News of Kiera Wilmot's arrest has seriously unnerved me. She is the Florida high school student who was experimenting with common household chemicals in science class that resulted in a minor explosion. There were no injuries and no damage to school property; however, she was taken away in handcuffs, formally arrested and expulled from school.
I acknowledge that too little information has been provided on the case. We have NO idea what was happening in the class. Where was the teacher? Were students involved in a laboratory activity at the time? I have spent time in the high school classroom. I know the shenanigans (and havoc) these pre-adults can cause. It is no laughing matter. Even if this were a prank, say something akin to my generation's idea of setting off smoke bombs in the hall during the passing of classes, my gut reaction stands.
I don't like what our public education (and justice) systems do to urban youth (e.g. the discipline gap with Black kids). I worry about urban kids who don't (tend) to have access to social capital that advocates for them and gives them a chance after stupid mistakes. I worry what this will mean to her family financially. What will it mean for her future? Will graduating from an alternative school prevent her from attending college? Will she be marked as a trouble maker? Will she have a criminal record that prevents her from gainful employment and a meaningful life? More immediately, will she get locked away for 20 years? Shit like that happens to kids who look like her.
The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is encouraging Art/Design to be included with the K-20 STEM curriculum.
What is STEAM
In this climate of economic uncertainty, America is once again turning to innovation as the way to ensure a prosperous future. Yet innovation remains tightly coupled with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - the STEM subjects. Art + Design are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century.
We need to add Art + Design to the equation -- to transform STEM into STEAM.
STEM + Art = STEAM
STEAM is a movement championed by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and widely adopted by institutions, corporations and individuals.
The objectives of the STEAM movement are to:
At the 2012 meeting, physics was on the agenda again. The hottest topic was particle physics because mid-way through the meeting, scientists at CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs particle. The following morning, we filmed George Smoot and Martinus Veltman as they digested the news with three young researchers. Veltman, who helped to shape the standard model of particle physics, was surprising cynical about the discovery. See his reaction in film 3: Is dark matter real? The other films deal with the relationship between theory and experiment, the state of science education, the looming energy crisis and in film 1 we ask: is this the golden age of astronomy? As you'll see, the Nobel laureates and young physicists in our films have quite different views on these matters.
Altogether, Nerad makes about 40 recommendations in six categories -- instruction, college and career readiness, culturally relevant practices, school environment, family engagement and staff diversity.Related:
"The plan is based on the view that there isn't one thing alone the school district can do to eliminate achievement gaps," Nerad said. "We're attempting to be comprehensive with the proposal."
The plan's projected cost for next year is $12.4 million, which Nerad is recommending come from the district's untapped property taxing authority under state-imposed limits. The amount includes adding about 67.5 positions, including behavioral support staff, reading specialists and parent liaisons.
Some recommendations wouldn't take effect until future years. The district estimates they will cost $20.9 million in 2013-14 and $26.6 million by 2016-17. The district doesn't have the authority to raise property taxes by that amount, though Nerad said part of the discussion in coming months will involve whether the private and nonprofit sectors can help fund the strategies.
"We're going to have to struggle through the conversation of how to get it done," Nerad said.
IN recent years, a trend has emerged in the behavioral sciences toward shorter and more rapidly published journal articles. These articles are often only a third the length of a standard paper, often describe only a single study and tend to include smaller data sets. Shorter formats are promoted by many journals, and limits on article length are stringent -- in many cases as low as 2,000 words.
This shift is partly a result of the pressure that academics now feel to generate measurable output. According to the cold calculus of "publish or perish," in which success is often gauged by counting citations, three short articles can be preferable to a single longer one.
But some researchers contend that the trend toward short articles is also better for science. Such "bite size" science, they argue, encourages results to be communicated faster, written more concisely and read by editors and researchers more easily, leading to a more lively exchange of ideas.
Wisconsin's science standards--unchanged since 1998, in spite of much earlier criticism, ours included--are simply worthless. No real content exists to evaluate.WKOW:
In lieu of content, the "authors" have passed the buck by merely citing unelaborated references to the now outdated National Science Education Standards (NSES). Rather than using the NSES as building blocks for a comprehensive set of science standards, however, Wisconsin has used them as an escape hatch to avoid hard work and careful thought
Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad says the state already has plans to review its standards in all areas.Remarkable. Much more at www.wisconsin2.org.
"I think we have to be cautious not to look at the current state because it is very much in flux right now," Nerad says. "Things are going to change. it doesn't makes sense to look backwards as it does to look forward."
Do you hold a consistent mental model of the world? For many of us (though less likely for the readers of this blog), the answer is "no." That's troubling. It's hard to be correct, if your world-view doesn't even type check.  People are entitled to opinions. But hold them in a state of contradiction, and they're wrong.
Though it's easy enough to apply consistency checks, inconsistent world-views abound. I suspect it's because people never learn to be consistent. Education under-represents logic and reason in the classroom. High school math class is the closest many people come to an education in rationality, and math is "just too abstract."
Björk turned her last album into an app. Now she's turning her music into a science exhibit for city students, with an unusual three-week run at a Queens museum better known for its molecule models and retired spacecraft.
The singer arrives at the New York Hall of Science next month to hold a series of classes for middle school students, as well as six open-to-the-public concerts in the museum's Great Hall. Björk will also stage four shows at a more conventional concert venue: Manhattan's Roseland Ballroom.
"The whole idea is to take music education out of a bookish, academic thing and into a more physical, tactile experience," said Björk, 46 years old, in an interview as she was preparing for the event.
Back in December 2009, excited 4th graders at Westerly's State Street School (http://sss.westerly.k12.ri.us/) sat down to take a practice science test. Like little sports jocks, the kids approached the task as if it were training for the big game coming in the spring, the statewide science NECAP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NECAP).Julia Steiny is a freelance columnist whose work also regularly appears at EducationViews.org and GoLocalProv.com. She is the founding director of the Youth Restoration Project, a restorative-practices initiative, currently building a demonstration project in Central Falls, Rhode Island. She consults for schools and government initiatives, including regular work for The Providence Plan for whom she analyzes data. For more detail, see juliasteiny.com or contact her at email@example.com or c/o GoLocalProv, 44 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI 02903.
In 2008, the whole Westerly district had performed so poorly on that test that teachers actually volunteered their time to form a K-12 Science Task Force focused on redeeming their sullied academic reputation. (See last week's column about this Task Force (link to my column from last week) .)
Then, insult to injury, in 2009 State Street's scores tanked again.
The heat was on. State Street had already started implementing the Task Force's recommendations, including its strong emphasis on teaching writing.
Wait. Writing? That's English, not science. But more on this in a moment.
Westerly's students had struggled particularly with the "inquiry" part of the NECAP, where kids to do a hands-on task and draw conclusions from what they see in front of them.
State Street's Principal Audrey Faubert says, "Science (NECAP) is only given at the 4th grade (and later at 8th and 11th), so K-3 weren't exposed to the rigors of testing. We decided to give all the kids an inquiry task to complete. And the faculty also took some of the released test items from the RIDE website. (http://www.ride.ri.gov/assessment/necap_releaseditems.aspx) Even though they'd been teaching inquiry with the science kits (http://www.uri.edu/hss/education/GEMSNET-URI/index.html) , it was interesting for the teachers to be on the other side of a test."
But the spotlight's glare was on those 4th graders.
Faubert smiled sadly, "The room was buzzing. The kids thought they did fantastic."
Working in pairs, the school's entire teaching staff scored the kids' work. The results were enough to induce clinical depression.
But as it turns out, the school's good efforts hadn't quite paid off yet. The Task Force was onto a good thing when they decided writing was key to learning science. State Street's instruction had only just started to take root.
Here's the problem: Old science was about answers. When a test asks a question like: "How does wind change sand dunes?" somewhere in the science textbook was an answer that the kid was supposed to have memorized.
New science is about thinking and reasoning. The way Faubert puts it is: "The (NECAP) science test is a thinking test, not a knowledge test. Science isn't about recall any more, but about synthesizing information." New science poses essential questions, such as the sand dunes example, but now the kids need to derive the answer themselves, by sorting through data. Teachers provide techniques, tools, research methods, and experiences. But like scientists themselves, students must do their own research and figure out what their discoveries mean.
Writing is always the product of thinking. Writing forces a kid to organize her thoughts to be expressive and communicate clearly.
Middle-school principal Paula Fusco says "Prior to the work of the Task Force, we'd left writing up to the English teacher. But whatever the kids did or didn't know, they weren't able to communicate their understanding of science."
To work on that understanding, Fusco says, "we've been taking the vocabulary out of NECAP--infer, predict, explain. So the kids aren't afraid of the words they're encountering."
The ability to define "predict" doesn't help at all if the ability to MAKE a prediction isn't also a familiar habit. Kids need to demonstrate, by their writing, that they understand what they need to DO when the test asks them to predict, infer or explain.
Similarly, Fusco's teachers began to work with the kids on "sentence starters" to guide their thinking--However, In conclusion, Whereas, Therefore.
Fortunately, Westerly's students were in the habit of writing in science journals. But they had used them mainly to record observations. Faubert says, "Every teacher brought in examples of their students' science journals. Oh, here are the strengths and weaknesses right in our own notebooks. We'd never had the kids prove their thinking in their journals. Think like a scientist, based on what's in front of you. Prove your thinking. Prove your thinking. We said that so many times."
At the end of the day, teaching the kids to EXPLAIN their predictions and reasoning was the clearest way to teach them habits of scientific thinking. And those explanations also helped the teachers assess kids' understanding and misunderstanding.
By February, State Street dared to try another practice test with the 4th graders. Again, the staff scored it together. Ahhh, much better. So much so, Faubert felt more confident about improving on the 49 percent proficiency they'd managed in the prior year's test.
In fact, when the results were released last Fall, State Street kids hit 80 percent proficiency, 8th highest in the state, out of over 150 schools that take that test. (And Westerly is the 8th lowest-income community in the state.)
Superintendent Roy Seitsinger's take on the situation is this: "Nobody (meaning veteran educators) signed up for what we're doing now. Most of the people weren't trained to bring students through a thinking process. Now the educators' job is to teach kids how to sift through all that information and to be critical, reflective and make decisions. We have too much information and not nearly enough sorting skills."
Therefore, in conclusion, learning to write promotes scientific thinking. Other districts would do well to take notice.
My younger daughter is nine. After watching me sit with a laptop all term preparing material using Scheme, she wanted to know something about it. She is self-taught on the application side of computing (browsers, paint programs, word processing) but knows nothing of computation itself. So I opened up a DrScheme Interactions window. "You add like this," I said, typing in (+ 3 4). No problem. "Try some other operations, some bigger numbers." It looks like a calculator without a ten-digit limit.
I wrote out some arithmetic expressions for her to convert to Scheme. She had difficulty with them, but not with Scheme: I had forgotten how much algebraic notation is taught later. She didn't understand concatenation for multiplication, / for division, or putting two expressions one above the other with a horizontal line in between. Once I explained those, she converted them into Scheme expressions very quickly.
Companies like Apple "say the challenge in setting up U.S. plants is finding a technical work force," said Martin Schmidt, associate provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In particular, companies say they need engineers with more than high school, but not necessarily a bachelor's degree. Americans at that skill level are hard to find, executives contend. "They're good jobs, but the country doesn't have enough to feed the demand," Mr. Schmidt said.Well worth considering from a curricular, finance and social perspective.
Some aspects of the iPhone are uniquely American. The device's software, for instance, and its innovative marketing campaigns were largely created in the United States. Apple recently built a $500 million data center in North Carolina. Crucial semiconductors inside the iPhone 4 and 4S are manufactured in an Austin, Tex., factory by Samsung, of South Korea.
But even those facilities are not enormous sources of jobs. Apple's North Carolina center, for instance, has only 100 full-time employees. The Samsung plant has an estimated 2,400 workers.
"We shouldn't be criticized for using Chinese workers," a current Apple executive said. "The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need."
Wolfram has long been a trusted name in education--as the makers of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha, and the Wolfram Demonstrations Project, we've created some of the most dynamic teaching and learning tools available. We are pleased to offer the best of all of our technologies to you here in the Wolfram Education Portal, organized by course. In the portal you'll find a dynamic textbook, lesson plans, widgets, interactive Demonstrations, and more built by Wolfram education experts. You can take a look at the types of materials we offer below, but to get full access to all materials, you need to sign up for a free account.
This is a cross-post of something I wrote for The Guardian, but just thought would be handy to have on the blog over here. It is also a small update from an old post: How to teach kids, or anyone, how to code - that's the history bit done! Now the science...
The beauty of programming is that it does not matter how old you are (within reason - under 7 is possibly a bit optimistic) you can learn using exactly the same, mostly free resources to be found on the Internet. You can learn basic programming easily within a year and then you can choose to hone and refine whichever aspects of coding most excite you. Done! It's not hard.
For the purposes of this post I have referred to resources aimed primarily at younger people - but they are all useful for the beginner.
This fall New York City will open The Academy for Software Engineering, the city's first public high school that will actually train kids to develop software. The project has been a long time dream of Mike Zamansky, the highly-regarded CS teacher at New York's elite Stuyvesant public high school. It was jump started when Fred Wilson, a VC at Union Square Ventures, promised to get the tech community to help with knowledge, advice, and money.
I'm on the board of advisors of the new school, which plans to accept ninth graders for fall of 2012. Here's why I'm excited about this new school:
Historian David McCullough was asked by a reporter recently if he started writing any of his books with a theme. He said that when he became interested in a subject he started reading to see what he could find out about it, but he had no advance idea of what would result.
Even those of our teachers who do work with students on research papers too frequently indulge in the science envy of requiring them to have a thesis. Students are asked to have some prior notion of the history they will read which they will test to see whether it is falsifiable or not.
Science is rich, famous and powerful, so it is not surprising that it is envied in our culture, but it should be remembered that its practice is to reduce, as much as possible, reality to numbers.
History does not lend itself well to a reduction to numbers, as it is about human beings, who also cannot very well be competently encompassed by numerical descriptions.
Words are the numbers of history, and words connote as much as they denote, they contain and evoke possibility and ambiguity in ways that the number users of science sometimes find annoyingly imprecise and quite uncomfortable.
The study of history should begin with curiosity about people and events: What was that person really like? How did that event come to happen and what resulted from it? These are the sort of non-thesis questions that our students of history should be asking, instead of fitting themselves out for their journey of learning about the past hampered with the straitjacket of a thesis.
Serious history students are often curious over something they have read about. They want to know more, and, when they have learned quite a bit, they frequently want to tell others what they have discovered. Like scientists, they are curious, but unlike them, they are willing to live with the uncertainties that are the essential ingredients of human experience.
Science has earned our admiration, but its methods are not suitable to all inquiries and we should not let envy of the success of science mislead us into trying to shrink-wrap history to fit some thesis with which students would have to begin their study of history.
David McCullough has reported that when he speaks to groups very often he is asked how much time he spends doing research and how much time he spends writing. He said he is never asked how much time he spends thinking.
The secondary students of history published in The Concord Review do not generally begin their work with a thesis to prove or disprove, but rather with wonder about something in history. The quality of their papers reveals that not only have they done a good deal of reading and research--if there is any difference there--but that they also have spent some serious time thinking about what they have learned, as well as how to tell someone else about it.
They have inevitably encountered the complex causes of historical events (no control groups there) and the variety of forces and inclinations both within and without the historical figures they have studied.
Some of these students are very good in calculus, science, and so forth, but they realize that history is a different form of inquiry and provides a non-reductionist view of the truth of human life, but one that may be instructive or inspiring in several ways.
So I urge teachers of students of history, who are asking them to write serious research papers, to let them choose their own topics, based on their own wonder and curiosity about the past, and to relieve them of the science envy of a thesis requirement. Let them embark on their own study of some part of the immense and mysterious ocean of history, and help them return with a story and an understanding they can call their own and can share, through serious research papers, with other students of history.
"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
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Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Some 160 high school math and science students from across the state will be competing this month in a regional Science Bowl in St. Paul.
They'll be vying for the chance to represent Minnesota in the national competition in Washington, D.C. The event is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Students compete in teams of five to solve technical problems and to answer questions in all branches of math and science, including astronomy, biology, computer science and physics. The tournament is conducted in a fast-paced question-and-answer format.
Data driven teaching and research at Duke keeps growing and Perkins Data and GIS continues to increase support for researchers and classes employing data, GIS, and data visualization tools. Whether your discipline is in the Humanities, Sciences, or Social Sciences, Perkins Data and GIS seeks to support researchers and students using numeric and geospatial data across the disciplines.
Earlier this year, two top Delaware State University officials visited two colleges in Ohio.
President Harry L. Williams and Provost Alton Thompson took the trips not to meet with fellow leaders in higher education. They wanted to see two high schools -- operated by and located on the campuses of Akron University and Lorain County Community College.
The model they saw in action on their visits is known as "Early College High School." And if the state approves its charter school application, DSU will open the first school of that type in Delaware on its Dover campus by the fall of 2013.
Two of our overriding efforts in Lower Education in recent years have been: 1) raising the low math and reading scores of black and Hispanic students, and 2) increasing the number of our high school and college graduates capable of employment in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics [STEM}.
Very recently evidence has been allowed to surface pointing out that while students in the bottom 10% of academic performance have indeed improved, students in the top ten percent of academic performance have stagnated, where they have not dropped out from boredom. Related evidence now suggests that complacency with secondary public education in our more affluent suburbs may have been quite misplaced as well.
As Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum point out in their recent book, That Used To Be Us, "average is over." That is to say, students in other cities (Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai) and countries (Finland, South Korea, Japan) take their educations so much more seriously than our students (and teachers) do that their economies are achieving gains on our own that are truly startling, if we take the time to notice.
If we are to retain good jobs, restart our manufacturing, and otherwise decide to compete seriously with others who seem to take both education and work more seriously than we have come to do, it might be wise to increase the interest of our students in STEM fields. According to the Kaiser Foundation, our students aged 8-18 are spending, on average, more than seven hours a day with electronic entertainment media.
Now of course we want our young people to buy our electronic entertainment hardware and software and we definitely want them to have a good time and be happy, but probably we would like them to be employable some day as well. Friedman and Mandelbaum point out that not only blue collar jobs and white collar jobs, but increasingly sophisticated professional work can be done to a high standard at a much lower cost in other countries than it can be done here.
Having our students spend 53 hours a week on their electronic entertainment media, while their high school homework tops out, in many cases, according to ACT, at three to four hours a week, is not a plan that will enable us to resume our competitive position in the world's economies.
So perhaps we should assign students in high school 15 hours a week of homework (which would reduce their media time to a mere 38 hours a week) and pass on to them the information that if they don't start working to a much much higher academic standard they will probably face a more depressing future in a greatly diminished nation than they currently imagine they will have.
But, is STEM enough? I remember the story told about a visit Sir Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, made to the gleaming new Salk Laboratory in La Jolla. A young biologist, thrilled to be a guide to the Nobel Prize-winner, was very proud to be able to show off all the bright new spotless expensive state-of-the-art research equipment. When they finished the tour, the young man could not stop himself from saying, "Just think, Sir Alexander, with all this equipment, what you could have discovered!" And Sir Alexander said, "not penicillin."
Because the discovery of penicillin relied on serendipity and curiosity. Fleming found some petri dishes contaminated by something that had come in, probably, through one of the dirty old badly-closed windows in his lab in England. Instead of washing the dishes so he could start over with them, as most scientists would have done, he asked himself what could have killed off those bacteria in the dishes. And a major breakthrough was made possible.
Just in passing, amid the rush for more STEM, I would like to put in a word for serendipity, which often fuels creativity of many kinds, by making possible the association of previously unrelated ideas and memories when in contact with a new fact or situation not deliberately sought out.
I argue that serendipity is more likely to occur and to be fruitful if our students also have a lot of experience with the ROOTS of civilization, that is, the history, literature, art, music, architecture and other fields which have provided the background and inspiration for so much that we find worthwhile in human life. Steve Jobs found his course in calligraphy useful when he came to think about Macintosh software, but there are countless examples of important discoveries and contributions that have been, at least in part, grounded in the ROOTS of civilized life. So let us push for more STEM, by all means, but if, in the process we neglect those ROOTS, our achievements will be fewer, and our lives will be the poorer as a result, IMHO.
The Concord Review
The donor whose $350 million gift will be critical in building Cornell University's new high-tech graduate school on Roosevelt Island is Atlantic Philanthropies, whose founder, Charles F. Feeney, is a Cornell alumnus who made billions of dollars through the Duty Free Shoppers Group.
Mr. Feeney, 80, has spent much of the last three decades giving away his fortune, with large gifts to universities all over the world and an unusual degree of anonymity. Cornell officials revealed in 2007 that he had given some $600 million to the university over the years, yet nothing on its Ithaca campus, where he graduated from the School of Hotel Management in 1956.
The $350 million gift, the largest in the university's history, was announced on Friday, but the donor was not named. Officials at Atlantic Philanthropies confirmed on Monday evening that it was Mr. Feeney, a native of Elizabeth, N.J., who is known for his frugality -- he flies coach, owns neither a home nor a car, and wears a $15 watch -- as well as his philanthropic generosity, particularly to medical research.
Chinese universities graduate more than 600,000 engineering students a year. China has consistently placed at or near the top of programming competitions. And while we have not seen China become a leader in information technology and computing, I expect that this will change in the coming decade.
Since the Internet revolution of the late 1990s, many successful companies have been built by taking American ideas and localizing them for China. These companies may have "copied" from the United States at first, but they acted swiftly, focused on their customers and developed their products, adding more and more local innovations.
For example, Tencent, one of China's three Internet juggernauts, started with an instant-messaging product named QQ, which was a replica of the same system on which Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger were based. But today, QQ has evolved to become a very different product -- a combination of instant messaging, social networking, universal ID and gaming center. QQ has built the world's largest online community (about 700 million active accounts), while its American counterparts continue to build instant messaging as loss leaders.
mage-maker Alexander Tsiaras shares a powerful medical visualization, showing human development from conception to birth and beyond. (Some graphic images.)
Related: www.wisconsin2.org Updating the 2009 Scholastic Bowl Longhorns 17 - Badgers 1; Thrive's "Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report".
Dear Colleague: I am writing this letter because I sincerely fear that the future of our children and grandchildren could be in jeopardy. While there are numerous important issues facing America today, one continues to be high on my priority list, K-12 Math and Science. What scares me the most is that no one seems to care - not parents, teachers, administrators, politicians or business people - that we have FALLEN TO 25th GLOBALLY IN MATH.
It has been our strength in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and the resultant innovation that fueled the great businesses of the 20th century. Automobiles, airplanes, radio, television, space travel, telecommunications and the Internet are just a few industries that are reliant on strong Math and Science skills and have produced a significant number of good jobs. There is a very good chance that our personal good fortunes can in some way be tied to the early innovation of our grandparents.
This comparative table needs no detailed explanation. Based on 2009 statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it clearly shows how far we have fallen and how competitive the rest of the world has become
In general, I agree entirely with the many commentators who have argued that the United States needs to produce more STEM graduates. But I also take note of the many people who have written to me to argue that the only truly employable STEM fields at the moment are engineering and computer science, and only certain disciplines within those. (I.e., I take the point made by many commenters that STEM graduates are not doing all that well in this economy either -- when we say STEM = employment, so commenters point out, we don't mean scientists or mathematicians as such, we mean particular fields of engineering and computer science. I can't vouch for that but do accept it.)
It's also worth keeping in mind that the United States could easily produce an excess of engineers -- yes, even engineers. The labor market of a complicated, division-of-labor society means many, many specializations, and most of them are not STEM. We need lawyers, human resources staff, janitors, communications specialists, and many things that too-reductionist a view might lead one to believe are purely frivolous intermediary occupations. Maybe they are parasitical, and maybe they will get squeezed out of existence over time. But there is a sometimes incorrect tendency these days to believe that since innovation is the heart of all increases in productivity and hence in long run growth and wealth, STEM must be responsible for it and that because STEM is the root of innovation, only STEM jobs are truly value added. I exaggerate for effect, but you see the point.
Both exams, that is the midterm and final exam for the online course "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence" by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig, can be taken at the University of Freiburg, supervised by Prof. Dr. Wolfram Burgard. For both exams, you will have to be physically present at the location mentioned below. If you should be unable to come to Freiburg for both exams, you cannot receive the certificate.
Why you would want to do that, if you can do it at home, too? Because if you will pass the exams, you will get a certificate (in German: Schein) signed by Prof. Wolfram Burgard that you have passed the exam of the course and that this is equivalent to the AI course at the Department of Computer Science of the University of Freiburg. Typically, German and many international Universities accept such a certificate.
If you would like to take part in the exams at the University of Freiburg, please write an e-mail to Prof. Dr. Burgard to enroll:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Please use the subject "Stanford AI Course Exam Registration" for your email.
Where can today's students go to learn how to make an app? That's the question Thomas Suarez, a sixth-grader from suburban Los Angeles, asked himself after realizing that most of his peers like to play games and use apps, but schools don't teach the basic programming skills needed to make them. So Suarez, who taught himself how to make apps using the iPhone software development kit--he created the anti-Justin Bieber, Whac-a-Mole-style game "Bustin Jieber"--decided to start an app club at school.
Suarez has been a technophile since kindergarten, and he already knows several programming languages. At a recent TEDx conference, he explained how students in the app club get the opportunity to learn and share their app making with each other. The club even asked the school's teachers what kinds of apps they could use in the classroom and then set out to design them.
How important are museums, TV shows and after school clubs to teaching kids science? Ira Flatow and guests look at "informal science education" and what researchers are learning about learning science. Plus, what's the best way to keep undergraduate science majors in science?
IRA FLATOW, host: This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. We're going to be hearing President Obama talking about the need to help kids learn science in places other than the classroom.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it's science festivals, robotic competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent, to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.
FLATOW: And we keep hearing about how American students are falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to math and science, but new studies are showing that the places to teach science, places where kids will soak up science, are not in the classrooms, but museum trips, TV shows, afterschool clubs, even radio shows about science. Has that been your experience, too? What do you think? How much of what you know about science comes from your experience outside of a classroom?
LAST FALL, President Obama threw what was billed as the first White House Science Fair, a photo op in the gilt-mirrored State Dining Room. He tested a steering wheel designed by middle schoolers to detect distracted driving and peeked inside a robot that plays soccer. It was meant as an inspirational moment: children, science is fun; work harder.
Politicians and educators have been wringing their hands for years over test scores showing American students falling behind their counterparts in Slovenia and Singapore. How will the United States stack up against global rivals in innovation? The president and industry groups have called on colleges to graduate 10,000 more engineers a year and 100,000 new teachers with majors in STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math. All the Sputnik-like urgency has put classrooms from kindergarten through 12th grade -- the pipeline, as they call it -- under a microscope. And there are encouraging signs, with surveys showing the number of college freshmen interested in majoring in a STEM field on the rise.
This year's Nobel Prize in Physics was shared between three scientists - Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Reiss - for discovering, through their research on supernovae, that the universe's rate of expansion is accelerating.
Yet, as the plaudits for the winners began to flow, one or two of their peers sounded notes of caution. Martin Rees, former president of the Royal Society, suggested that this was an instance where the Nobel committee had been "damagingly constrained" by its convention of not honouring more than three individuals at one time.
The prize-winning work had been carried out by two groups, each made up of a dozen or so scientists. "It would have been fairer," Rees argued, "and would send a less distorted message about how this kind of science is actually done, if the award had been made collectively to all members of the two groups."
Geography has long been recognized as a "core academic subject" in federal education legislation. However, unlike all the other core academic subjects, including history, civics, economics, foreign languages and the arts, there is no dedicated federal funding stream to advance geography education. As a result, our nation is facing a crisis in geographic literacy that is jeopardizing our global competitiveness, our position of diplomatic leadership, and our ability to fill and retain over 150,000 jobs in geospatial technology in the next decade.
The Royal Society continues to support scientific discovery by allowing free access to more than 250 years of leading research.
From October 2011, our world-famous journal archive - comprising more than 69,000 articles - will be opened up and all articles more than 70 years old will be made permanently free to access.
The Royal Society is the world's oldest scientific publisher and, as such, our archive is the most comprehensive in science. Treasures in the archive include Isaac Newton's first published scientific paper, geological work by a young Charles Darwin, and Benjamin Franklin's celebrated account of his electrical kite experiment. Readers willing to delve a little deeper may find some undiscovered gems from the dawn of the scientific revolution - including Robert Boyle's account of monstrous calves, grisly tales of students being struck by lightning, and early experiments on to how to cool drinks 'without the Help of Snow, Ice, Haile, Wind or Niter, and That at Any Time of the Year.'
In an ideal world, you might imagine that scientific papers were only cited by academics on the basis of their content. This might be true. But lots of other stuff can have an influence.
One classic paper from 1991, for example, found that academic papers covered by the New York Times received more subsequent citations. Now, you might reasonably suggest a simple explanation: the journalists of the Times were good at spotting the most important work. But the researchers looking into this were lucky. They noticed the opportunity for a natural experiment when the printers - but not the journalists - of the Times went on strike.
The editorial staff continued to produce a "paper of record", which was laid down in the archives, but never printed, never distributed and never read. The scientific articles covered in these unprinted newspapers didn't see a subsequent uplift in citations. That is, if we can take a moment, a very clever piece of opportunistic research.
Here's a blast from the somewhat-recent past: a set of five lectures I gave at CERN in 2005. It looks like the quality of the recording is pretty good. The first lecture was an overview at a colloquium level; i.e. meant for physicists, but not necessarily with any knowledge of cosmology. The next four are blackboard talks with a greater focus; they try to bring people up to speed on the basic tools you need to think about modern early-universe cosmology.
Obviously I'm not going to watch all five hours of these, so I'll just have to hope that I'm relatively coherent throughout. (I do remember being a bit jet-lagged.) But I do notice that, while it was only a few years ago, I do appear relatively young and enthusiastic. Ah, the ravages of Time...
Whether gas, liquid or solid; radioactive or stable, reactive or inert; toxic or in your vitamin pill, the 118 building blocks each have its own chemically idiosyncratic characteristics, along with certain commonalities. See what makes your favorite element unique on this interactive periodic table
I lied. My smartphone isn't a microscope -- yet. But there are some smart physicists who want to make that transformation possible very soon, if not for you and me at first, then for doctors who don't have easy access to laboratories.
There are a lot of ways to trick out your smartphone. And if you're an eager Apple fan, the brand-new iPhone 4S will come with fancy apps that use its increasingly sophisticated camera to scan and image the world. A smartphone camera lens can measure objects, help translate words, and even tell you whether your potato chips have been caught in a food safety recall.
But Sebastian Wachsmann-Hogiu and colleagues at the Center for Biophotonics, Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis say a smartphone's camera lens can also serve as a microscope and a spectrometer, which both could be pretty handy for looking at blood samples.
Science will soon join the short list of K-12 subjects for which American states, districts, and schools will have the option of using new, multi-state (aka, "national") academic standards rather than standards developed by individual states. One can reasonably surmise that new assessments aligned with those standards will follow in due course, as will curricula, professional development, textbooks, and much more.
Is this a good thing for American students and teachers--and for the nation's future? It depends, of course, on whether the new standards (and ensuing assessments, etc.) are better than those that states have been devising and deploying on their own. Today, every state has its own unique version of K-12 science standards. A year or so from now, however, many of them are apt to be deciding whether to replace their individual standards with the new multi-state standards that a (privately funded) consortium of organizations (led by Achieve, Inc.) recently began to draft.
Cognitive psychology is, broadly, the study of mental processes almost as if the human mind was a type of computer. It is generally a highly empirical academic discipline relying on experimentation to study faculties such as language, attention and memory. It could be revolutionized by smartphones.
The current problem, according to a paper in peer-reviewed publication PLoS One, is that experiments usually rely on groups of volunteers coming to a research facility. By using smartphone technology instead, data could be collected from thousands of subjects across the world.
The paper comes from an international group of researchers who have been running a classic experiment which asks users to distinguish rapidly between words and non-words. (Its results can be used, for example, in the diagnosis of reading impairments.) Participants in the experiment downloaded a free app from iTunes to use on their iPhone or iPad.
A thought-provoking essay> in the current issue of National Affairs by the prolific and sardonic Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute calls for a retreat from education reform's long-held focus on closing the achievement gap. Hess feels the federal No Child Left Behind Act has, ironically, become "education policy that has shortchanged many children." His thesis is that by focusing on improving achievement scores of the lowest performing subgroups of students, opportunities for reform that would also benefit the other students have been passed up. The result is that many parents, educators, principals, and elected officials see school reform as inapplicable to the average- or highly-performing students who make up the majority of children in most classrooms across the country.
Which begs the question--if most children in the country are, in fact, being served pretty well by their public schools (and there can be strong arguments made that children who are white, or female, or upper class, or suburban are served well enough by public schools), then why should the adults who care for and educate them want to reform their schools? Should education reform affect change throughout the system or should it focus more narrowly on those students poorly served by public schooling?
While Perry has been outspoken against the Common Core, he and his education commissioner have pulled the quality of Texas tests up to a level respected among education reformers. Test scores among kids of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are higher in Texas than in Wisconsin, for example, which has fewer students qualifying for free- and reduced-price lunch.National Center for Education Statistics State Education Data Profiles.
Though Perry will probably make this point on the campaign trail, he's not likely to promise to take over the nation's schools. On the contrary, he'll likely pick up on his recent call to repeal No Child Left Behind and let states take charge of their education systems. In his book released last year, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington, Perry argues that Washington has taken power away from states. At a speech in November in Washington, Perry took aim at two of former President Bush's signature accomplishments, No Child Left Behind and the Medicare drug benefit program, saying they were examples of areas in which Washington need not be.
"Those are both big government but more importantly, they were Washington-centric," he told the Dallas Morning News. "One size does not fit all, unless you're talking tube socks."
much more at www.wisconsin2.org
By Reihan Salam
I've been eagerly awaiting the release of the latest issue of National Affairs, which includes Rick Hess's fascinating and at times provocative discussion, or perhaps I say "devastating takedown," of "achievement-gap mania." The following paragraph gives you a hint as to Hess's conclusion:
In essence, NCLB was an effort to link "conservative" nostrums of accountability to Great Society notions of "social justice." The result was a noble exercise hailed for its compassion. The sad truth, however, is that the whole achievement-gap enterprise has been bad for schooling, bad for most children, and bad for the nation.
I found his discussion of the neglect of advanced and gifted education particularly convincing, as well as his recounting of how the "delusion of rigor" has undermined quality control across many domains. Hess ends his essay with an accounting of where "achievement-gap mania" has left the politics of K-12.
(1) Reforming education has become someone else's problem:
First, achievement-gap mania has signaled to the vast majority of American parents that school reform isn't about their kids. They are now expected to support efforts to close the achievement gap simply because it's "the right thing to do," regardless of the implications for their own children's education. In fact, given that only about one household in five even contains school-age children -- and given that two-thirds of families with children do not live in underserved urban neighborhoods, or do not send their kids to public schools, or otherwise do not stand to benefit from the gap-closing agenda -- the result is a tiny potential constituency for achievement-gap reform, made up of perhaps 6% or 7% of American households.
Because middle-class parents and suburbanites have no personal stake in the gap-closing enterprise, reforms are tolerated rather than embraced. The most recent annual Gallup poll on attitudes toward schooling reported that just 20% of respondents said "improving the nation's lowest-performing schools" was the most important of the nation's education challenges. Indeed, while just 18% of the public gave American schools overall an A or a B, a sizable majority thought their own elementary and middle schools deserved those high grades. The implication is that most Americans, even those with school-age children, currently see education reform as time and money spent on other people's children.
(2) Reforming education for the majority of students who come non-poor families is seen as somehow unnecessary:
Second, achievement-gap mania has created a dangerous complacency, giving suburban and middle-class Americans the false sense that things are just fine in their own schools. Thus it's no surprise that professionals and suburbanites tend to regard "reforms" -- from merit pay to charter schooling -- as measures that they'll tolerate as long as they're reserved for urban schools, but that they won't stand for in their own communities. ...
Gap-closing strategies can be downright unhelpful or counterproductive when it comes to serving most students and families, and so can turn them off to education reform altogether. Longer school years and longer school days can be terrific for disadvantaged students or low achievers, but may be a recipe for backlash if imposed on families who already offer their kids many summer opportunities and extracurricular activities. Policies that seek to shift the "best" teachers to schools and classrooms serving low-achieving children represent a frontal assault on middle-class and affluent families. And responding to such concerns by belittling them is a sure-fire strategy for ensuring that school reform never amounts to more than a self-righteous crusade at odds with the interests of most middle-class families.
This is one reason why Hess rightly bristled at the crusader mentality that informs films like the recent Waiting for 'Superman.'
(3) Education reform has come to be associated with metrics that aren't particularly helpful for schools that serve non-poor students.
Third, achievement-gap mania has prompted reformers to treat schools as instruments to be used in crafting desired social outcomes, capable of being "fixed" simply through legislative solutions and federal policies. This tendency is hardly surprising, given that most of the thinking about achievement gaps is done in the context not of education reform but of "social justice." Thus gap-closers approach the challenge not as educators but as social engineers, determined to see schools fix the problems that job-training initiatives, urban redevelopment, income supports, and a slew of other well-intentioned government welfare programs have failed to address.
With the social engineer's calm assurance that there are clear, identifiable interventions to resolve every problem, today's education reformers insist that closing the achievement gap is a simple matter of identifying "what works" and then requiring schools to do it. And integral to determining "what works" has been evaluating different strategies in terms of their effects on reading and math scores and graduation rates. This approach has been especially popular when it comes to identifying good teachers. But while the ability to move these scores may be 90% of the job for an elementary-school teacher in Philadelphia or Detroit, it doesn't necessarily make sense to use these metrics to evaluate teachers in higher-performing schools -- where most children easily clear the literacy and numeracy bar, and where parents are more concerned with how well teachers develop their children's other skills and talents.
As Hess has argued elsewhere, what we really need is a more diverse ecology of specialized instructional providers tailored to meet the needs of individual students, including advanced and gifted students, rather than rigid carrot-and-stick systems designed to "fix" centralized command-and-control systems not by making them less centralized and command-and-control, but rather by issuing new commands from the center.
(4) This "what works" mentality, which implicitly assumes that there are a few simple nostrums that "work" in every or at least most cases, has proved a barrier to innovation:
Fourth, the achievement-gap mindset stifles innovation. When a nation focuses all its energies on boosting the reading and math scores of the most vulnerable students, there is neither much cause nor much appetite for developing and pursuing education strategies capable of improving American schools overall.
Consider the case of school choice. Today, for all the vague talk of innovation, charter schools and school vouchers rarely do more than allow poor, urban students to move from unsafe, horrific schools into better conventional-looking schools. The leading brands in charter schooling, for instance, almost uniformly feature traditional classrooms; an extended school day, school year, or both; and a reliance on directive pedagogy attuned to the needs of disadvantaged students. In other words, these are terrific 19th-century schools. One has to search long and hard among the nation's more than 5,000 charter schools to find the handful that are experimenting with labor-saving technologies, technology-infused instruction, or new staffing models better suited to the 21st century.
Furthermore, the intense focus on gap-closing has led to a notion of "innovation" dedicated almost entirely to driving up math and reading scores and graduation rates for low-income and minority students. Promising innovations that promote science, foreign-language learning, or musical instruction have garnered little public investment or acclaim. Even in terms of math and reading, there is not much interest in interventions that do not show up on standardized state assessments.
(5) And interestingly, Rick argues that gap-closing has dimmed interest in promoting racially and socioeconomically integrated schools.
As always, the essay is worth reading in full. I haven't done it justice.
Scientists habitually moan that the public doesn't understand them. But they complain too much: public ignorance isn't peculiar to science. It's sad if some citizens can't tell a proton from a protein. But it's equally sad if they're ignorant of their nation's history, can't speak a second language, or can't find Venezuela or Syria on a map.
