September 25, 2014

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In Colorado, a Student Counterprotest to an Anti-Protest Curriculum

nytimes.com | Article Link | by Jack Healy

Arvada, Colo. — A new conservative school board majority here in the Denver suburbs recently proposed a curriculum-review committee to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder.” In response, hundreds of students, teachers and parents gave the board their own lesson in civil disobedience.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students from high schools across the Jefferson County school district, the second largest in Colorado, streamed out of school and along busy thoroughfares, waving signs and championing the value of learning about the fractious and tumultuous chapters of American history.

“It’s gotten bad,” said Griffin Guttormsson, a junior at Arvada High School who wants to become a teacher and spent the school day soliciting honks from passing cars. “The school board is insane. You can’t erase our history. It’s not patriotic. It’s stupid.”

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September 18, 2014

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Taking Standardized Tests in Middle Age: Examining the Doctor

3quarksdaily.com | Article Link | by Carol A. Westbrook

The single most important skill you need to practice medicine is the ability to pass multiple-choice exams. Most people saw their last standardized test when college or grad school ended. No so for us doctors-- exam taking continues until retirement. The process begins with the high SAT score required for entry into a good college, then a high MCAT to get into medical school. In medical school we complete Steps 1 and 2 of the USMLE (US Medical Licensing Exam) and in residency, Step 3. After residency come the Specialty Boards (e.g. Internal Medicine, Surgery, etc.), then the Subspecialty Boards (e.g. Cardiology, Oncology). It continues with re-certification exams in your specialty every 10 years. It does not end until retirement.

So here I am, in my 60's, having to sit for an exam in order to renew my credentials as a Medical Oncologist. If you haven't taken a standardized test within the last decade you will be surprised to find how things have changed. There is no paper, no filling out circles with No.2 pencils, and no exam booklets. The questions are read on a computer screen, and answered by point-and-click with a mouse. The exams are given at a testing center in a strip mall, where other test-takers may be fireman, manicurists, or hairdressers taking their state licensing exams. After passing triple security (two ID's and a palm print scan) you enter the exam room, where you will be directed to a workstation containing only a computer on an otherwise empty desk. No purses, wallets, watches, pens, cell phones, or calculators are allowed into the room. It is dead silent, and anonymous. Nonetheless, you quickly adapt to the computerized routine, and the exam itself is remarkably similar to any other multiple-choice exam. As always, there are a series of single questions and 4 answers, of which only one is right, including the notorious "all of the above" or "none of the above." 

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / Alison Wood

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September 9, 2014

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Inside the Mammoth Backlash to Common Core

motherjones.com | Article Link | by Tim Murphy

One night last September, a 46-year-old Veterans Administration research manager named Robert Small showed up at a public meeting with state education officials in Towson*, a Maryland suburb, with a pen, a notebook, and an ax to grind. Small had been doing some homework on the main topic of the event, a set of math and language arts standards called Common Core that had recently been introduced in schools across the country, including his kids'. Fresh from work in a crisp, checkered shirt, he stood up in an overflow crowd and channeled his inner Henry V. "I want to know how many parents here are aware that the goal of the Common Core standards isn't to prepare our children for world-class universities—it's to prepare them for community college!" An off-duty police officer approached, and Small began to shout. "You're sitting here like cattle!" Out came the handcuffs. "Hey, is this America?" Small bellowed, as he jostled with the officer. "Parents, you need to question these people! Do the research!"

The police department later dropped the charge of second-degree assault of a police officer; Small, for his part, said he held no grudge against the cops. But a video of the incident, which racked up more than a million views on YouTube, set off a firestorm of right-wing outrage. On his radio show, Glenn Beck confessed he couldn't sleep after watching the clip. "This is the way it used to happen in Mother Russia, not America. It's Dictatorship 101."

