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Fabian Aguilar

What Do School Tests Measure? - Room for Debate Blog - NYTimes.com - 1 views

  • According to a New York Times analysis, New York City students have steadily improved their performance on statewide tests since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took control of the public schools seven years ago.
  • Critics say the results are proof only that it is possible to “teach to the test.” What do the results mean? Are tests a good way to prepare students for future success?
  • Tests covering what students were expected to learn (guided by an agreed-upon curriculum) serve a useful purpose — to provide evidence of student effort, of student learning, of what teachers taught, and of what teachers may have failed to teach.
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  • More serious questions arise about “teaching to the test.” If the test requires students to do something academically valuable — to demonstrate comprehension of high quality reading passages at an appropriate level of complexity and difficulty for the students’ grade, for example — then, of course, “teaching to the test” is appropriate.
  • Reading is the crucial subject in the curriculum, affecting all the others, as we know.
  • An almost exclusive focus on raising test scores usually leads to teaching to the test, denies rich academic content and fails to promote the pleasure in learning, and to motivate students to take responsibility for their own learning, behavior, discipline and perseverance to succeed in school and in life.
  • Test driven, or force-fed, learning can not enrich and promote the traits necessary for life success. Indeed, it is dangerous to focus on raising test scores without reducing school drop out, crime and dependency rates, or improving the quality of the workforce and community life.
  • Students, families and groups that have been marginalized in the past are hurt most when the true purposes of education are not addressed.
  • lein. Mayor Bloomberg claims that more than two-thirds of the city’s students are now proficient readers. But, according to federal education officials, only 25 percent cleared the proficient-achievement hurdle after taking the National Assessment of Education Progress, a more reliable and secure test in 2007.
  • The major lesson is that officials in all states — from New York to Mississippi — have succumbed to heavy political pressure to somehow show progress. They lower the proficiency bar, dumb down tests and distribute curricular guides to teachers filled with study questions that mirror state exams.
  • This is why the Obama administration has nudged 47 states to come around the table to define what a proficient student truly knows.
  • Test score gains among New York City students are important because research finds that how well one performs on cognitive tests matters more to one’s life chances than ever before. Mastery of reading and math, in particular, are significant because they provide the gateway to higher learning and critical thinking.
  • First, just because students are trained to do well on a particular test doesn’t mean they’ve mastered certain skills.
  • Second, whatever the test score results, children in high poverty schools like the Promise Academy are still cut off from networks of students, and students’ parents, who can ease access to employment.
  • Reliable and valid standardized tests can be one way to measure what some students have learned. Although they may be indicators of future academic success, they don’t “prepare” students for future success.
  • Since standardized testing can accurately assess the “whole” student, low test scores can be a real indicator of student knowledge and deficiencies.
  • Many teachers at high-performing, high-poverty schools have said they use student test scores as diagnostic tools to address student weaknesses and raise achievement.
  • The bigger problem with standardized tests is their emphasis on the achievement of only minimal proficiency.
  • While it is imperative that even the least accomplished students have sufficient reading and calculating skills to become self-supporting, these are nonetheless the students with, overall, the fewest opportunities in the working world.
  • Regardless of how high or low we choose to set the proficiency bar, standardized test scores are the most objective and best way of measuring it.
  • The gap between proficiency and true comprehension would be especially wide in the case of the brightest students. These would be the ones least well-served by high-stakes testing.
Ed Webb

Mind - Research Upends Traditional Thinking on Study Habits - NYTimes.com - 3 views

  • instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. So does studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing. “We have known these principles for some time, and it’s intriguing that schools don’t pick them up, or that people don’t learn them by trial and error,” said Robert A. Bjork, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Instead, we walk around with all sorts of unexamined beliefs about what works that are mistaken.”
  • The brain makes subtle associations between what it is studying and the background sensations it has at the time, the authors say, regardless of whether those perceptions are conscious. It colors the terms of the Versailles Treaty with the wasted fluorescent glow of the dorm study room, say; or the elements of the Marshall Plan with the jade-curtain shade of the willow tree in the backyard. Forcing the brain to make multiple associations with the same material may, in effect, give that information more neural scaffolding.
  • Cognitive scientists do not deny that honest-to-goodness cramming can lead to a better grade on a given exam. But hurriedly jam-packing a brain is akin to speed-packing a cheap suitcase, as most students quickly learn — it holds its new load for a while, then most everything falls out. “With many students, it’s not like they can’t remember the material” when they move to a more advanced class, said Henry L. Roediger III, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s like they’ve never seen it before.”
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  • cognitive scientists see testing itself — or practice tests and quizzes — as a powerful tool of learning, rather than merely assessment. The process of retrieving an idea is not like pulling a book from a shelf; it seems to fundamentally alter the way the information is subsequently stored, making it far more accessible in the future.
  • An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found.
  • “The idea is that forgetting is the friend of learning,” said Dr. Kornell. “When you forget something, it allows you to relearn, and do so effectively, the next time you see it.”
  • “Testing not only measures knowledge but changes it,” he says — and, happily, in the direction of more certainty, not less.
  • “Testing has such bad connotation; people think of standardized testing or teaching to the test,” Dr. Roediger said. “Maybe we need to call it something else, but this is one of the most powerful learning tools we have.”
  • The harder it is to remember something, the harder it is to later forget. This effect, which researchers call “desirable difficulty,”
Felix Gryffeth

In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • The study of the humanities evolved during the 20th century “to focus almost entirely on personal intellectual development,” said Richard M. Freeland, the Massachusetts commissioner of higher education. “But what we haven’t paid a lot of attention to is how students can put those abilities effectively to use in the world. We’ve created a disjunction between the liberal arts and sciences and our role as citizens and professionals.”Mr. Freeland is part of what he calls a revolutionary movement to close the “chasm in higher education between the liberal arts and sciences and professional programs.” The Association of American Colleges and Universities recently issued a report arguing the humanities should abandon the “old Ivory Tower view of liberal education” and instead emphasize its practical and economic value.
  • Derek Bok, a former president of Harvard and the author of several books on higher education, argues, “The humanities has a lot to contribute to the preparation of students for their vocational lives.” He said he was referring not only to writing and analytical skills but also to the type of ethical issues raised by new technology like stem-cell research. But he added: “There’s a lot more to a liberal education than improving the economy. I think that is one of the worst mistakes that policy makers often make — not being able to see beyond that.” Anthony T. Kronman, a professor of law at Yale and the author of “Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life,” goes further. Summing up the benefits of exploring what’s called “a life worth living” in a consumable sound bite is not easy, Mr. Kronman said. But “the need for my older view of the humanities is, if anything, more urgent today,” he added, referring to the widespread indictment of greed, irresponsibility and fraud that led to the financial meltdown. In his view this is the time to re-examine “what we care about and what we value,” a problem the humanities “are extremely well-equipped to address.”
Michael Walker

Now Playing - Night of the Living Tech - NYTimes.com - 3 views

  • “Change has changed qualitatively,” says Janet Sternberg, an assistant professor at Fordham University and president of the Media Ecology Association, a research organization.
  • Adaptive innovation and experimentation, experts say, is the rule in a period of rapid change that can be seen as the digital-age equivalent of the ferment after the introduction of the printing press. “We’re experiencing the biggest media petri dish in four centuries,” observes Paul Saffo, a visiting scholar at Stanford University who specializes in technology’s effect on society.
  • Technology is by no means the only agent of change. Cultural tastes have a big influence, sometimes bringing quirky turns in the evolutionary dance.
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  • Turntables have made a niche revival, and vinyl record sales have increased 62 percent over the last decade to 2.4 million last year, reports Nielsen, a market research firm.
  • Yet evolution — not extinction — has always been the primary rule of media ecology. New media predators rise up, but other media species typically adapt rather than perish.
Jeff Johnson