Indeed, I'm gratified and surprised that so many people are interested in dinosaurs, the Large Hadron Collider or alien life - all blazingly irrelevant to our day-to-day lives. We should be grateful to David Attenborough, Robert Winston, Brian Cox and other popular writers and television presenters for generating such interest. But it's depressing that all too often this natural enthusiasm of the young has been stifled by the time they leave school.
That's sad, because science is important for its own sake. It is a cultural deprivation not to appreciate the wonderful panorama offered by modern cosmology, DNA and Darwinian evolution. This common understanding should transcend all national differences - and all faiths, too. It should be part of global culture; but even in the UK a group of scientists including Attenborough has this week felt the need to reassert this.
Last Thursday, Dr. Christopher Sutton, professor of geography at Western Illinois University, delivered the ninth annual John Hallwas Liberal Arts Lecture, entitled "Geography Matters! The Importance of Geographic Literacy in Liberal Arts Education."
"Everybody views the world in a geographical context," he said. "We do it all the time in our everyday pursuits."
Sutton believes that geography has escaped public interest due to a lack of mainstream understanding.
"We seem to not have a good sense of what it is, who does it, and why in the world we actually do it," he said.
At its simplest, he explained, the study of geography is devoted to further understanding the connections between humans and the world around them.
"We're interested in understanding the links between humans and their natural environment," he said. "We're interested in the linkages that exist between people, and how our connections that exist between people and cultures and governments and the economies affect one another."
THE idea of moving objects with the power of the mind has fascinated mankind for millennia. At first it was the province of gods, then sorcerers and witches. In the late 19th century psychokinesis, as the trick then came to be known, became a legitimate object of study, as part of the nascent field of parapsychology, before falling into disrepute in the arch-rationalist 20th century. Since the 1990s, however, it has seen something of a revival, under a more scientifically acceptable guise.
There is nothing particularly magical about moving things with thoughts. Human beings perform the feat every time they move a limb, or breathe, by sending electrical impulses to appropriate muscles. If these electrical signals could be detected and interpreted, the argument goes, there is in principle no reason why they could not be used to steer objects other than the thinker's own body. Indeed, over the past two decades brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) which use electrodes implanted in the skull have enabled paralysed patients to control computer cursors, robotic arms and wheelchairs.
[Note from Laurie Rogers: Recently, results from the 2011 state standardized test scores came out, and the general impression given to the public -- for example from the state education agency (OSPI) and from media in Seattle and in Spokane -- was that improvements had been made. It's all in the definitions: How do you define "improvement"? Did some of the numbers go up? Assuredly. Did that mean that real improvments in real academic knowledge had been made? It's best to remain skeptical.
Most students in Spokane are as weak in math skill this year as they were last year. Given a proper math test that assesses for basic skills, many high schoolers still test into 4th or 5th-grade math. College remedial rates are still high. Parents are still frantic, and students are still stressed out about math. So ... what do those higher scores actually mean? I've been trying to find out. It's hard to say.
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Nicolaus Copernicus, the man credited with turning our perception of the cosmos inside out, was born in the city of Torun, part of "Old Prussia" in the Kingdom of Poland, at 4:48 on Friday afternoon, February 19 1473. By the time his horoscope for that auspicious moment was created - at the end of the astronomer's life - his contemporaries already knew that he had fathered an alternative universe: that he had defied common sense and received wisdom to place the Sun at the centre of the heavens, then set the Earth in motion around it.
Copernicus grew up Niklas Koppernigk, the second son and youngest of four children of a merchant family. He was raised in Torun, in a tall brick house that is now a museum to the memory of the town's famous son. From here, he and his brother, Andrei, could walk to classes at the parish school of St. John's Church or to the family warehouse near the river Vistula. When Niklas was 10, his father died, and he and his siblings came under the care of their maternal uncle, Lukasz Watzenrode, a minor cleric, or "canon", in a nearby diocese. He arranged a marriage contract for one niece and consigned the other to a convent, but his nephews he supported at school, until they were ready to attend his alma mater, the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. By then, Uncle Lukasz had risen to become Bishop of Varmia.
Steven Brill has it exactly right when he says that "our nation's economy, security, and core values depend on [the] success" of our public schools.
That's what President George W. Bush had in mind when he signed "No Child Left Behind" into law in 2001. Signaling his strong concerns about that legislation's shortcomings, it is also why Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced earlier this month that he would override the requirement under No Child Left Behind that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014.
Mr. Duncan said he is waiving the law's proficiency requirements for states that have adopted their own testing and accountability programs and are making other strides toward better schools. Without the waivers, he said, 80 percent of American schools would get failing grades under the law.
But No Child Left Behind has an even more pernicious effect - it is discouraging the teaching of science courses, particularly at the elementary level, at a time when America needs them the most. What is more central to our current economy, security and core values than science? Where would we be without Google and Apple, stealth technology, gene-based therapy, and high-tech prosthetics?
Do you know who is responsible for collecting fuel wood and water for families in East Africa?
Can you identify South America by looking at a diagram of its elevation changes in profile?
Those are sample questions found on the National Assessment of Educational Progress geography assessment test for 12th-grade students this year.
If you don't know the answers, you're not alone. Only 25 percent of American students passed the test.
It's a far cry from most people's perception of geography skills, such as identifying a river or mountain range on a map. It's one of the main reasons the subject doesn't get the same attention as others, such as math and English.
Faced with an increasing stream of data from the Web and other electronic sources, many companies are seeking managers who can make sense of the numbers through the growing practice of data analytics, also known as business intelligence. Finding qualified candidates has proven difficult, but business schools hope to fill the talent gap.
This fall several schools, including Fordham University's Graduate School of Business and Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, are unveiling analytics electives, certificates and degree programs; other courses and programs were launched in the previous school year.
International Business Machines Corp., which has invested more than $14 billion buying analytics industry companies such as Coremetrics and Netezza Corp. since 2005, has teamed up with more than 200 schools, including Fordham, to develop analytics curriculum and training.
Give a kid a chance and you'll be amazed at what happens next.
That thought kept rolling through my mind as I surveyed the controlled chaos that was lunch for 80 teenagers who'd moved onto Stanford's campus to take five summer weeks of intensive math and science courses.
I know. What's so different about a passel of brilliant kids studying hard stuff at Stanford?
Well, for one thing, a pessimist might look at these particular kids working their way through hamburgers, chicken and mashed potatoes, and conclude that they are not college material. In fact, the vast majority of them would be the first in their families to go to college. Nearly all of them attend high schools where most students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. Some live in tough neighborhoods. Some dodge gangs on the way to and from school -- and maybe even at school.
But that's not what defines them. Not at all. The kids at Stanford, members of the inaugural class of the Silicon Valley version of the Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH), are energetic, optimistic, determined, resourceful and approaching brilliant.
Kevin Johnson, chief executive of Juniper Networks, one of the biggest network equipment makers, talks to the FT's Paul Taylor about cloud computing, innovation, video and his worries about the failure of the US education system to produce home-grown talent
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One of the many things I learned producing my film The Finland Phenomenon, was the importance of setting a very high standard for the education and training of teachers.
Finland's high school teachers are required to have both a Bachelors and Masters degree in the subject they teach (e.g. - math, physics, history, etc) combined with one-year of pedagogical training with very heavy emphasis in real classroom teaching experience under the guidance of an outstanding seasoned teacher.
By contrast, most U.S. States require only a Bachelors degree from a college of education with an emphasis in the subject to be taught - and frequently that subject matter is taught by professors in the Education School, not in the actual subject department. Think of it as content and rigor "light" for teachers.
So, what should America do to apply this obvious lesson from Finland? My thoughts:
1- each U.S. State needs to cut off the supply of teachers not sufficiently prepared to teach this generation at its source. The source is colleges of education. A State legislature and Governor can change the requirements to be a teacher in their State. All it takes is courage to withstand the screams from colleges of education - the sacred cash cow of most universities.
2- To teach at the high school level, a State should require the prospective teacher to have at least an undergraduate degree in the subject they plan to teach and from the department that teaches that subject (e.g. - teaching math? Require a B.S. from the Math department).
Once upon a time, the car was the key to understanding the U.S. economy. Then it was the family home. Nowadays, it is any device created by Steven P. Jobs. Call it the Apple economy, and if you can figure out how it works, you will have a good handle on how technology and globalization are redistributing money and jobs around the world.
That was the epiphany of Greg Linden, Jason Dedrick and Kenneth L. Kraemer, a troika of scholars who have made a careful study in a pair of recent papers of how the iPod has created jobs and profits around the world. The latest paper, "Innovation and Job Creation in a Global Economy: The Case of Apple's iPod," was published last month in The Journal of International Commerce and Economics.
One of their findings is that in 2006 the iPod employed nearly twice as many people outside the United States as it did in the country where it was invented -- 13,920 in the United States, and 27,250 abroad.
You probably aren't surprised by that result, but if you are American, you should be a little worried. That is because Apple is the quintessential example of the Yankee magic everyone from Barack Obama to Michele Bachmann insists will pull America out of its job crisis -- the remarkable ability to produce innovators and entrepreneurs. But today those thinkers and tinkerers turn out to be more effective drivers of job growth outside the United States than they are at home.
Florida is a state of stark contrasts. Travel a few miles from the opulent mansions of Miami Beach and you reach desperately poor neighborhoods. There's the grinding poverty of sugar cane country and the growing middle class of Jacksonville. All told, half the public-school students in Florida qualify for subsidized lunches. Many are the first in their families to speak English or contemplate attending college.Wisconsin's results are here, while Madison's are here.
In many states, those economic differences are reflected in the classroom, with students in wealthy schools taking many more advanced courses.
The Opportunity Gap
But not in Florida. A ProPublica analysis of previously unreleased federal data shows that Florida leads the nation in the percentage of high-school students enrolled in high-level classes--Advanced Placement and advanced math. That holds true across rich and poor districts.
Studies repeatedly have shown that students who take advanced classes have greater chances of attending and succeeding in college.
Our analysis identifies several states that, like Florida, have leveled the field and now offer rich and poor students roughly equal access to high-level courses.
In Kansas, Maryland and Oklahoma, by contrast, such opportunities are far less available in districts with poorer families.
That disparity is part of what experts call the "opportunity gap."
Students across the U.S. are enjoying or getting ready for summer vacation, but teachers may be looking forward to the break even more. American teachers are the most productive among major developed countries, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data from 2008 -- the most recent available.Curriculum is certainly worth a hard look.
Among 27 member nations tracked by the OECD, U.S. primary-school educators spent 1,097 hours a year teaching despite only spending 36 weeks a year in the classroom -- among the lowest among the countries tracked. That was more than 100 hours more than New Zealand, in second place at 985 hours, despite students in that country going to school for 39 weeks. The OECD average is 786 hours.
And that's just the time teachers spend on instruction. Including hours teachers spend on work at home and outside the classroom, American primary-school educators spend 1,913 working in a year. According to data from the comparable year in a Labor Department survey, an average full-time employee works 1,932 hours a year spread out over 48 weeks (excluding two weeks vacation and federal holidays).
Understanding the genome
The sequencing of the 6 billion chemical "letters" of human DNA was completed in draft in 2000 and in final form in 2003. But clinical benefits have arrived more slowly than the initial hype suggested. This is mainly because the human genome actually works in a much more complex way than predicted by the late-20th-century model.
Twenty-first-century research shows that we have only 21,000 genes, one-fifth of the number predicted when the project started, and that just 1.5 per cent of the genome consists of conventional protein-coding genes. Efforts are under way to understand the vital regulatory and other functions of the non-coding regions of the genome, once dismissed wrongly as "junk DNA".
A mind is a precious thing to waste, so why are millions of America's students wasting theirs by going to college? All of us who have been there know an undergraduate education is primarily a four year vacation interrupted by periodic bouts of cramming or Google plagiarizing, but at least it used to serve a purpose. It weeded out underachievers and proved at a minimum that you could pass an SAT test. For those who made it to the good schools, it proved that your parents had enough money to either bribe administrators or hire SAT tutors to increase your score by 500 points. And a degree represented that the graduate could "party hearty" for long stretches of time and establish social networking skills that would prove invaluable later on at office cocktail parties or interactively via Facebook. College was great as long as the jobs were there.
Now, however, a growing number of skeptics wonder whether it's worth the time or the cost. Peter Thiel, an early investor in Facebook and head of Clarium Capital, a long-standing hedge fund, has actually established a foundation to give 20 $100,000 grants to teenagers who would drop out of school and become not just tech entrepreneurs but world-changing visionaries. College, in his and the minds of many others, is stultifying and outdated - overpriced and mismanaged - with very little value created despite the bump in earnings power that universities use as their raison d'être in our modern world of money.
Fact: College tuition has increased at a rate 6% higher than the general rate of inflation for the past 25 years, making it four times as expensive relative to other goods and services as it was in 1985. Subjective explanation: University administrators have a talent for increasing top line revenues via tuition, but lack the spine necessary to upgrade academic productivity. Professorial tenure and outdated curricula focusing on liberal arts instead of a more practical global agenda focusing on math and science are primary culprits.
In nature, the balance of males and females is maintained by natural selection acting on parents. As Sir Ronald Fisher brilliantly pointed out in 1930, a surplus of one sex will be redressed by selection in favour of rearing the other sex, up to the point where it is no longer the minority. It isn't quite as simple as that. You have to take into account the relative economic costs of rearing one sex rather than the other. If, say, it costs twice as much to rear a son to maturity as a daughter (e.g. because males are bigger than females), the true choice facing a parent is not "Shall I rear a son or a daughter?" but "Shall I rear a son or two daughters?"
So, Fisher concluded, what is equlibrated by natural selection is not the total numbers of sons and daughters born in the population, but the total parental expenditure on sons versus daughters. In practice, this usually amounts to an approximately equal ratio of males to females in the population at the end of the period of parental expenditure.
Note that the word 'decision' doesn't mean conscious decision: we employ the usual 'selfish gene' metaphorical reasoning, in which natural selection favours genes that produce behaviour 'as if' decisions are being made.
CyberPatriot is the National High School Cyber Defense Competition created by the Air Force Association (AFA) to excite, educate, and motivate the next generation of cyber defenders and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates our nation needs.
In the mountains of southwestern Virginia, Gequetta Bright Laney taught public high school students this spring about a subject of keen interest to the region's biggest employer: the economics of coal mining.
"Where there's coal, there's opportunity," Bright Laney told her class at Coeburn High School in Wise County.
Her lessons, like others in dozens of public schools across the country, were approved and funded by the coal industry. Such efforts reflect a broader pattern of private-sector attempts to influence what gets taught in public schools.
Eager to burnish its reputation, the energy industry is spending significant sums of money on education in communities with sensitive coal, natural gas and oil exploration projects. The industry aims to teach students about its contributions to local economies and counter criticism from environmental groups.
ids, step away from the scalpels.
In a win for animal rights activists, foregoing the formaldehyde-laced high school rite of passage, Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley, California will swap real frogs for their virtual counterparts. In exchange for a minimum five-year commitment, the school will receive free software courtesy of animal-rights groups who advocate for the virtual curriculum.
While the school's assistant principal, Kevin Stipp, said the virtual lesson will not be the same as performing the dissection on a real animal, he told the Riverside Press Enterprise, "it's not so drastically different that the kids won't get something out of it."
Solving the world's most pressing challenges will require innovations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (also called STEM). From climate change to fiscal meltdowns, renewable energy to eradicating diseases, from food security to global and local health, the STEM disciplines are at the very center of our quest to improve our lives and the condition of our world.
If we are to bring new ideas to long-standing problems and new talent to emerging opportunities, we need to educate all of our young people to higher levels of understanding in the STEM fields. Despite the heroic efforts of our nation's best teachers and principals, our schools are ill-equipped to do that: According to international comparisons, U.S. students ranked below 22 countries in science and below 30 countries in math. And yet our communities are filled with many of the world's most talented professionals in these fields. They work in hospitals, universities, and museums; biotech, engineering, and architecture firms; graphic-design and urban-planning studios; hedge funds, banks, and computer-software, gaming, and pharmaceutical companies. They just rarely directly impact our public schools.
Stacie Bumgarner is a research scientist in the Biology Department at MIT. She leads school outreach efforts for the Office of Educational Innovation & Technology. She is working with JFY Networks to expand the use of two sophisticated science simulations to high school students in Boston:
Arguably, no challenge faced by humanity is more critical than generating an environmentally literate public. Otherwise the present "business as usual" course of human affairs will lead inevitably to a collapse of civilization. I list obvious topics that should be covered in education from kindergarten through college, and constantly updated by public education and the media. For instance, these include earth science (especially climatology), the importance of biodiversity, basic demogra- phy, the problems of overconsumption, the fact that the current economic system compels producers and consumers to do the wrong thing environmentally, and the I=PAT equation. I also summarize less well-recognized aspects of the environmental situation that are critical but are only rarely taught or discussed, such as the nonlinear effects of continued population growth, the impacts of climate disruption on agricultural production, and the basic issues of human behavior, including economic behavior. Finally, I suggest some of the ways that this material can be made a major focus of all education, ranging from using environmental examples in kindergarten stories and middle school math to establish an international discussion of the behavioral barriers to sustainability.
Global human society is challenged in a way never before seen in human history. For the first time, humanity is fundamentally altering global ecosystems in ways that can threaten the continuation of our social order. The struggle to develop appropriate modes of behavior compatible with maintaining vital ecological processes is the great challenge of the twenty-first century. Educational systems are pivotal to meeting this challenge by equipping people with the knowledge and values to understand and address the human predicament. Thus, environmental education needs to be a vital component of all educational processes in developed nations from kindergarten to doctoral studies and continuing through the use of mainstream and social media.
However, in my view, environmental education is given much too little attention in the school systems of the USA and other rich nations, and is often poorly timed and structured when it is delivered. The situation is only marginally better in colleges and universities, despite the good efforts of environmental educators. Perhaps the best evidence for the inadequacy of environmental education is that "out of the classroom, people have failed to make the link between their individual actions and the environmental condition" (Blumstein and Saylan 2007, 2011). A basic problem is educational systems for the young are designed to fill people with various packages of "tailored" knowledge, and then send them "out in the world" to use that knowledge, especially to make a living. There is too little systematic thought given to the ever-changing needs of responsible citizens facing the culture gap--the enormous and growing gulf between the non-genetic information possessed by each individual society and that possessed by society (Ehrlich and Ehrlich 2010).
China's aggressive drive to close the gap with the West in stem-cell research is paying off after five years of heavy investment in a branch of science free of the tight regulatory constraints and intense debate over moral issues that hamper experimental work elsewhere.
A decade ago, China had 37 stem-cell research papers published by reputable journals. By 2008, it was 1,116, the China Medical Tribune said. It now ranks fifth in the world in both the number of stem-cell patents filed and research papers published. And its numbers are growing faster than in any other nation.
Biology used to be about plants, animals and insects, but five great revolutions have changed the way that scientists think about life: the invention of the microscope, the systematic classification of the planet's living creatures, evolution, the discovery of the gene and the structure of DNA. Now, a sixth is on its way - mathematics.
Maths has played a leading role in the physical sciences for centuries, but in the life sciences it was little more than a bit player, a routine tool for analysing data. However, it is moving towards centre stage, providing new understanding of the complex processes of life.
The ideas involved are varied and novel; they range from pattern formation to chaos theory. They are helping us to understand not just what life is made from, but how it works, on every scale from molecules to the entire planet - and possibly beyond.
The biggest revolution in modern biology was the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA, which turned genetics into a branch of chemistry, centred on a creature's genes - sequences of DNA code that specify the proteins from which the gene is made. But when attention shifted to what genes do in an organism, the true depth of the problem of life became ever more apparent. Listing the proteins that make up a cat does not tell us everything we want to know about cats.
Lab technicians at the Beijing Genomics Institute in Shenzhen, China. Clockwise from upper left: Zhi Wei Luo; Wan Ling Li; Zi Long Zhang; and Yu Zhu Xu.
The world's largest genome-mapping facility is in an unlikely corner of China. Hidden away in a gritty neighborhood in Shenzhen's Yantian district, surrounded by truck-repair shops and scrap yards prowled by chickens, Beijing's most ambitious biomedical project is housed in a former shoe factory.
But the modest gray exterior belies the state-of-the-art research inside. In immaculate, glass-walled and neon-lit rooms resembling intensive care units, rows of identical machines emit a busy hum. The Illumina HiSeq 2000 is a top-of-the-line genome-sequencing machine that carries a price tag of $500,000. There are 128 of them here, flanked by rows of similar high-tech equipment, making it possible for the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) to churn out more high quality DNA-sequence data than all U.S. academic facilities put together.
"Genes build the future," announces a poster on the wall, and there is no doubt that China has set its eye on that future. This year, Forbes magazine estimated that the genomics market will reach $100 billion over the next decade, with scientists analyzing vast quantities of data to offer new ways to fight disease, feed the world, and harness microbes for industrial purposes. "The situation in genomics resembles the early days of the Internet," says Harvard geneticist George Church, who advises BGI and a number of American genomics companies. "No one knows what will turn out to be the killer apps." Companies such as Microsoft, Google, IBM, and Intel have already invested in genomics, seeing the field as an extension of their own businesses--data handling and management. "The big realization is that biology has become an information science," says Dr. Yang Huanming, cofounder and president of BGI. "If we accept that [genomics] builds on the digitalization of life, then all kinds of genetic information potentially holds value."
Do you know a teacher who brings learning to life? Whether you're a student, parent, teacher or school administrator, you can nominate your K-6 teacher for a chance to win an all-expense paid trip to Science in the Rockies, Steve Spangler's three-day hands-on science teacher training in Denver.
It was lunch hour and hundreds of Dos Pueblos High School students surged onto the bleachers at the school's outdoor Greek Theater. The crowd was cheering, the music was thumping and a student-built robot named Penguinbot IV was wheeling and pivoting, sucking up dozens of lightweight balls and shooting them at the young athletes who had ventured onstage.
From a console to one side, teenagers in black, NASA-style jumpsuits guided the 150-pound machine as it weaved and dodged. When the robot and star basketball player Jay Larinan began pelting each other, a girl in the stands screamed, "I believe in you, Jay!" The crowd went wild.
It was the kind of free-spirited scene that gladdens the heart of Amir Abo-Shaeer, the 39-year-old physics teacher who each year leads the school's robotics team into a rigorous national competition that requires months of preparation and a season's worth of intense face-offs.
There have been fresh calls for schools to dump the dull ICT lessons that are turning kids off IT and failing to create the type of IT-savvy employees that UK businesses need.
Earlier this year, a discussion forum on digital skills heard from a BCS member and IT teacher that pupils and teachers are "bored rigid" by ICT lessons in their present form.
Intellect, the trade body for the UK's tech sector, has now called on the government to drop ICT lessons in their current form from the national curriculum and replace them with ones that focus on higher-value computer science skills. The organisation was submitting its response to a Department of Education review of the National Curriculum in England, launched in January this year.
ICT should also be taught by embedding interactive and multimedia technology across every subject, according to Intellect - which believes technology businesses could play a role here to help teachers make the best use of relevant equipment by supporting training.
Intellect reckons the ICT curriculum is too focused on teaching pupils how to use a limited number of software packages and is therefore failing to inspire students to develop more advanced computer skills.
Madison's Warner Park may be best known as home of the Madison Mallards baseball team, but it's also home to real mallards and at least 99 other species of wild birds.
Thanks to a group of outdoor-loving Sherman Middle School students working with University of Wisconsin-Madison student mentors, the list of wild birds that make the almost 200 acre urban park their home, or their temporary home as they migrate north and south, now stands at 100.
The first week in April the Sherman birding club, which includes sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students partnered with UW students, discovered the landmark 100th species in the park. It's a yellow-bellied sapsucker, a type of woodpecker, sighted with the help of nationally renowned ornithologist and author John C. Robinson.
Robinson was visiting Madison to give a talk at the UW on conservation and outdoor recreation.
Physicist, neuroscience entrepreneur and businessman, Jon Joseph traded the money and prestige of a flourishing career in corporate America for the opportunity to teach high level calculus, computer science and physics to high school kids. He's doing his thing in the northern Green County community of New Glarus, teaching at a high school where there were exactly zero Advanced Placement courses less than 15 years ago.Somewhat related, from a financial and curricular perspective: The Khan Academy.
A shortened version of his professional resume includes a Ph.D. in physics with a focus on neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While an assistant professor at UW, he founded the Biomagnetic Research Laboratory for brain research. He left academia for the corporate world in 1989, doing brain research for Nicolet Biomedical and later moving to the NeuroCare Division of VIASYS Healthcare, where he was chief technology officer and VP of engineering and new technology. Most recently, he was part of a startup company called Cyberkinetics, where he was vice president of research and development. He got his teaching certificate in 2006, and previously taught in Madison and Middleton. In New Glarus, he heads up the math and computer science department.
Capital Times: Describe the work you did before you became a teacher.
Jon Joseph: I spent a lot of time b
Gary Stresman stands on a chair in the cafeteria in Nicolet High School addressing a bustling crowd of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Though it's rather early on a Saturday morning and they are in a school, the students are excited.
They are at a science fair.
It's going to be a great day, Stresman tells them. They should be proud of the work they put into their projects and be ready to have some fun, he says.
"Because science is cool, right?" he asks.
"Right!" they answer him.
That enthusiasm for science fairs - once a staple of school life - doesn't burn as brightly throughout Wisconsin.
In recent years, Wisconsin's statewide science fair, which takes the winners from the eight regional fairs around the state, has drawn about 75 high school students. Milwaukee is down to one districtwide science fair for MPS, after the Milwaukee Regional Science and Engineering Fair folded in 2009.
Richard Miller has had one of the toughest jobs in higher education. The Olin Foundation tapped him a dozen years ago to create an engineering college on a hilltop in the Boston suburb of Needham. When Miller started, there were no buildings, no faculty, no curriculum, no students.
The foundation's mandate: design a boldly original model for a 21st century school whose graduates would be not just accomplished engineers but world-beater entrepreneurs and leaders.
Now the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering has a wind-swept cluster of six earth-toned buildings, 347 brainy students who pay a maximum of $38,000 tuition, an untenured faculty totaling 25 men and 13 women and a curriculum oriented toward what Miller calls "design based" learning. Miller, who has a Ph.D. in applied mechanics from the California Institute of Technology, has honed his leadership skills as Olin's chief creator and builder. The following is an edited version of an interview with Miller conducted by Inc. contributor Joseph Rosenbloom.
The data from which this conclusion was drawn were collected between 2003 and 2007 on one of the most scientifically productive holidays in history. This was a round-the-world cruise taken by Craig Venter on his yacht, Sorcerer II, which studied the diversity of micro-organisms in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.The Road Not Taken....
Dr Venter was working out his frustrations after having been fired in 2002 from Celera Genomics, a company he helped set up in 1998 with the specific aim of sequencing the human genome faster and better than the public Human Genome Project was managing at the time. In that, it succeeded. In the wider aim of turning such knowledge into hard cash, however, it was nowhere near as successful as its financial backers had hoped. Dr Venter therefore found himself with more time on his hands than he had been planning.
His killer app in Celera's assembly of the human genome was a technique called shotgun sequencing. This first shreds a genome into pieces small enough for sequencing machines to handle, then stitches the sequenced pieces back together by matching the overlaps using a computer. In principle, he realised, that trick could be used on mixed DNA from more than one organism. A good enough program would stitch together only fragments from the same type of creature. This would allow you to see what was living in a sample without having to culture anything. And since a huge majority of micro-organisms (by some estimates, 97%) cannot be cultured, that sounded like a great idea.
Metagenomics [Wolfram Alpha], as the new technique is known, has vastly extended knowledge of what bugs live in the sea--and in many other places, from hot springs to animals' guts. It is not perfect. In practice a lot of what emerges are fragments of genomes, rather than complete assemblies. But it has been enormously successful at identifying previously unknown individual genes.
Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script -- give students video lectures to watch at home, and do "homework" in the classroom with the teacher available to help.Khan discusses moving away from the "one size fits all" approach to education. However, he does advocate "peer to peer tutoring".......
Seattle Public high schools have a wide variety of really good science classes. They range from the BioTech program at Ballard (celebrating its 10th year in 2011) to Marine Science to Forensics and many others. Here is a link to the SPS page on this issue.
The district is now moving onto science curriculum alignment as part of their overall alignment process. I do understand the idea of alignment so that students who move from school to school (and it happens more than you might think) will find the same level of instruction. This is fine.
The issue is that the district wants to make 4 science classes mandatory for graduation. Those classes are physical science, biology, chemistry and physics.
What that means is that most of the other science classes, unless they get certified as a substitute for one of the four, will be electives (AP and IB science courses will also count as substitutes). With so many other subject requirements for graduation, it is unlikely that most of the elective science classes would survive. It would be a big loss.
Rarely have school science fairs, a source of pride and panic for generations of American students, achieved such prominence on the national stage. President Obama held one at the White House last fall. And last week he said that America should celebrate its science fair winners like Sunday's Super Bowl champions, or risk losing the nation's competitive edge.
Yet as science fair season kicks into high gear, participation among high school students appears to be declining. And many science teachers say the problem is not a lack of celebration, but the Obama administration's own education policy, which holds schools accountable for math and reading scores at the expense of the kind of creative, independent exploration that science fair projects require.
While the College Board plans to unveil a sweeping revision to Advanced Placement biology courses on Tuesday, it is delaying similar changes in United States history by a year to address concerns from high school teachers.
The changes in both subjects are part of a broad revamping of A.P. courses and exams to reduce memorization and to foster analytic thinking. But while the new biology curriculum is specific about what material needs to be covered, some teachers complained that parts of the history course seemed vague, and the board said it needed more time to clarify what should be studied.
Board officials said they expected to publish the new United States history curriculum next fall. That curriculum will now take effect in the 2013-14 school year, they said, rather than in 2012-13, when the new biology program is to begin.
cience scores for Wisconsin students exceeded the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science assessment, administered between January and March of 2009.Jack Buckley
The state's scale scores on the assessments were 157 at both fourth and eighth grades, eight points higher than the national scale scores of 149 for both grades. In state-by-state comparisons, Wisconsin's results at fourth grade were higher than those in 27 states, not significantly different from those in 12 states, and lower than seven states. At eighth grade, Wisconsin's results were higher than 27 states, not significantly different than 14 states, and lower than five states.
Today I am releasing the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress science results.WEAC statement.
Students were assessed at the fourth, eighth, and twelfth grades. Over 156,000 students at grade 4, 151,000 at grade 8, and 11,000 at grade 12 took the assessment. We have national results for public and private school students at all three grades. At grades 4 and 8, we also have results for public school students in 46 states and the Department of Defense schools. The state samples were combined and augmented with sampled students from the four non-participating states plus the District of Columbia, along with a national sample of private school students, to create the full national samples for grades 4 and 8. The twelfth-grade sample is smaller because there are no state-representative samples at that grade.
EVER since 1982, when the American penny (one-cent piece) ceased being minted from brass and started being made instead from zinc with a thin coating of copper, eighth-graders at some of the country's more inspired schools have been given a nifty little experiment in electrochemistry to do for homework. Your correspondent's 13-year-old came home recently with goggles and instructions to find the amounts of copper and zinc in a modern penny. While in class, each kid had first carefully weighed three such coins on a scientific balance. After that, the rest was up to them (and their dads).
The experiment is designed to test the pupils' knowledge of the galvanic series, and the science that explains how corrosion occurs. The series lists metals according to their resistance to electrochemical reaction--with the "noblest" (eg, palladium, platinum and gold) at the top of the rankings, and the most reactive or "basest" (eg, beryllium, zinc and magnesium) at the bottom. Copper comes 11 places above zinc in the table. Thus, when the two metals share an electrolyte, the zinc (being much the more reactive) will dissolve into the solution long before the copper. In a similar way, zinc anodes attached to the hulls of ships protect the vessels' steel plates from rusting away by being sacrificed instead.
Diapers.com warehouses are a bit of a jumble. Boxes of pacifiers sit above crates of onesies, which rest next to cartons of baby food. In a seeming abdication of logic, similar items are placed across the room from one another. A person trying to figure out how the products were shelved could well conclude that no form of intelligence--except maybe a random number generator--had a hand in determining what went where.
But the warehouses aren't meant to be understood by humans; they were built for bots. Every day, hundreds of robots course nimbly through the aisles, instantly identifying items and delivering them to flesh-and-blood packers on the periphery. Instead of organizing the warehouse as a human might--by placing like products next to one another, for instance--Diapers.com's robots stick the items in various aisles throughout the facility. Then, to fill an order, the first available robot simply finds the closest requested item. The storeroom is an ever-shifting mass that adjusts to constantly changing data, like the size and popularity of merchandise, the geography of the warehouse, and the location of each robot. Set up by Kiva Systems, which has outfitted similar facilities for Gap, Staples, and Office Depot, the system can deliver items to packers at the rate of one every six seconds.
Children in an outdoor classroom at an East L.A. preschool use natural materials and the environment as a learning laboratory. It's part of a national campaign to connect youngsters to the outdoors.
On a visit to a Home Depot one day, Cynthia Munoz was surprised when her 4-year-old son began clamoring to plant flowers, trees and a strawberry patch at their La Puente home. She was taken aback again when he knew exactly what tools to use in their backyard garden.
But he'd already had plenty of practice at his preschool, the Brooklyn Early Education Center in East Los Angeles. The school has an outdoor classroom, part of a growing trend in California and other states of using natural materials and the environment as a learning laboratory.
The paper can be found here.
"We also discovered that science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before."
This is the conclusion of a new paper published in Biology Letters, a high-powered journal from the UK's prestigious Royal Society. If its tone seems unusual, that's because its authors are children from Blackawton Primary School in Devon, England. Aged between 8 and 10, the 25 children have just become the youngest scientists to ever be published in a Royal Society journal.
Their paper, based on fieldwork carried out in a local churchyard, describes how bumblebees can learn which flowers to forage from with more flexibility than anyone had thought. It's the culmination of a project called 'i, scientist', designed to get students to actually carry out scientific research themselves. The kids received some support from Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist at UCL, and David Strudwick, Blackawton's head teacher. But the work is all their own.
One day Kathy Ceceri noticed a tick on her arm and started to worry that it was the kind that carried Lyme disease. So she went to her home lab, put the tiny arachnid under her microscope, which is connected to her computer through a U.S.B. cable, and studied the image.
"It was," she said. "Then of course I Googled what to do when you've been bitten by a deer tick."
Ms. Ceceri's microscope, a Digital Blue QX5, is one of several pieces of scientific equipment that make up her home lab, which she has set up on her dining room table in Schuylerville, N.Y. Home labs like hers are becoming more feasible as the scientific devices that stock them become more computerized, cheaper and easier to use.
Back in 1997, I was an unhealthily driven Yale undergraduate in pleated khakis. An English major--I wanted above all to become a writer--I was rapidly losing my faith. Not only did the theory-laden literary scholarship that I encountered seem little more than jargonish, impenetrable sound and fury, but the sciences appeared to have much more to offer. I followed in real time as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins engaged in ferociously exciting debates in places like The New York Review of Books. Here was a clarity, an urgency, and a series of battle cries that I, the grandson of a creationist-despising evolutionary biologist, could relate to.
Those were the days of the "Science Wars" in the academy, a clash between literary post-modernists ("po-mos") and scientists over whether the scientific process could lay claim to any truly objective means of describing reality. And thanks to people like Gould and Dawkins, I had slowly been turned. I was a mole within the humanities. That's not to say I'd stopped loving literature, but I felt I had to flee a ship that seemed without a rudder--and in the decade since then, it appears I'm hardly the only one.
The news last week that Shanghai students achieved the top scores in math on the international PISA exam was for some of us not exactly a wake-up call (as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan characterized it) or a Sputnik moment (as President Obama called it).
We've seen this result before. We've seen the reactions and the theories and the excuses that purport to explain why the US does so poorly in math. In fact, there are three main variations used to explain why Chinese/Asian students do so well in international exams:
- Version 1: They are taught using rote learning and then regurgitate the results on exams that test how well they memorize the procedures of how to solve specific problems.
- Version 2: They are taught using the reform methods of a "problem based approach" that doesn't rely on drills, and instills critical thinking and higher order thinking skills
- Version 3: The teacher or the culture produces the proper conditions for learning.
The Shanghai math (+1 SD) and science (+.75 SD) scores are almost a full SD above the OECD average of 500 (SD = 100). The top 10 percent of Shanghai math students are all above the 99th percentile for the US. See earlier post for links to Rindermann's work relating school achievement tests like TIMSS and PISA to national IQ estimates, and see here for earlier SD estimates using 2006 PISA data. (Finland has an anomalously low SD in the earlier data. A quick look at the 2009 data shows the following math SDs: Finland 82, USA 91, Korea 89, Japan 94, Germany 98, Shanghai 103, Singapore 104.)
Although Shanghai and Beijing are the richest cities in China, incomes are still quite low compared to the US. Average income in Shanghai is about $10k USD per annum, even PPP adjusted this is about $20k. People live very modestly by the standards of developed countries.
As noted in the comments, there are other places in China that score *higher* than Shanghai on college entrance exams or in math and science competitions. So while Shanghai is probably above the average in China, it isn't as exceptional as is perhaps implied in the Times article.
Taiwan has been moving to an American-style, less test-centric, educational system in the last decade. Educators and government officials (according to local media reports in the last 12 hours) are very concerned about the "low scores" achieved in the most recent PISA :-)
To see how individual states or ethnicities in the US score on PISA, see here and here.
NYTimes: ... PISA scores are on a scale, with 500 as the average. Two-thirds of students in participating countries score between 400 and 600. On the math test last year, students in Shanghai scored 600, in Singapore 562, in Germany 513, and in the United States 487.
In reading, Shanghai students scored 556, ahead of second-place Korea with 539. The United States scored 500 and came in 17th, putting it on par with students in the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and several other countries.
In science, Shanghai students scored 575. In second place was Finland, where the average score was 554. The United States scored 502 — in 23rd place — with a performance indistinguishable from Poland, Ireland, Norway, France and several other countries.
The testing in Shanghai was carried out by an international contractor, working with Chinese authorities, and overseen by the Australian Council for Educational Research, a nonprofit testing group, said Andreas Schleicher, who directs the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s international educational testing program.
Mark Schneider, a commissioner of the Department of Education’s research arm in the George W. Bush administration, who returned from an educational research visit to China on Friday, said he had been skeptical about some PISA results in the past. But Mr. Schneider said he considered the accuracy of these results to be unassailable.
With China's debut in international standardized testing, students in Shanghai have surprised experts by outscoring their counterparts in dozens of other countries, in reading as well as in math and science, according to the results of a respected exam.
American officials and Europeans involved in administering the test in about 65 countries acknowledged that the scores from Shanghai -- an industrial powerhouse with some 20 million residents and scores of modern universities that is a magnet for the best students in the country -- are by no means representative of all of China.
About 5,100 15-year-olds in Shanghai were chosen as a representative cross-section of students in that city. In the United States, a similar number of students from across the country were selected as a representative sample for the test.
Experts noted the obvious difficulty of using a standardized test to compare countries and cities of vastly different sizes. Even so, they said the stellar academic performance of students in Shanghai was noteworthy, and another sign of China's rapid modernization.
The results also appeared to reflect the culture of education there, including greater emphasis on teacher training and more time spent on studying rather than extracurricular activities like sports.
High school seniors in Massachusetts are ranked highest in the nation in reading and math ability, according to new test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
The first state-specific results for Grade 12 in 2009 showed that Massachusetts students had the highest scaled score in both the reading and math exams. The Bay State was one of 11 states to participate in the pilot program for states to receive state-specific Grade 12 results.
In a ceremony at Medford High School, Governor Deval Patrick, surrounded by state education officials and hundreds of students, heralded the results as proof of the state's position as a leader in public education.
No one expects to find beets and carrots in a sliver of the South Bronx wedged between Metro-North Railroad tracks and a busy elevated highway.
But there they are, along with late-season eggplant, tomatoes, basil and habanero peppers, all growing in a pocket-sized farm called La Finca del Sur, Spanish for Farm of the South.