The educational initiative that has inspired such a remarkable outpouring of fury began as a bipartisan endeavor so anodyne, nerdy even, that it proceeded for years with virtual consensus among policymakers of all stripes. Republican governors once enthusiastically signed on to the initiative—but now they (especially those contemplating presidential bids) are scrambling to distance themselves, and around the country state lawmakers are seeking to halt the implementation of the standards. Perhaps second only to Obamacare, Common Core has become a rallying cry on the right, evoking the kind of anguish and horror once reserved for the so-called death panels. And unlike health care reform, Common Core has tapped into a vein of outrage on the left as well.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay / souadnaji

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September 2, 2014

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Learning Community Call for Participation - Handbook of Research on Strategic Management of Interact

Lydia Kyei-Blankson is a co-editor for the Handbook of Research on Strategic Management of Interaction, Presence, and Participation in Online Courses. She would like to invite The Learner knowledge community to submit a proposal to the Call for Chapters for publication in the Handbook of Research on Strategic Management of Interaction, Presence, and Participation in Online Courses.

Potential contributors are invited to submit a 1,000-2,000 word chapter proposal outlining their proposed work/research as it relates to levels of interaction, presence, and participation in online courses and factors that encourage effective teaching and learning in online environments. Proposals must be submitted on or before September 15, 2014. For more information on the Call for Chapters, please click here to download the pdf.

Lydia Kyei-Blankson is also a member of The Learner knowledge community. She is an Associate Professor at Illinois State University where she teaches graduate courses in quantitative and qualitative research methods. In 2011 at the Eighteenth International Conference on Learning, Lydia presented a virtual presentation entitled, “Delivering Quality Learning Experiences in Online Courses.” The presentation included a study that examined student performance and perceptions of the quality of instruction in an online research methods course delivered using both asynchronous and synchronous tools. The purpose of the study was to help identify the unique teaching strategies that are effective in asynchronous and synchronous formats and to provide implications for improving pedagogical approaches used in the online course in general. Read more about Lydia’s presentation in the 2011 Final Conference Program.

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August 25, 2014

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The Modern Classroom: Students, Teachers and Data-Driven Education

mashable.com | Article Link | by James O'Brien

The days of paper textbooks seem destined to become as distant a memory as cursive handwriting. In 2014, big data is reshaping the way students receive curriculum and learn, and the tools of the new and digital classroom are changing the dynamics for educators.

"Data is changing the way people think," says Eileen Murphy Buckley, founder and CEO of ThinkCERCA, a company in the data-driven education space. "From critical accountability to teacher accountability to the way we arrange time, our learning spaces, technologies — data is disrupting everything."

The inclusion of the computer in K–12 classes is nothing new; they've been on desks since the days of Texas Instruments. In more recent times, however, pupils aren't turning to their screens to learn a little BASIC or play a round of Oregon Trail — they're increasingly experiencing data-driven teaching as a fully integrated part of a post-textbook, personalized academic process.

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August 18, 2014

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How to Read Education Data Without Jumping to Conclusions

theatlantic.com | Article Link | by Jessica Lahey and Tim Lahey

Education has entered the era of Big Data. The Internet is teeming with stories touting the latest groundbreaking studies on the science of learning and pedagogy. Education journalists are in a race to report these findings as they search for the magic formula that will save America's schools. But while most of this research is methodologically solid, not all of it is ready for immediate deployment in the classroom.

Jessica was reminded of this last week, after she tweeted out an interesting study on math education. Or, rather, she tweeted out what looked like an interesting study on math education, based on an abstract that someone else had tweeted out. Within minutes, dozens of critical response tweets poured in from math educators. She spent the next hour debating the merits of the study with an elementary math specialist, a fourth grade math teacher, and a university professor of math education.

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August 12, 2014

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Inequality Begins at Birth

nybooks.com | Article Link | by Jeff Madrick

Over the past year, the lack of universal pre-kindergarten for American four-year-olds has become a national issue. In 2013, President Obama proposed to fund an ambitious new nationwide pre-kindergarten program through a new cigarette tax. That plan failed to gain support, but Bill de Blasio gave new urgency to the issue when he swept into the New York mayor’s office promising universal pre-K for all city children—which will begin in the fall. Even as these efforts are being made, however, new research is making it increasingly clear that educational disparities start much earlier.

