October 21, 2014

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Poor Kids Who Do Everything Right Don’t Do Better Than Rich Kids Who Do Everything Wrong

washingtonpost.com | Article Link | by Matt O'Brien

America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others.

That's because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on "enrichment activities" for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents.

But, of course, it's not just a matter of dollars and cents. It's also a matter of letters and words. Affluent parents talk to their kids three more hours a week on average than poor parents, which is critical during a child's formative early years. That's why, as Stanford professor Sean Reardon explains, "rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students," and they're staying that way.

It's an educational arms race that's leaving many kids far, far behind.

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October 15, 2014

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The Learner Community Invites You to Attend the 2nd Symposium of Early Childhood Pedagogy

The Learner Community encourages educators, academic researchers, students, and professionals to attend the 2nd Symposium of Early Childhood Pedagogy. Early Childhood Pedagogy Symposia are spaces of academic reflection, interdisciplinary research, professional documentation and rigorous dialogue on early childhood pedagogy. They connect the local research activity in Greece with diverse global contexts and perspectives examining its applications to policy and practice.

The 2nd Symposium of Early Childhood Pedagogy will be held in Ioannina, Greece between 15-17 May 2015. It will focus on the transformative nature of modern schools in the context of inclusive pedagogy. The symposium explores the narratives of teaching practice in a diverse spectrum of early childhood settings. Join delegates from around the world to engage either in person or virtually in an inclusive dialogue which can transform the way we view early childhood pedagogy.

For more information about the 2nd Symposium of Early Childhood Pedagogy, please click here or visit the Call for Papers page for information on submissions.

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October 3, 2014

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Agency Warns About Decline in Access to Education

nytimes.com | Article Link | by Patrick Blum

London — Social mobility through education is waning around the world, despite increased access to education, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned in a report this month.

The 560-page annual publication, Education at a Glance, urged governments to do more to ensure that everyone has the same opportunity for a good education early in life. It warned that many young people are attaining lower qualifications than their parents, even in the richest countries of the industrial world.

Among people from 25 to 35 years old, 16 percent now have lower qualifications than their parents, compared with 9 percent among those 55 to 64 years old, it said, based on data from the 34 member countries of the O.E.C.D., which advises governments on economic and social policy, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

More access to education has not translated into a more inclusive society, Ángel Gurría, the secretary general of the agency, based in Paris, said in a foreword to the report.

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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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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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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.

Image courtesy of Lydia Kyei-Blankson

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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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Image courtesy of Anita Peppers / morgueFile

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