The formerly weed-choked vacant lot will be a classroom for a new venture called Farm School NYC: The New York City School of Urban Agriculture.
Starting in January, the school will offer a two-year course aimed at developing "the next generation of leaders who will work to use urban agriculture to transform their communities into healthy food communities," said executive director Jacquie Berger.
Once a week, year six pupils at Ashmount Primary School in North London settle in front of their computers, put on their headsets and get ready for their math class. A few minutes later, their teachers come online thousands of kilometers away in the Indian state of Punjab.
Ashmount is one of three state schools in Britain that decided to outsource part of their teaching to India via the Internet. The service -- the first of its kind in Europe -- is offered by BrightSpark Education, a London-based company set up last year. BrightSpark employs and trains 100 teachers in India and puts them in touch with pupils in Britain through an interactive online tutoring program.
The feedback from pupils, the schools and parents is good so far, and BrightSpark said a dozen more schools, a charity and many more parents were interested in signing up for the lessons. The one-on-one sessions not only cost about half of what personal tutors in Britain charge but are also popular with pupils, who enjoy solving equations online, said Rebecca Stacey, an assistant head teacher at Ashmount.
Five years ago, alarms sounded over America's rapidly falling stature in STEM education.An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria by Janet Mertz.
That's science, technology, engineering and math -- the keys to our nation's prosperity. But U.S. schools weren't keeping up in the fast-changing fields.
Governors dispatched task forces. New programs were launched. Foundations poured in funding. And schools started to make gains.
Now, however, signs are emerging that the momentum of the mid-2000s is slipping away, even as students' needs continue to grow.
Legislation co-sponsored by Deputy Assembly Speaker John Burzichelli would declare the last week of September as "Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week" to promote the importance of supporting New Jersey's agricultural business and the value of healthy eating for children.
"Our state is bursting with locally grown produce, from blueberries, cranberries, peaches, to tomatoes, New Jersey grows it," said Burzichelli, D-3rd Dist.
"Teaching children about the importance of Jersey Fresh produce can help them understand what farming is about and that fresh vegetables are good for them and their health."
The legislation calls on the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to design a bidding guide that allows for school purchases of locally-grown food and would establish a website to provide information for farmers, distributors, and schools to create purchasing networks.
"At some schools, a teaching load of five courses every academic year is considered excessive. But Sal Khan, as an earlier Slashdot post noted, manages to deliver his mini-lectures an average of 70,000 times a day. BusinessWeek reports that Khan Academy has a new fan in Bill Gates, who's been singing and tweeting the praises of the free-as-in-beer website. 'This guy is amazing,' Gates wrote. 'It is awesome how much he has done with very little in the way of resources.' Gates and his 11-year-old son have been soaking up videos, from algebra to biology. And at the Aspen Ideas Festival in front of 2,000 people, Gates gave Khan a shout-out, touting the 'unbelievable' Khan Academy tutorials that 'I've been using with my kids.'"
UW researchers have found that despite the spoken commitment of state officials and lawmakers, teachers in math and science earn less than other high-school instructors.Jim Simpkins, Marguerite Roza, Cristina Sepe
Researchers at the University of Washington have found that despite the spoken commitment of state officials and lawmakers, math and science teachers earn less than other high-school instructors.
In a report released Wednesday, the Center on Reinventing Public Education found that 19 of the state's 30 largest school districts pay math or science teachers less than they spend on teachers in other subjects.
The way Washington and many other states pay teachers -- with more money going to those with more years of experience and graduate degrees -- has led to the uneven salaries.
Jobs that pay better at nearby high-tech companies may also be a contributing factor, because math and science teachers may be recruited away before they have a chance to reach the higher rungs on the pay ladder, said Jim Simpkins, a researcher on the report, with Marguerite Roza and Cristina Sepe.
Washington State recently passed a law (House Bill 2621) intending to accelerate the teaching and learning of math and science. However, in the two subject areas the state seeks to prioritize, this analysis finds that nineteen of the thirty largest districts in the state spend less per math or science teacher than for teachers in other subjects.
Existing salary schedules are part of the problem. By not allowing any differential compensation for math and science teachers, and instead basing compensation only on longevity and graduate credits, the wage system works to create the uneven salaries.
The analysis finds that in twenty-five of the thirty largest districts, math and science teachers had fewer years of teaching experience due to higher turnover--an indication that labor market forces do indeed vary with subject matter expertise. The subject-neutral salary schedule works to ignore these differences.
Eboni Turner, a high school student from Chicago, will never forget the six weeks she spent in Madison for the Summer Science Institute.
She was doing field research in Lake Wingra when she got stuck in the decomposing material at the bottom.
"It smells really, really bad," said Turner, who will be a senior this fall. "While I was scared, this was so cool. I was stuck in stuff and I had to get out."
Turner was one of 16 students who participated in the recent Summer Science Institute, a six-week residential program through the Center for Biology Education at UW-Madison.
The program gives high school students an understanding of biological and physical research while learning about college life. The students work in groups with mentors on a specific research project. Then they write a research report and present their project and findings at a symposium at the end of the program.
A recent and startling increase in tick-borne Lyme disease among Islesboro residents gave nine students in Islesboro Central School's ninth grade, and two of their teachers, science teacher Heather Sinclair and business and computer education teacher Vicki Conover, a unique and perfect opportunity to combine classroom and experiential learning. To examine the connection between the island's deer population and the increase of Lyme disease, students in Ms. Sinclair's biology class conducted primary scientific research to determine the island's deer herd size, then with Ms. Conover's guidance used GIS and computer applications to analyze and present the data to propose one possible cause of the disease's increase.
As a Health Center Advisory Board (HCAB) member, Ms. Sinclair heard concerns about the deer herd's possible relationship to the spread of Lyme disease on island. The HCAB decided to conduct a deer count and hired a consulting firm, Stantec, to design a survey. The students and twenty community volunteers did the on-the-ground research, following the procedure recommended by Stantec. To establish a sample, Stantec identified thirty-three random transects, lines across the island, that included representative terrain and habitat. The students and Stantec both analyzed the data that volunteers gathered.
For generations of pre-med students, three things have been as certain as death and taxes: organic chemistry, physics and the Medical College Admission Test, known by its dread-inducing acronym, the MCAT.
So it came as a total shock to Elizabeth Adler when she discovered, through a singer in her favorite a cappella group at Brown University, that one of the nation's top medical schools admits a small number of students every year who have skipped all three requirements.
Until then, despite being the daughter of a physician, she said, "I was kind of thinking medical school was not the right track for me."
Ms. Adler became one of the lucky few in one of the best kept secrets in the cutthroat world of medical school admissions, the Humanities and Medicine Program at the Mount Sinai medical school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
have an article in this Sunday's Ideas section of the Boston Globe entitled Hard to find: Why it's increasingly difficult to make discoveries - and other insights from the science of science. It discusses a scientific paper of mine published recently in Scientometrics, which is the journal of the "science of science". The journal article entitled Quantifying the Ease of Scientific Discovery (also freely available on the arXiv), discusses how to think mathematically about how scientific discovery becomes more difficult over time.
Alexander S. Szalay is a well-regarded astronomer, but he hasn't peered through a telescope in nearly a decade. Instead, the professor of physics and astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University learned how to write software code, build computer servers, and stitch millions of digital telescope images into a sweeping panorama of the universe.
Along the way, thanks to a friendship with a prominent computer scientist, he helped reinvent the way astronomy is studied, guiding it from a largely solo pursuit to a discipline in which sharing is the norm.
One of the most difficult tasks has been changing attitudes to encourage large-scale collaborations. Not every astronomer has been happy to give up those solo telescope sessions. "To be alone with the universe is a very dramatic thing to do," admits Mr. Szalay, who spent years selling the idea of pooling telescope images online to his colleagues.
This book has been taken out of print by W. H. Freeman. You are welcome to use it if you like. We believed in 1992 it was the way to introduce theory in Computer Science, and we believe that today.
Maggie Koerth-Baker, via a kind reader:
Earlier this week, the New York Times published the first part of a two-part series by John Tierney looking at the current state of women in the sciences--in particular, whether the playing field can ever really be level, or whether innate neural differences mean there will always be more men getting ahead in science and math careers than women.When Dr. Larry Summers raised the issue to fellow economists and other researchers at a conference in 2005, his hypothesis was caricatured in the press as a revival of the old notion that "girls can't do math." But Dr. Summers said no such thing. He acknowledged that there were many talented female scientists and discussed ways to eliminate the social barriers they faced. Yet even if all these social factors were eliminated, he hypothesized, the science faculty composition at an elite school like Harvard might still be skewed by a biological factor: the greater variability observed among men in intelligence test scores and various traits.
In a class full of aspiring engineers, the big bad wolf had to do more than just huff and puff to blow down the three little pigs' house.
To start, he needed to get past a voice-activated security gate, find a hidden door and negotiate a few other traps in a house that a pair of kindergartners here imagined for the pigs -- and then pieced together from index cards, paper cups, wood sticks and pipe cleaners.
"Excellent engineering," their teacher, Mary Morrow, told them one day early this month.
All 300 students at Clara E. Coleman Elementary School are learning the A B C's of engineering this year, even those who cannot yet spell e-n-g-i-n-e-e-r-i-n-g. The high-performing Glen Rock school district, about 22 miles northwest of Manhattan, now teaches 10 to 15 hours of engineering each year to every student in kindergarten through fifth grade, as part of a $100,000 redesign of the science curriculum.
via a kind reader's email:
Those interested in Freshman Accelerated Biology at Madison West High School may take the screening test Tuesday, May 4th at James C. Wright Middle School from 4-6 pm (room TBA) or Wednesday, May 5th at West High School from 4-6 (room 225).
James Crow, professor emeritus of genetics at the UW-Madison recently gave a talk to the Madison Literary Club on "100 Years of Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Click to download a 4.5mb .zip file that contains a few images from Monday's Madison Literary Club talk.
From 1982 to 1987 I stalked Jaime Escalante, his students and his colleagues at Garfield High School, a block from the hamburger-burrito stands, body shops and bars of Atlantic Boulevard in East Los Angeles. I was the Los Angeles bureau chief for The Washington Post, allegedly covering the big political, social and business stories of the Western states, but I found it hard to stay away from that troubled high school.
I would show up unannounced, watch Jaime teach calculus, chat with Principal Henry Gradillas, check in with other Advanced Placement classes and in the early afternoon call my editor in Washington to say I was chasing down the latest medfly outbreak story, or whatever seemed believable at the time.
Escalante, who died Tuesday from cancer at age 79, did not become nationally famous until 1988, when the feature film about him, "Stand and Deliver," was released, and my much-less-noticed book, "Escalante: The Best Teacher in America," also came out. I had been drawn to him, as filmmakers Ramón Menéndez and Tom Musca were, by the story of a 1982 cheating scandal. Eighteen Escalante students had passed the Advanced Placement Calculus AB exam. Fourteen were accused of cheating by the Educational Testing Service, based on similarities in their answers. Twelve took the test again, this time heavily proctored, and passed again.
A Chicago Public Schools policy that dramatically increased science requirements did not help students learn more science and actually may have hurt their college prospects, according to a new report from the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.Commentary from Melissa Westbrook.
The science policy was part of a larger CPS initiative to expose all students to a college-preparatory curriculum by increasing course requirements across a range of subjects.
Though CPS high school students took and passed more college-prep science courses under the new policy, overall performance in science classes did not improve, with five of every six students earning Cs or lower. College-going rates declined significantly among graduates with a B average or better in science, and they dipped for all students when researchers controlled for changes in student characteristics over time.
A report on the underrepresentation of women in science and math by the American Association of University Women, to be released today, found that although women have made gains, stereotypes and cultural biases still impede their success.
The report, "Why So Few?" supported by the National Science Foundation, examined decades of research to gather recommendations for drawing more women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the so-called STEM fields.
"We scanned the literature for research with immediate applicability," said Catherine Hill, the university women's research director and lead author of the report. "We found a lot of small things can make a difference, like a course in spatial skills for women going into engineering, or teaching children that math ability is not fixed, but grows with effort."
The state of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in the United States has seen some unflattering appraisals in recent years, and deservedly so. In early February, the House of Representatives heard testimony on undergraduate and graduate education. The message from the panel, which included experts from academia, STEM-based industries, and the National Science Foundation (NSF), was clear: the problems in STEM education are well-known, and it's time to take action.
Both the hearing's charter and its chair, Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), pointed out the obvious problem in higher education: students start out interested, but the STEM programs are driving them away. As the National Academies described in its 2005 report Rising Above the Gathering Storm, successful STEM education is not just an academic pursuit--it's a necessity for competing in the knowledge-based economy that the United States had a key role in creating.
The potential for action comes thanks to the fact that the America COMPETES Act of 2007 is up for reauthorization. Its initial focus was on STEM education at the K-12 levels, but efforts at the undergraduate and graduate levels are needed to retain students to fill the jobs left vacant as baby boomers retire.
There was a time in East Los Angeles when el maestro's el maestro's gruff voice bounced off his classroom walls. He roamed the aisles, he juggled oranges, he dressed in costumes, he punched the air; he called you names, he called your mom, he kicked you out, he lured you in; he danced, he boxed, he screamed, he whispered. He would do anything to get your attention.
"Ganas," he would say. "That's all you need. The desire to learn."
Nearly three decades later, Jaime Escalante finds himself far from Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, the place that made him internationally famous for turning a generation of low-income students into calculus whizzes. Twenty-two years have passed since his classroom exploits were captured in the film "Stand and Deliver."
He is 79 and hunched in a wheelchair at a cancer treatment center in Reno. It is cold outside, and the snow-capped mountains that crown the city where his son brought him three weeks ago on a bed in the back of an old van remind him of his native Bolivia.
33-year-old math and science whiz kid -- working out of his house in California's Silicon Valley -- may be revolutionizing how people all over the world will learn math. He is Salman Khan, and until a few months ago he made his living as a hedge fund analyst. But he's become a kind of an unseen rock star in the online instruction field, posting 1200 lessons in math and science on YouTube, none of them lasting more than about 10 minutes. He quit his job at the hedge fund to devote full time to his Khan Academy teaching efforts, which he does essentially for free.
Khan explained how the U.S. unemployment rate is calculated in a NewsHour exclusive video.
Influencing practice and policy in science education is what drives ASU's Julie Luft and has led to her distinguished service to K-12 science teacher education and renowned research contributions to the field. She considers her recent call from Congress to testify about the status and future of science education to be among her most notable achievements.
Luft delivered her first-time testimony before the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee at the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Education Hearings that took place Feb. 3-4. She was joined by Craig Strang, associate director of the Lawrence Hall of Science at University of California-Berkeley.
The purpose of the hearing was to inform Congressional subcommittee members about the status and future direction of STEM education in the K-12 sector. STEM education is considered vital to maintaining the United States' leadership in the rapidly advancing world of science and technology. In her testimony, Luft emphasized the importance of inquiry in teacher education and professional development, and the need for more federal funding to support science organizations involved in research and development. She also stressed the unintended consequences of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, which has limited the amount of inquiry-based instruction in K-12 science classrooms.
y husband decided to send me a couple of links to various STEM articles which then led me to even more interesting links. If you are interested in this subject from a state and national level, here are some links. Happy reading!
Apparently, Ohio is waaay ahead on this stuff so many of this articles are about different projects in that state.
I was reading the comments in an earlier post about the new assignment plan and there were many comments about the rigor or lack there of at Rainier Beach High School. I would like to dispel the myth that Rainier Beach does not offer rigor to the high achieving student. If you have a high achieving 8th grader and are in the RBHS attendance area, here is just a sample of what you can expect:
In math as a Freshman, you will start in at least Honors Geometry with Ms. Lessig who is our best math teacher. Once you get through that, you will take Honors Advanced Algebra with me, then Pre Calculus with Mr. Bird (a math major in college) and then as a Senior, you take AP Calculus with Ms. Day, a highly experienced and skilled teacher. As a bonus, in either your Junior or Senior year, you get to take AP Statistics with me. All of these classes are demanding and well taught by teachers who know what they are doing and are passionate about teaching math.
From Discovery Channel's series 'Time Warp' where MIT scientist and teacher Jeff Lieberman and digital-imaging expert Matt Kearney use the latest in high-speed photography to turn never-before-seen wonders into an experience of beauty and learning.
Definition: coalesce - To come together so as to form one whole; unite (from Latin coalescere com- 'together' + alescere 'to grow up')
A recent Times article described how China is stepping up efforts to lure home the top Chinese scholars who live and work abroad. The nation is already second only to the United States in the volume of scientific papers published, and it has, as Thomas Friedman pointed out, more students in technical colleges and universities than any other country.
But China’s drive to succeed in the sciences is also subjecting its research establishment to intense pressure and sharper scrutiny. And as the standoff last week between Google and China demonstrated, the government controls the give and take of information.
How likely is it that China will become the world’s leader in science and technology, and what are the impediments to creating a research climate that would allow scientists to thrive?
THE streets surrounding St James's Palace in London are dotted with gentlemen's clubs, many of which now also admit women. This year, one such establishment is marking its 350th anniversary. The club in question is not merely a meeting place for like-minded members, however: it is the society that founded modern science.
The first fellows of the Royal Society, as it is now known, were followers of Sir Francis Bacon, a 17th-century statesman and philosopher who argued that knowledge could be gained by testing ideas through experiments. On a damp and murky night in November 1660, a dozen of them met to hear a lecture by a 28-year-old astronomer called Christopher Wren, who would later become the architect who designed St Paul's Cathedral. Inspired, they determined to meet every week to discuss scientific matters and to witness experiments conducted by different members of the group. In so doing, they invented the processes on which modern science rests, including scientific publishing and peer review, and made English the primary language of scientific discourse.
President Obama announced on Wednesday a partnership between federal agencies and public universities to train thousands more mathematics and science teachers each year, part of the administration's effort to make American students more competitive globally in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Leaders of 121 public universities have pledged to increase the total number of science and math teachers they prepare every year to 10,000 by 2015, up from the 7,500 teachers who graduate annually now.
Forty-one institutions, including California's two university systems and the University of Maryland system, said they would double the number of science and math teachers they trained each year by 2015.
The partnership is part of the Obama administration's "Educate to Innovate" campaign, a program announced in November that seeks to join government agencies, businesses, and universities in efforts to improve math and science education.
Berkeley High School sophomore Razan Qatami glanced at the wall clock in her advanced biology lab class and frowned. At 4:15 p.m., she still had about 10 more minutes before she was done for the day.More here.
While most high school science classes incorporate labs into regular class time, Berkeley High requires most of its students to attend labs before or after school in the so-called zero or seventh periods.
That means showing up at 7:30 a.m. to, say, dissect frogs, or staying until 4:30 p.m. - additional class time that not surprisingly costs additional money.
School administrators would like to see that money spread around, specifically to help struggling students, and have proposed cutting out the supplementary lab classes.
Qatami would love to see those early and late labs discontinued.
Amy Hetzner, via a kind reader's email:
By the time the first bell rings at Brookfield Central High School, most of the students in Room 22 are immersed in college-level vector equations, reviewing for their final exam on the Friday before Christmas.Related: Janet Mertz's tireless crusade on credit for non-Madison School District classes.
Senior Lea Gulotta, however, looks on the bright side of waking early every morning for the past semester so she can take a Calculus 3 class taught at the school by a college professor.
"We get to sleep in for a month," she said, noting that the regular high school semester won't end until mid-January.
There's another positive to Brookfield Central's agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha continuing education department, which brought the advanced mathematics class to the high school this year as part of the state's youth options program. Under youth options, school districts pick up the costs of courses at Wisconsin colleges if they don't have similar offerings available to students.
Instead of seeing students spend extra time commuting and attending class on a college campus, the arrangement placed the professor in the high school to teach 11 students who had completed advanced-placement calculus as juniors. Two of the students in the class come from the Elmbrook School District's other high school, Brookfield East.
Elmbrook pays UW-Waukesha the same tuition that it would pay if its students chose to attend the college campus on their own, she said.
More minority students need to be lured into the sciences. One program has been a resounding success.
At most universities, freshman chemistry, a class I've taught for nearly 40 years, is the first course students take on the road to a career in the health professions or the biological or physical sciences. It's a tough course, and for many students it's the obstacle that keeps them from majoring in science. This is particularly true for minority students.
In 2005, more than two-thirds of the American scientific workforce was composed of white males. But by 2050, white males will make up less than one-fourth of the population. If the pipeline fails to produce qualified nonwhite scientists, we will, in effect, be competing against the rest of the world with one hand tied behind our backs.
We've been able to survive for the last several decades in large measure because of the "brain drain" -- the fact that the most able students from other countries, particularly China and India, have come here to study science at our best universities and, in many cases, have stayed to become key players in our scientific endeavors.
Berkeley High School is considering a controversial proposal to eliminate science labs and the five science teachers who teach them to free up more resources to help struggling students.La Shawn Barber has more.
The proposal to put the science-lab cuts on the table was approved recently by Berkeley High's School Governance Council, a body of teachers, parents, and students who oversee a plan to change the structure of the high school to address Berkeley's dismal racial achievement gap, where white students are doing far better than the state average while black and Latino students are doing worse.
Paul Gibson, an alternate parent representative on the School Governance Council, said that information presented at council meetings suggests that the science labs were largely classes for white students. He said the decision to consider cutting the labs in order to redirect resources to underperforming students was virtually unanimous.
Science teachers were understandably horrified by the proposal. "The majority of the science department believes that this major policy decision affecting the entire student body, the faculty, and the community has been made without any notification, without a hearing," said Mardi Sicular-Mertens, the senior member of Berkeley High School's science department, at last week's school board meeting.
Related: English 10.
There was a guest column in the Seattle Times by Bonnie Dunbar, the president and CEO of The Museum of Flight and a former astronaut, encouraging the community to support STEM education efforts.
The column itself was the usual pointless pablum that we typically see in these guest columns. Lots of goals with no action plan. The interesting bit, as usual, comes in the reader comments in which members of the community writes that we DON'T need more engineers because there are lots of them standing in unemployment lines and that engineering jobs are being outsourced to India and China or to people from India and China who come to the U.S. on guest worker visas.
This article is also written completely without reference to the ineffective math education methods adopted over the past ten years.
Growing up in the '70s, John Halamka was a bookish child with a penchant for science and electronics. He wore black horn-rimmed glasses and buttoned his shirts up to the collar.
"I was constantly being called a geek or a nerd," he recalled, chuckling.
Dr. Halamka grew up to be something of a cool nerd, with a career that combines his deep interests in medicine and computing, and downtime that involves rock climbing and kayaking.
Now 47, Dr. Halamka is the chief information officer at the Harvard Medical School, a practicing emergency-ward physician and an adviser to the Obama administration on electronic health records.
Hybrid careers like Dr. Halamka's that combine computing with other fields will increasingly be the new American jobs of the future, labor experts say. In other words, the nation's economy is going to need more cool nerds. But not enough young people are embracing computing -- often because they are leery of being branded nerds.
I am keeping my weekly Extra Credit column alive on this blog with occasional answers to reader questions, the format of that column I did for many years in the Extras before they died. This teacher, Michael Feinberg (no relation to the co-founder of the KIPP schools with the same name), sent me a copy of an intriguing letter about physics he sent to the Montgomery County school superintendent, and agreed to let me get an answer and use it here.
Dear Dr. Weast:
I am a retired MCPS teacher; I taught Physics at both Kennedy H.S. and Whitman H.S. until the time that I retired in 2005. After retirement I have, on occasion, tutored Physics students.
When the 9th grade Physics curriculum was introduced I opposed it on the grounds that Physics should be taught at a higher mathematical level. While tutoring students in both grades 9 and 11/12 I see that this is true; students in 11th grade learn rigorous Physics with mathematical applications while students in 9th grade usually do descriptive worksheets. I believe that it unfair that students in 9 th grade receive the same honors credit for what is promoted as the same curriculum but is not the same.
As Seattle Public Schools released new details about its latest transformation plan for perpetually-troubled Cleveland High School over the past week, there's been a collective eye roll among some teachers there.Melissa Westbrook has more.
"I've been here for 15 years and every other year we do this," says math teacher David Fisher, referring to a long string of ballyhooed overhauls that the Beacon Hill school has embarked on at the behest of the district.
One thing is different: The district is promising to pour money into this reinvention of Cleveland as the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). It proposes to spend more than $4 million over the first three years, according to a report at last Wednesday's school board meeting by Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson. That's a lot of money for a school that is already up and running. (See the breakdown of spending on page 8 of this pdf.)
It would seem to hold all the appeal of listening to someone read the dictionary aloud.
But hundreds of people will pack into a room on the UW-Madison campus Saturday to attend a presentation on the properties of carbon dioxide, liquid nitrogen and zirconium.
In short, the choice activity in Madison on Saturday is a chemistry lecture.
If it sounds like a snooze, then you don't know Bassam Shakhashiri.
This is the 40th time the UW-Madison professor has held his annual Christmas show extravaganza, otherwise known as "Once upon a Christmas cheery, in the lab of Shakhashiri."
With a flair for showmanship, Shakhashiri is like a magician who wows audiences by using science, rather than sleight of hand or illusions. Beakers erupt with material, solutions turn psychedelic colors, chemicals explode thunderously - all to an audience oohing and ahhing as if they were watching Harry Houdini.
I attended the Cleveland STEM Community Meeting on December 4 with my wife and 8th grade daughter.
First, the important parts.
My daughter is excited about the program. To her it looks like a good mix of the academic challenge of Garfield with the more personalized instruction (and project-based learning) of NOVA. She got most excited when she saw a list of the possible classes in the Global Health Academy.
My wife and I are much more confident about the probability that the program will actually be there and that it will be something like what has been advertised.
There was a pretty good crowd of people there - I'd say about forty to fifty (not counting staff).
The folks from Cleveland who were there are excited about the program and have a very clear picture of the idea - the project-based learning, the integration of technology, the alignment between classes, the extended school day and accelerated schedule, etc.
The STEM program looks real and, to us, it looks good. They still have some things to work out. The schedule is inspired, but needs some tinkering. They haven't figured out how to get the student:computer ratio to the promised 1:1. They are still missing a lot of the curricular elements - they haven't found the puzzle pieces but they know what they have to look like.
Tristesse Jones will probably never drive a tractor or guide a combine through rows of soybeans at harvest time.
There isn't a farm within miles of where she grew up on Chicago's west side, but she's set to graduate with a bachelor's degree in crop sciences from the University of Illinois' agriculture school next spring.
"People ask me what is my major, and they say 'What is that? So you want to grow plants?' " Jones said.
She is one of a growing number of students being drawn to ag schools around the country not by ties to a farm but by science, the job prospects for those who are good at it and, for some, an interest in the environment.
Enrollment in bachelor's degree programs in agriculture across the country grew by 21.8 percent from 2005 to 2008, from about 58,300 students to nearly 71,000, according to surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And the numbers are likely higher - not all schools respond to the surveys.
To improve science and mathematics education for American children, the White House is recruiting Elmo and Big Bird, video game programmers and thousands of scientists.
President Obama will announce a campaign Monday to enlist companies and nonprofit groups to spend money, time and volunteer effort to encourage students, especially in middle and high school, to pursue science, technology, engineering and math, officials say.
The campaign, called Educate to Innovate, will focus mainly on activities outside the classroom. For example, Discovery Communications has promised to use two hours of the afternoon schedule on its Science Channel cable network for commercial-free programming geared toward middle school students.
Science and engineering societies are promising to provide volunteers to work with students in the classroom, culminating in a National Lab Day in May.
Sir Maurice Wilkes, 96, one of the pioneers of British computing, strolls through the history the he helped create
Walk round the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park and sooner or later you'll hear a cry of recognition and someone will say: "I remember using one of those." It probably doesn't happen often to The Millionaire, a mechanical calculator that went into production in 1893, but Sir Maurice Wilkes spotted it, adding: "We used to have one in the lab. I hope it's still there."
In this case, "the lab" was what became the Cambridge University Computer Lab, which Wilkes headed from 1945 until 1980. It was where he built Edsac, one of the world's first electronic computers, using sound beams traversing baths of mercury for the memory units. Edsac (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) first ran in May 1949, so this year a dinner was held to celebrate its 60th birthday. And, of course, to celebrate Wilkes himself, who is a bright, sharp 96 years of age, and has seen most of the history of computing at first hand.
How sharp? On seeing the museum's air traffic control display, which fascinates many visitors, he immediately asks: "Where's the radar?" Ah, well, there isn't one. The displays are running real radar sequences but they're recorded. Wilkes, the consummate hardware guy, doesn't just see the screen, he looks to see how the whole system fits together.
Every week or two I get an email from a teacher, parent, or school board member seeking my opinion about a curriculum or product. I'm not a product reviewer, so until now I've declined. But some of the products seem so ill-conceived that I thought it was worth writing about them. So I'm starting an occasional series on this blog called "Hall of Shame" in which I'll feature educational products that are unsupported or contradicted by scientific evidence, and yet are actually in use in schools.
eyeQ is a computer program currently being tested in Salt Lake City Schools which the makers describe as "an effective tool for Brain Enhancement, Reading Improvement, and Vision Therapy or Eye Training." Near-sighted users are promised that they likely will see an improvement in their vision. Improvements in reading speed of 100% in less than one month are described as typical.
You can try the first lesson free at the website. You are encouraged to read at different paces (some that are clearly meant to be faster than you could possibly read), to follow a moving object as it appears and disappears at different spots on the screen, and to visualize an object expanding, guided by an oval that increases in size.
Via Jeff Henriques:
Examining the performance of only economically disadvantaged students in 8th grade, after two years and a quarter at Wright Middle School, compared with other MMSD middle schools.Click for a larger view:
The Madison School Board recently passed the District's Strategic Plan. Superintendent Dan Nerad has now published a draft document outlining performance measures for the plan (this is positive). The 600K PDF document is well worth reading. Mr. Nerad's proposed performance measures rely on the oft criticized - for its lack of rigor - state exam, the WKCE. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction recently stated that "Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum".
A few highlights from the 600K PDF document:
The problem is well-known: The U.S. lags far behind other developed countries at the K-12 level in terms of measured performance in math and science courses.
What can be done to change that? The Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray posed that question to three experts: Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education; Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania; and Christopher Edley Jr., dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, who was also a member of the Obama administration transition team working on education issues.
Here are edited excerpts of their discussion:
It's the Teachers
ALAN MURRAY: What will it take to get the American system up to the level of some of the other developed countries in terms of math and science education?
JOEL KLEIN: The most important thing is to bring to K-12 education college graduates who excel in math and science. Those countries that are doing best are recruiting their K-12 teachers from the top third of their college graduates. America is recruiting our teachers generally from the bottom third, and when you go into our high-needs communities, we're clearly underserving them.
MR. MURRAY: How do you explain that? It doesn't seem to be a function of money. We spend more than any of these other countries.
MR. KLEIN: We spend it irrationally. My favorite example is, I pay teachers, basically, based on length of service and a few courses that they take. And I can't by contract pay math and science teachers more than I would pay other teachers in the system, even though at different price points I could attract very different people. We've got to use the money we have much more wisely, attract talent, reward excellence.
Brady Tynen needed to find out which states have the largest concentrations of people with mixed American Indian-African American ancestry. The Stillwater Junior High ninth-grader could have pored through the U.S. Census database, noted the appropriate percentage, ranked the states in a list and tried to divine some trend.Stillwater high school offers 17 Advanced Placement classes, according to the AP Course Audit Website.
Then again, his geography class is just 50 minutes long, and Tynen needed to repeat Wednesday's exercise two more times for different groups.
Thankfully, the Census website can show the information on a map with the press of a few buttons. In mere minutes, Tynen could tell that the group he was looking at is concentrated in the eastern U.S., particularly southern states like Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia.
"Maps are a good way to find out all sorts of things," he said. "It'd be kind of hard if you didn't have a map because maps organize your data."
The exercise gave students in Sara Damon's ninth-grade Advanced Placement geography class a taste of a technology called geographic information systems (GIS). GIS is simply technology that merges data with maps. Something as basic as Google Maps can be considered GIS because it links a map to data, in that case street addresses.
I spent Columbus Day in Sunnyvale, fittingly, meeting with a roomful of new arrivals. Well, relatively new. They were Indians living in Silicon Valley. The event was organized by the Think India Foundation, a think-tank that seeks to solve problems which Indians face. When introducing the topic of skilled immigration, the discussion moderator, Sand Hill Group founder M.R. Rangaswami asked the obvious question. How many planned to return to India? I was shocked to see more than three-quarters of the audience raise their hands.
Even Rangaswami was taken back. He lived in a different Silicon Valley, from a time when Indians flocked to the U.S. and rapidly populated the programming (and later executive) ranks of the top software companies in California. But the generational difference between older Indians who have made it in the Valley and the younger group in the room was striking. The present reality is this. Large numbers of the Valley's top young guns (and some older bulls, as well) are seeing opportunities in other countries and are returning home. It isn't just the Indians. Ask any VC who does business in China, and they'll tell you about the tens of thousands who have already returned to cities like Shanghai and Beijing. The VC's are following the talent. And this is bringing a new vitality to R&D in China and India.
Why would such talented people voluntarily leave Silicon Valley, a place that remains the hottest hotbed of technology innovation on Earth? Or to leave other promising locales such as New York City, Boston and the Research Triangle area of North Carolina? My team of researchers at Duke, Harvard and Berkeley polled 1203 returnees to India and China during the second half of 2008 to find answers to exactly this question. What we found should concern even the most boisterous Silicon Valley boosters.
Just over a year ago, Nature Publishing Group's new Education Division quietly launched the Beta of a revolutionary idea: Replace expensive textbooks with a free collaborative learning space for science. Scitable.com went live in January, 2008 and has quickly become a magnet for serious students of genetics (the first field that Nature is addressing).
Now, a year after its beta, Scitable.com is alive and well. Students and faculty from all over the world are actively using Scitable's resources to teach and learn about genetics.
What can you do on Scitable?
A group of 13 Madison-area kids and their families replicated the International Space Station at Elver Park Friday, using over a mile of plastic tape, and spanning nearly two soccer fields.
The six families who participated in constructing the two-dimensional model are part of a network of homeschooled children and their parents in the Madison area. Each family chose sections of the space station to research and construct, and then made signs explaining their parts' size and function.
David Dexheimer, activity organizer and parent of one of the children participating, said the goal of the project was to teach the kids about how the space station works. He said he came up with the idea a few weeks ago by looking at a NASA educational website.
"I've always been into space stuff and so is my daughter," Dexheimer said. "This just worked into our curriculum well, in terms of all the math and science you need."
The families arrived at the park around 8:30 a.m. and started constructing the model with plastic barricade tape, secured to the ground with golf tees.
Artificial life will be created within four months, a controversial scientist has predicted. Craig Venter, who led a private project to sequence the human genome, told The Times that his team had cleared a critical hurdle to creating man-made organisms in a laboratory.
"Assuming we don't make any errors, I think it should work and we should have the first synthetic species by the end of the year," he said.
Dr Venter, who has been chasing his goal for a decade, is already working on projects to use synthetic biology to create bacteria that transform coal into cleaner natural gas, and algae that soak up carbon dioxide and turn it into hydrocarbon fuels. Other potential applications include new ways of manufacturing medicines and vaccines.
Dr Venter's prediction came after scientists at his J. Craig Venter Institute, in Rockville, Maryland, announced that they had developed a new method of transplanting DNA into bacteria, promising to solve a problem that has held up the artificial life project for two years.
It's not every day you move an atom with a mouse click. But this is precisely what I do one day at the Singularity University, a new institution supported by Google and Nasa, which aims to educate a select group of entrepreneurs and scientists about the rapid pace of technology.
The class of 40 students - who are taking time out of their working lives - has settled into a busy routine. Our 12-hour days are crammed with experiments, visits to technology centres including IBM and Willow Garage, and discussion with experts. The purpose is to open our eyes to the pace of change and future possibilities.
On Wednesday we arrive at IBM Almaden research centre, a series of black glass buildings in the hills near San Jose. Unassuming office doors open to reveal scientists working away in a scene reminiscent of a sci-fi movie. We meet Kevin Roche, who is building complex machines that can deposit thin films of atoms to form nano-scale devices.
This is where, in 1989, the physicist Donald Eigler built a scanning tunnelling microscope and demonstrated the ability precisely to manipulate individual atoms by rearranging xenon atoms to spell out IBM. In homage, we use a similar machine and write SU (for Singularity University) by selecting iron atoms with a mouse and nudging them across the screen.
We open another door and witness magnetic "racetrack" memory experiments. This is the idea of storing data in magnetic field domains that can then slide or "race" along nano-wires so they can be read quickly. The idea may help our future portable devices to store hundreds of times more video.
To answer the age-old question "When am I going to use this?," school systems in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties are working to enrich their science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs by using hands-on teaching, guest speakers and real-world experiments and applications.
Charles is expanding its Gateway to Technology to all middle schools after a successful pilot program last year, school system spokeswoman Katie O'Malley-Simpson said. The program is part of the nationally recognized Project Lead the Way curriculum, which supports engineering and science.
"It focuses on showing, rather than telling, students how to use engineering in everyday problems," O'Malley-Simpson said. "They see that because they are applying their skills as they learn them."
Major findings include:Joanne has more.
In PIRLS 2006, the average U.S. 4th-graders' reading literacy score (540) was above the PIRLS scale average of 500, but below that of 4th-graders in 10 of the 45 participating countries, including 3 Canadian provinces (Russian Federation, Hong Kong, Alberta, British Columbia, Singapore, Luxembourg, Ontario, Hungary, Italy, and Sweden).
Among the 28 countries that participated in both the 2001 and 2006 PIRLS assessments, the average reading literacy score increased in 8 countries and decreased in 6 countries. In the rest of these countries, including the United States, there was no measurable change in the average reading literacy score between 2001 and 2006. The number of these countries that outperformed the United States increased from 3 in 2001 to 7 in 2006.
The 2007 TIMSS results showed that U.S. students' average mathematics score was 529 for 4th-graders and 508 for 8th-graders. Both scores were above the TIMSS scale average, which is set at 500 for every administration of TIMSS at both grades, and both were higher than the respective U.S. score in 1995.
Fourth-graders in 8 of the 35 other countries that participated in 2007 (Hong Kong, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, England, and Latvia) scored above their U.S. peers, on average; and 8th-graders in 5 of the 47 other countries that participated in 2007 (Chinese Taipei, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan) scored above their U.S. peers, on average.
Among the 16 countries that participated in both the first TIMSS in 1995 and the most recent TIMSS in 2007, at grade 4, the average mathematics score increased in 8 countries, including in the United States, and decreased in 4 countries. Among the 20 countries that participated in both the 1995 and 2007 TIMSS at grade 8, the average mathematics score increased in 6 countries, including in the United States, and decreased in 10 countries.
In PISA 2006, U.S. 15-year-old students' average mathematics literacy score of 474 was lower than the OECD average of 498, and placed U.S. 15-year-olds in the bottom quarter of participating OECD nations, a relative position unchanged from 2003.
Fifteen-year-old students in 23 of the 29 other participating OECD-member countries outperformed their U.S. peers.
There was no measurable change in U.S. 15-year-olds' average mathematics literacy score between 2003 and 2006, in its relationship to the OECD average, or in its relative position to the countries whose scores increased or decreased.
The 2007 TIMSS results showed that U.S. students' average science score was 539 for 4th-graders and 520 for 8th-graders. Both scores were above the TIMSS scale average, which is set at 500 for every administration of TIMSS at both grades, but neither was measurably different than the respective U.S. score in 1995.
Fourth-graders in 4 of the 35 other countries that participated in 2007 (Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, and Japan) scored above their U.S. peers, on average; and 8th-graders in 9 of the 47 other countries that participated in 2007 (Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Korea, England, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and the Russian Federation) scored above their U.S. peers, on average.
