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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)

For many, remedial math not a solution

The Boston Globe – Laura Krantz

“Nearly two-thirds of all community college students and nearly a quarter of those at state universities in Massachusetts test into remedial math classes, according to a 2013 study by the state Department of Higher Education. Of those who take remedial courses, according to the data, only 1 in 5 goes on to complete a college-level math class and many never earn degrees. State officials call this the Bermuda Triangle of remedial math — where students struggle to pass and often give up — and consider it one of the most pressing issues facing public higher education today. “If we don’t get this right, nothing else is going to really work. We’re just going to continue to lose students at an incredible pace,” said Carlos Santiago, who started Wednesday as commissioner of higher education, replacing retiring commissioner Richard Freeland. To reverse the trend, state education officials last fall launched a period of experimentation, giving colleges and universities latitude to try new approaches to help students succeed. Eighteen campuses are participating, and so far, results are promising. In the next two years they hope to find a solution to apply statewide.”(more)

Changing how teachers are taught: a bid to transform education

The Christian Science Monitor – Amanda Paulson

“When Jeffrey Chiusano starts his job as a high school physics teacher in the fall, he’ll be doing so with a full year of teaching already under his belt. His teacher license and degree were largely earned in a high school classroom, in a yearlong residency in which he could dissect with his professors and his mentor the experiences he had in creating lesson plans and working with students. The mentorship will continue for his first few years on the job. “It’s easy to read it in a book, but it’s a lot different when you get up in front of 20 students to put in place what you learned,” Mr. Chiusano says. His experience is emblematic of a new approach to teacher preparation that top education reformers say is the direction in which the field should be headed. That emphasis on lengthy classroom experience and mentorship, rather than seat time and textbooks, is needed, they say, given how inadequate the vast majority of education schools are when it comes to preparing teachers for their careers.”(more)