Math Skills Suffer in U.S., Study Finds (NYTimes) - 0 views

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    The United States is failing to develop the math skills of both girls and boys, especially among those who could excel at the highest levels, a new study asserts, and girls who do succeed in the field are almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries where mathematics is more highly valued.
Vicki Davis

Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web - New York Times - 0 views

  • Open Content Alliance
  • , a nonprofit effort aimed at making their materials broadly available.
  • Libraries that agree to work with Google must agree to a set of terms, which include making the material unavailable to other commercial search services. Microsoft places a similar restriction on the books it converts to electronic form. The Open Content Alliance, by contrast, is making the material available to any search service.
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  • many in the academic and nonprofit world are intent on pursuing a vision of the Web as a global repository of knowledge that is free of business interests or restrictions.
  • Many prominent libraries have accepted Google’s offer — including the New York Public Library and libraries at the University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford and Oxford. Google expects to scan 15 million books from those collections over the next decade.
  • libraries and researchers worry that if any one company comes to dominate the digital conversion of these works, it could exploit that dominance for commercial gain.
  • “One is shaped by commercial concerns, the other by a commitment to openness, and which one will win is not clear.”
  • The Open Content Alliance is the brainchild of Brewster Kahle, the founder and director of the Internet Archive, which was created in 1996 with the aim of preserving copies of Web sites and other material.
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    This New York Times article on the Open Content Alliance is an essential article for librarians and media specialists to read. It is also important for those following the fight for information and control of that information. In this case, the Open Content Alliance wants to make books that they scan available to any search engine while Microsoft and google are aggressively approaching libraries for exclusive access to their content. (which could be rescanned by another later, possibly.) Librarians and media specialists should understand this... when will people approach schools to scan annuals or student produced works? Maybe that is a while off, but for now, be aware that it is probably inevitable.
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    An overview of the Open Content Alliance versus Google and Microsoft battling to take control of the content housed in libraries.
Dave Truss

The Tell-All Generation Learns When Not To, at Least Online - NYTimes.com - 10 views

  • Younger teenagers were not included in these studies, and they may not have the same privacy concerns. But anecdotal evidence suggests that many of them have not had enough experience to understand the downside to oversharing.
    • Dave Truss
       
      This is why we need to have social networking sites at school, so that we can help teach about safety/security/privacy!
  • But in many cases, young adults are teaching one another about privacy.
  • Ms. Liu is not just policing her own behavior, but her sister’s, too. Ms. Liu sent a text message to her 17-year-old sibling warning her to take down a photo of a guy sitting on her sister’s lap. Why? Her sister wants to audition for “Glee” and Ms. Liu didn’t want the show’s producers to see it. Besides, what if her sister became a celebrity? “It conjures up an image where if you became famous anyone could pull up a picture and send it to TMZ,” Ms. Liu said. Andrew Klemperer, a 20-year-old at Georgetown University, said it was a classmate who warned him about the implications of the recent Facebook change — through a status update on (where else?) Facebook. Now he is more diligent in monitoring privacy settings and apt to warn others, too.
    • Dave Truss
       
      Great examples of peers leading peers, but not the kind we usually read about when media describes social networking sites.
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  • He has learned to live out loud mostly by trial and error and has come up with his own theory: concentric layers of sharing.
    • Dave Truss
       
      Like my "Worlds Collide" post: http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/google-buzz-and-george-costanza-worlds-collide/ but I still think there is too much of a perception that you can have 'private' or 'hidden' digital lives (which you can't) rather than thinking about it as being appropriate to your audience, and always "appropriate" and thoughtful about your image.
  • The conventional wisdom suggests that everyone under 30 is comfortable revealing every facet of their lives online, from their favorite pizza to most frequent sexual partners. But many members of the tell-all generation are rethinking what it means to live out loud.
  • more than half the young adults questioned had become more concerned about privacy than they were five years ago — mirroring the number of people their parent’s age or older with that worry. They are more diligent than older adults, however, in trying to protect themselves.
  • In a new study to be released this month, the Pew Internet Project has found that people in their 20s exert more control over their digital reputations than older adults, more vigorously deleting unwanted posts and limiting information about themselves.
Stephanie Sandifer