While there was no measurable change in the average score of U.S. 4th-graders or 8th-graders in science between 1995 and 2007, among the other 15 countries that participated in the 1995 and 2007 TIMSS at grade 4, the average science score increased in 7 countries and decreased in 5 countries; and among the other 18 countries that participated in both the 1995 and 2007 TIMSS at grade 8, the average science score increased in 5 countries and decreased in 3 countries.
In PISA 2006, U.S. 15-year-old students' average science literacy score of 489 was lower than the OECD average of 500, and placed U.S. 15-year-olds in the bottom third of participating OECD nations. Fifteen-year-old students in 16 of the 29 other participating OECD-member countries outperformed their U.S. peers in terms of average scores.
Technical notes about the data sources, methodology, and standard errors are included at the end of this report.
This week the American Chemical Society (ACS) is holding its Fall 2009 National Meeting & Exposition in Washington, DC, USA. In honor of professional chemists, educators, and students, we're celebrating chemistry this week. If you are attending the meeting and would like a personal introduction to Wolfram|Alpha or the technology behind it, drop by the Wolfram Research booth, #2101.
Wolfram|Alpha contains a wealth of chemistry data, and provides you rapid computations that ensure accuracy and save time. Wolfram|Alpha is also an incredible learning tool, especially for new chemistry students looking for ways to learn, understand, compare, and test their knowledge of chemistry basics. Many of the topic areas found on an introductory or advanced course syllabus can be explored in Wolfram|Alpha.
Need to compute how many moles are in 5 grams of iron? Query "how many moles are in 5 grams of iron?", and Wolfram|Alpha quickly computes your input and returns a result, along with unit conversions.
Genetic engineering is beginning to live up to its name. Over the past 30 years it has meant transferring existing genes, one at a time, between organisms. Now - under the banner of "synthetic biology" - scientists are using the principles of systems engineering to transform whole organisms and potentially even to create novel forms of life.
Synthetic biology is sufficiently different from old-style genetic engineering to need a new system of regulation and governance, plus a fresh effort by its practitioners to tell the public what they are up to. Enormous benefits could flow from their work - practical pay-offs, such as new medicines and biofuels, as well as scientific insights into the nature of life.
But there are serious concerns too. First is bio-safety. Synthetic biology involves the production of novel living organisms that are self-replicating and potentially uncontrollable if something goes wrong.
Such fears were voiced in the mid-1970s when scientists first discovered how to snip a piece of DNA out of one organism and splice it into another. Indeed everyone in the field agreed to a voluntary moratorium on genetic engineering while they considered the safety consequences. Soon work resumed and, to this day, no serious accident can be blamed on the genetic manipulation of microbes.
At Harvard, Carrie Grimes majored in anthropology and archaeology and ventured to places like Honduras, where she studied Mayan settlement patterns by mapping where artifacts were found. But she was drawn to what she calls "all the computer and math stuff" that was part of the job.
"People think of field archaeology as Indiana Jones, but much of what you really do is data analysis," she said.
Now Ms. Grimes does a different kind of digging. She works at Google, where she uses statistical analysis of mounds of data to come up with ways to improve its search engine.
Ms. Grimes is an Internet-age statistician, one of many who are changing the image of the profession as a place for dronish number nerds. They are finding themselves increasingly in demand -- and even cool.
"I keep saying that the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians," said Hal Varian, chief economist at Google. "And I'm not kidding."
Bill Gates called US immigration restrictions a "huge mistake" while on tour of India today, urging America to open its golden doors for more "smart people."
The Microsoft billionaire spoke out on US immigration at a software CEO forum Monday in New Deli while visiting the country to receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament, and Development.
"I have been speaking about some of the immigration restrictions that the US has got involved in, and they are terrible for the US and also terrible for the world," India's national newspaper The Hindu quotes Gates saying. "The US Congress is very tough on immigration, in general. And my position has been, well, that is unfortunate, but what about making an exception for smart people, people with engineering degrees and letting such people come in."
Adding that Microsoft has always been against tougher immigration laws, Gates said stricter US policy would be a "huge mistake."
Independent public schools may be getting a chance in the Bay State
MASSACHUSETTS ranks at or near the top of national measures of how well schoolchildren do at reading and mathematics. A leader in early-years education, it is also applauded for its vocational, technical and agriculture schools. Still, there are problems. The disparity between students in affluent districts and those in low-income urban ones is shocking. In the Concord/Carlisle school district, for instance, 92% of students graduated from high-school on time and planned to attend a four-year college or university in 2007, compared with just 12.8% in Holyoke, one of the poorest cities in the state.
Many states have turned to charter schools (self-governing publicly-funded schools) to close achievement gaps like that, but charters are a tricky subject in Massachusetts even though the few they do have, such as Boston Collegiate, are among the best in the country. Unions abhor them while the school boards that run most public schools fear losing power and funding. Politicians have been unwilling to take on Massachusetts's mighty unions.
Last year Deval Patrick, the self-styled "education governor" of the state, unveiled a 55-point plan to overhaul the state's education system. The governor's package includes the introduction of three types of "readiness schools" to turn around poorly performing districts. Like charters, they will have greater flexibility, autonomy and will be held accountable for their results. But they will not be fully independent, remaining under the control of local school boards. Mr Patrick will introduce a bill authorising these schools later this month. One sort would have an external partner, such as a university, while another would be teacher-led.
Classical Roots of the Scientific Revolution.
For over a thousand years--from the fifth century B.C. to the fifth century A.D.--Greek mathematicians maintained a splendid tradition of work in the exact sciences: mathematics, astronomy, and related fields. Though the early synthesis of Euclid and some of the supremely brilliant works of Archimedes were known in the medieval west, this tradition really survived elsewhere. In Byzantium, the capital of the Greek-speaking Eastern empire, the original Greek texts were copied and preserved. In the Islamic world, in locales that ranged from Spain to Persia, the texts were studied in Arabic translations and fundamental new work was done. The Vatican Library has one of the richest collections in the world of the products of this tradition, in all its languages and forms. Both the manuscripts that the Vatican collected and the work done on them in Rome proved vital to the recovery of ancient science--which, in turn, laid the foundation for the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries. In the Roman Renaissance, science and humanistic scholarship were not only not enemies; they were natural allies.
40 years ago, three human beings - with the help of many thousands of others - left our planet on a successful journey to our Moon, setting foot on another world for the first time. Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of the July 16, 1969 launch of Apollo 11, with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. aboard. The entire trip lasted only 8 days, the time spent on the surface was less than one day, the entire time spent walking on the moon, a mere 2 1/2 hours - but they were surely historic hours. Scientific experiments were deployed (at least one still in use today), samples were collected, and photographs were taken to document the entire journey. Collected here are 40 images from that journey four decades ago, when, in the words of astronaut Buzz Aldrin: "In this one moment, the world came together in peace for all mankind". (40 photos total)
Almost 40 years since the first Moon landing on July 20 1969, the Apollo space programme remains one of the most eye-catching achievements in the history of science.
The anniversary also brings back glorious memories for Nasa, the US space agency formed more than 50 years ago, and the programme's success contrasts with the relatively pedestrian activities that space agencies perform today.
Here, the Financial Times takes a look back at the Apollo programme through figures. Click on each number to see how it fits into the story of the mission.
In the recent Tom Hanks/Ron Howard film "Angels & Demons," science sets the stage for destruction and chaos. A canister of antimatter has been stolen from CERN -- the European Organization for Nuclear Research -- and hidden in the Vatican, set to explode right as a new pope is about to be selected.
Striving to make these details as realistic as possible on screen, Howard and his film crew visited CERN, used one of its physicists as a science consultant, and devoted meticulous care to designing the antimatter canister that Hanks' character, Robert Langdon, and his sexy scientist colleague, Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), wind up searching for.
But there was nothing they could do about the gigantic impossibility at the center of the plot. While the high-energy proton collisions generated at CERN do occasionally produce minute quantities of antimatter -- particles with the opposite electrical charge as protons and electrons, but the same mass, which can in turn be combined into atoms like antihydrogen -- it's not remotely enough to power a bomb. As CERN quips on a Web site devoted to "Angels & Demons," antimatter "would be very dangerous if we could make a few grams of it, but this would take us billions of years."
ables charting the chemical elements have been around since the 19th century - but this modern version has a short video about each one.
We've done all 118 - but our job's not finished. Now we're updating all the videos with new stories, better samples and bigger experiments.
Plus we're making films about other areas of chemistry, latest news and occasional adventures away from the lab.
The Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowship seeks to attract talented, committed individuals with backgrounds in the STEM fields--science, technology, engineering, and mathematics--into teaching in high-need Indiana high schools. Learn more...When will the MMSD and the State of WI follow suit?
Funded through a $10 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, the Fellowship offers rigorous disciplinary and pedagogical preparation, extensive clinical experience, and ongoing mentoring. Eligible applicants include current undergraduates, recent college graduates, midcareer professionals, and retirees who have majored in, or had careers in, STEM fields.
Like many teenagers, Ari Weinstein spends his summers riding his bike and swimming. This year, the 15-year-old had another item on his to-do list: Foil Apple Inc.'s brightest engineers and annoy chief executive Steve Jobs.
Ari is part of a loose-knit group of hackers that has made it a mission to "jailbreak" Apple's iPhone and iPod touch. The term refers to installing unapproved software that lets people download a range of programs, including those not sanctioned by Apple.
Since Apple began selling its latest iPhone 3GS on June 19, Ari and six online cohorts spent hours a day probing the new product for security holes. This weekend, one of the member of the group, dubbed the Chronic Dev Team, released the jailbreaking software they've been working on. Ari says the program is a test version with some bugs, but that users have successfully downloaded it. A quarter-million people have visited the site, he says.
"Coding and testing things that may or may not work, and figuring things out, is a really rewarding experience," says Ari, a Philadelphia resident who began hacking when he was 11.
Wisconsin education officials are aiming to move into the national mainstream by setting firmer standards for what children should learn in school and finding better ways to measure achievement.Much more on the WKCE here.
A new report from the American Diploma Project praises Wisconsin's proposed new set of standards for high school English and math. The report is the latest of several indications that changes are being made when it comes to student expectations - and that others are noticing.
Wisconsin built a reputation in recent years for having loosely written state standards. The state was viewed as setting the bar about as low as anywhere in the country in determining if students were proficient, and taking too rosy an approach to deciding whether schools were getting adequate results.
Several national groups, some of them with conservative orientations but others harder to peg politically, criticized the state for its softness.
The report from the Diploma Project, issued last week, says that in revising its statement of what students are expected to learn in English and math, "Wisconsin has taken an important step to better prepare young people for success in post-secondary education and in their careers."
The Public Policy Forum's latest report, released today, finds that of the 10 career clusters predicted to grow the most over the next five years, seven include occupations requiring strong backgrounds in science, math, technology, or engineering (STEM). Of the 10 specific jobs predicted to be the fastest growing in the state, eight require STEM skills or knowledge and six require a post-secondary degree.Amy Hetzner has more.
Do Wisconsin's state educational policies reflect this growing need for STEM-savvy and skilled workers? Are Wisconsin education officials focusing on STEM in a coherent and coordinated way? Our new report probes those issues by examining state workforce development data and reviewing state-level policies and standards that impact STEM education.
We present several policy options that could be considered to build on localized STEM initiatives and establish a greater statewide imperative to prioritize STEM activities in coordination with workforce needs. Those include:
Vineet Nayar is reported to have called Americans graduates "unemployable"; the CEO of IT services vendor HCL Technologies was speaking recently in New York. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers debate racism, stereotyping, sweatshops, and H1B visas.via Lou Minatti.
By Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher, who has selected these bloggy tidbits for your enjoyment. Not to mention the best gaming toilets...
Rob Preston reports inflammatory comments with dignity:
History has had no shortage of outstanding female mathematicians, from Hypatia of Alexandria to Ada Lovelace, and yet no woman has ever won the Fields medal - the Nobel prize of the maths world. The fact that men outnumber women in the highest echelons of mathematics (as in science, technology and engineering) has always been controversial, particularly for the persistent notion that this disparity is down to an innate biological advantage.
AdaLovelace.jpgNow, two professors from the University of Wisconsin - Janet Hyde and Janet Mertz - have reviewed the strong evidence that at least in maths, the gender gap is down to social and cultural factors that can help or hinder women from pursuing the skills needed to master mathematics.
The duo of Janets have published a review that tackles the issue from three different angles. They considered the presence of outstanding female mathematicians. Looking beyond individuals, they found that gender differences in maths performance don't really exist in the general population, with girls now performing as well as boys in standardised tests. Among the mathematically talented, a gender gap is more apparent but it is closing fast in many countries and non-existent in others. And tellingly, the size of the gap strongly depends on how equally the two sexes are treated.
The tables above show selected statistics from the paper Global Sex Differences in Test Score Variability (see summary here), published by two economists, one from the London School of Economics and the other from the Helsinki School of Economics. Analyzing standardized test scores in reading and mathematics from the OECD's "Program for International Student Assessment" (PISA), a survey of 15-year olds in 41 industrialized countries, the authors found that:
Our analysis of international test score data shows a higher variance in boys' than girls' results on mathematics and reading tests in most OECD countries. Higher variability among boys is a salient feature of reading and mathematics test performance across the world. In almost all comparisons, the age 15 boy-girl variance difference in test scores is present. This difference in variance is higher in countries that have higher levels of test score performance.
One of the most important tools in crime prevention and safety is getting an accurate and timely picture of what is going on.
Eastern Michigan University and the City of Ypsilanti are taking that picture one step further.
By partnering with EMU's Institute for Geospatial Research, EMU's Department of Public Safety and the Ypsilanti Police Department have created a mapping/tracking system for area crime.
"We saw an opportunity to use EMU resources to help the campus and the community by providing timely, accurate information that enhances the safety of our campus," said Sue Martin, president of EMU.
"This is part of our commitment to having a transparent police agency," said Greg O'Dell, executive director of public safety at EMU. "With this addition to our Web site, people have total access to a lot of information."
"We want to increase the awareness of what's going on out there. If we increase awareness, people will have a better understanding of what is going on and take appropriate action," said O'Dell.
The crime mapping application is located on the DPS Web site (http://geodata.acad.emich.edu/Crime/Main.htm) and provides users with a visual representation of where crime is occurring by adding markers to a map of the campus and the city. The application uses the Google mapping Web interface to plot the points where crimes occur.
"DPS posts the data daily to its Web site and the application looks at that data and maps it," said Mike Dueweke, manager of EMU's Institute for Geospatial Research.
High school teachers in Greater Jakarta participating in an environmental workshop Saturday, were encouraged to bring the Green Map system to their students, to raise their environmental awareness.
In one of the workshops, volunteers from the Green Map Indonesia community shared their experience of mapmaking toward a sustainable community development with teachers.
The teachers were expected to be able to deliver the system to their students and start mapping out their green surroundings, volunteer Elanto Wijoyono said during the session.
"Students can start by mapping out their schools before expanding to other areas."
"They can also explore many interesting things they find during the mapping activities," he said, adding the system could be a more enjoyable approach to learning, combined with other subjects in the curriculum.
Creating Green Maps would make students more responsive to preserving the environment, said Marco Kusumawijaya, another Green Map volunteer.
bright lime-green T-shirts, groups of parents, students and teachers of the 16 elementary schools in Woodbridge Township and residents in the surrounding areas volunteered their time over the weekend to be part of making the routes to their individual schools safer.
Top and above: Teacher Beth Heagen, from Woodbine Avenue Elementary School No. 23 in Avenel, leads Bhavika Shah and her children Hetri, 8, a third-grader, and Ishika, 6, a firstgrader, as they travel through the streets that they and other students walk each day to get to school, looking for unsafe conditions as well as positive ones.
Dr. Wansoo Im, president of Vertices LLC, a GIS consulting firm, and a professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, led the group of a dozen or so people at Woodbine Avenue Elementary School No. 23 in Avenel to kick off the Discovering Safe Routes to School event, which was a walkability assessment, on May 30.
Each person was given a pedometer and took a map of the route, a survey and a digital camera to take photographs of what each one felt needed improvement, such as implementation of sidewalks, dangerous street crossings and overgrown shrubbery, and also what the participants felt worked well in the area.
"This event is an outgrowth of the walk we took with former Olympic racewalker [Mark Fenton] last year," said Mayor John E. McCormac. "Our job as public officials is to keep the kids safe. What is safe to us might not be what is safe to an 8-year-old kid. The kids walk these routes every day."
Annie Osborn in the Boston Globe:
Teen's lessons from China. I am a product of an American private elementary school and public high school, and I am accustomed to classrooms so boisterous that it can be considered an accomplishment for a teacher to make it through a 45-minute class period without handing out a misdemeanor mark. It's no wonder that the atmosphere at Yanqing No. 1 Middle School ("middle school" is the translation of the Chinese term for high school), for students in grades 10-12, seems stifling to me. Discipline problems are virtually nonexistent, and punishments like lowered test scores are better deterrents for rule breaking than detentions you can sleep through.
But what does surprise me is that, despite the barely controlled chaos that simmers just below the surface during my classes at Boston Latin School, I feel as though I have learned much, much more under the tutelage of Latin's teachers than I ever could at a place like Yanqing Middle School, which is located in a suburb of Beijing called Yanqing.
Students spend their days memorizing and doing individual, silent written drills or oral drills in total unison. Their entire education is geared toward memorizing every single bit of information that could possibly materialize on, first, their high school entrance exams, and next, their college entrance exams. This makes sense, because admission to public high schools and universities in China is based entirely on test scores (although very occasionally a rich family can buy an admission spot for their child), and competition in the world's most populous country to go to the top schools makes the American East Coast's Harvard-or-die mentality look puny.
Chinese students, especially those in large cities or prosperous suburbs and counties and even some in impoverished rural areas, have a more rigorous curriculum than any American student, whether at Charlestown High, Boston Latin, or Exeter. These students work under pressure greater than the vast majority of US students could imagine.
And yet, to an American student used to the freedom of debate during history or English class, to free discussion of possible methods for solving different math problems, the work seems hollow and too directed. The average class size is about 45 students (compared with the limit of 28 in Boston that is exceeded by three or four students at most), which severely limits the amount of attention a teacher can give a student.
It isn't that the curriculum is blatant propaganda, or that the answer to every math problem is Mao Zedong. It's more that there is very little room to maneuver: There is one good way to solve a math problem, or one way to program a computer, or one good way to do homework. Every class has the same homework, a worksheet printed on wafer paper, and essays are rare.• Novels are not taught in class, and teachers encourage outside reading of histories rather than fiction. The only fiction texts read in class are excerpts from the four classics (Imperial texts that are not considered novels) and Imperial poetry. The point of class is to cram as much information into the students in as little time as possible, all in preparation for entrance exams.
Students lack the opportunity to discuss and digest what they learn. Most rarely participate in political discussions outside class. During a weekend dinner at a classmate's house, I brought up the issue of Tibet and heard my classmate's father complain first about how Tibet wanted independence and second about how his daughter didn't know anything about it. The recent Tiananmen anniversary was a nonissue; the students say they are too busy with work to talk much about politics. Chinese high school students therefore have little practice in the decision-making and circumspection that Americans consider an integral part of education.
Chinese schools have many strengths, but they do not foster many broadly philosophical thinkers.
Annie Osborn is a Boston Latin School student. She recently completed her junior year at School Year Abroad in Beijing.
© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.
• [Boston Latin School no longer assigns "traditional" history research papers, they told me...in any case, they have never sent me any...Will Fitzhugh, The Concord Review]
Programmers from China and Russia have dominated an international competition on everything from writing algorithms to designing components.
Whether the outcome of this competition is another sign that math and science education in the U.S. needs improvement may spur debate. But the fact remains: Of 70 finalists, 20 were from China, 10 from Russia and two from the U.S.
TopCoder Inc., which runs software competitions as part of its software development service, operates TopCoder Open, an annual contest.
About 4,200 people participated in the U.S. National Security Agency-supported challenge. The NSA has been sponsoring the program for a number of years because of its interest in hiring people with advanced skills.
Participants in the contest, which was open to anyone -- from student to professional -- and finished with 120 competitors from around the world, went through a process of elimination that finished this month in Las Vegas.
China's showing in the finals was also helped by the sheer volume of its numbers, 894. India followed at 705, but none of its programmers were finalists. Russia had 380 participants; the United States, 234; Poland, 214; Egypt, 145; and Ukraine, 128, among others.
After Irace got his termination papers in June from JPMorgan Chase, he called "Brother K."
Hoagland called Irace in for an interview in August, when he needed a replacement for a math instructor on leave. A month later, the former trader was teaching quadratic equations and factoring to freshmen in five 40-minute periods of algebra a day. He enrolled in refresher math classes at Nassau Community College, sometimes learning subjects a day or two ahead of the kids. This semester, he's teaching sixth-graders measurements and percentages.
Seated at wooden desks, 21 to 39 in each class, they get excited when he flashes the animated math adventures of a robot named Moby onto a classroom projector. After school, Irace, now 198 pounds (90 kilograms), puts a whistle on a yellow cord around his neck and runs girls through conditioning drills as an assistant coach for the lacrosse team. The extra coaching stipend runs $1,000 to $2,000 for the season.
Local students can compete for a place on the world's first expedition testing how to clean up a floating patch of plastic waste more than 1,000 times bigger than Hong Kong.
The estimated 4 million tonnes of plastic waste floating on the Pacific Ocean was discovered in 1997 by boat captain Charles Moore. He caught sight of the trash while on his way home after finishing a Los Angeles-Hawaii sailing race.
Called the Plastic Vortex, the trash inspired Project Kaisei, an America-based environmental organisation that studies marine pollution, to plan an expedition in July and August - and it will look for volunteers in Asian universities.
"This is one of the top 10 man-made disasters ever, but no one knows about it," said Doug Wood- ring, ocean and conservation expert from the Hong Kong team. "It's in the ocean and no one sees it."
Project Kaisei's pilot mission aims to test technologies and evaluate the problem before a full-scale cleanup in 18 months.
Repetition doesn't make something true. The latest reminder was a piece by Financial Times columnist Clive Crook, in which he warns that America's long-term economic prospects are bleak because of a "calamitous" failure of schools to produce a high-quality workforce. This alarmist view is not limited to Crook. It has been echoed by Bill Gates and philanthropist Eli Broad, and by a host of organizations, such as the Business Roundtable.
Should job creation favor men? 05.19.09
Now is the time for right-to-repair law 05.18.09
Open forum: Journalism students lead way 05.16.09
More Open Forum »
It's easy to understand why people take at face value what reformers with impressive credentials say about education. They can be intimidating. But that's no excuse. As a wag quipped: In God we trust, all others bring evidence.
So let's look at the evidence.
In October 2007, B. Lindsay Lowell of Georgetown University and Hal Salzman of the Urban Institute concluded that the United States has a problem on the demand side of the equation - not on the supply side. This crucial distinction is lost in the heated debate, resulting in widespread misunderstanding.
ae Jemison is an astronaut, a doctor, an art collector, a dancer ... Telling stories from her own education and from her time in space, she calls on educators to teach both the arts and sciences, both intuition and logic, as one -- to create bold thinker.
Politicians fret these days about how U.S. students stack up in math and science compared with peers in India, China, Singapore and elsewhere. Some of them wonder how many American children could find those countries on a globe. Such talk is driving an effort in Congress to ensure that students learn more about other countries and cultures.
Critics of the No Child Left Behind law, which requires annual math and reading tests in grades three through eight and once in high school, say it has pushed subjects including geography, history and art to the side.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and other lawmakers are trying to change that with a bill called the Teaching Geography is Fundamental Act. The legislation would provide funds for teacher training, research and development of instructional materials.
Van Hollen said he has been distressed by surveys showing that students in the United States have a poor grasp of geography. He said the bill has bipartisan support and 70 co-sponsors.
You could see the pride in third-grader Kuron Anderson's eyes as he jumped from his tiny chair to talk about his technology project. He called it "The Many Faces of the Man," a digital photo mosaic that he created to celebrate the election of President Obama.
"I worked hard on it, and I did my best," Kuron said.
He then methodically explained how he used about 1,000 pictures to create his project for the first science and technology fair last month at the Mitchellville School of Math, Science and Technology in Bowie.
"This is the before picture," the 8-year-old said, pointing to the cutout on the cardboard display. "And if you step back, you will see his face on the computer. It is made up of cell images."
: Public schools across Wisconsin expect a critical shortage of math and science teachers in the next few years. Supply is not keeping up with demand.
That's why the Legislature should approve Senate Bill 175. This sensible proposal would lure more math and science professionals into classrooms by creating a shorter and less expensive route to a teaching license for anyone with a college degree.
SB 175 also could attract more black men into the teaching profession to serve as role models in urban schools -- a key selling point for Rep. Jason Fields, D-Milwaukee, who is part of a bipartisan group of sponsors.
Kindergartner Sylvia Bazsali and eighth-grader Ally Marckesano stood side-by-side as they learned about the formation of earthquakes and mountains by experimenting with frosting, graham crackers and fruit roll-ups.
Marckesano helped Bazsali with the lesson, which ended with a taste test -- the evidence still on Bazsali's lips.
"We've been kind of buddy-buddies lately," said Marckesano, who has four younger siblings.
The activity was part of Wingra School's annual all-school unit when students in kindergarten through eighth grade learn together. The two-week event had a science theme under a camp-like structure this year.
"It energizes the school in a way that's incredible," said Mary Campbell, director of education at the private school at 3200 Monroe St.
A child robot, or CB2, has been made in a laboratory at Osaka University in Japan. A scientific team is trying to teach the robot to think and act like a baby.
A bald, child-like creature dangles its legs from a chair as its shoulders rise and fall with rhythmic breathing and its black eyes follow movements across the room.
It's not human -- but it is paying attention.
Below the soft silicon skin of one of Japan's most sophisticated robots, processors record and evaluate information. The 130-centimetre humanoid is designed to learn just like a human infant.
The creators of the Child-robot with Biomimetic Body, or CB2, say it's slowly developing social skills by interacting with humans and watching their facial expressions, mimicking a mother-baby relationship.
"Babies and infants have very, very limited programs. But they have room to learn more," said Osaka University professor Minoru Asada, as his team's 33-kilogram invention kept its eyes glued to him.
What do we know works to improve student achievement in K-12 STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] education?
A.D.: I'd say great teachers, who know the content.
How do we know that?
A.D.: I think that's true in any subject area. If you get outstanding teachers, kids learn.
What's the evidence for that?
A.D.: Lots of evidence points to the fact that great teachers have an impact.
What is it about effective teachers that makes a difference?
A.D.: Lots of factors. It's not one. In this area, it sounds like common sense, but still, having teachers that truly know the content is critically important. You can't teach what you don't know. So that's a starting point. Beyond that, what do great teachers look like? They are passionate, they have high expectations--this is a calling, not a job. They go way beyond the call of duty to make sure that students are getting what they need. And they are really able to differentiate instruction, to work with kids who are struggling and those who are on track to becoming the next generation of chemists and physicists.
You mentioned content. But there are studies that have found what teachers majored in in college doesn't necessarily affect their ability to improve student achievement.
A.D.: You're right. I'm not talking about what you major in. I'm saying that you can't teach physics if you don't know physics. You don't have to have majored in physics. Maybe you come out of industry, or out of some other place. I worry a lot about how many folks are teaching classes in which they are not experts in the content. To me, that's a big part of the problem. We don't have enough teachers today who are experts in math and science. This is not just high school, it's also fifth, sixth, seventh grade.
In Craig Kohn's classroom at Waterford Union High School, students use traditional Punnett square diagrams to study animal genetics.
But they also use 80-pound Foster, the living, breathing class Holstein calf, and talk about his genetics and which of those traits they can predict his offspring may have generations from now.
Using Foster requires more post-lesson cleanup in the school's agriculture education classroom, but students say Kohn's lessons bring science alive. It is fun, real and far more engaging than memorizing facts and formulas.
The approach represents part of a revolution in agriculture education that is under way across Wisconsin and the United States.
The so-called "cows and plows" high school curriculum - animal science, plant science and mechanics - once dominated by farm kids in Carhartt jackets and Wranglers has morphed into courses that cover turf management, wildlife ecology, landscape design, biotechnology, organic farming, genetic engineering, sustainable water, biodiesel production and meat science.
The developments have exciting implications, from a wave of new student interest in agri-science to ample post-secondary career prospects.
Many school leaders are harnessing the potential of the programs. The Hartland-Lakeside School District is designing an organic farming charter school; state agriculture officials hope a similar urban agriculture school could take root in Milwaukee.
An online debate at The Economist:: Professor Arthur Caplan:
Emmanuel and Robert Hart Professor of Bioethics and Director, Centre for Bioethics, Penn UniversityCraig Venter, Against:
There are, it is increasingly said, plenty of reasons why people you know and many you don't ought to have access to your DNA or data that are derived from it. Have you ever had sexual relations outside a single, monogamous relationship? Well then, any children who resulted from your hanky-panky might legitimately want access to your DNA to establish paternity or maternity.
As we progress from the first human genome to sequence hundreds, then thousands and then millions of individual genomes, the value for medicine and humanity will only come from the availability and analysis of comprehensive, public databases containing all these genome sequences along with as complete as possible phenotype descriptions of the individuals.
A trio of words -- one that's slang for pizza, another defined as a body's vital life force and a third referring to a snoring sound -- have conspired to change the game of Scrabble.
"Za," "qi" and "zzz" were added recently to the game's official word list for its original English-language edition. Because Z's and Q's each have the game's highest point value of 10, those monosyllabic words can rack up big scores for relatively little effort. So now that those high-scoring letters are more versatile, some Scrabble aficionados would like to see the rules changed -- which would be the only change since Alfred Butts popularized the game in 1948.
For non Scrabble-rousers, there are analogs for the proposed re-evaluations in other leisure pursuits. Some notable mispriced assets: Vermont Avenue in Monopoly, three-point field goals in basketball and football and overtime losses in hockey. Yet traditionalists say rules should endure; it's up to players to exploit them.
In Scrabble, players form words on a 15-by-15-space board using 100 tiles -- two of them blanks that can stand in for any letter, and 98 tiles with letters and corresponding point values. Players draw seven tiles to start the game and refresh their set after each turn.
Are Americans flunking science? A new national survey commissioned by the California Academy of Sciences and conducted by Harris Interactive® reveals that the U.S. public is unable to pass even a basic scientific literacy test.
Over the past few months, the American government has allocated hundreds of billions of dollars for economic bailout plans. While this spending may provide a short-term solution to the country's economic woes, most analysts agree that the long-term solution must include a transition to a more knowledge-based economy, including a focus on science, which is now widely recognized as a major driver of innovation and industry.
Despite its importance to economic growth, environmental protection, and global health and energy issues, scientific literacy is currently low among American adults. According to the national survey commissioned by the California Academy of Sciences:
Only 53% of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun.
Intel has announced the winners of the pre-college Intel Science Talent Search 2009.Philip Streich, 18, of Platteville, Wis placed third (home school) and Gabriela Farfan of Madison placed tenth (Madison West High School). Congratulations all around!
The winner, Eric Larson, 17, of Eugene, Ore., was awarded a $100,000 Intel Scholarship. Larson won for his research project "classifying mathematical objects called fusion categories. Eric's work describes these in certain dimensions for the first time," Intel said in a statement.
Larson's background is described on this Siemens Foundation site, which discussed his project and his background last year. The Siemens post states that Larson, in addition to his mathematics prowess, is a piano player and a four-time winner of the Oregon Junior Bach Festival.
He is the son of Steven Larson and Winifred Kerner of Eugene, both members of the music faculty at the University of Oregon, according to the The Oregonian newspaper.
Scientific knowledge seems to grow at an exponential rate. The sheer amount of data and knowledge and understanding of the world and of the universe keeps growing. That's obvious. But less obvious is the fact that approaches to science education also change over time.
Of course science education still involves teaching students about the current scientific knowledge base. But another part of science education receiving attention is teacher-facilitated inquiry--that is, helping students learn how to ask a scientific question, how to pursue that question through a series of activities, and how to make activities and data sources cohere.
When science teachers adopt innovative curricula, it's important that they structure students' activities as a unit, rather than as a set of linear, discrete events. That's because students learn with deeper understanding when the teacher has woven the concepts and activities into a coherent whole. Recent research by UW-Madison education professor Sadhana Puntambekar has helped to pinpoint how that's done, and how science teachers effectively facilitate classroom discussion.
Coherent presentation of activities in a science unit is especially critical when students use a variety of information resources--for example, books, CD-ROMs, and hypertext systems--along with their hands-on activities. Students need teacher help, or scaffolding, as they work to make sense of all the available information.
Madison Memorial has had a pretty good couple of weeks. Last night the boys basketball team won its sixth straight Big Eight conference championship in a rollicking and highly-entertaining showdown with conference runner-up Madison East. Last week, Memorial's boys swimming team won the state championship. Today's State Journal reports that Memorial senior Suvai Gunasekaran will be heading off to Washington as one of the 40 finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search. And last week Memorial senior violinist Ben Seeger was the winner of the Steenbock Youth Music Award in the Bolz Young Artist Competition.
It's also worth pointing out that Suvai will be joined by Gabriela Farfan of West at the Intel Science Talent Search (and so MMSD is supplying 5% of the nation's finalists), and that Ben was joined in the Bolz Young Artists Competition finals by Alice Huang of West (the overall winner) and Ansel Norris of East (and so MMSD supplied 75% of the finalists in this statewide competition).
Madison schools - a diversity of excellence.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is one in a million.
He said so himself.
"There are six-and-half billion people on this planet, and there are 6,500 astrophysicists, so that makes each of us (astrophysicists) one in a million," Tyson said Monday night at the Wisconsin Union Theater as part of the UW's Distinguished Lecture Series.
It's too bad there aren't a lot more like Tyson, who kept the packed house enthralled with his charisma, knowledge and off-the-cuff humor for more than two hours.
Tyson is the 21st century face of space, a mantle previously held by the late, great Carl Sagan. Tyson is director of the Hayden Planetarium and the host of PBS' "NOVA ScienceNOW" program, aimed at educating a new generation of Americans in science.
And that is no small task.
Tyson pointed out numerous examples of scientific illiteracy in the U.S., including a general lack of understanding and a belief in silly superstitions.
On the screen behind him he showed a photo of the inside of an elevator in a tall building, and how there was no button for the 13th floor.
"We are supposedly a technologically advanced country, and yet people are afraid of the number 13?" he said.
Geeta Dawar takes her seventh grade science students outside their Madison school to examine cracks in the sidewalk.
David Spitzer gets his Madison elementary students to notice flocks of migrating geese overhead as the kids walk to school.
And David Ropa has his seventh graders, even on an arctic morning, use their bare hands to dip testing vials into Lake Mendota.
Nature is on the rise in many schools across Wisconsin, as educators strive to reverse a major societal shift toward technology and indoor activities. Today's students are the first generation in human history raised without a strong relationship with the natural world, said Jeremy Solin, who heads a state forest education program at UW-Stevens Point for students in kindergarten through high school.
The phenomenon of "nature deficit disorder" -- a term coined by author Richard Louv in his 2005 book "Last Child in the Woods" -- is contributing to childhood obesity, learning disabilities, and developmental delays, experts say.
Three years of math, three years of science - start getting ready, all you sixth-graders in Milwaukee Public Schools.
A School Board committee voted 3-0 Monday night to increase the requirements for graduating from MPS from two years each of math and science to three, effective with the class of 2014-'15, members of which are currently sixth-graders.
In addition, students would need to complete a half-year's worth of either an online course, community service or a service-learning project.
The proposal will go to the full board tonight and is expected to be approved.
U.S. students are doing no better on an international science exam than they were in the mid-1990s, a performance plateau that leaves educators and policymakers worried about how schools are preparing students to compete in an increasingly global economy.
Results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), released yesterday, show how fourth- and eighth-graders in the United States measure up to peers around the world. U.S. students showed gains in math in both grades. But average science performance, although still stronger than in many countries, has stagnated since 1995.
Students in Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong outperformed U.S. fourth-graders in science. The U.S. students had an average score of 539 on a 1,000-point scale, higher than their peers in 25 countries.
The average high school physics class in Virginia traverses 2,000 years of thinking, encompassing the Archimedes principle of buoyancy and Newton's laws of motion, and stopping abruptly at about the turn of the 20th century. Educators want the course to advance to today's string theorists and atom-smashing particle physicists.
But before they can modernize physics education, they need a breakthrough in a textbook system that often leaves courses in physics and other subjects decades behind the times.
Rather than waiting two years for the Virginia Board of Education to review its science standards, then another year for publishers to print new physics texts, the state secretaries of education and technology asked a dozen teachers to write their own chapters in biophysics, nanotechnology and other emerging fields and post them online.
By February, physics teachers from Vienna to Tappahanock should be able to rip, mash and burn new chapters in real-time physics, said Secretary of Technology Aneesh P. Chopra. The virtual pages, which cost the state and schools nothing except teacher time, will be an optional, free supplement to hardbound books.
Students at Edgewood Campus School are learning with the help of a research scientist.
This is the third year Edgewood is participating in the SMART (Students Modeling A Research Topic) Team program where students learn what active research scientists investigate in their labs. Along the way, students learn hands-on molecular modeling to better understand biochemistry and what happens when diseases occur.
"It tries to show students what research science is like," said Edgewood Campus School teacher Dan Toomey. "Science is not a collection of facts."
Toomey's three eighth-grade science classes are participating in the program, which was integrated into his classroom after he first ran it as an after-school program.
For one activity this year, the students created a three-dimensional model of amino acids to learn how they interact.
"It's a lot easier than, like, seeing a picture," said eighth-grader Anna Heffernan.
In the past six years, science has slipped as a priority in public schools while reading and mathematics have grown dominant.
But in coming years, experts say, the same federal law that elevated reading and math could spark a resurgence of science in the classroom.
The 2002 No Child Left Behind law required states to test students in science starting in the 2007-08 year, on top of reading and math assessments mandated from the start. Virginia has given science tests since 1998, but the exams are new for Maryland and the District. (Separately, Maryland tests high school students in biology as a graduation requirement.)
Unlike the reading and math test results, science scores won't be used to grade schools for accountability. But education leaders predict that the scores will matter when disseminated to the public.
Edgewood High School students presented their research findings last week at the St. Croix River Research Rendezvous -- concrete evidence of their days of wading knee deep, navigating through dense brush and searching forests for mushrooms.
Eleven students in Edgewood's advanced environmental field education class spent two weeks this summer studying mussel, rusty crayfish, mushroom, beaver and frog populations in Minnesota's enormous St. Croix State Park. A first for the school, seven of the students will present their research at the Rendezvous at the Warner Nature Center at Marine on St. Croix, Minn.
The National Park Service at the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, which is in eastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, will include the students' research in data it is compiling.
"It was hard -- messy. You're out there every day ... all hours," said Arial Shogren, a senior this year who studied crayfish. "Our work does get used and that's exciting."
Rising test scores are no reason to celebrate, author Alfie Kohn told teachers at the Utah Education Association (UEA) convention on Friday.
Schools that improve test scores do so at the expense of other subjects and ideas, he said.
"When the scores go up, it's not just meaningless. It's worrisome," Kohn told hundreds of educators on the last day of the convention. "What did you sacrifice from my child's education to raise scores on the test?"
Kohn, who's written 11 books on human behavior, parenting and schools, spent nearly two hours Friday morning ripping into both established and relatively new education concepts. He slammed merit pay for teachers, competition in schools, Advanced Placement classes, curriculum standards and testing--including Utah's standards and testing system -- drawing mixed reactions from his audience.
"Considering what we hear a lot, it was pure blasphemy," said Richard Heath, a teacher at Central Davis Junior High School in Layton.
Kohn called merit pay--forms of which many Utah school districts are implementing this year--an "odious" type of control imposed on teachers.
"If you jump through hoops, we'll give you a doggie biscuit in the form of money," Kohn said.