The value of universal access to early education has long been recognized: it improves the life chances of disadvantaged children and is crucial to keeping a level playing field for all. The United States has fallen well short of this goal. In most of Europe there is universal, good-quality preschool for three- and four-year-olds. In America, recent data show that fewer than half of all three- and four-year olds are enrolled in some form of preschool. Head Start, the main federal program, provides preschool funding for only about two fifths of poor children in this group.

Moreover, America has the second highest child poverty rate out of the thirty-five nations measured by the United Nation Children’s Fund (only Romania is worse).

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August 11, 2014

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New Journal Issues Now Available from The Learner Collection

Bookstore | The Collection | The Learner

We are pleased to announce the publication of the following issues.

These issues are now available through our online bookstore. Participants of the 2014 conference and 2014--2015 Community Members may download full-text articles for free by logging in to CGPublisher. (return) These issues feature the following articles...

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July 1, 2014

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Fair Play

lrb.co.uk  | Article Link | by Alan Bennett

Preaching is a hazard when writing plays. One isn’t supposed to preach and gets told off if one does. Poets are allowed to, but not playwrights, who if they have naked opinions, do better to clothe them in the decent ambiguities of their characters or conceal them in the sometimes all too thin thicket of the plot. Just don’t speak to the audience.

I have always found this prohibition difficult. John Gielgud, who was in my first play, thought talking to the audience was vulgar. Then he was prevailed upon to try it and thereafter would seldom talk to anybody else. I understand this and even in my most naturalistic plays have contrived and relished the moments when a character unexpectedly turns and addresses the house and, in a word, preaches.

This may be because as a boy and a regular worshipper at St Michael’s, Headingley I heard a lot of sermons. I also used to go to Saturday matinees at the Grand Theatre in Leeds, though on occasion the sermons were more dramatic than the plays. This was particularly so when they were preached, as they quite often were, by visiting fathers from the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield who were almost revivalist in their fervour and the spell they cast over the congregation.

So when as a young man I first had thoughts about what nowadays is called stand-up it’s not surprising it took the form of a sermon. Like all parodies it was born out of affection and familiarity and the Anglican services that were in my bones, and there is symmetry here as the first sermon I preached on a professional stage was in Cambridge fifty odd years ago across the road at the Arts Theatre in the revue Beyond the Fringe. It was on the text, ‘My brother Esau is an hairy man but I am a smooth man.’ That sermon apart I have never formally preached since until this morning and here I am again in Cambridge.

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June 18, 2014

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Schooled

newyorker.com | Article Link | by Dale Russakoff

Late one night in December, 2009, a black Chevy Tahoe in a caravan of cops and residents moved slowly through some of the most dangerous neighborhoods of Newark. In the back sat the Democratic mayor, Cory Booker, and the Republican governor-elect of New Jersey, Chris Christie. They had become friendly almost a decade earlier, during Christie’s years as United States Attorney in Newark, and Booker had invited him to join one of his periodic patrols of the city’s busiest drug corridors.

The ostensible purpose of the tour was to show Christie one of Booker’s methods of combatting crime. But Booker had another agenda that night. Christie, during his campaign, had made an issue of urban schools. “We’re paying caviar prices for failure,” he’d said, referring to the billion-dollar annual budget of the Newark public schools, three-quarters of which came from the state. “We have to grab this system by the roots and yank it out and start over. It’s outrageous.”

Booker had been a champion of vouchers and charter schools for Newark since he was elected to the city council, in 1998, and now he wanted to overhaul the school district. He would need Christie’s help. The Newark schools had been run by the state since 1995, when a judge ended local control, citing corruption and neglect. A state investigation had concluded, “Evidence shows that the longer children remain in the Newark public schools, the less likely they are to succeed academically.” Fifteen years later, the state had its own record of mismanagement, and student achievement had barely budged.

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Image Courtesy of Magnus Manske / WikiMedia Commons

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