In a town in northern Switzerland, 4- to 7-year-olds spend the day outside in “forest kindergarten,” writes Emily Bazelon.
It’s autumn. A few kids splash through a muddy creek. One boy falls down in the water, gets up, squawks, keeps going. A larger group sits and jumps in a makeshift-looking tent that consists of a tarp hung over a pole, with low walls made from stacked branches. A teacher tootles on a recorder. Later, the teacher describes the daily routine: Singing, story time, eating, and “then the children can play where they want in the forest.” She continues, “During the play time, the children have a lot of space. They can go where they want. Usually I know where they are playing but I cannot see them always.” The camera pans to a girl on a rope swing, swinging shockingly high into the tree canopy.
Academics usually don’t begin until age 7 in Switzerland, Bazelon writes. Swiss kids soon catch up, say the filmmakers.
In their new book, The App Generation, education professors Howard Gardner and Katie Davis argue that kids today are becoming more risk averse. “Rather than wanting to explore, to try things out by themselves, young people are always pushing to find out exactly what is wanted, when it is wanted, how it will be evaluated, what comes next and where we end up,” they said in a recent Q-and-A.
When Bazelon was on a panel with Gardner, he made a related comment: Many American kids today never have been lost. ”They have never been outside, in an unfamiliar place, without a parent or a GPS or a phone app to guide them. They don’t know what it’s like to lose your way in the world around you and to make do until you find it again.”
An American teaching in Finland was surprised that elementary school kids get themselves to school on their own. Children get frequent breaks – 45 minutes of instruction and 15 minutes of recess — and play outside, rain or shine.
South Korean students are among the best in the world, according to PISA. They’re also the world’s least happy school children reports Quartz.
Economic growth rates are high in South Korea. So are suicide rates. Some blame the intense academic pressure.
High math scores correlate –somewhat — with unhappiness, notes Derek Thompson in The Atlantic. Those happy Indonesians score near the bottom in math. (Qataris are depressed and bad in math, however.)
California isn’t producing the college-educated workers its economy needs, warns a new report. The higher education system must be redesigned to serve an increasingly diverse and low-income population, the report advises.
“Our economic competitors, including Japan, Korea, and Germany,” score much higher, notes Mark Schneider on The Quick and the Ed. “What should scare us is the low percentage of students in the highest levels of performance (PISA level 5 and above).”
The U.S. has concentrated on leaving no child behind. NAEP “scores of African Americans, Hispanics, and low-income fourth and eighth graders in reading and math have leaped upward,” but ”the percentage of students who score at NAEP’s advanced level has stagnated.”
Child poverty doesn’t explain U.S. mediocrity, argues Mike Petrilli on Flypaper. The U.S. does better in reading, which is far more linked to parental education, than in math, which is more school-dependent.
The U.S. is about average for child poverty for countries in the survey, adds Marc Tucker, director of the Center on Education and the Economy. Diversity doesn’t explain it either. Five PISA countries — some with higher scores have a higher percentage of immigrant students.
Others say that the U.S. is unique because in that it educates everyone and the countries listed among the top performers only educate their elite. In fact, the dropout rate in our high schools is around 25 percent, while some of the top performers are graduating close to 90 percent of the students who enter their high schools. It is they who are educating everyone.
Top-performing countries invest heavily in teachers’ skills, says Tucker. Some let only the best students go into teaching.
International test scores show U.S. prosperity is at risk, argues Tucker in a Washington Post debate with anti-tester Valerie Strauss.
U.S. high school students have trouble applying skills to real-world problems, writes Dana Goldstein on Slate.
One math activity asked students to compare the value of four cars, using a chart showing the mileage, engine capacity, and price of each one. American kids were especially bad at problems like this, in which they were not provided with a formula, but had to figure out how to manipulate the numbers on their own.
A reading activity asked test takers to read a short play, and then write about what the characters were doing before the curtain went up. The challenge is that the question prompts students to envision and describe a scene not actually included in the text itself. These are good questions that most of our kids should be able to tackle—we want analytical, creative children, not just kids who are good at memorization.
The “Common Core is focused on greater depth and less breadth,” so it ”probably will help our kids do better on exams like PISA,” Goldstein writes. But it will take more than that.
A weakness can be a hidden strength, author Malcolm Gladwell tells Anderson Cooper.
Underdogs’ limitations force them to be creative, says Gladwell, whose new book is called David and Goliath.
One of his examples is Gary Cohn, a dyslexic who “couldn’t do school” and was “kicked out” for acting up. He learned to work around his disability. He’s still a poor reader. He’s also president of Goldman Sachs.
Malcolm Gladwell: An incredibly high percentage of successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. That’s one of the little-known facts. So many of them, in fact, it’s like a joke among dyslexic researchers that you go into a room of very successful businesspeople, and you—you have a show of hands on who has a learning disability, it’s like half the hands in the room go up. It’s fascinating…
Gary Cohn: People that can’t read well, we tend to build a great sense of listening. We also tend to build a great sense of being able to deal and cope with failure.
Gladwell grew up in rural Ontario, the son of a Jamaican-born family therapist and a British math professor. He was not a strong student, but since his family had no TV and never went to movies, he read lots of books. If he got bored, his mother would say, “It’s important to be bored. You’re giving your brain a rest.”
The Miami-Dade school district has “pushed the pause button” on buying tablet computers for every student. Similar initiatives have run into trouble in Los Angeles, Guilford County, N.C., and elsewhere, notes Education Week.
“This is about being prudent, pragmatic, and cautious,” said Sylvia J. Diaz, the district’s deputy superintendent for innovation and school choice.
She described the Los Angeles Unified School District’s high-profile plan to provide 660,000 iPads to students and staff members as a source of particular concern, pointing to confusion among many parents as to what their responsibility and liability is for their children’s tablets; the rising cost projections associated with the initiative; concerns about a lack of adequate teacher training; problems with students bypassing the devices’ security filters; and concerns about the readiness and quality of the digital curricular content that Los Angeles is purchasing as part of its plan.
One specific piece of the Los Angeles plan that gave Miami-Dade officials particular pause, Diaz said, was the district’s failure to include keyboards as part of its initial half-billion dollar purchasing plan.
The Guilford County, N.C., school system is suspending its tablet computing initiative, noted Diaz. ”The fact that they had 1,500 broken tablets after having them in circulation for [only a few] weeks was a huge red flag for me,” she said.
“Stopping out” — taking a semester or more off — is very common for Texas community college students. Ninety-four percent of enrollees in 2000 “stopped out” at least once. Taking two or more breaks sharply cut the odds of completion.
Pennsylvania may cut funding to cyber charters amid charges of high turnover and poor results, reports the Pennsylvania Independent. Charter school leaders and education reformers are split on the proposed legislation.
Under S.B. 1085, online charter schools would have to operate at 60 percent of the budget of a traditional public school.
Virtual schools don’t attract the average mix of students. Even the good ones will have high turnover. Traditional funding methods don’t work.