He said competition in schools destroys their sense of community. Advanced Placement classes, he claimed, focus more on material but don't do much to deepen students' understanding. He said standardized tests are designed so that some students must always fail or they're considered too easy, and often the students who do poorly are members of minority groups.some of Alfie Kohn's books: The Homework Myth; What Does it Mean to Be Well Educated?, And More Essays on Standards, Grading, and Other Follies; Punished by Rewards; No Contest: The Case Against Competition; The Case Against Standardized Testing; Beyond Discipline, etc.]
"We are creating in this country before our eyes, little by little, what could be described as educational ethnic cleansing," Kohn said. He called Utah's standards too specific and the number of tests given to Utah students "mind-boggling."
He called on teachers to explain such problems to parents and community members.
"The best teachers spend every day of their lives strategically avoiding or subverting the Utah curriculum," Kohn said.
Many teachers said they agreed with much of Kohn's talk, but disagreed on some points.
Shauna Cooney, a second grade teacher at Majestic Elementary School in Ogden, said it's important to have standards that give all children equal opportunities to learn certain concepts before they move forward.
Sidni Jones, an elementary teacher mentor in the Davis School District, agreed that current standardized tests are not as meaningful as other types of assessment, but she said it is hard to fight the current system.
"You can't just openly rebel against standardized testing because they're mandated," Jones said. "That's part of our jobs."
Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville, who is also a special education teacher at Taylorsville High School, said he walked out of the speech.
"We have got to have some degree of accountability for the public," Holdaway said. "The public demands it. Sometimes we forget who our customers are in terms of children and families."
Others, however, largely agreed with Kohn.
"It was awesome," said Claudia Butter, a teacher at the Open Classroom (good grief, are there still Open Classroom schools around??? Lord help us!) charter school in Salt Lake City. "With little steps we might be able to effect a change."
UEA President Kim Campbell said the UEA doesn't necessarily agree with everything Kohn advocates, but chose him as the keynote speaker because of his thought-provoking ideas.
"We want our members to constantly be challenging themselves and be thinking about new ideas and what they're doing in the classroom," Campbell said.
AGI is pleased to announce the theme of Earth Science Week 2008: "No Child Left Inside." Being held October 12-18, Earth Science Week 2008 will encourage young people to learn about the geosciences by getting away from the television, off the computer, and out of doors.
AGI hosts Earth Science Week in cooperation with sponsors as a service to the public and the geoscience community. Each year, local groups, educators, and interested individuals organize celebratory events. Earth Science Week offers opportunities to discover the Earth sciences and engage in responsible stewardship of the Earth. The program is supported by the U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, the National Park Service, the AAPG Foundation, and other geoscience groups.
MidAmerican also sees promise in BYD's battery technologies for storing wind energy and solar energy, Mr. Sokol said. Difficulties in storing energy for when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining have limited the deployment of these renewable energy technologies.
More broadly, Berkshire Hathaway wants to tap into China's engineering talent and is doing so through BYD, which has 11,000 engineers and technicians among its 130,000 employees.
Mr. Buffett did not attend the news conference, but said in a statement that he was impressed with Mr. Wang's record as a manager.
Town Fills With Teens Studying Full-Time For a College Entrance Exam; 'Bansalites Rock'
KOTA, India -- Hoping to boost his chances of getting into a top college, Rohit Agarwal quit his high school and left home.
The 16-year-old moved from the far northeast corner of India in June, with two suitcases and a shoulder bag. He took a two-hour flight and a six-hour train ride to the dusty town of Kota, India's cram-school capital.
More than 40,000 students show up in the arid state of Rajasthan every year, looking to attend one of the 100-plus coaching schools here. These intensive programs, which are separate from regular high school, prepare students for college-entrance exams. In Kota, most of the schools focus on the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology.
The seven IITs nationwide are statistically tougher to get into than Harvard or Cambridge. While around 310,000 students took the entrance exam this April, only the top 8,600 were accepted. A whopping one-third of those winners in the current academic year passed through Kota's cramming regimen.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this week took a step back from educational excellence by approving "emergency rules" that will permit high school students to appeal for relief from the MCAS science requirement after just one failure.
The change undermines a key goal of the state's education reform effort: to ensure all high school graduates have achieved at least minimal competence in science.
An appeals process exists for English or math requirements. However, students are eligible to appeal only after failing those portions of the MCAS tests three times -- a policy that, properly, gives students an incentive to improve their skills.
Via a kind reader's email:
Monday, September 15th
9:00 p.m. on Milwaukee Public Television (Channel 10)
11:00 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television stations
In 1995, America's college graduation rate was second in the world. Ten years later, it ranked 15th. As so many nations around the world continue to improve their systems of education, America can no longer afford to maintain the status quo. In an ever-changing, increasingly competitive global economy, is the U.S. doing all it can to prepare its students to enter the workforce of the 21st century and ensure our country's place as a world leader?
WHERE WE STAND: America's Schools in the 21st Century examines the major challenges for U.S. schools in the face of a changing world. Divided into five segments, topics include globalization; measuring student progress; ensuring that all students achieve; the current school funding system, and teacher quality.
WHERE WE STAND is airing at a critical time in our country's history. Along with its companion website and a variety of dynamic outreach activities across the country, the program will inspire a national dialogue in the weeks prior to the November elections. Nationally recognized education experts and leading proponents of educational reform will put these examples in context. They include Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone; Diane Ravitch, education historian; Wendy Puriefoy, President of Public Education Network; Chester Finn, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute; Rick Hess, Director of Education Policy Studies, AEI; Michael Rebell, Executive Director of the Campaign for Educational Equity; and Sharon Lynn Kagan, Associate Dean for Policy, Teacher's College at Columbia University.
WHERE WE STAND introduces students, parents, teachers and administrators whose stories illustrate the overwhelming odds and shining successes of education in America. They include Bin Che, an educator from mainland China who teaches Mandarin in rural Ohio; Cherese Clark, principal of a high-poverty school struggling under the pressure of low test scores; Alex Perry, who, at age 16, has already taken three college-level math classes, and Finnish exchange student Anne Kuittinen, who earns no school credit for her year in the U.S. despite her straight-A record.
Hosted by Judy Woodruff, Senior Correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, the documentary visits a range of socioeconomic and geographic school districts. The program features schools in Ohio, an important swing state, but this program is about all of our schools and where they stand.
Where We Stand: America's Schools in the 21st Century companion website (www.pbs.org/wherewestand <http://www.pbs.org/wherewestand> ) launches on September 15th in conjunction with the premiere. The program can be streamed in its entirety online.
When Jamie Hyneman and I speak at teacher conventions, we always draw a grateful crowd. They tell us Thursday mornings are productive because students see us doing hands-on science Wednesday nights on our show MythBusters, and they want to talk about it. These teachers are so dedicated, but they have difficulty teaching for the standardized tests they're given with the budgets they're not given. It's one reason the U.S. is falling behind other countries in science: By 2010, Asia will have 90 percent of the world's Ph.D. scientists and engineers. We're not teachers, but our show has taught us a lot about how to get people interested in science. Here are three humble suggestions that might help reinvigorate American science education.
David Campbell switched on the overhead projector and wrote "Evolution" in the rectangle of light on the screen.
He scanned the faces of the sophomores in his Biology I class. Many of them, he knew from years of teaching high school in this Jacksonville suburb, had been raised to take the biblical creation story as fact. His gaze rested for a moment on Bryce Haas, a football player who attended the 6 a.m. prayer meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the school gymnasium.
"If I do this wrong," Mr. Campbell remembers thinking on that humid spring morning, "I'll lose him."
In February, the Florida Department of Education modified its standards to explicitly require, for the first time, the state's public schools to teach evolution, calling it "the organizing principle of life science." Spurred in part by legal rulings against school districts seeking to favor religious versions of natural history, over a dozen other states have also given more emphasis in recent years to what has long been the scientific consensus: that all of the diverse life forms on Earth descended from a common ancestor, through a process of mutation and natural selection, over billions of years.
A federal judge says the University of California can deny course credit to applicants from Christian high schools whose textbooks declare the Bible infallible and reject evolution.
Rejecting claims of religious discrimination and stifling of free expression, U.S. District Judge James Otero of Los Angeles said UC's review committees cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the texts - not because they contained religious viewpoints, but because they omitted important topics in science and history and failed to teach critical thinking.
Otero's ruling Friday, which focused on specific courses and texts, followed his decision in March that found no anti-religious bias in the university's system of reviewing high school classes. Now that the lawsuit has been dismissed, a group of Christian schools has appealed Otero's rulings to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The weakest and most vulnerable element in education, particularly in the developed world, is the education of adolescents in our secondary-school systems. Relative economic prosperity and the extension of leisure time have spawned an inconsistent but prevalent postponement of adulthood. On the one hand, as consumers and future citizens, young people between the ages of 13 and 18 are afforded considerable status and independence. Yet they remain infantilized in terms of their education, despite the earlier onset of maturation. Standards and expectations are too low. Modern democracies are increasingly inclined to ensure rates of close to 100 percent completion of a secondary school that can lead to university education. This has intensified an unresolved struggle between the demands of equity and the requirements of excellence. If we do not address these problems, the quality of university education will be at risk.Raise, not lower standards. Quite a concept. Clusty Search: Leon Botstein.
To make secondary education meaningful, more intellectual demands of an adult nature should be placed on adolescents. They should be required to use primary materials of learning, not standardized textbooks; original work should be emphasized, not imitative, uniform assignments; and above all, students should undergo inspired teaching by experts. Curricula should be based on current problems and issues, not disciplines defined a century ago. Statistics and probability need to be brought to the forefront, given our need to assess risk and handle data, replacing calculus as the entry-level college requirement. Secondary schools and their programs of study are not only intellectually out of date, but socially obsolete. They were designed decades ago for large children, not today's young adults.
To help meet the economic and business challenges ahead and retain Michigan's position as the state with the highest percentage of engineers in the nation, Michigan high-school students will get significantly increased chances to develop critically needed engineering, science and math skills in 2009, thanks to a restructuring of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in Michigan.
"Although it is impossible to predict the future, including the economic opportunities and challenges Michigan may face, it is clear that to re-energize our economy we need more than a favorable business tax environment and financial incentives alone," said Bloomfield, Mich. resident and FIRST in Michigan Director, Francois Castaing.
"We need a steady flow of new engineers and technicians who will help existing and new industries tackle international competition and environmental challenges," he continued. "Michigan needs the next Larry Page to start another Google or to invent a new fuel from crab grass."
What would it take for Iowa - and the nation - to fully prepare students for the globally competitive world of today and tomorrow?
What does that mean for the curriculum, training of teachers and expectations for students? What is the best way to transform classrooms to deliver this world-class education, not just to elite students but to everyone? Are national standards the answer, or should that be left to states?
Those are some of the questions The Des Moines Register's editorial board has asked in recent months. We've talked with educators and policymakers, we've visited schools and we'll visit others here and abroad.
everal things are clear from conversations to date:
One is a growing, though hardly universal, concern that the United States must better educate students to keep its competitive edge in a fast-changing global economy. The rise of Asia and the flattening of the world with technology - allowing jobs to move virtually anywhere in the world - create great opportunities but also pose significant threats. That's especially worrisome when American youngsters perform so poorly in math and science on international tests compared to their peers in many other places.
Interest grows in higher standards.
Physics Nobel prize winner Dr. Leon Lederman criticizes the state of science education in the U.S. In this ScienCentral video, he explains who's to blame and what it will take to make a change.
The government is launching a three-year initiative to boost technical education.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development will head the effort designed to overhaul India's education system, which lags other developing countries. Officials said the effort aims to improve the quality of Indian education by expanding the capacity of institutions and creating new ones.
Regional, social and gender disparities in higher and technical education are also being addressed in the new strategy, which is being bolstered by a nine-fold budget increase for technical education. At the same time, the ministry said, regional governments need to do more to support technical education.
The federal government plans to establish eight new Indian Institutes of Technology, known for producing top researchers for global technology firms. Also planned are two more Indian Institutes of Science, Education and Research. Twenty new Indian Institutes of Information Technology are also planned.
How many teachers does it take to make a pingpong ball launcher?
More than one, 84 high school and middle school teachers participating in a two-week training class at the Milwaukee School of Engineering found out.
On Friday, they finished learning how to work cooperatively to make pingpong ball launchers and marble sorters, and to rip apart everything from flashlights to strap hinges so they could remake them to work better.
As a result, each is now certified to teach one Project Lead the Way class in digital electronics, civil engineering and architecture, or another engineering topic.
The Project Lead the Way-trained teachers are part of a push that powerful forces in the state have gotten behind.
ersonally, I know that China and India are not “Third World” countries, but that is because I’ve traveled to those countries and I deeply admire their cultures and their people.
The inspiration for the name “Third World Challenge” came a statement made to me by a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education when I showed my film Two Million Minutes for the HGSE faulty. “We have nothing to learn from education systems in Third World countries,” he intoned with much gravitas, “Much less a Third World country that lacks freedom of speech.” To my surprise, no other faculty member rose to challenge that statement.
While I certainly expected a more open-minded and globally aware audience at Harvard, I have now screened my film around the country and a surprisingly large segment of the American population believes India and China’s K-12 education systems are inferior to that of the United States. While no American makes the statement with the boundless hubris of a Harvard professor, the conclusion often is the same – America is number one in education and always will be.
This of course is not true. American students’ academic achievement has been declining vis-à-vis other developed countries for more than 20 years. What is now surprising and worrisome is US students are even lagging the developing world.
The spark plug igniting this creative combustion is engineering school Dean Stan Jaskolski, who returned to his alma mater five years ago after retiring as chief technology officer at Eaton Corp. and a stint on the board of the National Science Foundation.
Jaskolski is re-engineering the engineering program with money, innovation and collaboration. The new engineering complex will link up faculty and students from all levels and disciplines, along with sales and marketing students and labs. Out of this intellectual stew, Jaskolski believes, will come a better prepared, more innovative engineering graduate. The school has raised $60 million out of the $100 million needed to build the complex.
"Immune Attack" is still in its final stage of development and is not on shelves yet, but can be downloaded for free at their website. The game has already been evaluated in 14 high schools across the country with nearly a thousand more educators registered to evaluate it in the next phase of development. The reaction among teachers who have used the game has been positive.
Woodbridge, Va., high school AP biology teacher Netia Elam says the video game brought the concepts of immunology to life for her students.
"[With text books] they might read something, drag vocabulary words onto paper, or use their math, but they're not really integrated into it," Elam said. "Because they are playing video games, they were really engrossed in what they were doing. They took on more of an interest and more of an initiative to pay attention."
"Most incoming (community college) students are not ready for college-level work," the report says. "In addition, relatively few of these students reach proficiency during their time (in community college)."
That's interesting, but it also raises this question: Since virtually all of those community college students graduated from high school, what is that telling us about the level of K-12 instruction?
One presumes, perhaps naively, that if someone possesses a California high school diploma, thus signifying 12 years of education costing taxpayers around $130,000, that someone must possess basic reading, writing and computational skills.
Remember, we're not talking about the roughly one-third of California's teenagers who don't graduate from high school; with few exceptions we're talking about graduates who have enough gumption to attend community college, and yet, this report says most don't have the appropriate basic skills for college-level studies. By the way, that also doesn't count the large numbers of high school graduates – well over a third – who require remedial instruction after being accepted into the California State University system.
Germany’s shortage of engineers has become so acute that some of its leading companies are turning to nursery schools to guarantee future supplies.
Industrial giants such as Siemens and Bosch are among hundreds of companies giving materials and money to kindergartens to try to interest children as young as three in technology and science.
Many European countries from Switzerland to Spain suffer shortages of graduates. But the problem is especially acute in Germany, renowned as a land of engineering. German companies have 95,000 vacancies for engineers and only about 40,000 are trained, according to the engineers’ association.
“It is a new development in that we have seen we need to start very early with children. Starting at school is not good enough – we need to help them to understand as early as possible how things work,” said Maria Schumm-Tschauder, head of Siemens’ Generation21 education programme.
A COUPLE of years ago I received a letter from an American soldier in Iraq. The letter began by saying that, as we’ve all become painfully aware, serving on the front lines is physically exhausting and emotionally debilitating. But the reason for his writing was to tell me that in that hostile and lonely environment, a book I’d written had become a kind of lifeline. As the book is about science — one that traces physicists’ search for nature’s deepest laws — the soldier’s letter might strike you as, well, odd.A COUPLE of years ago I received a letter from an American soldier in Iraq. The letter began by saying that, as we’ve all become painfully aware, serving on the front lines is physically exhausting and emotionally debilitating. But the reason for his writing was to tell me that in that hostile and lonely environment, a book I’d written had become a kind of lifeline. As the book is about science — one that traces physicists’ search for nature’s deepest laws — the soldier’s letter might strike you as, well, odd.
But it’s not. Rather, it speaks to the powerful role science can play in giving life context and meaning. At the same time, the soldier’s letter emphasized something I’ve increasingly come to believe: our educational system fails to teach science in a way that allows students to integrate it into their lives.
Allow me a moment to explain.
Zeum is a non-profit multimedia arts and technology museum with a mission to foster creativity and innovation in young people of all backgrounds, communities and learning styles. By providing hands-on experiences in four core creative processes (animation, sound and video production, live performance and visual arts), we encourage youth to share their stories, build their voices, and use multimedia tools for creative self-expression.
Bob Nicholson can make the sun rise in the west, the stars come out at noon and the moon wax and wane with his whims.
"I will show you what the sky will look like on your last day of fifth grade," the 56-year-old educator told students gathered one afternoon this month in the domed planetarium at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria.
"This is not only a space machine," he continued, "it's a time machine."
Open-mouthed, the Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy fifth-graders stared up as the sun suddenly took Nicholson's cue, rising and setting on the course it would take June 19, the last day of school.
It's a late Wednesday morning and these three high school students from Meriden should be hunkered down in the classroom. But here they are, jammed around a digital monitor at the Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, fingers hovering over the touchscreen display that morphs scorpions and other critters through evolutionary time.
"Oh, wow," says Alexis Rivera, 16, neck craning and eyes fixed to the screen. "This is crazy."
Rivera was among 40 biology students from Orville H. Platt High School who fanned across the museum last week for a field trip on biodiversity, peering at ecological dioramas and touching interactive displays. To education experts, this is "informal" or "free-choice" science learning, which means it's happening outside of school.
"When we're in class, we can say, 'Do you know that bird, the so-and-so?'" says Walt Zientek, the school's special-education teacher for science. He is standing in the dimmed exhibit hall on Connecticut birds as his students weave their way through the museum's three floors.
In an approach based in Green Bay that has spread down the Lake Michigan shoreline, about 40 Wisconsin districts (though not Madison) belong to a consortium called the Einstein Project, a nonprofit group that buys the kits from publishers, leases them for a nominal fee to schools and arranges teacher training on their use.
Hailed as a national model by the National Science Teachers Association, the Einstein Project began on a shoestring and now has 10 employees, two kit warehouses and a $1 million annual budget supported by the rental fees, year-round fundraising and private and corporate backing.
But critics of the hands-on movement charge that without textbooks and the structured reading, teacher-driven learning and broad memorization of facts that traditionally define classroom science, kids are being short-changed on core knowledge.
A major fight over science curriculum in California got national attention in 2004, as the state weighed a proposal to allow no more than 25 percent of science classroom time for hands-on activities. But in an abrupt reversal after intense debate, the adopted standard reads that at least 25 percent of science classroom time has to be hands-on.
Stanley Metzenberg, an assistant biology professor from California State University-Northridge, said in congressional testimony that reading is critical for scientists and that children are best served through traditional textbooks and teacher-directed instruction.
As part of nearby Trinity Presbyterian Church's adopt-a-school partnership with Townsend Street School, about 50 fifth-grade students from the public school are growing flowers and vegetables in eight raised planting beds and learning about science and nature from church volunteers in the garden and in their classrooms. Last fall, the class "put the garden to bed" by pulling vegetation and laying straw.
"A lot of these kids don't have experience in tending anything, in watching something grow," said Trudy Holyst, a church member and research chemist at the Blood Center of Wisconsin who goes into the two fifth-grade classrooms about twice a month to teach basic botany and scientific observation. "They've done a really good job. Almost all the seeds we started in the classroom have germinated."
With a meter stick in his hand, Ben Senson instructs his ninth-grade science students on how to calculate formulas for force using levers and fulcrums.
He sketches out an equation on the whiteboard, turns around, adjusts the meter stick on a spring scale and calls for a reading.
"Where do I put the weight for a third-class lever?" the Memorial High school [Map] teacher quizzes.
No one answers.
"Come on, man," Senson cajoles. "We have to pre-read our labs so we know what we're going to do. If you're running short of time, make sure you get the spring scale reading. Do the math later."
Grabbing their lab sheets and purple pens, the freshmen split into groups to complete the assignment for an Integrated Science Program.
"The equations are hard to remember," Shannon Behling, 14, tells a classroom visitor. "It gets confusing." But she sees the value of the assignment: "We may not use this stuff, but it gets your brain to think in a different way."
Prince William County, after years of longing, may finally get a selective magnet school to serve as a mini-rival to Fairfax County's prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
The Prince William, Manassas and Manassas Park school systems recently won a $100,000 state grant to design a regional "governor's school" that would open by fall 2010 and specialize in math, science and technology.
The yet-unnamed school, which would have rigorous admissions requirements, would differ in key respects from Thomas Jefferson, a full-day governor's school in the Alexandria section of Fairfax that draws students from across Northern Virginia. Students would still attend neighborhood schools, traveling to the new magnet campus only for high-level classes.
The National Science Bowl® is a highly visible educational event and academic competition among teams of high school students who attend science seminars and compete in a verbal forum to solve technical problems and answer questions in all branches of science and math. The regional and national events encourage student involvement in math and science activities, improve awareness of career options in science and technology, and provide an avenue of enrichment and reward for academic science achievement.
It is 10:30 p.m. and students at the elite Daewon prep school here are cramming in a study hall that ends a 15-hour school day. A window is propped open so the evening chill can keep them awake. One teenager studies standing upright at his desk to keep from dozing.
Kim Hyun-kyung, who has accumulated nearly perfect scores on her SATs, is multitasking to prepare for physics, chemistry and history exams.
“I can’t let myself waste even a second,” said Ms. Kim, who dreams of attending Harvard, Yale or another brand-name American college. And she has a good shot. This spring, as in previous years, all but a few of the 133 graduates from Daewon Foreign Language High School who applied to selective American universities won admission.
It is a success rate that American parents may well envy, especially now, as many students are swallowing rejection from favorite universities at the close of an insanely selective college application season.
“Going to U.S. universities has become like a huge fad in Korean society, and the Ivy League names — Harvard, Yale, Princeton — have really struck a nerve,” said Victoria Kim, who attended Daewon and graduated from Harvard last June.
Daewon has one major Korean rival, the Minjok Leadership Academy, three hours’ drive east of Seoul, which also has a spectacular record of admission to Ivy League colleges.
How do they do it? Their formula is relatively simple. They take South Korea’s top-scoring middle school students, put those who aspire to an American university in English-language classes, taught by Korean and highly paid American and other foreign teachers, emphasize composition and other skills key to success on the SATs and college admissions essays, and — especially this — urge them on to unceasing study.
Despite earning B averages in high school, at least one in 10 HOPE Scholarship recipients receives some type of remedial help during the first year of college.
Put simply, some college freshmen who seemed to excel in high school still need help in basic math and English.
Twelve percent of college freshmen who have the HOPE Scholarship, awarded to Georgia students who graduate from high school with at least a B average, received learning support in fall 2006, according to the University System of Georgia.
The reasons why run the gamut, with blame placed at the state level all the way down to the student.
"It's hard for me to say the causes of that," said Dana Tofig, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education.
But part of the reason for the state's continuing overhaul of the public schools' kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum is to get students out of remediation and make them more prepared for college work, he said.
"The curriculum">curriculum before was way too broad and way too vague," Tofig said.
Ignorance in the United States is not just bliss, it’s widespread. A recent survey of teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900.Common Core of Data.
"We have one of the highest dropout rates in the industrialized world," said Allan Golston, the president of U.S. programs for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In a discussion over lunch recently he described the situation as "actually pretty scary, alarming."
Roughly a third of all American high school students drop out. Another third graduate but are not prepared for the next stage of life — either productive work or some form of post-secondary education.
When two-thirds of all teenagers old enough to graduate from high school are incapable of mastering college-level work, the nation is doing something awfully wrong.
Mr. Golston noted that the performance of American students, when compared with their peers in other countries, tends to grow increasingly dismal as they move through the higher grades:
The public schools, perhaps more than any other institution in American life, are afflicted with "sounds good" syndrome. Let's teach kids about the dangers of smoking. Sounds good. Let's improve math scores with a new curriculum called "whole math." Sounds good. Let's reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by teaching sex ed. Sounds good. Let's have cooperative learning where kids help one another. And so on.
The Fairfax County, Va., schools (where my children attend) recently joined a nationwide "sounds good" trend by introducing a character education curriculum. Students were exhorted to demonstrate a number of ethical traits like (I quote from my son's elementary school's website) "compassion, respect, responsibility, honesty." It would be easy to mock the program -- each trait, for example, is linked to a shape (respect is a triangle, honesty is a star). The intention to help mold character is a laudable one. But this program, like so much else about the public schools in the "sounds good" era, has foundered.
The curriculum made news recently when a report ordered by the school board evaluated student conduct for "sound moral character and ethical judgment" and then grouped the results by race. Oh, dear. It seems that among third graders, 95 percent of white students received a grade of "good" or better, whereas only 86 percent of Hispanic kids did that well and only 80 percent of black and special education students were so rated.
Martina A. "Tina" Hone, an African-American member of the school board, told the Washington Post that the decision to aggregate the evaluations by race was "potentially damaging and hurtful."
E.D. Hirsch, Jr. [300K pdf]:
Like other forward-looking organizations, the American Federation of Teachers believes that we need to have better state standards if we are truly going to improve K-12 education. I’ve earnestly stated that same view. That’s no doubt why I’ve been invited to write on this subject.Thanks to a reader for mentioning this article.
I’m genuinely flattered. But after living with this question for more than two decades, my views have become so definite (some might say extreme) that I decided to conceive of this piece as a guest editorial where no one should think I am speaking for anyone but myself. That will allow me to speak my mind, which will I hope be more useful to readers than an attempt to find and express a consensus view on behalf of American Educator and the AFT on this controversial subject.
E. D. Hirsch, Jr., is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and author of many articles and books, including the bestselling Cultural Literacy and The Schools We Need. He is a fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation. His most recent book is The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children.
The subject is controversial in part because some teachers do not like explicit subject-matter standards. In my own state of Virginia, some teachers are quite annoyed with me personally because many years back my writings influenced the Virginia Board of Education when they introduced the “Virginia Standards of Learning”—the much debated, often dreaded SoLs. But let me say to those teachers, and to other teachers, that the state did not pay attention to what my colleagues and I said back in 1988. We said that subject-matter standards and tests of them should be just two prongs of a four-pronged policy. Standards and tests needed to be accompanied by good teacher training in the subject matter specified in the standards and by good classroom materials that clearly indicate what to teach, but not how to teach it. The last two prongs have never come properly into existence in Virginia, nor to my knowledge in any other state. Moreover, the Virginia standards (not to mention the tests) are not nearly as good as they should be. other state standards are even worse. No wonder there is such dissatisfaction!
But many teachers I have talked to have agreed that they would very much prefer to work in a more coherent system, one that ensured that students who entered their classrooms were adequately prepared.
In November 2006, Jack Li's father, a longtime Caterpillar employee in Beijing, was transferred to Peoria, Ill. Jack enrolled in high school as a ninth-grader. His parents, good friends of mine for almost a decade, weren't particularly worried about their son adapting to a new school in a foreign country -- at least not academically. They believed that China has better K-12 education than the U.S.
Jack didn't disappoint them: Three months later, he scored high enough on the SATs to put him in the top 3% in math and well above-average in writing and reading. Last fall, he transferred to Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, a college-prep program for Illinois students. He took advanced chemistry last semester and will study basic calculus next semester.
Chinese students like Jack are examples of why Microsoft's Bill Gates asked Congress today to spend more to improve American education in math and science. Unless more students can be attracted to those subjects, Mr. Gates warned, the U.S.'s competitive advantage will erode and its ability to create high-paying jobs will suffer.
I know many Americans don't believe him. They argue that American kids may not be as good at math and science as Chinese and Indian kids, but they're more well-rounded. But that's increasingly untrue. For example, Jack isn't your stereotypical Chinese nerd. He's the captain of IMSA's sophomore basketball team and tried out for the tennis team today.
When I was little, I wanted to be an inventor. Not the next Edison, perhaps, but at least Caractacus Potts, who built "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," or Bernie in the "Sugar and Spike" comic books.
Alas, unlike those fictional whizzes, I have never been able to fashion a teleportation device from an eggbeater and flashlight, or create a flying car. It's the 21st century and I really want a flying car. Maybe if I had visited the UW-Madison's physics museum as a child, I could have one by now.
As public school break draws to a close, a trip to the museum might encourage your own budding inventors, and demonstrate that science can be as much fun as vacation — at least when presented the right way.
The L.R. Ingersoll Physics Museum occupies room 2130 of Chamberlin Hall. It's a long, gold-colored chamber of hands-on exhibits overlooking University Avenue. The physics department's original pendulum clock ticks ponderously as busts of Newton, Tesla and Einstein glower over candy-colored amusements whose names sound as if they were drawn straight from a magic show.
Toni Cattani had never been to a science fair. On Saturday morning, the 16-year-old junior from Kettle Moraine High School felt "completely terrified."
Since eighth grade she'd been thinking about her project, the development of eyedrops that could replace contact lenses. She wears glasses but finds plastic contacts too uncomfortable. Some nights she would lie awake imagining possibilities for her research, things she could try. She would fall asleep at 3 a.m., wake at 5:30 and get ready for school.
Now she was sitting in a room with some of state's finest young scientists. From across Wisconsin, 100 students had brought months and even years of research to Marquette University for the seventh annual Badger State Science and Engineering Fair.
A few of the robots charged out of their starting positions as if fired from cannons, blazing across the track, extending wiry metal arms and slapping huge, brightly colored balls off a catwalk hovering above.Learn more here.
Some robots limped a few feet before sputtering to a stop. Others collided with their mechanical teammates, spinning out of control.
It's a good thing Thursday was just practice.
The idea of battling robots might conjure up images of smashing and bashing, but at the FIRST Wisconsin Regional Robotics Competition today and Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Arena, it's all about technology and teamwork.
Sixty high school squads from nine states are competing, including 27 from Wisconsin. The event is free and open to everyone, and the players promise to put on a show.
Fiery explosions, beautiful reactions, and hilarious music videos are great reasons to be excited about chemistry. Here are some of our favorites.
In a recent class at Abraham Clark High School in Roselle, N.J., business teacher Barbara Govahn distributed glossy classroom materials that invited students to think about what they want to be when they grow up. Eighteen career paths were profiled, including a writer, a magician, a town mayor -- and five employees from accounting giant Deloitte LLP.
"Consider a career you may never have imagined," the book suggests. "Working as a professional auditor."
The curriculum, provided free to the public school by a nonprofit arm of Deloitte, aims to persuade students to join the company's ranks. One 18-year-old senior in Ms. Govahn's class, Hipolito Rivera, says the company-sponsored lesson drove home how professionals in all fields need accountants. "They make it sound pretty good," he says.
Deloitte and other corporations are reaching out to classrooms -- drafting curricula while also conveying the benefits of working for the sponsor companies. Hoping to create a pipeline of workers far into the future, these corporations furnish free lesson plans and may also underwrite classroom materials, computers or training seminars for teachers.
The programs represent a new dimension of the business world's influence in public schools. Companies such as McDonald's Corp. and Yum Brands Inc.'s Pizza Hut have long attempted to use school promotions to turn students into customers. The latest initiatives would turn them into employees.
Location: Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Dates: Sunday, March 2 – Friday, March 7
Times (EST): 11 am, 12 am, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm
Program Length: 30 minutes
How do you get kids to say “I want to be a scientist when I grow up?” Dr. Robert Ballard, known for discovering the Titanic among other scientific breakthroughs, may have the answer. The renowned oceanographer’s latest quest is not to discover underwater secrets, but to inspire the next generation of ocean explorers by introducing kids to the thrill of discovery and encouraging them to pursue the science and environmental careers so critical for the health of the planet.
From March 2–7, 2008, Immersion Presents Monterey Bay, a cutting-edge, interactive educational program led by Dr. Ballard and a team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other institutions, will use telepresence technology – a combination of satellite and Internet connections – to transport young people live to a scientific expedition in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Students will explore in real-time one of the planet’s most spectacular and most important biodiversity hotspots where they will experience majestic 100-foot-tall kelp forests, take a day trip out to the deep sea in NOAA’s research vessel R/V Fulmar, and study endangered marine mammals like the grey or blue whale and the threatened California sea otter.
“When kids see scientists in action, whether diving a kelp forest, exploring with an ROV, or getting up close to a whale, they immediately discover that being a scientist means much more than wearing a white coat in a lab," said Dr. Ballard, founder of Immersion Presents. "With everyone talking about ‘going green,’ now more than ever we need kids to get excited about the environmentally focused careers that will help protect the planet. Immersion expeditions show kids that science is not only far from boring or nerdy, it is absolutely essential to preserve one of our most threatened resources, the oceans.”
“Many of our kids only know what a jellyfish is from watching Sponge Bob on television,” said Hector Perez, club director of the Chicago’s Union League Boys & Girls Club, which participates in the program. “It’s hard for kids to imagine being part of something that they’ve never seen before. Immersion Presents’ virtual science expeditions open their minds, transporting them to a whole new world of ocean discoveries, new technology, and exciting career opportunities.”
In the oft-quoted "Birches," Robert Frost muses about a boy who lives too far from town to learn baseball so instead spends time in the woods swinging in the trees. "He always kept his poise / to the top branches, climbing carefully / with the same pains you use to fill a cup / up to the brim, and even above the brim," Frost writes. "Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish, / kicking his way down through the air to the ground." This sort of unstructured, imaginative play is increasingly lacking in an indoor, scheduled world—to children's great detriment, argues Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, a book that explores research linking the absence of nature in children's lives to rising rates of obesity, attention disorders, and depression. New evidence of the lack: a recent study that shows visits to national parks are down by as much as 25 percent since 1987. U.S. News spoke with Louv about the study and the emergence of "nature deficit disorder." Excerpts:
The new study points to about a 1 to 1.3 percent yearly decline in national park visits in America. Why do you think this is happening?
I looked at the decline in national park usage in my book, and the most important reason for it is the growing break between the young and nature. Our constant use of television, video games, the Internet, iPods is part of what's driving this. For example, a recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of 6.5 hours a day with electronic media. But time and fear are also big factors. Many parents feel that if they don't have their kids in every organized activity, they will fall behind in the race for Harvard. And we are scared to death as parents now of "stranger danger" and letting kids roam free.
Four Washington County teens are among 18 groups in the nation invited to display their rocket-building skills to NASA space shuttle engineers this spring.Donald Behm has more:
The challenge for the team, all members of the county's 4-H rocketry club, was to design and build a reusable rocket. It had to be capable of carrying a science payload to one mile above the surface and returning safely to the ground.
Their 7-foot rocket will be launched in late April at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama as part of NASA's Student Launch Initiative.
A rocket club from Madison West High School in Madison also was selected this year.
With spring deadlines looming, four Washington County teens are working weekends to build a high-powered rocket to launch in front of NASA space shuttle engineers.
Their challenge: Design and build a reusable rocket capable of carrying a science payload to one mile above the surface and returning safely to the ground.
The team, all members of the county's 4-H rocketry club, is one of only 18 groups in the United States invited to display their skills this year as part of NASA's Student Launch Initiative. Their rocket will be launched in late April at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
"It cannot be wrecked," said Katlin Wagner, 15, a freshman at Slinger High School and the defending rocketry champ among 4-H youth in the county. "We must be able to put it back together and use it again."
Consider the eighth-grade NAEP results from Massachusetts, which are a stunning exception to the nationwide pattern of stagnation and decline. Since 1998, the state has improved significantly in the number of eighth-graders reading at the "proficient" or "advanced" levels: Massachusetts now has the largest percentage of students reading at that higher level, and it is No. 1 in average scores for the eighth grade. That is because Massachusetts decided in 1997 that students (and teachers) should learn certain explicit, substantive things about history, science and literature, and that students should be tested on such knowledge.E.D. Hirsch Jr. is an author, most recently of "The Knowledge Deficit," and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation.
Robert Ballard spoke at Saturday's Friends of UW Hospital & Clinic's dinner. Ballard provided an interesting look at his work over the decades, which included some interesting education related comments:
Congress erred big-time when NCLB assigned each state to set its own standards and devise and score its own tests … this study underscores the folly of a big modern nation, worried about its global competitiveness, nodding with approval as Wisconsin sets its eighth-grade reading passing level at the 14th percentile while South Carolina sets its at the 71st percentile.Matt Miller via a kind reader's email:
It wasn’t just the slate and pencil on every desk, or the absence of daily beatings. As Horace Mann sat in a Leipzig classroom in the summer of 1843, it was the entire Prussian system of schools that impressed him. Mann was six years into the work as Massachusetts secretary of education that would earn him lasting fame as the “father of public education.” He had sailed from Boston to England several weeks earlier with his new wife, combining a European honeymoon with educational fact-finding. In England, the couple had been startled by the luxury and refinement of the upper classes, which exceeded anything they had seen in America and stood in stark contrast to the poverty and ignorance of the masses. If the United States was to avoid this awful chasm and the social upheaval it seemed sure to create, he thought, education was the answer. Now he was seeing firsthand the Prussian schools that were the talk of reformers on both sides of the Atlantic.Related:
In Massachusetts, Mann’s vision of “common schools,” publicly funded and attended by all, represented an inspiring democratic advance over the state’s hodgepodge of privately funded and charity schools. But beyond using the bully pulpit, Mann had little power to make his vision a reality. Prussia, by contrast, had a system designed from the center. School attendance was compulsory. Teachers were trained at national institutes with the same care that went into training military officers. Their enthusiasm for their subjects was contagious, and their devotion to students evoked reciprocal affection and respect, making Boston’s routine resort to classroom whippings seem barbaric.
Mann also admired Prussia’s rigorous national curriculum and tests. The results spoke for themselves: illiteracy had been vanquished. To be sure, Prussian schools sought to create obedient subjects of the kaiser—hardly Mann’s aim. Yet the lessons were undeniable, and Mann returned home determined to share what he had seen. In the seventh of his legendary “Annual Reports” on education to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he touted the benefits of a national system and cautioned against the “calamities which result … from leaving this most important of all the functions of a government to chance.”
Mann’s epiphany that summer put him on the wrong side of America’s tradition of radical localism when it came to schools. And although his efforts in the years that followed made Massachusetts a model for taxpayer-funded schools and state-sponsored teacher training, the obsession with local control—not incidentally, an almost uniquely American obsession—still dominates U.S. education to this day. For much of the 150 or so years between Mann’s era and now, the system served us adequately: during that time, we extended more schooling to more people than any nation had before and rose to superpower status. But let’s look at what local control gives us today, in the “flat” world in which our students will have to compete.
The United States spends more than nearly every other nation on schools, but out of 29 developed countries in a 2003 assessment, we ranked 24th in math and in problem-solving, 18th in science, and 15th in reading. Half of all black and Latino students in the U.S. don’t graduate on time (or ever) from high school. As of 2005, about 70 percent of eighth-graders were not proficient in reading. By the end of eighth grade, what passes for a math curriculum in America is two years behind that of other countries.
Dismal fact after dismal fact; by now, they are hardly news. But in the 25 years since the landmark report A Nation at Risk sounded the alarm about our educational mediocrity, America’s response has been scattershot and ineffective, orchestrated mainly by some 15,000 school districts acting alone, with help more recently from the states. It’s as if after Pearl Harbor, FDR had suggested we prepare for war through the uncoordinated efforts of thousands of small factories; they’d know what kinds of planes and tanks were needed, right?
