NYC school closures helped students

Closing low-performing New York City high schools raised graduation rates, writes James Kemple of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools in Education Next. Incoming ninth graders were more likely to attend a higher-performing high school and substantially improved their likelihood of earning a Regents diploma.

Despite the improved outcomes, only 56 percent of displaced students earned a diploma in four years, Kemple concludes. “This highlights deeply entrenched inequalities in New York City schools, where poor students of color lag far behind their more-privileged peers on a wide range of measures.”

Let my people know

Nine out of 10 college students think “slavery is a uniquely American invention,” according to Duke Pesta, a professor at University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh who says he quizzes his students every year. “Moses, Pharaoh, they know none of it.”

Is this possible?

Via David Thompson.

‘Free’ college? First, fix high school

Forget “free college” — now embraced by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, writes Will Swaim in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece. First, “deliver universal high school education.”

No, we don’t have that already, argues Swaim, who works for the California Policy Center. “What we’ve got is nearly universal credentialing.”

“Millions of American kids are conveyor-belted through a system that does not produce math proficiency or English literacy at grade level,” he writes.

In 2015, the Los Angeles Unified reported a 72 percent graduation rate, he notes.

At David Starr Jordan Senior High, just 18% of all students met the basic English standard and just 6% in math. So how did 64% of students graduate?

The story is much the same at Thomas Jefferson Senior High: 33% English proficiency, 9% in math – and, despite all that bad news, a graduation rate of 62%.

“The most imposing barrier to college isn’t tuition” for many high school graduates, writes Swaim. They don’t have an adequate high school education.

College learning takes 2.76 hours/day 

“The average full-time college student spends only 2.76 hours per day on all education-related activities,” according to a Heritage study. No wonder few complete a four-year degree in four years, write Lindsey Burke, Jamie Bryan Hall and Mary Clare Reim.

Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s American Time Use Survey from 2003–2014, full-time college students average 1.18 hours in class per day and 1.53 hours studying for a total of 19.3 hours per week.

By contrast, they spend 31 hours a week on socializing and recreation.

Sixty percent of full-time college students have jobs, Heritage reports. They average 16.3 hours per week of work. That doesn’t add up to a very tough schedule, the authors point out. “Why are taxpayers heavily subsidizing a period in some people’s lives when combined education and work efforts are at their lowest?”

The problem with raising teacher pay

“When it comes to K-12 education policy, Hillary Clinton is campaigning on platitudes” and talk of raising teacher pay, writes Kaitlin Pennington on Ahead of the Heard.

Despite low and stagnant teacher pay, raising teacher pay across the board is a bad idea, writes Pennington, a Bellwether Education Partners analyst.

Instead, districts should use teacher compensation as a lever to attract, retain, and support a high-performing teaching force, and they need to do this in a financially sustainable way. Base salary increases may be part of the solution, but districts also need to consider other key components of teacher compensation including teacher effectiveness, the speed of salary growth, bonuses and rewards, incentives for hard-to-staff schools and positions, and so on.

Most teacher salary schedules aren’t linked to teacher performance, explains Bellwethers’ Learning Landscape.

FireShot Capture 161 - Teacher Effecti_ - http___www.thelearninglandscape.org_teacher-effectiveness_

U.S. teachers: middling skills, low pay

We’re mediocre! We’re mediocre!

Compared to teachers in other countries, U.S. teachers are “perfectly mediocre” in cognitive skills, writes Dick Startz, a University of California at Santa Barbara economics professor, on Brookings’ Chalkboard. “American teachers seem to be a touch above average in literacy skills and noticeably below average in numeracy,” he writes, citing a paper based on data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies.

U.S. teachers do as well as other American college graduates in literacy, but are weaker in math than college-educated Americans or teachers overseas, researchers found.

However, the U.S. gets “much better teachers than we pay for,” writes Startz. Compared to other college graduates with similar skills, teachers are underpaid, the analysis concluded.

Position of teacher cognitive skills in the skill distribution of college graduates

Researchers said raising pay could attract higher-skilled people to teaching, reports Education Week.

“The estimates here indicate that teachers are paid some 20 percent less than a comparable college graduate elsewhere in the U.S. economy after adjusting for observable characteristics,” wrote Eric Hanushek of Stanford’s Hoover Institution and his German coauthors.

Teachers’ cognitive skills have a “robust impact” on student performance, the study concluded.

Countries with top-performing schools “recruit their teachers from the top third” of graduates, a 2007 McKinsey study found.

Why pre-K fails: Lots of lining up, little play

Preschool students from Nikki Jones' class at Porter Early Childhood Development Center in Tulsa, Okla., line up in the hallway on their way back from outside play.

