Thursday, December 20, 2012

College Enrollment Drops!

At a time when we are focused on the need for higher education to compete in a global economy the US experienced a 1.8% drop in college enrollment in Fall 2012 according the the National Student Clearinghouse report on Estimated National Enrollment by Sector.

Since for-profits have had to stop being significantly less evil, they took the biggest hit - down 7.2% - but all sectors were down except for 4 year private.

Four year public                      -0.6%
Four year Private Non-profit   +0.5%
Four year For Profit                 -7.2%
Two year public                       -3.1%

So 360,000 less students went to college this year.  The trend says that this is bound to happen as the economy improves so it is a short term good sign.  It is also a good sign that students aren't being sucked into non-profits where they stand little chance of completing.

But we still lost 32,454 new students in college at a time when STEM graduates are desperately needed.  This is not a good sign at all and something that the National Math and Science Initiative will continue to fix in 2013

Monday, December 17, 2012

Common Core Costs Less

In report to the Kansas Legislative Post Audit Committee, implementing CCSS will cost school districts between $32 million to $60 million over the next five years, mainly to pay for new textbooks and teacher training. This is lower than cost estimates by the Fordham Institute or the Pioneer Institute.

· “The Kansas State Department of Education will probably save about $9 million over that time, compared with what it would have spent if it had developed new reading and math standards in-house

Huh - leveraging investments across states costs less.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Headlines at Eduwonk

Yeah - made the Eduwonk Friday Fishporn for one heck of a bonefish while in the Bahamas.
Making the big time!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Student Incentives

Jay Matthews has a new column up about our program and for the most part I love it - he really highlights the great work the National Math and Science programs are doing and the success.  He does not like the student incentives  in Cash Incentives for Students.

First - the incentives are a small part of the program but essential to transforming a school culture to one that celebrates academic achievement. Most of these students were not focused on college level classes but the incentives get their attention.

Second - the economy has drastically changed. While many students get their AP test fees waived or partially paid for there are many who are just above the threshold who don't qualify and don't have $80 per test. The incentives are paying for the tests and they would not take them otherwise.

Third - we agree with Jay - it is the results:
"The first 136 schools in its program — of teacher training, weekend study sessions and student supports — have seen the number of passing scores on Advanced Placement math, science and English tests increase 137 percent for all students and 203 percent for African American and Hispanic students in three years. It now has 462 schools, including some in southern Virginia."

And
"In a 2008 study of the program that is the model for the initiative, Northwestern University economist C. Kirabo Jackson found “the campuswide increases in the percentage of students in 11th and 12th grades who take AP or IB [International Baccalaureate] exams are driven primarily by increased participation among black and Hispanic students.” He found that the portion of students scoring above 1100 on the SAT or above 24 on the ACT increased 80 percent for blacks and 50 percent for Hispanics after the program took hold."

It works - NMSI transforms schools and creates a college going culture. And the incentives are a big part of that. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Professor Disruption!

Straighterline will open up their new platform today - and disrupt education further by creating a Professors Direct product out of the new platform. From the Chronicle of Higher Ed -

"Professor Direct, lets instructors determine not only how much to charge for such courses, but also how much time they want to devote to services like office hours, online tutorials, and responding to students' e-mails.

The new service is run by StraighterLine, a company that offers online, self-paced introductory courses. Unlike massive open online courses, or MOOC's, StraighterLine's courses aren't free. But tuition is lower than what traditional colleges typically charge—the company calls its pricing "ultra-affordable." A handful of colleges accept StraighterLine courses for transfer credit.

Instructors who offer courses on Professor Direct will be able to essentially set their own sticker prices, as long as they are higher than the company's base price. One professor teaching an online mathematics course with a base price of $49, for example, plans to charge $99. For each student who signs up, the company will pocket the $49 base price, and the professor gets the remaining $50.

The instructor in that math course is Dan Gryboski, who has previously taught as an adjunct at the University of Colorado but is taking the year off from traditional teaching so he can stay home and take care of his three young children. He views Professor Direct as a way to keep up his teaching within the time windows he now has for professional work."

BOOM - disruption with business model so that it can actually have staying power! Crazy!!  

Full Disclosure:  daughter works at Straighterline but just really shows their great judgement. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TIMSS: Celebrate Mediocrity!