When you look at what local control of education has wrought, the conclusion is inescapable: we must carry Mann’s insights to their logical end and nationalize our schools, to some degree. But before delving into the details of why and how, let’s back up for a moment and consider what brought us to this pass.
Matthew Michael Wage, 17, of Appleton, submitted an Intel Science Talent Search mathematics project that extended earlier results on arithmetic functions. The starting point for Matt's project in number theory is Lehmer's Conjecture, still open, that an arithmetic function defined by Ramanujan, the tau-function, is nonzero at each natural number n. Murty, Murty and Shorey showed that tau takes on any given value only finitely often. Matt extends this result to a wider class of arithmetic functions, sometimes at the cost of adding restrictions to the choice of n. Matt attends Appleton High School East where he is active in varsity football, varsity tennis and the ping pong club. Matt has won regional competitions in math, and his volunteer efforts as a coach helped the school's math team earn the top rank in the state. He also enjoys playing chess, bridge and guitar. Matt's quest for understanding the world around him has fueled his passion to learn everything from ideal gas laws to the propaganda genius of Genghis Khan. The son of Michael Wage and Kathy Vogel, Matt plans to study mathematics and medicine and pursue a career as a physician or mathematician.Amanda Fairbanks has more.
To middle school teacher Chad Pavlekovich, most science textbooks are dull and lack the context students need to understand scientific principles. That's why he is exposing students in the town of Salisbury on Maryland's Eastern Shore to three new textbooks that are unorthodox in concept, appearance and substance.
The "Story of Science" series by Joy Hakim tells the history of science with wit, narrative depth and research, all vetted by specialists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The first book is "Aristotle Leads the Way," the second is "Newton at the Center" and the third is "Einstein Adds a New Dimension." The series, which has drawn acclaim, chronicles not only great discoveries but also the scientists who made them.
"These books humanize science," Pavlekovich said.
Welcome to the historic Mt. Everest expedition. The team is attempting to climb up the world's tallest mountain and reach the summit — a place no human has ever been before. It has taken 16 days for Edmund Hillary, 13 other climbers, and 350 porters to reach the Tengpoche Monastery and set up a rear camp. Why are there so many people taking part in this journey? Find out by checking the interview with Whitney Stewart, our expert on Sir Edmund Hillary and his work.
In order to reach the monastery, the team has already trekked 170 miles up the hot and humid Katmandu Valley. The terrain is smooth, and everyone is in high spirits. The Sherpas, a clan of Nepalese, watch the team curiously, and join them in celebration when they reach this first stop at Tengpoche Monastery.
The National Science Board this week said leading science and engineering indicators tell a mixed story regarding the achievement of the US in science, research and development, and math in international comparisons.
For example, US schools continue to lag behind internationally in science and math education. On the other hand, the US is the largest, single, R&D-performing nation in the world pumping some $340 billion into future-related technologies. The US also leads the world in patent development.
The board’s conclusions and Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 are contained in the group’s biennial report on the state of science and engineering research and education in the United States sent to the President and Congress this week.
While the report is massive, the board came up with 13 prime observations on the report or what it calls leading Science and Engineering Indicators 2008.
Children are being denied the chance to take part in geography field trips because of fears over health and safety, Ofsted has warned.
Inspectors warned of signs that geography is in decline in England's schools as growing numbers of pupils abandon a subject they find "boring and irrelevant".
Ofsted called for a revamp of geography, with more fieldwork and lessons on climate change and fair trade. Chief inspector of education Christine Gilbert said: "Geography is at a crucial period in its development.
"More needs to be done to make the subject relevant and more engaging for pupils."
One key way to make lessons more exciting is through field trips, Ofsted said in a new report.
Three Racine sophomore students were notified on Monday that a celestial body they discovered during a science project had been verified as an asteroid.The students operated a telescope located in New Mexico remotely over the internet.
The students at Racine's Prairie School will be able to name the asteroid, temporarily identified as "2008 AZ28," in about four years, according to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., the international authority on known objects in the solar system.
Sophomores Connor Leipold, Tim Pastika and Kyle Simpson were able to make the discovery thanks to technology provided from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., which is also the alma mater of the science teacher, Andrew Vanden Heuvel, school spokeswoman Susan Paprcka said.
While this might be typical work for a graduate student in the life sciences, Ballard is a senior at Madison West High School who is still shy of his 18th birthday. His work with the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Eukaryotic Structural Genomics is part of the Youth Apprenticeship Program (YAP), an innovative project that gives exceptional high-school students an opportunity to get exposure and experience in their desired careers.Related:
Created in 1991, the program is run by Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development, with collaboration from universities, schools and businesses. Statewide, more than 10,000 students have participated in 22 different program areas. This year, Ballard is one of nine Dane County students enrolled in YAP's biotechnology focus, which offers a taste of working science that they can't get in high school.
"Working in the research lab is amazing," says Ballard, who plans to pursue both an M.D. and Ph.D. after college. "It's meaningful. There is a point (to it). In high school, you do your labs and it's not contributing to human knowledge in any way."
The 2008 FIRST Championship will take place April 17-19 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.The Wisconsin regional competition is March 13-15, 2008 in Milwaukee.
The FIRST Championship is the culmination of the season's programs, including the FIRST Robotics Competition, the FIRST Tech Challenge, and the FIRST LEGO League.
Learn more at www.badgerbots.org.
“Lawyers, I suppose, were children once,” wrote English essayist Charles Lamb.
Now, it seems, the lawyers are children. Well, maybe not quite. But here in Gotham, a handful of law-themed high schools and middle schools are teaching student the ropes of legislation and litigation. Law-themed high schools? Yep, you heard that right.
The curricula at the public schools, some of which are part of the New Century Initiative, a decade-long effort to improve schools in the inner-cities, isn’t all-law-all-the-time. Students are expected to follow the curriculum outlined by the Department of Education, so reading, writing and ‘rithmetic stay on the agenda.
But much of the curricula relates directly to law. At the Urban Assembly Academy of Government and Law in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, for instance, freshmen take U.S Government for two semesters. By their sophomore year, students begin taking an American law course taught by a former attorney.
Freshmen at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice in Brooklyn preside over a hypothetical case involving injury suffered from Fluffy, a ferocious dog, and an apartment building owner that is sued as a result.
We've selected a range of materials to help you:
- Show science demonstrations by MIT faculty in your classroom.
- Provide alternate explanations to reinforce key concepts.
- Guide students to additional homework problems and exam examples.
- Add to your knowledge.
An understanding of basic math and reading is a better indicator of future academic success than behavior is in preschool and kindergarten students, according to a recent study led by a Northwestern professor.
SESP professor Greg Duncan led an 11-person team in a four-year study researching factors affecting how well students do in school.
"We were interested in assessing the relational predictive power of various skills â€¦ kids had when they entered school," Duncan said.
The researchers studied students entering school, looking at their academic performance, sociability and the number of fights they were involved in. They looked at data for students, in some cases up to seventh grade, and found that those who mastered elementary math and literacy skills early on were more likely to succeed in school, regardless of behavior, than those who were well-behaved but didn't master academics. The study controlled for economic and family factors.
1. Are there any countries where you can you see lions and tigers and bears in the wild?
2. What is the only U.S. state to allow its residents to cast absentee ballots from outer space?
3. If you could somehow hover at a point in space just above the equator, roughly how fast would the ground below be moving relative to you?
4. It was originally named the Flavian Amphitheater, but nobody calls it that today. What is its more common name?
Joey @ UT-Austin: (video)
This has to be one of the best ACTLab class presentations I have seen in a long time. Pretty much every project hit hard. And there were many that hit well above the mark. So lets take a look at those:
Laser Harp! Yeah that is right, Derek, a student of mine, along with Drake as his programmer and Sandy as a consultant created a laser harp. While he ran into many issues, he did have a proof of concept to show off. Check it out:
There are more and more groups of professionals who are committed to making information freely available to the public through the Internet. Many universities and scientists are willing to share their lectures and expertise. Instructional videos are available for students of all ages—elementary through graduate school.
SciVee is operated in partnership with the Public Library of Science (PLoS), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). It has a relatively new Web site that contains some material for elementary students and larger quantities of material for older students through scientists. Young people who are interested in careers in science will be fascinated by the various topics being studied. Just seeing what is going on at different universities may help students focus on their future objectives.
Examples of videos available at the sight include Where Does Water Go When It Rains? Dissections, and Freezing by Boiling. There is also much information on highly sophisticated topics that will be appealing for highly able high school students.
What is the rationale for all United States high students passing three advanced courses in math and science to receive a high school diploma? What is the rationale for "all" high school graduates satisfying the requirements for admission to a four-college program? There is none!
The United States is the uncontested leader of the world in scientific research in respect to published accomplishments, Nobel Prizes, volume of research and expenditures on scientific research. The United States is the leader of the world in technology and the unchallenged leader of the world in the global economy. The United States dominates the world because of its educational systems, including K-12 public education, post-secondary colleges and universities that produce the most highly educated, productive and successful workforce in the world.
Girls won top honors for the first time in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, one of the nation’s most coveted student science awards, which were announced yesterday at New York University.More here.
Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, both 17 and seniors at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School on Long Island, split the first prize — a $100,000 scholarship — in the team category for creating a molecule that helps block the reproduction of drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria.
Isha Himani Jain, 16, a senior at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pa., placed first in the individual category for her studies of bone growth in zebra fish, whose tail fins grow in spurts, similar to the way children’s bones do. She will get a $100,000 scholarship.
The three girls’ victories is “wonderful news, but I can’t honestly say it’s shocking,” said Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
As important, is the state of science and math education, particularly in the early grades, where young students' abilities have been in a steady decline. The slip results as much from failings in government priorities as from income and class inequities, Kao believes.Related: Math Forum | Math Task Force.
"We are allowing the vagaries of income disparity to waste generations of potential innovators," he says. "In U.S. schools serving low-income students, 30 percent of junior high mathematics teachers majored in math in college." In China, the majority of math and science teachers at all levels have advanced degrees in their subjects.
MORE than a decade ago, after George Cachianes, a former researcher at Genentech, decided to become a teacher, he started a biotechnology course at Lincoln High School in San Francisco. He saw the class as way of marrying basic biotechnology principles with modern lab practices — and insights into how business harvests biotech innovations for profit.
If you’re interested in seeing the future of biotechnology education, you might want to visit one of George Cachianes’s classrooms. “Students are motivated by understanding the relationships between research, creativity and making money,” he says.
Lincoln has five biotech classes, each with about 30 students. Four other public high schools in San Francisco offer the course, drawing on Mr. Cachianes’s syllabus. Mr. Cachianes, who still teaches at Lincoln, divides his classes into teams of five students; each team “adopts” an actual biotech company.
The students write annual reports, correspond with company officials and learn about products in the pipeline. Students also learn the latest lab techniques. They cut DNA. And recombine it. They transfer jellyfish genes into bacteria. They purify proteins. They even sequence their own cheek-cell DNA.
Would poison alter the amount of carbon dioxide in yeast? To answer that question, high school junior Evelyn Libal developed a hypothesis, designed an experiment and studied results from scientists who had conducted such tests.
The only thing missing from the 16-year-old's work, done for an Advanced Placement biology course offered through one of the state's virtual schools, was actually conducting the experiment.
And that's where the College Board, which administers the AP program, could have a problem.
Differences in the kind of lab work done by students enrolled in virtual schools vs. traditional classrooms have become an issue in an ongoing audit of AP courses.
So far, thousands of teachers worldwide have successfully completed audits of their syllabuses to ensure that they are teaching what is expected for the AP label.
But the majority of science courses offered by virtual schools with computerized simulations have been given only provisional permission to continue calling themselves AP classes as they align their lab work with AP standards over the next year.
For many, that means more hands-on experiments.
When Robert Ovadia got his invitation, he couldn't believe it.iGEM website.
He and four other students from his biotechnology class at Abraham Lincoln High School not only had an offer of paid summer lab jobs, they also would have a chance to square off against the world's powerhouse science universities.
In their Sunset District classroom, biotech teacher George Cachianes told the seniors they could be part of a team that would compete at iGEM, the international Genetically Engineered Machine competition. The contest founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focuses on synthetic biology, one of the most far-out of new scientific fields. It treats the building blocks of life - proteins and other molecules created by cells under instructions from DNA - as engineering parts that can be cobbled together to make anything from a new microorganism to a computer component. With luck, the Lincoln kids might help break new ground in science.
"I'm like, 'It's too good to be true,' " Ovadia remembers thinking.
The invitation came from UCSF Professor Wendell Lim, whose lab explores how cells process information and send signals. Lim knew his teenage proteges would face fierce competition from college teams at Harvard, Princeton and dozens of other elite universities around the globe.
Click for a larger version of this image.
Educators and politicians these days make a point of saying that U.S. schoolchildren aren't just competing locally for good, high-paying jobs — they're competing globally.1.9MB PDF Report:
A detailed study lets them know just how well kids may do if they really compete globally someday — and it's not exactly pretty.
Crunching the most recent data from a pair of U.S. and international math and science exams for middle-schoolers, Gary Phillips, a researcher at the non-profit American Institutes for Research (AIR), a non-partisan Washington think tank, finds a decidedly mixed picture: Students in most states perform as well as — or better than — peers in most foreign countries.
But he also finds that even those in the highest-scoring states, such as Massachusetts and Minnesota, are significantly below a handful of top-scoring nations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
In mathematics, students in 49 states and the District of Columbia are behind their counterparts in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. Students in Massachusetts are on a par with Japanese students, but trail the other four nations. In science, students in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin trail only students in Singapore and Taiwan, while performing equal or better than students in the other 45 countries surveyed.Clusty Search: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) | Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS)
“More than a century ago Louis Pasteur revealed the secret to invention and innovation when he said ‘chance favors the prepared mind’. The take away message from this report is that the United States is loosing the race to prepare the minds of the future generation,” said Dr. Phillips.
Students in the District of Columbia had the lowest U.S. performance in mathematics (they did not participate in the science test). In math, the average D.C. student is at the Below Basic level, putting them behind students in 29 countries and ahead of those in 14 countries. In science, nine states are at the Below Basic level: Florida, Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Alabama, Hawaii, California and Mississippi.
Via a kind reader's email.
Political leaders, tech executives, and academics often claim that the U.S. is falling behind in math and science education. They cite poor test results, declining international rankings, and decreasing enrollment in the hard sciences. They urge us to improve our education system and to graduate more engineers and scientists to keep pace with countries such as India and China.
Yet a new report by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, tells a different story. The report disproves many confident pronouncements about the alleged weaknesses and failures of the U.S. education system. This data will certainly be examined by both sides in the debate over highly skilled workers and immigration (BusinessWeek.com, 10/10/07). The argument by Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), and others is that there are not enough tech workers in the U.S.
The Master of Science in Biotechnology is an ideal solution for professionals in the biotechnology industry seeking to move into positions of greater responsibility or leadership.Learn more about Fall 2008 admission.
Practical and results oriented, this two-year program provides the scientific, legal and business foundation necessary for succeeding and advancing in one of the fastest growing and most complex industries in the world.
Market research shows that professionals holding an advanced degree in biotechnology can earn up to 30% more annually than those with B.S. degrees. Furthermore, 90% of our graduates cite a significant or considerable impact on their careers pre-graduation.
Our unique program combines the most current scientific coursework and practical business practices for a productive career in biotechnology.
It's been reported that almost 40% of Americans can't locate Iraq - where (hint) we've been fighting a war for four years.
Half of Americans between 18 and 24 can't even point out the state of New York.
The state of bewilderment? That's easy to find.
Many of us aren't just unable to point out other people's hometowns. Many of us can't name our own.
This is not sarcasm. There are 1,259 towns, 402 villages, 190 cities, 72 counties and countless unincorporated waysides (including one actually called Wayside) in Wisconsin.
We either need more maps, more Red Bull to keep everybody up during geography class or more consolidation.
Probably all of the above because, evidence increasingly shows, we Wisconsinites are even more confused about where we sit ourselves down than Sen. Larry Craig.
Earlier this month, the Northern Ozaukee School Board was all set to appoint an applicant to its Town of Saukville seat - a woman Superintendent Bill Harbron says was an "outstanding candidate."
The only problem: A current board member had to point out that she didn't actually live in the Town of Saukville.
Although she has a Town of Saukville mailing address, she actually lives just across the border in the Town of Fredonia.
The d.school's first major venture in the world of K-12 education opened this week at the Nueva School in Hillsborough, CA. Called the Innovation Lab, the project is a 3500 square foot space where students in the K-8 school will develop their design thinking skills. The project cycle was rapid with needfinding in April and May, conceptual prototype in June, and full-scale prototyping at Sweet Hall in July. July's prototype sessions brought 20 kids a week to campus and deeply informed everything from how to brainstorm with 1st graders, to how high to build the tables. The team also conducted a 3-day teacher workshop with Nueva faculty where teachers reported they rediscovered the importance of play and one was quoted as saying, the Innovation Lab, "is not just a space, it's a movement."
But that clear and present danger is not here today. It’s a slowly growing problem that we haven’t really faced up to, that we are rapidly losing our lead in this war for minds. The Cold War is over. The arms race is over. It’s now a mind race.Slashdot discussion.
Countries like China, India, and Korea have invested heavily in education over the last decade. They are now producing more scientists and engineers than we are. It is my concern that as we look to the future, innovation is going to come from the other side of the world.
Lacking a clear and present danger, the American education system is not mobilizing to support science, technology, engineering and math. Today’s generation of kids is the most technology savvy group that this country has ever produced. They are born with an iPod in one hand and a cell phone in another. They’re text messaging, e-mailing, instant messaging. They’re on MySpace, YouTube & Google. They’ve got Nintendo Wiis, Game Boys, Play Stations.
Their world is one of total interactivity. They’re in constant communication with each other, but when they go to school, they are told to leave those “toys” at home. They’re not to be used in school. Instead, the system continues teaching as if these kids belong to the last century, by standing in front of a blackboard.
Education has not changed, and that’s a problem. It was a good system when I came through, but today’s kids have changed, and that’s the part that educators are not realizing. It’s the kids that have changed, and our education system needs to change along with them.
Quick, what's the most influential piece of hardware from the early days of computing? The IBM 360 mainframe? The DEC PDP-1 minicomputer? Maybe earlier computers such as Binac, ENIAC or Univac? Or, going way back to the 1800s, is it the Babbage Difference Engine?
More likely, it was a 183-pound aluminum sphere called Sputnik, Russian for "traveling companion." Fifty years ago, on Oct. 4, 1957, radio-transmitted beeps from the first man-made object to orbit the Earth stunned and frightened the U.S., and the country's reaction to the "October surprise" changed computing forever.
Although Sputnik fell from orbit just three months after launch, it marked the beginning of the Space Age, and in the U.S., it produced angst bordering on hysteria. Soon, there was talk of a U.S.-Soviet "missile gap." Then on Dec. 6, 1957, a Vanguard rocket that was to have carried aloft the first U.S. satellite exploded on the launch pad. The press dubbed the Vanguard "Kaputnik," and the public demanded that something be done.
The most immediate "something" was the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), a freewheeling Pentagon office created by President Eisenhower on Feb. 7, 1958. Its mission was to "prevent technological surprises," and in those first days, it was heavily weighted toward space programs.
Speaking of surprises, it might surprise some to learn that on the list of people who have most influenced the course of IT -- people with names like von Neumann, Watson, Hopper, Amdahl, Cerf, Gates and Berners-Lee -- appears the name J.C.R. Licklider, the first director of IT research at ARPA.
Armed with a big budget, carte blanche from his bosses and an unerring ability to attract bright people, Licklider catalyzed the invention of an astonishing array of IT, from time sharing to computer graphics to microprocessors to the Internet.
Researcher: Sadhana Puntambekar
Phone: (608) 262-0829
Link to site: www.compassproject.net/info
Science Magazine: The World of Undergraduate Education
Previous participants include:
Kelly Francour: email@example.com
Dana Gnesdilow: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hands-on science lab activities provide students with engaging ways to learn. But sometimes students don't fully learn the concepts behind what they're doing.
A hypertext computer environment being developed and field tested gives students graphical ways to practice learning and relating science concepts like 'force' and 'energy,' for example.
The program, called CoMPASS, helps ensure that hands-on construction activities leads to student understanding of the underlying deep science principles and phenomena.
UW-Madison education professor Sadhana Puntambekar points out that reading, writing, and communicating are an essential part of science instruction.
Research has pointed out the important role of language in science. Yet informational text is seldom used to complement hands-on activities in science classrooms.
This CoMPASS computer environment gives students a graphical, interactive, hypertext 'concept map' to help students visualize concepts and their relations. Navigating these 'concept maps' helps student make connections between abstract concepts, and to select text resources based on the relatedness of the documents to each other.
Eighth-grade students using the CoMPASS 'concept maps' performed better on essay question requiring depth. On a concept mapping test, students using CoMPASS made richer connections between concepts in their own maps (6th and 8th grades)
The CoMPASS environment helps teachers, too. It gives them another way to observe how well students learn.
The system is being used in inquiry-based curriculum units in sixth and eighth grade science classes. To date, CoMPASS has been used by over 1000 students in sixth and eighth grades in Wisconsin and Connecticut.
The CoMPASS project gives students better ways to find information related to their goals. The CoMPASS 'concept map' interface helps students navigate and learn using digital resources (illustration). A 'fisheye' view zooms in and out to help students clarify relationships between science concepts.
Middle school science teachers in and around Madison sign up for training and field testing CoMPASS because they get experience in teaching combined hands-on science with conceptual text-based support materials.
Participating in the project gives teachers more experience in curriculum design.
Teachers get more experience helping students establish connections between the questions students asked and the design challenge they were working on.
Teachers get more experience helping students connect new topics to their prior knowledge, and more experience in facilitating whole-class and small-group discussions.
Teachers can add to their resume that they've participated in a National Science Foundation-funded project.
Teachers who engage in the project receive support through the school year from graduate assistants with training in psychology, computer sciences, cognitive and learning sciences, or physics education.
Participating teacher Kelly Francour says that working with the project has made her focused on the best teaching practices. She uses inquiry-based instruction, and participating in the project has given her more strategies to use in the classroom. She says she now asks more higher-level-thinking questions during instruction.
Participating teacher Dana Gnesdilow says participating in the project has been worth the effort. 'There's a variety of benefits, including a huge amount of student engagement,' she says. 'Students like CoMPASS because it's hands-on and minds-on. Students take control of their own learning. It's a student-centered environment.' She says that benefits to teachers include professional development and a growing sense of confidence in 'teaching through inquiry.' Gnesdilow says, 'Teachers gain more content knowledge. Students have great questions and we explored their questions together.'
Name Paul Baker
Telephone 608 263 8814
None of the students in Dr. Brooks Green's geography classes last week could tell him where the Strait of Hormuz was. One of his history students said she knew it was in the Middle East — somewhere.
Green, who is a professor at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, is dismayed by the fact that none of the 46 students he quizzed knew about what some consider the most important spot on earth currently: The narrow sea lane that provides the only passage to the open ocean for the oil from the Persian Gulf states.
If students don't know where a country is, or a people, how can they understand them?
With the change in the way Arkansas schools are to teach geography, he fears, ignorance over the world we live in is going to get worse.
Thanks to an increased emphasis on world history in middle school (it was previously taught in elementary grades), geography as a stand-alone course has gone out the window. It will now be “embedded” as one of four social studies “strands” (history, economics and civics are the other three) into other classes in grades K-8.
Examiners will have to set easier questions in some GCSE science papers, under new rules seen by The Times. A document prepared by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents awarding bodies across Britain, says that, from next year, exam papers should consist of 70 per cent “low-demand questions”, requiring simpler or multiple-choice answers. These currently make up just 55 per cent of the paper.
The move follows growing concern about the “dumbing down” of science teaching at GCSE and grade inflation of exam results, which critics claim is the result of a government drive to reverse the long-term decline in the number of pupils studying science.
In the past five years, the proportion of students gaining a grade D or better in one of the combined science papers has leapt from 39.6 to 46.7 per cent.
The latest move has been condemned by an education expert. Last night Professor Alan Smithers, head of the Education and Employment Research Centre at the University of Buckingham, said: “Deliberately increasing the proportion of easier questions is a clear example of lowering the bar.”
The family culture of Berkeley's Hernandez clan is a cool blend of Mexican roots and Bay area savvy - jumpy banda music, quinceanera parties, spicy pico de gallo and genetic engineering experiments.Biotech Partners Website:
That last part, the biotechnology, has been grafted onto the traditions Roberto and Irma Hernandez brought with them when the family immigrated to California in the late 1980s. Their arrival was timely - a new school program was about to welcome minority and disadvantaged kids to the biotech industry.
Their oldest child, Roberto, was the pioneer at 15 when he took a chance on the unfamiliar subject at Berkeley High School in 1992. Over the years, he has persuaded his brother and two of his three sisters to sign up for the biotechnology classes.
These four children of immigrants are now part of a young generation of biotech initiates whose prospects include some of the best-paying jobs in the Bay Area.
Roberto Hernandez, 30, was one of the first students to join the school program designed to convince disadvantaged kids that biotechnology jobs are a real option for them. The program, Biotech Partners, removes the barriers that often stand between low-income students and the well-compensated positions abounding in their own neighborhoods.
Hernandez and his sister Griselda, 28, work at the sprawling Bayer Healthcare campus in West Berkeley. Their younger brother Jesus just spent the eve of his 17th birthday tossing around terms such as "cell transformation" and "diafiltration" at a celebration for Biotech Partners students like himself who were finishing summer internships.
Biotech Partners provides an entry-level biotechnology education and training program dedicated to supporting the San Francisco Bay Area’s robust bioscience industry while providing valuable working skills for local young people.Related: Madison West High School's Accelerated Biology Program [RSS].
Biotech Partners has long been recognized as a model for connecting youth who are under-represented in the sciences to the world of biotechnology. A non-profit organization, Biotech Partners owes its success to strong collaboration among local biotechnology companies, secondary school and community college districts, a dedicated core staff and most importantly, the students and their families.
Americans took note when Bill Gates said last spring that American schools needed to beef up science and math standards if the country was going to maintain a competitive edge in the new century. So did Congress, which last week approved legislation called the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science) Act, which carves out a whopping $43.6 billion for science education and research.Joanne has more.
So why did the federal government quietly decide last year to drop out of an international study that would compare U.S. high-school students who take advanced science and math courses with their international counterparts?
The study, called TIMSS (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study) Advanced 2008, measures how high-school seniors are doing in algebra, geometry, calculus and physics with students taking similar subjects around the globe. In the past, the American results have been shockingly poor. In the last survey, taken in 1995, students from only two countries—Cyprus and South Africa—scored lower than U.S. school kids.
Educators have always insisted they not leave out the "three Rs": reading, writing and arithmetic. That paradigm may be shifting to "three Rs and a G" - and world enterprise is most appreciative.
The "G" is for geography - the science that links a range of interests and information from a variety of cultures based on a visual map. This subject is moving to the forefront of the minds of educators as its utility, later in life, in developing business strategy within public and private sectors around the world becomes more and more evident.
As a nation, the United States has received a clear signal from studies like the 2006 National Geographic/Roper survey, which followed an earlier survey in 2002. In the latest survey, young adults aged 18 to 24 in nine countries were surveyed and the results showed that Americans were outperformed in geographic literacy by young adults in seven countries - Sweden, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Great Britain and Canada. Only 13% of the Americans surveyed correctly identified Iraq on a map of Asia and the Middle East. Only about half of young Americans were able to locate landmasses such as Japan and India on a global map. And 20% of those surveyed could not find the Pacific Ocean.
But set aside our less-than-satisfactory performance at a Geography Bee, and jump ahead to the terrain of public and private firms where geography has become one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal. Maybe our educational system does not play out well in a Geography Bee, but you need to look at the extra edge firms are getting when they embrace not just geography, but the story that it tells. With the coming of age of GIS, the geography story becomes one where decisions can be made like never before. Almost anything can be plotted on a map.
The principal effort is led by the University of Wisconsin at Madison. In 2003 the NSF gave the university a five-year, $10-million grant to establish the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning. The center has worked with more than 1,000 new faculty members and graduate students at Madison and other universities to try the new teaching methods and conduct research on the process of putting them into practice.Via Kevin Carey.
The project also works on ways to attract science professors to join in the innovation. Trying the new teaching methods, the center's leaders say, should be viewed as conducting an experiment with measurable results — an approach that appeals to the instincts of researchers. Organizers also argue that the new methods are more professionally satisfying than delivering conventional lectures.
Observers hope that the Wisconsin project will show results different from those of a similar NSF-financed effort that ran from 1993 to 2002. An evaluation of that program found that participants, who were graduate students, rated it highly but felt pressure to "conceal" the work from their professors, who viewed it as distracting them from research. What's more, the new teaching methods often did not take root in the students' departments, which was a goal of the project.
If young researchers delay trying the new teaching methods until their careers are established, though, they may put the attempt off for good, advocates say. And if American science is to stay competitive, that is a problem. "We don't really have the time to wait around for another 20 years," says Madison's Ms. Millar, "for this kind of sea change to occur."
To record their historic voyages and collect scientific observations many thousands of photographs were acquired with handheld and automated cameras during all the Apollo missions. After returning to Earth, the film was developed and stored at Johnson Space Center (JSC), where they still reside. Due to the historical significance of the original flight films, typically only duplicate (2nd or 3rd generation) film products are currently available for study and used to make prints.
To allow full access to the original flight films for both researchers and the general public, Johnson Space Center and Arizona State University's Space Exploration Resources are scanning and creating an online digital archive of all the original Apollo flight films. Through this online interface, users may browse through the archive and download any of the images. This web site also provides a suite of resources regarding the images and the cameras that were used during the Apollo program. Finally, the scanning process is estimated to take three years with the first production scans recorded in late June 2007.
SARAH JONES’S first real sense of what it might be like to be a marine biologist came during summers at Seacamp San Diego, a camp for middle-school and high-school students. It was there that her curiosity about the field evolved into an academic and career choice.
Ms. Jones, 25, is about to begin a Ph.D. program in biological oceanography at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. She wants to become a marine biology professor and to conduct research into seahorse conservation and preservation.
The type of camp that inspired Ms. Jones as a teenager is gaining popularity, and is part of a larger trend toward environmental and science camps. About 50 camps, most of them near the ocean, now specialize in marine biology studies, according to the American Camp Association. That is an increase of about 25 percent since 1998.
Taking a job as a mathematics or science teacher in rural Kentucky or Tennessee is an appealing career choice for educators who grew up in those communities. It’s stable work, which means a lot in farming and mining towns where jobs are scarce. It pays well, in an area where the cost of living is cheap. And it allows some young educators to work in the same schools where their parents and grandparents once taught.
But persuading math and science teachers from big cities and suburbs to move to isolated communities lacking in cultural amenities is a much tougher sell.
“We’re small,” said Kristal Harne, an elementary school math and science teacher from Liberty, Ky., population 1,897. “We don’t even have a Wal-Mart.”
The document, produced by the Washington-based American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, provides descriptions of 50 teacher-education programs around the country. Although the report does not identify any single program or approach as most effective in swelling the ranks of math and science teachers, it says that more institutions are establishing stronger ties between colleges of education, which focus on teacher preparation, and academic programs, which are devoted to training undergraduates in specific academic subjects.
Barriers between those academic departments sometimes prevent talented math and science undergraduates from considering teaching careers, advocates for improved teaching have argued. Those intrauniversity divides also make it more difficult for aspiring teachers to obtain vital content knowl-edge in math and science before entering the classroom, some say.
Quiz after quiz has shown that kids today don't know where any place is. How often have you heard this lament about "geographic ignorance" or "geographic illiteracy," as it is commonly called?More about Jerome Dobson.
Now, take that complaint and turn it around. What does it say about geography? It says geography means knowing where places are. That's what geographers call "place-name geography." It's vital, but it's the least of what we expect budding geographers to learn.
Geography is more than you think. Geography is to space what history is to time. It is a spatial way of thinking, a science with distinctive methods and tools, a body of knowledge about places, and a set of information technologies that have been around for centuries. Geography is about understanding people and places and how real-world places function in a viscerally organic sense. It's about understanding spatial distributions and interpreting what they mean. It's about using technology to study, in the words of the late professor J. Rowland Illick, "why people do what they do where they do it." Geography is a dimensional science and humanity based on spatial logic in which locations, flows, and spatial associations are considered to be primary evidence of earth processes, both physical and cultural. Its hallmarks are spatial analysis, place-based research (e.g., regional studies, area studies, urban studies), and scientific integration.
When last I wrote about the status of Accelerated Biology at West HS, I was waiting to hear back from Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash. I had written to Pam on June 8 about how the promised second section of the course never had a chance, given the statistical procedure they used to admit students for next year.
On June 11, I wrote to Pam again, this time including Superintendent Rainwater. I said to them "I do hope one of you intends to respond to [my previous email]. I hope you appreciate what it looks like out in the community. Either the selection system was deliberately designed to preclude the need for two sections (in which case the promise of two sections was completely disingenuous) or someone's lack of facility with statistical procedures is showing." I heard back from Art right away. He said that one of them would respond by the end of the week.
On 6/13, he did, indeed, write:
I finally have time to reply to your concerns. In our meeting I agreed that selecting an arbitrary number of 20 students for accelerated biology was not fair. I agreed to examine this and develop a process that would allow all students who meet a set criteria to be provided the accelerated biology class. I used two sections as an example. Obviously it would be just as wrong to set an arbitrary 2 sections as it would be to set 20 as an arbitrary number. Our intent was to set a cut score on the placement test and allow everyone who met the cut score to be enrolled in the class. After reviewing the previous years test data we selected the mean score of the last student admitted over the past several years. I understand that you believe that is not the way to select. However, I am very comfortable with this approach and approved it as the means of selecting who can be enrolled. Thank you for your continued concern about these issues. Please feel free to bring to my attention any other inequities that you see in our curriculum.
I quickly replied, twice. Here is my first reply (6/13):
Quickly, I have one question, Art (and will likely write more later). Each year, four slots are reserved for additional students to get into the Accel Bio class in the fall. These might be students who are new to the District, who didn't know about the screening test in the spring, or who want to try again.
Were the screening test scores of students admitted into the class in the fall included in the selection system used on this year's 8th graders?
(SIS readers, the reason why it is important to know if the fall scores were included is that it is highly likely that the scores of the students who enter the class in the fall are lower than the cut score used for selection purposes in the spring. It is simply too hard to believe that four students scoring higher than the cut score would magically appear each fall.)
Art wrote back simply (6/13):
There are two slots remaining.I wrote back again (6/13):
My question is about the set of scores that were used to determine the cut score for this year. Were the scores of students admitted into the class in the fall over the past several years included in the set of scores used to determine this year's cut score? Art, parents would like to see all of the test scores from recent years -- that is, we would like to see the frequency distribution of all scores for each year, with the cut score indicated and the scores of the fall entires into the class included.
Meanwhile, my second initial email (6/13) consisted of a forward to Art of the email he wrote to me on February 12, with a cover line:
Art, see below. FWIW, there is no ambiguity or equivocation in your email here. --L
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2007 08:04:40 -0600
From: "Art Rainwater"
To: "Laurie A. Frost"
Subject: Re: West HS follow-up: Accelerated Biology
We have followed up with Ed and there will be an additional Advanced Biology class.
After seeing a copy of his own email, Art replied (6/13):
Creating two accelerated biology classes solely for the sake of having 40 students taking the class is no different than having a class for 20 students arbitrarily selected. If you feel that I broke some promise to you based on this email I am sorry. The responsibility for these decisions is mine and I am going to make the one that I feel is in the best interest of the district. I believe this decision is fair and removed the arbitrary nature of the previous class selection.
My decision is final.
I have not yet written back, but here is what I will say: "Art, I do feel you broke your promise to me. I also feel you broke your promise to future West HS students. Selection based on high scores is not "arbitrary." And 40 is no more or less "arbitrary" a number than 20. "Arbitrary" means "for no particular reason." But you had a reason. For whatever reason, you (or someone) wanted to make sure there was only one section of the class after all. If you (or that same someone) had wanted there to be two sections of the class, then you (or they) would have come up with selection criteria designed to insure that outcome."
Meanwhile, I forwarded Art's emails to the three other West parents who attended the meeting with him in January. To a one, we recall the same thing very clearly, that Art agreed there should be a second section of Accelerated Biology at West due to consistently high interest and demand at the school and in order to create greater access to a particular learning opportunity, the same expanded access there is at the other high schools. My best guess is that Art ran into unanticipated and powerful opposition to a second section in some key places at West and so is now changing his story.
In my mind, I keep going back to how poorly the Accelerated Biology screening test was publicized at Hamilton; how the Hamilton staff were told by the West counselors to "downplay" the opportunity to the students; and how that West staff person responded so carefully, "IF there is need for a second section, then the current teacher has been asked to teacher it." All that, combined with a selection procedure that so clearly guaranteed only one section's worth of eligible students (a point that no teacher or administrator seems to understand).
Now I'm hearing that at least some parents of students who did not get into the class are reluctant to say anything because they fear repercussions from the West staff.
Mission accomplished? I guess so, though it depends on what your mission is.
Interestingly, today's SLC grant focus group at West included a long discussion of the fact that we have no PTSO officers for next year and what sort of parental frustration and dissatisfaction with the school might account for that.
I have a friend who is fond of saying "never ascribe to maliciousness that which can be accounted for by incompetence." These words have become a touchstone for me in my dealings with the Madison schools. I work harder than some people might ever believe to remember that every teacher, administrator and staff person I interact with is a human being, with real feelings, probably very stressed out and over-worked. I also do my best to remember to express gratitude and give kudos where they are due and encourage my sons to do the same. But recent events regarding Accelerated Biology at West HS -- and how that compares to things I have heard are happening at one of the other high schools in town -- have stretched my patience and good will to the limit.
I first became aware of Accelerated Biology just over three years ago, when my oldest son was a second-semester 8th grader at Hamilton MS. Somehow, I learned that then-West HS Principal Loren Rathert was going to be eliminating the single section of the course that had existed for some number of years. I contacted Mr. Rathert and put the word out to 8th grade parents (and others) whom I thought would care. We wrote to Mr. Rathert and the School Board and the single section of Accelerated Biology was saved, at least for the time being. My son got into the class and had -- in a word -- a phenomenal learning experience.
For two years, the status of Accelerated Biology did not affect my family directly. And yet, by maintaining contact with the teacher and with families I know in the grade levels between my two sons, I stayed abreast of any threats to the course and I continued to lead advocacy efforts to keep Accelerated Biology intact (if not expanded). Along the way, I learned that East HS and LaFollette HS offer two or three sections of TAG/Advanced Biology (the roughly analogous course goes by different names at the different high schools), depending on yearly demand and need. (Memorial has structured its science curriculum differently, such that all 9th graders take an integrated science course; however, beginning in 10th grade, Memorial students have access to TAG and even AP science classes.) In stark contrast, the selection method at West has always been that interested 8th graders take a screening test for admission into Accelerated Biology and the top 20 scorers get in. (Four spaces have historically been reserved for a variety of "late entries" into the class.) My understanding is that the science faculty at West are as intensely divided over the very existence of Accelerated Biology as the West English faculty were over the creation of English 10. Arguments from the community that student interest and demand (and, most likely, ability) are very high (well over 100 8th graders typically take the screening test each year) and that the selection process makes the course unnecessarily selective have fallen on deaf ears. Ditto the cross-school comparison and educational equity argument.
Nevertheless, this year seemed like the right time to advocate again for a second section of Accelerated Biology at West. On a personal level, my second son was an 8th grader at Hamilton. On a broader level, there has been much talk about our high schools this year, including the needs of the District's highest ability students and important gaps in cross-school equity. Thus in December, my husband and I met with Superintendent Rainwater to talk very specifically about our younger son, his educational needs, and how West was going to meet them. Then in January, several current and future West parents met again with Art to discuss the situation at West for "high end" learners and how the SLC restructuring and concomitant curriculum changes (specifically, the 9th and 10th grade core courses) were not serving these students well. As a result of this meeting (and other behind-the-scenes advocacy efforts), West expanded and improved its system for allowing students who are advanced and talented in language arts to skip over either English 9 [rss] or English 10 [rss] (their choice). As well, in an email dated February 12, 2007, Superintendent Rainwater told me that he had followed up with West Principal Ed Holmes and that there would be an additional section of Accelerated Biology at West next year. Needless to say, this was all very good news. (Unfortunately, the dissemination of information about both of these learning opportunities was handled very, very, very poorly. I hope things go better on that front next year.)