Op-Ed Contributor - Your Baby Is Smarter Than You Think - NYTimes.com - 0 views

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    Great article on the intelligence and learning capabilities of infants and toddlers -- has implications for how we approach pre-school learning with children.
Rick Beach

Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Show - NYTimes.com - 9 views

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    Research finds a growing income gap in student achievement reflecting the economic inequality of American society.
Vicki Davis

The New Mayor and the Teachers - NYTimes.com - 2 views

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    An overview from the New York Times predicting the future between Mayor Elect Bill de Blasio and the United Federation of Teachers which represents 40% of the city's workforce. For those following politics in the US, this is a situation to watch.
Laura Deisley

Many Schools Teach Engineering in Early Grades - NYTimes.com - 6 views

  • “Just giving kids an engineering problem to solve doesn’t mean it will lead to learning,” said Janine Remillard, an associate education professor at the University of Pennsylvania who is not opposed, but believes that good teaching is essential to making any curriculum work well.
    • Brian C. Smith
       
      I think it goes deeper than leading to "learning" in the sense of curriculum. It's more that students are learning to learn. Far too often we assume that students actually know how to learn. We know how to plan learning experiences and disseminate information, but how often do we stop to think whether or not a student has developed the skill to learn?
    • Laura Deisley
       
      Good point, Brian. I think more than anything the iterative process builds the skills of a learner that are applicable far beyond whether they learn "engineering." Process matters.
  • “You’re not really learning what I would call engineering fundamentals,” he said of such programs. “You’re really learning about engineering.”
Michael Walker

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction - NYTimes.com - 12 views

  • “The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.”
    • Michael Walker
       
      Kids brains wired differently, but he doesn't explain why this is necessarily a bad thing.
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    "The worry is we're raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently."
anonymous

In Obama's Election, a Textbook Case of History in the Making for Students This Fall - ... - 0 views

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    An article about how textbook publishers are rushing to include Obama's election in their latest books
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    One could use this article as yet another reason to show that purchasing textbooks, especially for a subject such as this, is a practice that SHOULD disappear in the near future. When you have access to ALL the world's information as well as commentary on that information, AND as well as the ability to share it electronically and contribute to the commentary, there really just is NOT a need to purchase those books anymore. Or am I completely wrong?
Matt Clausen

What Your Global Neighbors Are Buying - Interactive Graphic - NYTimes.com - 0 views

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    How people spend their discretionary income - the cash that goes to clothing, electronics, recreation, household goods, alcohol - depends a lot on where they live. People in Greece spend almost 13 times more money on clothing as they do on electronics. People living in Japan spend more on recreation than they do on clothing, electronics and household goods combined. Americans spend a lot of money on everything.
Kate Olson

An Upstart Challenges the Big Web Browsers - NYTimes.com - 0 views

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    That notion has helped to rekindle the browser wars and has resulted in the latest wave of innovation. Firefox 3.0, for example, runs more than twice as fast as the previous version while using less memory, Mozilla says. The browser is also smarter and maintains three months of a user's browsing history to try to predict what site he or she may want to visit. Typing the word "football" into the browser, for example, quickly generates a list of all the sites visited with "football" in the name or description. Firefox has named this new tool the "awesome bar" and says it could replace the need for people to maintain long and messy lists of bookmarks. It will also personalize the browser for an individual user. "Sitting at somebody else's computer and using their browser is going to become a very awkward experience," said Mitchell Baker, chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation.
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