has four daughters under 10, said the teachers’ warm approach was the most important factor when she was deciding on a school. She found it comforting at a time when dropping off her oldest daughter felt worrisome. “I had never really left her with anyone but family,” she said. Her 4-year-old, Isabel, just finished the year at Owl’s Crossing Preschool in Scituate. Some of the most conspicuous things that parents might equate with quality — elaborate amenities, a structured schedule, a big price tag — actually have little to do with the quality of the child’s experience, according to people who think about these issues for a living.”(more)

Could small tweaks reap big rewards in math education?

The Boston Globe – Kevin Hartnett

” Math education in the United States is a subject of constant anxiety. Our country’s future feels imperiled when our students land in the middle of the pack on international standardized tests, behind many Asian countries, most of Western Europe, and the likes of Slovenia and Latvia. There’s also personal angst, each time a kid throws down his pencil and concludes he’s just not meant for arithmetic. A wholesale revision of the way we teach math is a tempting idea, either in the form of a fully rebooted curriculum or in dramatic changes to teacher training. This explains some of the recent popularity in the United States of Singapore math, for instance. But maybe there’s another way.”(more)

Bring back bilingual education for Boston schools

The Boston Globe – Editorial

“When it comes to educating the surging immigrant population in Boston, many in educational and political circles ignore the evidence of failure all around them. The achievement gap for so-called English-language learners — students enrolled in school but without English proficiency — promises to haunt Boston for a generation unless the ineffective and highly unsuccessful English immersion mandate is reversed. The Boston Public Schools continue to watch these students fall through the cracks. Their dropout rates are consistently higher, and they have among the lowest MCAS scores in the city. Saving more of these students from a life without meaningful educational achievement stands as one of the signal challenges for new superintendent Tommy Chang.”(more)