Seventy-seven incoming West 9th graders took the Accelerated Biology screening test at the very beginning of May. This is significantly fewer test-takers than in any previous year since I have been keeping track. It is unclear if the very poor publicity and communication with parents contributed to the lower turnout.
Fast forward to this past week. After the June 4 PTSO meeting, my husband (the West PTSO Treasurer) had reason to email the Accelerated Biology teacher about PTSO funding for an incredible Earth Watch trip she is taking eight students on to Brazil this summer. As a postscript, he asked her about Accelerated Biology. She told him to contact Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash about it.
Jeff and I both wrote to Ms. Nash for an update (especially since we had heard through the grapevine that there was only going to be one section of the class after all and that the West administration didn't want the notification letters to go out until after the school year was over.) Here is my email of June 5:
Hi, Pam. We have been told by the folks at West to direct our questions about Accelerated Biology to you.And here is Pam's reply:
As you well know, Art and Ed have promised us two sections of Accelerated Biology at West next fall. Interested 8th graders took the screening test at the very beginning of May, over a month ago. Presumably, the tests have been scored. And yet, we have been told that the West Guidance Department does not want the letters to go out until after the school year is over. As the saying goes, "what's up with that?"
An update from you would be much appreciated.
Acceptance letters went out today, June 6.
Pamela J. Nash
for Secondary Schools
Madison Metropolitan School District
BTW, I assume there will be two sections of the class?On June 8, I received this reply:
Laurie-In addition to posting this email correspondence and thoughts about it on the Madison United for Academic Excellence list serve (where -- needless to say -- others shared their reactions), I wrote again to Pam Nash:
As you know, West High School has always had only one section of accelerated biology and used a floating score on the screener to keep it to one section. We were prepared to have two sections if scores warranted such a move. We took the median score used over time and made that the cut off. In order to have two classes we would have had to dip 20 points below that median.
That was not reasonable given the rigor of the course.
Pam,And that, folks, is where it currently stands, though I have remembered that -- at the time of the screening test -- a parent I know was told by someone on the West staff, when she asked about who would teach the second section of Accelerated Biology, "if there is a need for a second section," the teacher of the first section had been asked to do it. "If there is a need for a second section ... ?" Hmmmmm.
Pam, I think the selection method may have guaranteed that only one class worth of students would make the cut.
- What is the range of scores on the screening test? I ask this question because the range provides context for understanding what 20 points really means on the screener.
- What are the numbers/scores that have identified the top 20 scorers in the past several years? (Can you simply list them out for me?)
- What was the score used this year?
Think about it. If you use a measure of central tendency (in this case, the median -- though I wonder if you actually meant the mean) on the distribution of numbers that has cut off the top 20 scorers over the years, assuming that the same test instrument was used and that the distribution of test scores over the years has been fairly similar, then wouldn't that number -- the median cut-score -- tend to identify the same number of students for admission this year as have been identified in previous years?
Or think of it this way --
Say each year the 85th percentile score (approximately) is used to identify those top 20 students who will be allowed into the Accelerated Biology class. If you create a distribution of the 85th percentile scores over the course of several years, compute a measure of central tendency for that distribution, and then use the resulting number as the cut score for a new distribution of scores (that is, this year's scores), you will cut off approximately the top 15% of the new distribution.
I think the only way that this would not happen -- that is, the only way that more students would have been identified this year (enough for two sections) -- is if the distribution of this year's scores was very negatively skewed (i.e., included a lot more high-scoring students than previous years' distributions).
If my reasoning is correct, then the second section Art assured us would happen back in February never had a chance. As well, "rigor" is being defined as "that which is done by the top 20 students over the years," and not by the course or the screener.
It seems to me that the priority was not to create a second section of Accelerated Biology; the priority was to maintain the status quo and to not allow more students access to greater intellectual challenge.
I hope you will reconsider this decision.
I promised a cross-school comparison, aimed at putting my frustration with these recent events at West into sharper relief. Here it is. About a month ago, an East HS friend wrote this to me:
Laurie -- It has been a wearing year in a number of respects, so I want to pass along a couple of positive things I learned at last night's East High United meeting. First, despite the allocation cuts, Alan Harris cobbled together the funds for a position that is half-time literacy coordinator and half-time TAG coordinator. Since I gather it's been awhile since schools have been putting new resources into TAG, this seems notable. Also, Alan also said that East would be instituting an AVID program next year. I hadn't heard of this but it sounds great -- it identifies about 25 kids from each freshmen class with some academic promise but who have been underachieving, and who typically would be the first from their families to go to college. It works with the kids to improve their study skills and other habits with the goal the by their junior and senior year they'll be taking TAG and AP classes and will then go on to college. It's the best way to attack the achievement gap -- help kids in the middle or lower pull themselves up to the top. Here's a link I found to a website the described the program. So a few rays of sunshine cutting through the clouds.Doesn't the AVID program (not to mention a school-based half time TAG coordinator) sound incredible? Wouldn't it be a welcome addition at any of our high schools?
In that vein, I'd like to say that practically every substantive letter I have written to the Superintendent, School Board and West HS administration about "TAG" issues over the past several years has included a plea to expand access and diversity of participation. I know that many other West area parents have made similar arguments, pointing out time and time again that when these learning opportunities are taken away, it is the high ability and high potential students of color and poverty who suffer the most (a point that research confirms). I would also like to remind readers that Jeff and I are the ones who first brought Donna Ford to Madison in early 2005 and that we are the ones who brought and have kept the District dropout data from the late 1990's into public view. I also recently thanked Jim Z for reminding us of the words of the West math teachers in their April, 2004, letter to the editor of Isthmus:
Rather than addressing the problems of equity and closing the gap by identifying minority ... talent earlier and fostering minority participation in the accelerated programs, our administration wants to take the cheaper way out by forcing all kids into a one-size-fits-all curriculum. It seems the administration and our school board have re-defined "success" as merely "producing fewer failures." Astonishingly, excellence in student achievement is visited by some school district administrators with apathy at best, and with contempt at worst. But, while raising low achievers is a laudable goal, it is woefully short-sighted and, ironically, racist in the most insidious way. Somehow, limiting opportunities for excellence has become the definition of providing equity! Could there be a greater insult to the minority community?I guess my bottom line here is that I do not understand first, how West can get away with what it is getting away with and second, why there are these fundamental and frustrating differences between the attitude and programming at our high schools? Parents and teachers at East have made it clear that they do not want to become like West. West parents and teachers have been sounding an alarm over the 9th and 10th grade core curriculum and arguing for an expansion of West's most rigorous learning opportunities, combined with substantive efforts (starting well before high school) to identify and support high potential learners from all backgrounds. And yet the differences between the schools persist. It's probably paranoid to wonder if maybe the Administration is working to maintain the East-West differences (and the East-West stereotypes) for its own "divide-and-conquer" purposes. Right?
In October, 2005, MUAE guest speaker Jan Davidson encouraged us to be "pleasantly persistent" in our advocacy work. I have tried hard to do just that. But I must say, it's feeling pretty difficult to maintain that attitude right now.
Need to know the capital of Estonia or the highest mountain in Tajikistan?
Just ask Bjorn Ager-Hart, a 14-year-old home-schooled student from Jefferson who represented Wisconsin on Tuesday at the National Geographic Bee. Sponsored by National Geographic, the bee brings together 55 middle school students from all the states and U.S. territories to compete for a $25,000 college scholarship.
For the past three years, Bjorn has spent hours -- about five each week -- poring over geography books to learn enough to make it to the national competition.
"I like geography," Bjorn said. "You get to learn about a lot of different places in the world."
He first learned of the contest in 2004. Since then, he has made the state championships every year, but only this year attained his goal to advance to the national contest. In sixth grade, Bjorn got two questions wrong and last year lost during the tie-breaker round. But on March 30 this year, he got a perfect score during the competition and won a trip to Washington for him and his family.
In 1948, the president of Harvard University James Conant famously called geography "not a university subject" and many colleges stopped teaching it. But Dartmouth wasn't listening. It remains the only college in the Ivy League with a distinct geography department, says Magilligan, and majors in the subject increased from 17 last year to 34 this year. Next year, 38 are signed up.
Many elementary schools offer half as much science instruction as they did before the law was enacted, teachers and principals said. Science and social studies, once taught separately, share time to make room for more reading and math. Some middle schools that used to offer a full year of science and social studies give a semester of each.
But starting with the 2007-08 academic year, the law requires states to test students in science. A new exam is being field-tested in Maryland this year.
"I think the test will open up some eyes," said Brian Freiss, a fifth-grade teacher at Highland Elementary School in Silver Spring.
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
Amid the whir of an overhead projector, Concord High School biology teacher Ellen Fasman sketched out the long, chubby legs of an X-shaped chromosome with her erasable marker.
"What do you remember from seventh grade about mitosis?" she asked the class.
Her question on cell division met with blank stares. From underneath his baseball cap in the back of the room, sophomore Vincent Thomas muttered in confusion.
"Wait, I don't get this," Thomas said. "We learned this in seventh grade?"
Even in her college prep biology class, students come less and less prepared each year, Fasman said.
"They're every bit as bright as they've ever been," said Fasman, who has taught for 16 years. However, they increasingly come hampered by smaller vocabularies, lacking knowledge of basic cell biology and unable to deal with fractions, she said.
"Their math skills are rather poor," Fasman said. "When we do the metric system at the beginning of the year, it's a killer for them. When we get into genetics, sometimes it's hard for them, understanding ratios."
American students -- particularly those in California -- come up short in math and science.
The Intel is more than a gimmicky contest that garners publicity for its chipmaker sponsor. It genuinely prompts hundreds of students to plunge into vanguard research. This year, 1,705 students from 487 schools in 44 states entered, said Katherine Silkin, the contest’s program manager. High school seniors in the United States and its territories enter the Intel, though their research often begins years earlier.
Six winners of the Westinghouse, as Intel was known until 1998, have gone on to win Nobel Prizes. Its springboard power is particularly important when Americans fret that colleges are no longer producing as many graduates willing to make the financial sacrifices of lives in science.
“Not only do we have to have equity and close the famous achievement gap,” said Leon M. Lederman, a Nobel-winning physicist who is co-chairman of the Commission on 21st Century Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. “We also have to have innovation if we’re going to survive, so you have to nurture the gifted kids.”
Via a reader looking at this issue: Stephanie Banchero, Darnell Little and Diane Rado:
Illinois elementary school pupils passed the newly revamped state achievement exams at record rates last year, but critics suggest it was more the result of changes to the tests than real progress by pupils.Kevin Carey criticized Wisconsin's "Statistical Manipulation of No Child Left Behind Standards". The Fordham Foundation and Amy Hetzner have also taken a look at this issue.
State and local educators attribute the improvement to smarter pupils and teachers' laser-like focus on the state learning standards—the detailed list of what pupils should know at each grade level. They also say that the more child-friendly exams, which included color and better graphics, helped pupils.
But testing experts and critics suggest that the unprecedented growth is more likely the result of changes to the exams.
Most notably, the state dramatically lowered the passing bar on the 8th-grade math test. As a result—after hovering at about 50 percent for five years—the pass rate shot up to 78 percent last year.
While the number of test questions remained generally the same, the number that counted on pupil scores dropped significantly.
A least half of eighth graders tested in science failed to demonstrate even a basic understanding of it in 9 of 10 major cities, and fourth graders, the only other group tested, fared little better, according to results released here Wednesday.
The outcome of those tests, part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the nation’s report card, showed that student performance in urban public schools was not only poor but also far short of science scores in the nation as a whole.
Half or a little more of the eighth-grade students in Charlotte, San Diego and Boston lacked a basic grasp of science. In six of the other cities — New York, Houston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Atlanta — the share of eighth graders without that knowledge was even higher, ranging from about three-fifths in New York to about four-fifths in Atlanta. Only in Austin, Tex., did a majority of eighth graders — and only barely there — have a basic understanding.
By comparison, the number of eighth graders who lacked a basic grasp in the nation as a whole was 43 percent.
In many classrooms, science textbooks add to children’s misconceptions.
William Beaty, an engineer who designed an electricity exhibit for the Boston Museum of Science, discovered “a morass of misconceptions, mistakes, and misinformation” in grade school science textbooks. In fact, he couldn’t find a single book that explained basic electricity correctly.
North Carolina State University physics professor John Hubisz found similar problems in a two-year study of middle-school science textbooks. All told, he compiled 500 pages of errors in 12 textbooks, including mix-ups between fission and fusion, incorrect definitions of absolute zero, and a map showing the equator running through the southern states.
Reporting on the ways science textbooks are developed and sold to schools, Forbes writer David McClintick says many companies “churn out rubbish” with countless errors. One widely adopted text, for instance, claims the earth rotates around the sun, when it actually revolves around the sun and rotates on its axis.
Richard Bender is holed up in his classroom nearly every day with 21 young assistants. They are building self-propelled vehicles and bottle rockets, and boning up on genetics and aquatic ecology. He swears outsiders to secrecy, as if this were "Cold War technology development," he says.
He and his students are preparing -- after school, at night and on weekends -- for the Science Olympiad, an annual spring academic competition among 14,500 schools nationwide. Under Mr. Bender, an eighth-grade science teacher at Thomas Jefferson Middle School here, the team has won 15 state titles, seven consecutive top-four national rankings and two national titles.
The Indiana General Assembly passed a resolution praising Mr. Bender "for his dedication to increase student interest and academic achievement in science." Some compare his winning record to that of legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes. Says Gerard Putz, the Olympiad's president and co-founder: "He's one of those magical coaches."
But is the magic fading? Last season, the team's winning streak snapped when it came in 10th, and Mr. Bender's kids are feeling the heat. Says 13-year-old Jessie Bunchek: "It just kind of blew everybody away."
When the Internet was just beginning to shake up American education, a chemistry professor photographed thousands of test tubes holding molecular solutions and, working with video game designers, created a simulated laboratory that allowed students to mix chemicals in virtual beakers and watch the reactions.
In the years since, that virtual chemistry laboratory — as well as other simulations allowing students to dissect virtual animals or to peer into tidal pools in search of virtual anemone — has become a widely used science teaching tool. The virtual chemistry laboratory alone has some 150,000 students seated at computer terminals around the country to try experiments that would be too costly or dangerous to do at their local high schools. “Some kids figure out how to blow things up in half an hour,” said the professor, Brian F. Woodfield of Brigham Young University.
The Inner Life of a Cell, an eight-minute animation created in NewTek LightWave 3D and Adobe After Effects for Harvard biology students, won’t draw the kind of box office crowds that more ferocious˜and furrier˜digital creations did last Christmas. But it will share a place along side them in SIGGRAPH's Electronic Theatre show, which will run for three days during the 33rd annual exhibition and conference in Boston next month. Created by XVIVO, a scientific animation company near Hartford, CT, the animation illustrates unseen molecular mechanisms and the ones they trigger, specifically how white blood cells sense and respond to their surroundings and external stimuli.Via Wayne.
The mock forensics exercise is one of many hands-on approaches that fifth-grade science teacher Anne Tredinnick uses to illustrate the scientific method and share a love of science with her pupils.
Tredinnick has been named the Middle School Teacher of the Year by the Department of Public Instruction and is under consideration to be Wisconsin's representative in the National Teacher of the Year program.
A state selection committee picks four educators from a pool of 86 Herb Kohl Education Foundation teacher fellows for the Teacher of the Year awards, choosing representatives from elementary school, middle school, high school and special services. The other three teachers selected are Terry Kaldhusdal of Oconomowoc for the elementary level, Carl Hader of Grafton for the high school level, and Rebecca Marine of Menomonie for special services.
Improving science education in kindergarten through eighth grade will require major changes in how science is taught in America's classrooms, as well as shifts in commonly held views of what young children know and how they learn, says a new report from the National Research Council. After decades of education reform efforts that have produced only modest gains in science performance, the need for change is clear. And the issue takes on even greater significance with the looming mandate of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which says that states must measure students' annual progress in science beginning in 2007.
Being proficient in science means that students must both understand scientific ideas and demonstrate a firm grasp of scientific practices. The report emphasizes that doing science entails much more than reciting facts or being able to design experiments. In addition, the next generation of science standards and curricula at the national and state levels should be centered on a few core ideas and should expand on them each year, at increasing levels of complexity, across grades K-8. Today's standards are still too broad, resulting in superficial coverage of science that fails to link concepts or develop them over successive grades, the report says. Teachers also need more opportunities to learn how to teach science as an integrated whole -- and to diverse student populations.
A hint of the politicians’ dilemma was buried in a May 10 New York Times-CBS News poll about the performance of U.S. elected officials on a host of policy issues.
Not surprisingly, neither President Bush nor Congress earned high marks. What startled me, though, was the response to this question: “Regardless of how you usually vote, do you think the Republican Party or the Democratic Party is more likely to see to it that gasoline prices are low?”
Fifty-seven percent of the respondents said that the Democrats could keep prices low. Another 14 percent chose the Republicans or both parties. Seventy-one percent of Americans, in other words, see the price of gas as a political issue. This is tantamount to living in a fantasy world and ignoring both the economic law of supply and demand and the accumulating environmental damage caused by our fossil-fuel-dependent economy.
It’s not surprising that many politicians choose to respond to numbers like these with stopgap measures that delay the inevitable reckoning, hoping that something will come up in the meantime. But the root of the problem stretches beyond Washington to an electorate that can’t evaluate science-based statements. It’s time, then, for a sea change in science education in our nation’s schools.
Imagine how politicians would act differently if the public were more knowledgeable about ideas currently considered too arcane for political debate—fossil-fuel supply chains; hidden costs not included in the price we pay for a product; and the chemistry of tailpipe emissions.
That scenario remains imaginary for now, since, by every indication, the public is ill-equipped to evaluate arguments based on such ideas. Adults and children know that pollution is bad for the environment and that trees are good, but they have no idea why experts see the price of gasoline as connected to housing policies, ethanol production, or plug-in hybrids.
My Wonderful World for Educators, Parents and Kids/Teens:
Geography is more than places on a map. It's global connections and incredible creatures. It's people and cultures, economics and politics. And it's essential to understanding our interconnected world.
But sadly, our kids aren't getting enough of it. A new National Geographic-Roper survey shows half of young Americans can't locate world powers like Japan and India. Twenty percent can't even find the Pacific Ocean. (More about the survey.) Without geography, our children aren't ready for the world.
That's why we started My Wonderful World. It's a National Geographic-led campaign—backed by a coalition of major national partners—to expand geographic learning in school, at home, and in the community. We want to give our kids the power of global knowledge.
Neal Gleason in a letter to the Isthmus Editor:
I have long admired Marc Eisen's thoughtful prose. But his recent struggle to come to grips with a mutli-ethnic world vvers from xenophobia to hysteria ("Brave New World", 6/23/06). His "unsettling" contact with "stylish" Chinese and "turbaned Sikhs" at a summer program for gifted children precipitated first worry (are my kids prepared to compete?), And then a villain (incompetent public schools).
Although he proclaims himself "a fan" of Madison public schools, he launches a fusillade of complaints: doubting that academic excellence is high on the list of school district pirorities and lamentin tis "dubious maht and reading pedagogy." The accuracy of these concerns is hard to assess, because he offers no evidence.
His main target is heterogeneous (mixed-ability) classes. He speculates that Madison schools, having failed to improve the skills of black and Hispanic kids, are now jeopardizing the education of academically promising kids (read: his kids) for the sake of politically correct equality. The edict from school district headquarters: "Embrace heterogeneous classrooms. Reject tracking of brighter kids. Suppress dissent in the ranks." Whew, that is one serious rant for a fan of public schools.
Eisen correctly observes that "being multilingual" will be a powerful advantage in the business world; familiarity and ease with other cultures will be a plus." Mare than 20 years ago, my kids began to taste this new world in the diverse classrooms of Midvale-Lincoln Elementary, and continued on through West High with its 50-plus nationalitities and a mix of heterogeneous and advanced classes.Background:
They did just fine in college and grad school, emerged bi-and tri-lingual with well worn passorts, and started interesting careers at high tech internationl companies. How will Eisen's kids acquire modern cultural skills if they are cloistered in honors classes, sheltered from daily contact with kids of varied ability?
Pittsburgh has hired a private company to write a coherent curriculum for city schools, reports the Post-Gazette.Interesting. Perhaps an RFP looking for different ideas might be useful. Public and private organizations could respond. One only has to look at the "Cathedral and the Bazaar" to see the power of a community vs a top down approach. Leadership, particularly that which embraces the community is critical - as Lucy Mathiak recently pointed out:
Because course content is uneven and out of sync with state standards, the Pittsburgh Public School district is paying New York-based Kaplan K12 Learning Services $8.4 million to write standardized curricula for grades six through 12.
. . . Teachers in other districts have complained that Kaplan's detailed curriculum turned them into automatons and deprived them of time to cover material in adequate detail or help students with individual needs.
. . . Pittsburgh school officials cite an urgent need to bring coherence and rigor to what's taught and tested in the district's classrooms.
Later, she added: "I think one of the fundamental questions facing our district is whether we treat parents as resources or problems. Any parent who is concerned about safety, discipline or academic issues needs to feel confident that their concerns are going to be heard. We have to court the parents. The future of our schools depends on their confidence that we are working as partners with them."Here's a parent's perspective on curriculum and school climate. Another. A vast majority of the UW Math Department's perspective (35 of the 37 signed this letter). Marc Eisen offers still another perspective.
The national education reform effort has long suffered from magical thinking about what it takes to improve children’s chances of learning. Instead of homing in on teacher training and high standards, things that distinguish effective schools from poor ones, many reformers have embraced the view that the public schools are irreparably broken and that students of all kinds need to be given vouchers to attend private or religious schools at public expense.
This belief, though widespread, has not held up to careful scrutiny. A growing body of work has shown that the quality of education offered to students varies widely within all school categories. The public, private, charter and religious realms all contain schools that range from good to not so good to downright horrendous.
What the emerging data show most of all is that public, private, charter and religious schools all suffer from the wide fluctuations in quality and effectiveness. Instead of arguing about the alleged superiority of one category over another, the country should stay focused on the overarching problem: on average, American schoolchildren are performing at mediocre levels in reading, math and science — wherever they attend school.
L.A. Unified plans to spend millions to train, recruit and keep math and science teachers, who are a hot commodity nationwide.
Recognizing the critical need to boost math and science test scores, the Los Angeles Unified School District has taken several steps — including offering bonuses — to attract and keep teachers in those fields at the district's neediest schools.
Weblogs written by scientists are relatively rare, but some of them are proving popular. Out of 46.7 million blogs indexed by the Technorati blog search engine, five scientists' sites make it into the top 3,500. Declan Butler asks the winners about the reasons for their success.50 Popular Science Blogs. Via Steve Rubel.
Participation in a rigorous secondary school program of study may qualify a postsecondary student to receive an ACG, if otherwise eligible. The Secretary recognizes at least one rigorous secondary school program of study for each state annually. States may submit proposals for recognition or may elect to accept rigorous secondary school programs of study pre-recognized by the Secretary. The following are recognized rigorous secondary school programs of study for each state for the 2006-07 award year.Wisconsin [PDF]:
The United States could easily fall from its privileged perch in the global economy unless it does something about the horrendous state of science education at both the public school and university levels. That means finding ways to enliven a dry and dispiriting style of science instruction that leads as many as half of the country's aspiring scientists to quit the field before they leave college.
The emerging consensus among educators is that students need early, engaging experiences in the lab — and much more mentoring than most of them receive now — to maintain their interest and inspire them to take up careers in the sciences.
Some universities have already realized the need for better ways of teaching. But this means revising an incentive system that has historically rewarded scientists for making discoveries and publishing academic papers, not for nurturing the next generation of great minds.
But the investments in China's modernization that are most impressive of all are in human capital. The blunt fact is that many young Chinese in cities like Shanghai or Beijing get a better elementary and high school education than Americans do. That's a reality that should embarrass us and stir us to seek lessons from China.
On this trip I brought with me a specialist on American third-grade education — my third-grade daughter. Together we sat in on third-grade classes in urban Shanghai and in a rural village near the Great Wall. In math, science and foreign languages, the Chinese students were far ahead.
My daughter was mortified when I showed a group of Shanghai teachers some of the homework she had brought along. Their verdict: first-grade level at a Shanghai school.
Granted, China's education system has lots of problems. Universities are mostly awful, and in rural areas it's normally impossible to hold even a primitive conversation in English with an English teacher. But kids in the good schools in Chinese cities are leaving our children in the dust.
Last month, the Asia Society published an excellent report, "Math and Science Education in a Global Age: What the U.S. Can Learn from China." It notes that China educates 20 percent of the world's students with 2 percent of the world's education resources. And the report finds many potential lessons in China's rigorous math and science programs.
Yet, there isn't any magic to it. One reason Chinese students learn more math and science than Americans is that they work harder at it. They spend twice as many hours studying, in school and out, as Americans.
Chinese students, for example, must do several hours of homework each day during their summer vacation, which lasts just two months. In contrast, American students have to spend each September relearning what they forgot over the summer.
China's government has developed a solid national curriculum, so that nearly all high school students study advanced biology and calculus. In contrast, only 13 percent of American high school pupils study calculus, and fewer than 18 percent take advanced biology.
Yet if the Chinese government takes math and science seriously, children and parents do so even more. At Cao Guangbiao elementary school in Shanghai, I asked a third-grade girl, Li Shuyan, her daily schedule. She gets up at 6:30 a.m. and spends the rest of the day studying or practicing her two musical instruments.
So if she gets her work done and has time in the evening, does she watch TV or hang out with friends? "No," she said, "then I review my work and do extra exercises."
A classmate, Jiang Xiuyuan, said that during summer vacation, his father allows him to watch television each evening — for 10 minutes.
The Chinese students get even more driven in high school, as they prepare for the national college entrance exams. Yang Luyi, a tenth grader at the first-rate Shanghai High School, said that even on weekends he avoided going to movies. "Going to the cinema is time-consuming," he noted, "so when all the other students are working so diligently, how can you do something so irrelevant?"
Li Yafeng, a tenth-grade girl at the same school, giggled at my question. "I never planned to have a boyfriend in high school," she said, "because it's a waste of time."
Now, I don't want such a pressured childhood for my children. But if Chinese go overboard in one direction, we Americans go overboard in the other. U.S. children average 900 hours a year in class and 1,023 hours in front of a television.
I don't think we could replicate the Chinese students' drive even if we wanted to. But there are lessons we can learn — like the need to shorten summer vacations and to put far more emphasis on math and science. A central challenge for this century will be how to regulate genetic tinkering with the human species; educated Chinese are probably better equipped to make those kinds of decisions than educated Americans.
During the Qing Dynasty that ended in 1912, China was slow to learn lessons from abroad and adjust its curriculum, and it paid the price in its inability to compete with Western powers. These days, the tables are turned, and now we need to learn from China.
Most of us have had those eerie moments when the distant winds of globalization suddenly blow across our desks here in comfortable Madison. For parents, it can lead to an unsettling question: Will my kids have the skills, temperament and knowledge to prosper in an exceedingly competitive world?
I’m not so sure.
I’m a fan of Madison’s public schools, but I have my doubts if such preparation is high on the list of school district priorities. (I have no reason to think things are any better in the suburban schools.) Like a lot of parents, I want my kids pushed, prodded, inspired and challenged in school. Too often -- in the name of equity, or progressive education, or union protectionism, or just plain cheapness -- that isn’t happening.
Brave New World: Are our kids ready to compete in the new global economy? Maybe not
Last summer I saw the future, and it was unsettling.
My daughter, then 14, found herself a racial minority in a class of gifted kids in a three-week program at Northwestern University. Of the 16 or so kids, a dozen were Asian or Asian American.
The class wasn't computer science or engineering or chemistry -- classes increasingly populated by international students at the college level -- but a “soft” class, nonfiction writing.
When several hundred parents and students met that afternoon for the introductory remarks, I spotted more turbaned Sikhs in the auditorium than black people. I can't say if there were any Hispanics at all.
Earlier, I had met my daughter's roommate and her mom -- both thin, stylish and surgically connected to their cell phones and iPods. I casually assumed that the kid was a suburban princess, Chinese American division. Later, my daughter told me that her roommate was from Hong Kong, the daughter of a banker, and had at the age of 14 already taken enrichment classes in Europe and Canada. Oh, and she had been born in Australia.
Welcome to the 21st century.
In the coming decades, you can be sure the faces of power and influence won't be monochromatic white and solely American. Being multilingual will be a powerful advantage in the business world, familiarity and ease with other cultures will be a plus, and, above all, talent and drive will be the passwords of success in the global economy.
Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat, his chronicle of the rapid economic and social changes wrought by the mercury-like spread of new technology, serves as an essential primer for understanding this new world.
In a nutshell, we shouldn't bet on American hegemony in technology and economic growth in the 21st century. In a ramped-up, knowledge-based, digitalized economy, there are no borders. The built-in advantage the U.S. enjoyed after World War II -- our industrial based was untouched, while the rest of the developed world's was in ruins -- has finally run its course. Today, many tech jobs can just as easily be performed in Bangalore and Beijing as in Fitchburg.
Whether America's youth, raised in the lap of luxury with an overpowering sense of entitlement, will prosper in this meritocratic environment is an interesting question. And what of America's underprivileged youth, struggling in school and conspicuously short of family assets: How well will they fare in the new global marketplace?
My own a-ha! moment came a year ago at about the same time I dropped my youngest daughter off at Northwestern. Out of the blue I received an e-mail from a young man in India, offering his services to proofread the paper. Technically, it was no problem to ship him copy, and because of the 12-hour time difference he could work while the rest of us slept and played -- if we wanted to go down the outsourcing road.
Most of us have had those eerie moments when the distant winds of globalization suddenly blow across our desks here in comfortable Madison. For parents, it can lead to an unsettling question: Will my kids have the skills, temperament and knowledge to prosper in an exceedingly competitive world?
I'm not so sure.
I'm a fan of Madison's public schools, but I have my doubts if such preparation is high on the list of school district priorities. (I have no reason to think things are any better in the suburban schools.) Like a lot of parents, I want my kids pushed, prodded, inspired and challenged in school. Too often -- in the name of equity, or progressive education, or union protectionism, or just plain cheapness -- that isn't happening.
Instead, what we see in Madison is just the opposite: Advanced classes are choked off; one-size-fits-all classes (“heterogeneous class groupings”) are mandated for more and more students; the talented-and-gifted staff is slashed; outside groups promoting educational excellence are treated coolly if not with hostility; and arts programs are demeaned and orphaned. This is not Tom Friedman's recipe for student success in the 21st century.
Sure, many factors can be blamed for this declining state of affairs, notably the howlingly bad way in which K-12 education is financed in Wisconsin. But much of the problem also derives from the district's own efforts to deal with “the achievement gap.”
That gap is the euphemism used for the uncomfortable fact that, as a group, white students perform better academically than do black and Hispanic students. More to the point, mandating heterogeneous class grouping becomes a convenient cover for reducing the number of advanced classes that fail the PC test: too white and unrepresentative of the district's minority demographics.
The problem is that heterogeneous classes are based on the questionable assumption that kids with a wide range of skills -- from high-schoolers reading at a fourth-grade level to future National Merit students -- can be successfully taught in the same sophomore classroom.
“It can be done effectively, but the research so far suggests that it usually doesn't work,” says Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, head of Northwestern's Center for Talent Development, which runs an enrichment program for Evanston's schools.
I have to ask: After failing to improve the skills of so many black and Hispanic kids, is the Madison district now prepared to jeopardize the education of its most academically promising kids as well?
Please don't let me be misunderstood. Madison schools are making progress in reducing the achievement gap. The district does offer alternatives for its brightest students, including college-level Advanced Placement classes. There are scores of educators dedicated to improving both groups of students. But it's also clear which way the wind blows from the district headquarters: Embrace heterogeneous classrooms. Reject tracking of brighter kids. Suppress dissent in the ranks.
The district's wrongheaded approach does the most damage in the elementary-school years. That's where the schools embrace dubious math and reading pedagogy and shun innovative programs, like those operated by the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth, a nonprofit group that works tirelessly to promote gifted education. (Credit school board president Johnny Winston Jr. for cracking the door open to WCATY.)
In a perfect world, Madison would learn from Evanston's schools and their relationship with WCATY's peer, the Center for Talent Development. Faced with predominantly white faces in its advanced high school classes, this racially mixed district didn't dump those classes but hired Olszewski-Kubilius' group to run an after-school and weekend math and science enrichment program for promising minority students in grades 3-6.
In other words, raise their performance so they qualify for those advanced classes once they get to high school. Now there's an idea that Tom Friedman would like!
MARC EISEN IS EDITOR OF ISTHMUS.Email: EISEN at ISTHMUS.COM
The first science test administered in five years across the United States shows that achievement among high school seniors has declined across the past decade, even as scores in science rose among fourth-graders and held steady among eighth-graders, the U.S. Department of Education has reported.
The falling average science test scores among high school students, announced Wednesday, appeared certain to increase anxiety about American academic competitiveness and to add new urgency to calls from President George W. Bush, governors and philanthropists like Bill Gates for an overhaul of American high schools.
The drop in science proficiency appeared to reflect a broader trend in which some academic gains made in elementary grades and middle school have been seen to fade during the high school years. The science results come from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a comprehensive examination administered in early 2005 by the Department of Education to more than 300,000 students in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and on U.S. military bases around the world.
For the fourth straight year, a team of Stoughton middle schoolers will compete this month in the finals of a national science and technology contest, cementing the district's reputation as a hotbed for young inventors.Christopher Columbus Award website.
The honor extends the dynasty developing at River Bluff Middle School, where students won a gold medal at the national competition last year for inventing a fire alarm to wake children that combined water jets and a voice alarm inside a stuffed animal.
Many experts outside of Harvard advocate teaching the practical side of science to nonscientists so that they will be able to make sense of it in their everyday lives. Yet few scientists appreciate the civic importance of making science understandable for all students, said Jon Miller, a professor of political science at Northwestern University.
“General education courses need to be, for scientists, your last chance to speak to someone before they are elected senator,” he said.
Some fourth-graders at Madison's Marquette Elementary School got to see something Wednesday they likely never will again -- Principal Joy Larson wearing a boa.
Not the fluffy, feathery kind, mind you.
The 45-pound, 8 1/2-foot boa draped around Larson's neck and shoulders was scaly and very much alive.
The red-tailed boa constrictor was one of three reptiles who took a field trip from their home at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium to promote its new exhibit "Lizard and the Komodo King," which is on view through February.
UW Geologist Louis J. Maher, Jr:
Light plane photography of many United States locations, including a number in Wisconsin.Fabulous, via Doc Searls.
In his eternal quest to demystify the nuanced wonders of physics for his students at Gar-Field Senior High School, Bill Willis, 65, has conducted a number of experiments that educate as well as entertain.
Once, he built a hovercraft from a leaf blower and cushion so he could demonstrate Newton's laws of motion. Another time, he lay on a bed of about 1,000 upright nails to show how weight distribution can affect pressure. And, on other occasions, he has swung a bowling ball hanging from the ceiling at his face to show how kinetic energy cannot surpass potential energy.
I recently posted a comparative list of the English courses offered to 9th and 10th graders at Madison's four high schools. The list showed clearly that West High School does not offer its high achieving and highly motivated 9th and 10th grade students the same appropriately challenging English classes that are offered at East, LaFollette and Memorial.
Here is the yield from a similar comparison for 9th and 10th grade Social Studies and Science.
Social Studies -- Ninth Grade
East: U.S. History 9, TAG U.S. History (U.S. History or TAG U.S. History required)
LaFollette: Exploring U.S. History, Challenges of Democracy (a.k.a. Advanced U.S. History) (Exploring U.S. History or Challenges of Democracy required)
Memorial: American Experience 1 and 2, 9th grade elective -- .25 credit course "Interdisciplinary TAG" (American History 1 and 2 required)
West: U.S. History (required)
Social Studies -- Tenth Grade
East: World History, TAG World History, Ethnic Studies, Social Psychology (consent of instructor required for 10th graders only), American Politics and Government (World History or TAG World History required)
LaFollette: World History, Civilizations (a.k.a. Advanced World History), Challenges of Democracy, American Women's History, AP European History, AP Psychology (World History or Civilizations required)
Memorial: World History, World History AP, American Politics Today, International Relations and National Security Issues, Women In U.S. History, The Ancient World, Modern European History AP (World History required; World History AP can replace World History)
West: Western Civilization 10, Tools for Success in the Social Sciences (World Civilization 10 required)
Science -- Ninth Grade
East: Biology I, Biology 9 for Talented and Gifted (number of sections depends on demand)
LaFollette: General Biology I, Honors Biology I (number of sections sections depends on demand)
Memorial: Integrated Science, 9th grade elective -- .25 credit course "Interdisciplinary TAG" (Integrated Science required)
West: Biology (embedded honors option available beginning 2006-07), Accelerated Biology (one section of 24 students, regardless of demand)
Science -- Tenth Grade
East: Chemistry, Chemistry for Talented and Gifted, Earth Science 1, Earth Science 2, Biology I, Physical Science Chemistry, Physical Science Physics, Advanced Laboratory Science
LaFollette: General Biology I, Honors Biology I, Practical Biological Science, Biology II, Physical Science, Practical Physical Science, General Physics, Math Physics 1 and 2
Memorial: Earth Science 1, Fundamentals of Biology, Biology, General Physics, Chemistry in the Community, Math Chemistry, Chemistry AP, Aircraft Construction (Biology AP is available to 11th and 12th graders -- Biology is not a pre-req for Biology AP)
West: Biology (embedded honors option available beginning 2006-07), Biology II, Earth Science, Chemistry, Chemistry in the Community
I have asked the District and West High School administrations to please explain to me how the more limited course offerings at West fulfill the District's legal responsibilities to the school's academically talented and highly motivated 9th and 10th grade students, under the requirements set forth by Wisconsin State Standard t.
I have also asked if the District has plans to "re-design" our four high schools with an eye on equity of educational opportunity, in the same way the District's eleven middle schools were evaluated this year. I have asked if the plan is to bring West in line with the other three high schools or vice versa.
Stay tuned for more.
Some parents say the Madison School District's spending cuts, combined with its attempts to close the achievement gap, have reduced opportunities for higher-achieving students.Check out Part I and Part II of Cullen's series.
Jeff Henriques, a parent of two high-achieving students, said one of the potential consequences he sees is "bright flight" - families pulling students with higher abilities out of the district and going elsewhere because their needs aren't being met.
One of the larger examples of this conflict is surfacing in the district's move toward creating "heterogeneous" classes that include students of all achievement levels, eliminating classes that group students of similar achievement levels together.
Advocates of heterogeneous classes say students achieving at lower levels benefit from being in classes with their higher-achieving peers. But some parents of higher-achieving students are concerned their children won't be fully challenged in such classes - at a time when the amount of resources going to talented and gifted, or TAG, programs is also diminishing.
Watch Professor Gamoran's presentation, along with others related to the homogeneous / heterogeneous grouping debate here. Links and commentary and discussion on West's English 10. Jason Shepherd took a look at these issues in his "Fate of the Schools" article.
Working in conjunction with the Schools of Hope project led by the United Way of Dane County, the district has made progress in third-grade reading scores at the lowest achievement levels. But racial and income gaps persist among third-graders reading at proficient and advanced levels.The first part of Cullen's series is here.
Other initiatives are taking place in the middle and high schools. There, the district has eliminated "dead-end classes" that have less rigorous expectations to eliminate the chance that students will be put on a path of lower achievement because they are perceived as not being able to succeed in higher-level classes.