Twitter and EdWeek both heralding our above averageness in headlines from TIMSS in what seems to be a throw up our hands moment.  When did we start striving for being above average in the world. We should be the world leaders.

Headlines from the Edweek article:

  • East Asian countries far outpace us - nearly HALF of all 8th grade students tested in South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are Advanced compared to 7% for US students
  • Russia outscored the US in 8th grade math for the first time
  • US improved in just one category - 4th grade math - since 2007
On the plus side
In a plug for Common Core Math Standards which really move towards coherence and application in the shifts - 48% of fourth graders like learning mathematics but only 26% of 8th graders like learning math and that attitude has a distinct correlation to test scores.  

From the article
"Meanwhile, many 4th graders around the world (69 percent) had math teachers who reported making efforts to use instructional practices intended to interest students and reinforce learning, such as posing questions to elicit reasons and explanations, and bringing interesting items to class. At the 8th grade, however, only 39 percent of students internationally reported that their teachers frequently related lessons to their daily lives, and just 18 percent said they had teachers who routinely brought interesting materials to class."

I just came from a great NMSI Common Core Teacher Training and it is all about showing relevance, coherence and bringing interesting materials to math class.  We are going to finally move the needle on results and stop celebrating mediocrity.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Common Core Teacher Needs

Nice article from Vicki Phillips and Robert Hughes in EdWeek - "Teacher Collaboration: The Essential Common-Core Ingredient" that focuses on teachers. It is time to stop the focus on policymakers and start helping educators figure out how to bring the standards to the classroom.

"The new standards emphasize teaching fewer topics, but in greater depth, and focusing more on hands-on learning and dynamic student projects than traditional lectures. If students are to be successful, teachers must also encourage innovative assignments that require students to show their understanding, use their knowledge and skills to solve problems, create written and multimedia presentations, and complete real-world tasks."

We are spending all our time at the National Math and Science Initiative focused on bringing college readiness to students - and right now, that means creating common core training and resources for teachers. All our programs are developed by teachers, for teachers which is what Phillips and Hughes recommend:

"When engaging in inquiry or lesson study, teachers draw on their shared trust, expertise, and experiences to improve instruction. And when this collaboration focuses on student work, it builds educators' capacity to address students' academic needs immediately."

Collaboration is the key which is why we are working with the PARCC Educator Leader Cadre to build expertise in each state to encourage and foster that collaboration. 

Common Core State Standards only succeed if we all succeed in providing 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Common Core Test Shortened

Much gnashing of teeth in the edu-world when it was announced that the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests were going to be well over 8 hours. This is due to the the performance tasks - but they have now shortened the test as noted in EdWeek -


"From an original design that included multiple, lengthy performance tasks, the test has been revised to include only one performance task in each subject—mathematics and English/language arts—and has been tightened in other ways, reducing its length by several hours.
The final blueprint of the assessment, approved by the consortium last week now estimates it will take seven hours in grades 3-5, 7½ hours in grades 6-8, and 8½ hours in grade 11.
Earlier this fall, states’ worries about too much testing time had prompted the group to offer a choice: a “standard” version of the assessment—6½ to 8 hours—or an “extended” one, which would run 10½ to 13 hours, with more items to facilitate more-detailed feedback on student performance.
Persistent doubts about that plan, however, led to further discussions and a decision to expand the shorter version by about 30 minutes and make it the only one offered, consortium officials said.
While many states saw value in having more performance tasks on the test, the amount of information they could yield didn’t justify the additional testing hours, said Carissa Miller, the deputy superintendent for assessment, content, and school choice in Idaho, and the co-chairwoman of the SBAC executive committee. Including even one such task—which requires students to tackle longer, more complex math problems and write essays based on reading multiple texts—represents a major improvement in most states’ assessment systems, she said."
My concern is that the lengthy tests will give the anti-testing groups some serious ammunition. The odd teaming of teacher unions and ultra-conservatives that sent Tony Bennett is not unlike the  anti-testing nuts merging with the staunchly conservative local control types. 
We need great testing data - but we have to ensure that people understand that we can only have that data when, as David Coleman put it, "we have assessments that stop lying to students - so that we no longer tell them they are on track for college when they are not even close."