In the past, high school students were able to take classes such as general or consumer math. Now, all students are required to take algebra and geometry - or two credits of integrated mathematics, combining algebra, statistics and probability, geometry and trigonometry - in order to graduate.
One of the district's more controversial efforts has been a move toward "heterogeneous" classes that include students of all achievement levels, eliminating classes that group students of similar achievement levels together.
Advocates of heterogeneous classes say students who are achieving at lower levels benefit from being in classes with their higher-achieving peers. But others say the needs of higher-achieving students aren't met in such classes.
And in addition to what schools are already doing, Superintendent Art Rainwater said he would like to put learning coaches for math and reading in each of the district's elementary schools to improve teachers' ability to teach all students effectively.
When San Diego's school district began overhauling its science-education curriculum five years ago, it wanted to raise the performance of minority, low-income and immigrant students.
But parents in middle- and upper-income areas, where many students were already doing well, rebelled against the new curriculum, and a course called Active Physics in particular. They called it watered-down science, too skimpy on math.
A resistance movement took hold. Some teachers refused to use the new textbooks, which are peppered with cartoons. They gathered up phased-out texts to use on the sly. As controversy over the issue escalated, it played a part in an election in which the majority of the school board was replaced. Now, further curriculum changes are under consideration.
The skirmishes in the nation's eighth-largest urban school district reflect a wider battle over how to make science classes accessible to a broader array of students while maintaining their rigor.
Amid mediocre U.S. scores on international science tests and predictions of future shortages of scientists and engineers, policy makers have begun requiring more science in schools. By 2011, 27 states will require high-school students to take at least three science courses to graduate. In 1992, only six had such requirements.
The new TIMSS 1999 Video Study report on eighth-grade science teaching examines how students in 5 countries, including the United States, experience science as it is actually taught.
The convergence of nanoscience, biotechnology and information technology is a major frontier in research, with potential to enhance human abilities and improve the nation's productivity and quality of life. This virtual symposium provides an opportunity for K-12 science teachers and other educators to gain an understanding of the concepts and applications involved in these disciplines to solve current and future problems and for making the United States more competitive in the world marketplace. Science teachers will learn how to use these technologies topics to demonstrate the interdependency of the sciences of biology, chemistry and physics with technology in their science classrooms.
Despite nearly 30 years of improvements in U.S. children's overall quality of life, their basic academic skills have barely budged, according to research led by a Duke University sociologist.2006 Child Well-Being Results.
The "educational flatline," as measured by scores on math and reading exams, defies researchers' expectations, because other quality-of-life measures, such as safety and family income, have improved steadily since 1975.
More recently, even areas that had worsened in the 1970s and 1980s, such as rates of teen suicide, have improved dramatically, so researchers had expected that education improvements would soon follow. They didn't.
The Educational Flatline, Causes and Results:The Education Flatline: Causes and Solutions
With scientific expertise sweeping the globe, the next generation of American scientists and engineers are going to face unprecedented competition, and college is too late to begin preparing them for it, according to the National Science Board.
The board released its “Science and Engineering Indicators, 2006″[pdf] report Thursday. The report, which focused on elementary and secondary education, cast a foreboding tone. According to the report, while the scores of American students on national math assessments have risen slightly in recent years, the same cannot be said for science. According to the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics Science Study , fourth and eighth graders in the United States performed better in math and science than the international average of industrial nations, but improvement since 1995 was modest for eighth graders, and fourth graders took a slight step backward.
Even a fourth grade student who is getting his or her first exposure to science might already be left in the starting blocks, according to Jo Ann Vasquez, a National Science Board member and the lead author of the report. “[Kids] have to get science by third grade,” she said, “or that wonderment disappears.”
The first Toolbox provided the most powerful argument by far for getting more high school students into challenging courses, my favorite reporting topic. Using data from a study of 8,700 young Americans, it showed that students whose high schools had given them an intense academic experience -- such as a heavy load of English courses or advanced math or Advanced Placement -- were more likely to graduate from college. It has been frequently cited by high school principals, college admissions directors and anyone else who cared about giving more choices in life to more students, particularly those from low-income and minority families.
The new Toolbox is 193 pages [pdf] of dense statistics, obscure footnotes and a number of insightful and surprising assessments of the intricacies of getting a college degree in America. It confirms the lessons of the old Toolbox using a study of 8,900 students who were in 12th grade in 1992, 10 years after the first group. But it goes much further, prying open the American higher education system and revealing the choices that are most likely to get the least promising students a bachelor's degree.
Toward the end of the report, Adelman offers seven tips. I call them the "College Completion Cliff Notes." They are vintage Adelman, very un-government-report-like, so I will finish by just quoting them in full:
"1. Just because you say you will continue your education after high school and earn a college credential doesn't make it happen. Wishing doesn't do it; preparation does! So . . .
"2. Take the challenging course work in high school, and don't let anyone scare you away from it. Funny thing about it, but you learn what you study, so if you take up these challenges, your test scores will inevitably be better (if you are worried about that). If you cannot find the challenge in the school's offerings, point out where it is available on-line, and see if you can get it that way. There are very respectable Web sites offering full courses in precalculus, introductory physics, humanities, music theory, and computer programming, for example.
"3. Read like crazy! Expand your language space! Language is power! You will have a lot less trouble in understanding math problems, biology textbooks, or historical documents you locate on the Web. Chances are you won't be wasting precious credit hours on remedial courses in higher education.
"4. If you don't see it now, you will see it in higher education: The world has gone quantitative: business (obviously), geography, criminal justice, history, allied health fields -- a full range of disciplines and job tasks tells you why math requirements are not just some abstract school exercise. So come out of high school with more than Algebra 2, making sure to include math in your senior year course work, and when you enter higher education, put at least one college-level math course under your belt in the first year -- no matter what your eventual major.
"5. When you start to think seriously about postsecondary options, log on to college and community college Web sites and look not so much for what they tell you of how wonderful life is at Old Siwash, but what they show you of the kinds of assignments and examination questions given in major gateway courses you will probably take. If you do not see these indications of what to expect, push! Ask the schools for it! These assignments and questions are better than SAT or ACT preparation manuals in terms of what you need to complete degrees.
"6. See if your nearest community college has a dual-enrollment agreement with your school system, allowing you to take significant general education or introductory occupational courses for credit while you are still in high school. Use a summer term or part of your senior year to take advantage, and aim to enter higher education with at least six credits earned this way -- preferably more.
"7. You are ultimately responsible for success in education. You are the principal actor. The power is yours. Seize the day -- or lose it!"
The National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), in partnership with NASA Langley Research Center and the North Carolina and Virginia Space Grant Consortia, is pleased to announce our 4th Annual Educator Training Workshop. The workshop is an opportunity for middle and high school teachers and administrators to delve into the world of aerospace to provide exciting learning opportunities for their students. This activity will be an intense two weeks focused on current and past NASA research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Woodland Grange Primary school in Leicestershire beat the space agency and its online updates of the Rover Mars probe to win the education category of Yahoo! Search Finds of the Year.
The school's mix of field trip tales, homework tips, nativity play photos and pupils' weblogs won over judges, who also picked it ahead of opinion polls site YouGov and the British Geological Survey.
Fordham Foundation criticizes focus on ‘discovery learning.’
More than two-thirds of states have science standards that earn a C grade or worse for their quality, in part because they overemphasize “discovery learning,” the idea that students should be encouraged to acquire knowledge through their own investigation and experimentation, a study issued last week concludes.
Too many of those standards—documents that spell out what students are expected to know—also present science in a sprawling, unorganized way that is short of facts and content, according to the report by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
By Sean Cavanagh, Education Week, December 14, 2005
Titled “The State of State Science Standards, 2005,” the report is a follow-up to a 2000 analysis conducted by the conservative-leaning Washington-based think tank, which promotes strong academic standards and educational options such as charter schools. During the five years since the previous report, the overall quality of standards remained about the same, with roughly the same number of states, 19, receiving an A or B on both studies.
A new study indicates that state science standards are generally strongest in their presentation of biology and weakest in chemistry and environmental science.
Discipline or issue Average score for all states
Biological sciences 68%
Physical science 64%
Earth/space science 61%
Chemistry, environmental science 50%
A majority of states received a C or lower on the quality of their science standards.
Grade Number of States
SOURCE: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
“The nation, in its entirely, is neither making progress nor losing ground when it comes to its expectations for what students should learn in science,” the new report says. “Unfortunately, that’s hardly news worth celebrating.”
The analysis judges science standards on such factors as presentation of unambiguous learning goals, freedom from educational or academic jargon, organization, and treatment of core topics, such as evolution.
Paul R. Gross, a professor emeritus of life sciences at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, directed the study. He combed through the lengthy documents with the help of other researchers with extensive scientific backgrounds in college and K-12 education.
Just seven states scored an A on their science standards: California, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia. Twelve states were awarded a B, nine received a C, seven states took a D, and 15 received an F. Thirteen states took higher grades than they did in 2000; 19 saw their grades drop.
When it came to the theory of evolution, whose handling by schools is a topic of furious debate around the country, 20 states earned a “sound” rating, or a grade of A or B, a decrease from 24 states in 2000, the study found. Twenty-two states received a D or F, compared with 12 in 2000.
For More Info
"The State of State Science Standards 2005" is available from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
Upgrading U.S. students’ scientific knowledge is increasingly important in today’s economy, particularly in light of foreign competition, the authors note. The Fordham study generally judges states on their coverage of crucial scientific facts and ideas that the authors believe students will need, as recognized by the mainstream scientific community.
The overall weak treatment of evolution, the authors say, is probably not the result of recent pressure to include supposed alternatives to evolution, such as “intelligent design”—the idea that an unspecified architect has shaped life’s development. Instead, the report says, the inadequacy is a function of the “general weakness of disciplinary content for all science.”
Kansas alone received an F-minus grade on coverage of evolution, in large part because its standards were recently rewritten to suggest wrongly that the theory’s scientific basis was somehow “in deep trouble,” Mr. Gross said.
Fordham’s findings on evolution bear some similarity to the results of a recent Education Week analysis, which showed that many state science standards ignore the central principles and evidence associated with the established theory. The newspaper also found that state assessments include evolution to varying degrees. ("Treatment of Evolution Inconsistent," Nov. 9, 2005 and "Evolution Theory Well Represented in Leading High School Textbooks," Dec. 7, 2005.)
What Kind of Lessons?
The Fordham Foundation study particularly objected to states’ support for discovery learning, which expects students to gain scientific knowledge by working through problems on their own, such as hands-on experiments. That approach is sometimes considered the opposite of “direct instruction,” or lessons directed by teachers presenting basic facts.
“It’s not possible for [students], no matter how smart they are, to work out the law of thermodynamics on their own,” Mr. Gross said in a phone call with reporters. Such concepts “have got to be taught. [They] cannot come from hands-on” learning.
Fordham’s report does not reject hands-on learning outright, but says a balance between straightforward presentation of facts and “investigation in the field, laboratory, or library” should be struck.
Discovery learning is sometimes associated with a concept called inquiry. Fordham’s report approves of that approach to science standards, as long as it emphasizes “real and useful” subject matter. In fact, the study grades states on how well they promote inquiry, which it defines as the process of doing science, as well as incorporating explanations of its history, philosophy, and purpose.
Gerald F. Wheeler, the executive director of the Arlington, Va.-based National Science Teachers Association, disagreed with the report’s conclusion about the negative influence of discovery learning.
The NSTA official sees the opposite problem: Many science teachers are offering students an endless stream of facts for memorization, often reading them straight from textbooks, without making the content interesting or meaningful, he said.
“I don’t see the inappropriately high level of discovery learning they see,” Mr. Wheeler said of the Fordham authors. “They’re creating a false dichotomy. … The picture they’re presenting is an extreme one.”
If you were at the West HS PTSO meeting last night (report to be posted soon for anyone who was unable to attend -- the topic was an update on the SLC initiative by SLC Coordiator Heather Lott), then you know that the question of what 9th and 10th grade science will look like next year and thereafter was left somewhat unanswered. I had the following clarifying email exchange with West HS Principal Ed Holmes today:
I am writing to ask for clarification about your plans for 9th and 10th grade science in the coming years.
Very specifically, there was considerable confusion last night about Chemistry. Will there would be "Chemistry" and "Chemistry in the Community" next year ... or not? You and Heather seemed not to be in agreement, and we noticed afterward that the document Heather handed out described 10th grade science as "TBA," which was confusing, and worrisome.
Also, in response to a parent question, you said there would be Accelerated Biology next year, that there would be "no changes" in science next year. Can we trust that?
All in all, the science situation was left in a bit of a muddle, so I am asking you to please go on record here and make it very, very clear what the plans are for next year and what the plans/hopes/goals are for the years after next.
1) Will there be Accelerated Biology next year, yes or no?
2) If yes, how many sections of Accelerated Biology will there be next year?
3) What will the procedure be for getting into Accelerated Biology for next year?
4) What is your plan for Biology -- your vision, your goal, your intention -- in the years after next?
5) Will both "Chemistry" and "Chemistry in the Community" be offered next year, as separate classes (i.e., not a blend of the two within the same classroom, somehow) ... or not?
6) What is you plan for Chemistry -- again, your vision, your ultimate goal, your hope -- in the years after that?
Please, Ed, if your plan is to ultimately have only one form of biology offered at the 9th grade level and only one form of chemistry offered at the 10th grade level (with perhaps only what you're calling an "embedded honors" option available in each course for the brightest and most motivated students) -- if that is your vision and what you are working towards -- then I ask that you be straight with us about that right now.
P.S. I still feel like we parents have never been given an adequate explanation (empirically supported, not just rhetoric) as to why you refuse to have an honors/accelerated section for each 9th and 10th grade course (i.e., English, science, social studies) per each of the four SLC's. (I assume that's how it's done for math?) A plan like that -- combined with efforts to increase the diversity of the students in these honors/accelerated sections -- would make a huge difference in how this turns out for West, in the end. Perhaps you could provide an answer to that question now?
In response to your questions regarding next years course selections:
1) Yes, there will be Accelerated Biology.
2) There will be one section of Accelerated Biology.
3) The procedure for getting into Accelerated Biology will be the same
as in years past. There will be an exam given to determine who will be
in the Accelerated Biology class.
4) Next year there will be an honors option embedded in the
traditional biology class for students who opt to take honors level
biology. My plans are to continue with the aforementioned system for
offering Biology at West. I do not foresee a change in what we offer at
5) Yes, both Chemistry and Chemistry in the Community will be offered
as separate classes.
6) At this time I do not foresee a change in the way we offer
chemistry at West.
The courses listed above are found in next years Program of Study book.
The book has gone to print and has been returned to us. I do not plan
to change what we have printed and will be disseminating to the public.
If you are interested in a copy of the 2006 -2007 West High Program of
Study book they are available in Theresa Calderon's office, Highland
I will most likely be out of town over the next several days on matters
of a personal nature. I will respond to any further questions you might
have upon my return.
Thank you for your continued interest and concern.
Ed Holmes, Principal
West High School
Thank you so much for your speedy reply ... and for the clarification. It is much appreciated.
Needless to say, I am happy to hear that you do not foresee any changes in either biology or chemistry in the coming years. (Please correct me if I have misunderstood.)
I am also happy to hear about continued accelerated and honors options in biology and the continuation of the math-rich course in chemistry, all of which are needed by many West students. As I have said many times, I truly believe this is the better course for West to chart in order to insure the school meets its professional and moral responsibility to the full range of students -- and to insure that those students who need accelerated and honors options do not leave the West attendance area. It also makes the educational opportunities at West more like those at our other three high schools, a form of equity that is at the heart of the middle school redesign effort.
I will ask you again to please consider offering accelerated and honors classes within each SLC for English and social studies, as well.
This small event says a lot about global competition. Traveling around Asia for most of the past month, I have been struck by the relentless focus on education. It makes sense. Many of these countries have no natural resources, other than their people; making them smarter is the only path for development. China, as always, appears to be moving fastest.
But one thing puzzles me about these oft-made comparisons. I talked to Tharman Shanmugaratnam to understand it better. He's the minister of Education of Singapore, the country that is No. 1 in the global science and math rankings for schoolchildren. I asked the minister how to explain the fact that even though Singapore's students do so brilliantly on these tests, when you look at these same students 10 or 20 years later, few of them are worldbeaters anymore. Singapore has few truly top-ranked scientists, entrepreneurs, inventors, business executives or academics.
Interesting interview with Burt Rutan on his approach to space travel (low cost, efficient) vs. the traditional NASA approach (very expensive).I found it interesting to listen to Rutan's young engineer's discuss the challenges and opportunities in their work. Two related articles worth reading:
Lynn Margulis writing in the American Scientist:
The ridiculous but effective public-relations tactics of hype and guile serve our television culture. Pressures to produce and consume generate deceptions and half-truths. On the dominant side of the cultural abyss, hard-sell tactics contradict the demands of science: honesty, rigor and logic. Scientific inquiry, on the other side of the abyss, is a search for truth—whether or not, to paraphrase the wise, recently deceased physicist David Bohm, the truth pleases us.
When he described America as a self-imagined nation of "pragmatic, pious businessmen," Baldwin unwittingly exemplified science education. Science for schools is written, controlled and produced by publishers whose goal is to sell materials in huge quantities to avoid sales taxes. Qualified scientists and teachers are not paid for comprehensibility, accuracy or logic, but rather bribed to rapidly approve "content" that no one understands. Such beleaguered experts rush to meet publishers’ deadlines for "up-to-date" consumer products that quickly earn money. To maximize profit, books, digital media, supplies, even equipment are planned to be obsolete within the academic year.
There's a one day primer on biotechnology (Saturday) that looks useful.
Ironically, during the mid-1990's, the Madison School District declined an offer of free land in Fitchburg for a school and a partnership with Promega.
Earlier this semester, 60 MMSD students -- including 29 from West HS -- were named 2006 National Merit Semifinalists. In a 10/12/05 press release, MMSD Superintendent Art Rainwater said, "I am proud of the many staff members who taught and guided these students all the way from elementary school, and of this district's overall guidance and focus that has led to these successes."
A closer examination of the facts, however, reveals that only 12 (41%) of West High School's 29 National Merit Semifinalists attended the Madison public schools continuously from first grade on (meaning that 59% received some portion of their K-8 schooling in either private schools or non-MMSD public schools). Here's the raw data:
NMSF #1: Wingra K-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #4: Denver public schools (magnet Montessori school) K-6th; Hamilton 7th-8th
NMSF #5: New Orleans parochial school K-8th; New Orleans public high school through 11th
NMSF #6: Libertyville, IL, public schools ("extremely rigorous") through first semester 10th
NMSF #7: Franklin-Randall, K-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #8: Van Hise, K-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #9: Van Hise, K-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #10: Starkville, MS, public schools K-8th
NMSF #11: Japanese school for K; Glenn Stephens 1st-4th; Van Hise for 5th; Hamilton
NMSF #12: Franklin-Randall, K-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #13: Madison Central Montessori through 3rd; Shorewood 3rd-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #14: Lincoln-Midvale through 4th; Eagle 5th-8th
NMSF #15: Eagle K-8th
NMSF #16: MMSD through 9th; home schooled beginning in 10th
NMSF #17: Leopold though 4th; Eagle 5th-8th
NMSF #19: California private school through 5th; Hamilton
NMSF #20: Midvale and Van Hise; Hamilton
NMSF #21: Seattle public schools (TAG pullout program) through 7th; Hamilton for 8th
NMSF #22: Unknown private school K-1st; Eagle 2nd-8th
NMSF #23: Lincoln-Midvale K-5th; Cherokee
NMSF #24: Madison Central Montessori through 4th; Eagle 5th-8th
NMSF #25: Shorewood K-5th; Hamilton
NMSF #26: Queen of Peace through 5th; Hamilton
NMSF #27: West Middleton through 4th; Eagle 5th-8th
NMSF #28: Montessori pre-K through 2nd; Shorewood 4th-5th; Eagle 5th-8th
NMSF #29: Shorewood K-5th; Hamilton
Descriptive data like these are certainly interesting, though they often raise more questions than they answer. And of course, they don't prove anything. Nevertheless, with 45% of the West HS National Merit Semifinalist sample attending non-MMSD schools for over half of their K-8 years, it is recommended that the District temper its sense of pride in and ownership of these very accomplished students.
Many thanks to each of these fine young people for speaking with us on the telephone. Congratulations and good luck to each and every one of them!
EDUSAT, sent into space last year, is India’s first educational satellite. It will allow American instructors to lead classes in remote classrooms, thousands of miles away, via Web cast.
“Any Indian village could set up a receiving station and receive a signal, and schools would need only a computer and a simple Web camera to view the lessons,” Sanjay Limaye, senior scientist at the UW-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center, said in a release.
The targets of the satellite are rural Indian communities, which are plagued by a lack of educational infrastructure and a lack of good teachers.
The Fordham Institutes State of Science Report for 2005 reviews the state of State Standards in Science and found 15 states scoring "F", Wisconsin among them. The states whose Science Standards were deemed worthy of an "A" are California, New Mexico, Indiana, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, and South Carolina.
Of course, standards are one thing, implementation is another. This report does not, and is not meant to directly address delivery of the content; but, it is likely to have either a positive or negative effect depending on the quality of the Standards. To quote the report:
"Academic standards are the keystone in the arch of American K-12 education in the 21st century. They make it possible for a sturdy structure to be erected, though they don’t guarantee its strength (much less its beauty). But if a state’s standards are flabby, vague, or otherwise useless, the odds of delivering a good education to that state’s children are worse than the odds of getting rich at the roulette tables of Reno."
"Sure, one can get a solid education in science (as in other subjects) even where the state’s standards are iffy—so long as all the other stars align and one is fortunate enough to attend the right schools and benefit from terrific, knowledgeable teachers. It’s also possible, alas, to get a shoddy education even in a state with superb standards, if there’s no real delivery-and-accountability system tied to hose standards."
The report, written by active scientists, is highly critical of the current approach to teaching science, and argues frequently against "discovery" methods, "inquiry-based" learning, and the false dichotomy between "rote-learning" and "hands-on" learning.
Interestingly, the Fordham Report is highly critical of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and the NRC (National Research Council) for producing very weak "national standards", due to their enshrining of "discovery learning" pedagogy over "old-fashioned" instruction, remarking that this pedagogy essentially expects American students to learn science by reinventing the work of Newton, Einstein, Crick and Watson. "That's both absurd and dysfunctional."
Wisconsin's Science Standards scored 29% -- "F". In the previoius Fordham Institute's 2000 report, Wisconsin scored "C". To quote the report on the current Wisconsin standards:
"The Wisconsin Model Academic Standards announce confidently that they “set clear and specific goals for teaching and learning.” That was not the judgment of our review. They are, in fact, generally vague and nonspecific, very heavy in process, and so light in science discipline content as to render them nearly useless...."
Then, review what your child(ren) has(have) learned or are learning in our schools. In spite of the Wisconsin Standards, are they learning, or have learned the curriculum as described in the California Science Standard document, or is their learning as vague and useless as the Wisconsin Science Standard?
Gov. Jim Doyle supports the push to increase the math and science proficiency of high school students, which is primarily coming from business leaders.Additional links and background on math and science curriculum.
They say a lack of these skills among those entering the labor pool is putting Wisconsin at risk of losing jobs because there won't be enough qualified workers to fill positions ranging from manufacturing jobs to computer specialists, from engineers to mathematical, life and physical scientists and engineering and science technicians.
Art Rainwater, superintendent of the Madison School District, supports increasing the state requirements. Madison high schools require two years of each subject, but in recent years the district has strengthened its math requirement so that all students must now take algebra and geometry to graduate, Rainwater said.
If the state does not increase its math and science requirements, the district will likely consider raising them, he said.
But School Board President Carol Carstensen said she isn't certain requiring more courses is the way to best prepare all students to succeed after high school.
And just increasing the requirements (emphasis added) won't make the classes more rigorous, said Lake Mills chemistry teacher Julie Cunningham, who recently won the prestigious Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award.
via reader Rebecca Cole: Michael Janofsky:
The report, released Wednesday by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, suggests that the focus on reading and math as required subjects for testing under the federal law, No Child Left Behind, has turned attention away from science, contributing to a failure of American children to stay competitive in science with their counterparts abroad.The full report is available here.
The report also appears to support concerns raised by a growing number of university officials and corporate executives, who say that the failure to produce students well-prepared in science is undermining the country's production of scientists and engineers and putting the nation's economic future in jeopardy.
The Wisconsin Model Academic Standards announce confidently that they “set clear and specific goals for teaching and learning.” That was not the judgment of our review. They are, in fact, generally vague and nonspecific, very heavy in process, and so light in science discipline content as to render them nearly useless at least as a response to problems for which state learning standards are supposed to be a remedy.
Wisconsin’s school districts are required to devise a curriculum from these very general statements. Advanced science courses are entirely of local design. There are in toto eight standards, labeled A through H. Only three are concerned with science content (physical science, life and environmental science, and earth and space science). All the remaining five are about process. Required performance standards are given for grades 4, 8, and 12. There is a low level Glossary of Terms, followed by “Terms Unique to Science.” All seem to be derived from the National Science Education Standards.
Samples of vague disciplinary content standards: From Standard D, physical science: D.12.12: “Using the science themes and knowledge of chemical, physical, atomic, and nuclear reactions, explain changes in materials, living things, earth’s features, and stars.” Standard E, Earth and space science: E.4.7: “Using the science themes, describe resources used in the home, community, and nation as a whole.” And E.4.8: “Illustrate human resources used in mining, forestry, farming, and manufacturing in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the world.”
Specificity in the science process standards is no higher. Standard A, “Science Connections.” For grade 4: “When studying a science-related problem, decide what changes over time are occurring or have occurred.”Or, Standard B: “Nature of Science.”B.4.3:“Show how major developments of scientific knowledge in the earth and space, life and environmental, and physical sciences have changed over time.” Interpretation of all such “standards” by teachers across an entire state must inevitably range from the sublime to the ridiculous.
There is no more depth in the Standards for biology, exemplified by these selections, for Grade 12: “State the relationships between functions of the cell and functions of the organism as related to genetics and heredity.” Or, “Understand the impact of energy on organisms in living systems,” and “Apply the underlying themes of science to develop defensible visions of the future.” Local specialists and teachers needn’t worry about biology content in planning to comply with such standards.
Responding to one instruction—E.8.7,“Describe the general structure of the solar system, galaxies, and the universe, explaining the nature of the evidence used to develop current models of the universe”—a reviewer asks,with asperity, “Why not just say ‘Explain astronomy’?” “Science,”we are told in the Standards, “follows a generally accepted set of rules.” Would that we were told what those rules were! More to the point, would that the teachers making lessons, curricula, and tests were given real guidance on those putative rules of science and the degree to which they differ, if they do, from “accepted sets of rules” in other human occupations. Grade: “F.”
There were many big-league DNA scientists at the annual genome sequencing conference held here last month, but no one stood out more than a slight high school teacher in religious habit towing five of her students through the imposing crowd of genetics pioneers with a quiet grace.
The unlikely delegate was Sister Mary Jane Paolella, of Sacred Heart Academy, an all-girls Roman Catholic high school in Hamden, Connecticut. She wasn't here on a sightseeing trip. Paolella showed up with her students to make an official presentation of DNA sequencing data that her honors biotechnology class generated from genes associated with osteoporosis.
Paolella's been bringing her students here for eight years. The point, she says, is to give her class the opportunity to rub elbows with top scientists working at the cutting edge of research -- luminaries like Craig Venter, who led the private effort to sequence the human genome, and Dr. Hamilton Smith, who won the 1978 Nobel Prize for his work on DNA-cutting enzymes. She credits the experience for inspiring more and more of her students to pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated scientific fields.
Last spring a longtime parent at West HS was asked to write a description -- content area by content area -- of the curriculum changes that have occurred at West HS in recent years that have affected the academic opportunities of West's "high end" students. Below you will find what she wrote. It includes changes that have actually occurred; changes that may and probably will occur; and important questions about what else may happen in the future.
This summary was then forwarded to two other longtime West parents for their comments. Excerpts from those comments may be found just after the original description. Next, the description of each content area was sent to the appropriate department head at West, for their comment with the goal being to produce a brief, descriptive document that everyone would agree was factually accurate, for educational and advocacy purposes. Unfortunately, none of the department heads responded.
Here is the original description:
a. A few students gifted in English used to be permitted to begin taking upper-level English courses beginning 2nd semester of 9th grade, based upon their English teacher's recommendation, outstanding performance during their 1st semester at West, and the availability of open slots in appropriate courses that fit the student's schedule. (Note: this option involves no monetary cost.)
b. The two sections of integrated 9th-grade English/Social Studies were eliminated as of the 2003-2004 academic year. The primary purpose of these experimental courses -- very similar in philosophy to the SLCs -- was to provide an opportunity for one English and one social studies teacher to pair together to partially integrate their curricula and get to know the same group of students, along with the students having the same set of classmates for both classes. "TAG" students were among the ones who self-selected into these courses, creating cluster grouping within mainstreamed classrooms.
c. 10th-grade English core curriculum will likely be introduced in 2006-2007. This change will prevent highly motivated and capable students from having the opportunity to take appropriately challenging courses in English until 11th grade (currently, students get to start choosing from among the English electives in 10th grade). Ultimately, the effect will be a reduction in the number and variety of upper-level English courses West is able to offer.
2. Social Studies
a. 9th-grade Integrated English/Social Studies course was eliminated (see above).
b. The British version of 10th-grade European History was eliminated as an option a couple of years ago when the teacher of this course officially retired. (Note: this teacher still teaches some sections of 10th-grade European History at West.) As with Integrated English/Social Studies, "TAG" students were among the ones who self-selected into this variant of 10th-grade social studies, creating high ability cluster grouping within a mainstreamed classroom.
c. West's Social Studies Department decided this year that underclassmen will no longer be permitted to take 12th-grade elective courses prior to 12th-grade, not even on a space-available basis that would involve no monetary cost. No other department has this restriction. Might they follow suit?
a. 9th-grade Accelerated Biology is restricted to one section despite there being approximately four classrooms worth of students who desire each year to take on the extra challenge this class entails (i.e., over 100 students choose to take the optional test for admission into Accelerated Biology each year, some years, many more than that). Budget constraints will likely lead to the elimination of even this one section in the near future unless West is willing to assign all of the students in this class to the same SLC (or have one section per SLC).
b. Will the implementation of a 10th-grade Core include science as well? If so, will everyone take the same Chemistry course in 10th grade, eliminating the variety of science options currently available to 10th-grade students? (Note: at the March 2005 West PTSO meeting, West HS Science Department Chair Mike Lipp stated -- in response to a parent question -- that they would not eliminate the regular Chemistry class because the lack of math content/rigor in Chem Comm ("Chemistry in the Community") would leave West graduates unprepared for chemistry at the UW and other universities.)
a. West used to have a course called "Precalculus." It covered Algebra 2/Trigonometry Accelerated and Algebra 3 Accelerated in one year. It was eliminated last year (2003-04). The math staff were needed, instead, for "Algebra I Extended." In addition, it was a controversial course, in that there was disagreement as to how many students could really handle and benefit from it. All of West's remaining "accelerated" math courses are really honors classes, that is, they are not accelerated in pace, as exists at many high schools of excellence in the US. (Important note: the "new" class that will be called "Precalculus" next year is simply Algebra 3 Accelerated with a new name, not the old Precalculus.)
b. With old Precalculus gone, will West now end up having too few students to justify continuing to offer Calculus II starting in 2006-2007? (Note: in order to take Calculus II in high school, a student must take geometry before 9th grade or take a year of math over a summer.) If so, West could end up the only MMSD high school not offering Calculus II.
c. In the future, will most students at West be mainstreamed into "Core Plus" starting in 9th grade? (Note: this would fit well with the plan to have an SLC-based core curriculum in 9th and 10th grade; that is, to have all students take Core Plus from the beginning would make possible a 9th and 10th grade core curriculum in math.) If so, will none of these students be able to take Calculus in high school?
Here are excerpts from the comments of Person #1:
The institutional history corresponds well with my experience and my children's experiences at West.
One other point that is not made is that it used to be easier to take an Independent Study course for credit if you were a high achieving student. ... Also, the school people will point to the option of going to UW as a way of providing for high end kids. [Although this works well for some], I think it is a bad option since the calendars [and daily schedules] do not in any way correspond with one another -- on a daily basis, the UW offers courses on a MW, TR, or MWF schedule, while West offers their courses on a MTWRF schedule. The transportation time and the differences in the class start times means that, essentially, taking a single course at UW makes a massive hole in a student's schedule.
Here are excerpts from the comments of Person #2:
As for science, 10th grade students either take Chemistry acclerated or Chem Com. In 11th grade, there are two physics offerings, Advanced Math Physics or General Physics. In 12th grade, the advanced topics courses in these two areas -- as well as in biology -- are fairly subjective, dependent on teacher interest. By contrast, Memorial students have AP Chem, Physics and Bio, as well as a 9th grade earth science class; additionally, the sequence is taught in the more accepted order, chem, physics and finally, biology. Many Memorial students graduate with 25-45 AP credits; very few West students take any other than calculus, foreign language and/or statistics--10-15 credits. This can make a huge difference in college, either for placement and/or early graduation with its attendant reduction in cost.
Fundamentally, the problem lies with the SLC program. Its primary purpose, despite the social rhetoric, is to homogenize the student body across all variables, including academics. Most of the features that made West a haven for TAG students are eliminated. Taking courses out of the normal sequence will be very difficult and the clustering of students, unless it happens de facto as the result of changes in the middle school curriculum, will disappear. It was this menu of options and flexibility that offset West's weak to non-existent AP program. I would also be very concerned whether a student will be able to participate in UW's Youth Options program; coordinating the university and high school schedules is difficult under the current arrangement with West's variety of courses and times. Youth Options has been a tremendous opportunity for gifted students to expand beyond the typical constraints of the high school curricula. (Note: the State now limits the number of college credits for which a District must pay to 18 per student. Also, the Youth Options Program may well face threat of extinction again in the near future.)
Many West parents wrote this past spring and summer to Principal Ed Holmes, Science Chair Mike Lipp, and District Science Coordinator Lisa Wachtel advocating for more not fewer sections of Accelerated Biology. Parents have also written to express concern about plans to homogenize the 10th grade English curriuculum, eliminating the options currently available to 10th graders, and requiring students to wait until 11th grade before they can take elective courses in English.
There had been no response to these concerns until a recent letter went out at the end of September from Principal Ed Holmes.
Dear Interested Parent:
As we continue to improve and expand our curricular program to meet the needs of a very diverse student population, I want to assure you that we are working with best practice models and some of the most informed professionals in the field to make sure we offer a quality academic program for your child. Our goal is to do our absolute best to provide a challenging rigorous curriculum that meets the needs of every student that we serve at West High School.
The following information represents the work that has been done over the summer and at the outset of the 2005/06 school year in the areas of science and English. The people involved in the work in biology have been Welda Simousek, Talented and Gifted Coordinator for MMSD, Lisa Wachtel MMSD science coordinator, Mike Lipp, West High, science Department Chairperson, and members of the West High biology teaching team. Work in the area of English has been done by Keesia Hyzer, West High English Department Chairperson, Ed Holmes, Principal, West High School and members of the West High English teaching team.
Over the summer, members of the English Department worked to create an English 10 curriculum. We will continue to fine-tune this curriculum over the school year. During the summer of 2006, English 10 teachers will meet to plan and differentiate particular units. Criteria for an honors designation in English 10 as well as additional attention for struggling students are both specified in the curriculum.
The English Department meets at least once monthly; professional development days will also be used to continue our work on planning English 10. We plan to present information regarding grade 10 English curriculum at the November 7 PTSO meeting. All parents are invited to come to hear about the work the English Department has been doing over the last few months. We will continue to keep parents involved in the process as we determine the future of curricular and academic programming at West.
International Business Machines Corp., worried the United States is losing its competitive edge, will financially back employees who want to leave the company to become math and science teachers.
The new program, being announced Friday in concert with city and state education officials, reflects tech industry fears that U.S. students are falling behind peers from Bangalore to Beijing in the sciences.
Up to 100 IBM employees will be eligible for the program in its trial phase. Eventually, Big Blue hopes many more of its tech savvy employees - and those in other companies - will follow suit.
Ohmygosh. She screamed and turned to her father, Martin Fraeman, who had picked her up at Blair in the family Toyota. I'm a finalist! A finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, the competition that might as well be a junior Nobel Prize. Abby called her mother and screamed again. The hundreds of hours she'd spent researching her astronomy project at Washington's Carnegie Institution had given her a shot at winning one of the nation's most coveted science awards.
In a special collection of articles published beginning 1 July 2005, Science Magazine and its online companion sites celebrate the journal's 125th anniversary with a look forward -- at the most compelling puzzles and questions facing scientists today.
From the Huffington Post: Mike Piscal, founder of the very successful View Park Prep charter school in the low-income, minority Crenshaw District of LA names names in analyzing why 3,950 ninth graders at South LA's four major high schools turn into 1,600 graduates, 900 college freshmen and 258 college graduates. More here.This is related: Shanghai Jiaotong University won the recent ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. The US hasn't won since 1997. The University of Illinois finished 17th, CalTech,Duke and MIT finished 29th while UW-Madison earned an honorable mention.
"I don't think you're smart enough to be a doctor."
People sometimes look at Teresa Ramirez with wide eyes when they find out she comes from Compton.Many are counting on biotech to drive Wisconsin's economy (and provide the tax base for growing education demands...).
The city south of Los Angeles is not the hometown that many expect to turn out a biotechnology fellowship winner who's doing research at the National Cancer Institute before applying to medical school.
In Compton, Ramirez was grazed with a bullet when a junior high school classmate dropped a gun he had brought on campus. Some of her classmates joined gangs, and some have already died. She faced skepticism when she said she wanted to be a doctor.
"I came across people, even the priest at my church, who said, 'I don't think you're smart enough to be a doctor.' ''
I hope scientists researching the differences been the sexes' gray matter take more time digesting their results than Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard University, did before he made his comments about the innate difference between the sexes in a recent speech.
"Researchers who have explored the subject of sex differences from every conceivable angle and organ say that yes, there are a host of discrepancies between men and women...," write Angier and Chang,
"Yet despite the desire for tidy and definitive answers to complex questions, researchers warn that the mere finding of a difference in form does not mean a difference in function or output inevitably follows."
"We can't get anywhere denying that there are neurological and hormonal differences between males and females, because there clearly are," said Virginia Valian, a psychology professor at Hunter College who wrote the 1998 book "Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women." "The trouble we have as scientists is in assessing their significance to real-life performance."
Marcia Bastian forwarded this link to edweek's article on Science DI.
Information from West High reveals that once again the Accelerated Biology course is being slated for the chopping block. The cutting of this course is being proposed as part of the initiative to maintain all inclusive, heterogeneous classrooms. Proponents of this cut, propose an alternative "Honors" designation for interested students who wish to be challenged above the standard course curriculum. Under this proposal, these "honors" students would do additional work alongside the standard curriculum that they would be completing in the heterogeneous classroom.
It was just this past spring, that a community letter writing campaign kept the accelerated biology class from being eliminated. If interested in sharing your thoughts on this program cut, please contact Mike Lipp, Science Dept. chair, Mikki Smith, Vice Principal in charge of scheduling, or Principal Ed Holmes.
The Madison School District has more or less standardized many computers on Microsoft's Windows operating system software. This approach, pitched as "sensible" because "that's what most people use" ignores the explosive growth of other technology platforms such as:
Finally, one of the arguments for a windows monoculture is price. Advocates argue that windows pc's are cheaper (generally ignorning the cost of virus, worm and other TCO (total cost of ownership) issues such as ongoing security patches, software compatibility issues and network support). Some of the cheapest pc's around are linux based "LindowsOS PC's, starting at $278.00.
Notice we don't even have a separate category for science curriculum which echoes the point of this WaPo editorial on the failure to teach and fund science.