Preschoolers at a Tulsa child-care center line up on their way back from a play period. Photo: John W. Poole/NPR

Federally funded pre-kindergarten won’t help poor children catch up, concludes Vanderbilt researcher Dale Farran. The quality of the free preschool isn’t good enough, she tells NPR’s Anya Kamenetz.

Farran’s research team visited federally funded preschools in Memphis and Nashville.

We know from other research that high quality preschool means lots of choice-based play in centers, small group instruction, and outdoor or gym play so that young children can move their bodies,” writes Kamenetz.

At the Tennessee preschools,  25 percent of the day “was spent in transition time: lining up for lunch, snacks, bathroom visits and switching between activities.”

By far the most common learning activity, between 20 and 25 percent of the time, was whole-group instruction.

Centers, or choice time, happened less than 15 percent of the time.

Kids had outdoor play or gym visits just 3 to 4 percent of the time — 15 minutes in an eight-hour day. In many classrooms, students never had a chance to run and play at all.

Many of the pre-K classrooms are in elementary schools, which are designed for older children, says Farran. “We really should not treat these 4-year-olds as though they are fourth-graders and can do the same things.”

In a large study of Tennessee’s state-funded pre-K, Farran found low-income children were more prepared when they started kindergarten, notes Kamenetz. “But by the second grade, those results were reversed: Children who had never attended pre-K were actually ahead of those who did.”

Complexificating school evaluation

California’s proposed new evaluation system will use a colors — lots of colors — to evaluate schools by lots of factors, reports the Orange County Register.

The old Academic Performance Index, suspended in March 2015,  generated a single number based on test scores:  800 was the goal. Schools could be compared against schools with similar demographics. Parents could see how a school’s API score changed over time or check performance by subgroups.

The color-coded California Model shows boxes for test scores, attendance, dropout rates, English proficiency, access to advanced classes in high school, parent involvement, suspension rates and more.

The API may have been “simplistic,” the new system is so complicated it’s incomprehensible, editorializes the Los Angeles Times.

There’s a series of colored boxes, with the colors designed to reflect both the school’s actual performance on a given measurement — such as how many students are suspended or what surveys say about the school’s atmosphere — and whether that performance is getting a little better or a lot better or …

There are nine different categories for measuring schools, with only one of those being how its students scored on the standards tests. Others include “basics” (such as having adequate textbooks and facilities) and “implementation of academic standards.” Each category is ranked by how high a priority it is for that particular school. And each category has two colored boxes. And there are six possible colors for each box.

In addition, there are extra boxes for “equity reports” on subgroups such as Latino, black and low-income students.

School bans clapping, OKs wriggling

Clapping is banned at school assemblies at an Australian elementary school near Sydney, reports The Herald Sun. It’s too noisy.

“Instead of clapping, the students are free to punch the air, pull excited faces and wriggle about on the spot,” the Elanora Heights school newsletter reported. “When you attend an assembly, teachers will prompt the audience to conduct a silent cheer if it is needed.” Silent cheers are “a great way to expend children’s energy and reduce fidgeting.”

In response to loud jeers, an education official said a teacher with hearing aids has trouble with noise at assemblies.

Some Australian schools have banned hugging. Photo: Brendan Radke/Gold Coast Bulletin

Some Australian schools have banned hugging. Photo: Brendan Radke/Gold Coast Bulletin

Cheering is normal behavior, writes Lenore Skenazy on Reason. “The song doesn’t go, ‘If you’re happy and you know it, noiselessly wriggle’.”

If the hypersensitive rule, “all of human interaction is up for banning: hugs (for those sensitive to touch), hellos (for those sensitive to interaction), handshakes (for those with OCD),” she writes.

In a “political correctness outbreak,” Australian schools “have banned hugging, singing Christmas carols, celebrating Australia Day and singing the word ‘black” in the nursery rhyme ‘baa baa black sheep’,” reports Downtrend.

An exclusive girls’ school told teachers to use “gender-neutral” terms instead of “ladies” or “women” to respect the sensitivities of lesbian and transgender students.

Pokémon Go: Is it more than a fad? 

Pokémon Go, which uses GPS  to send players in search of digital characters, has become wildly and popular.  My niece, who’s 17, showed me a photo she’d taken on her phone of a character she’d “found” in the park.

Cyrus Phan, 29, right, and Anthony Puah, are gamers that run a driving service Pika Speed, are photographed driving customer as he plays the game in down-town San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Pika Speed, which offers to drive Pokemon Go players around as they play the game Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)

Cyrus Phan, 29, right, and Anthony Puah, started Pika Speed to drive Pokemon Go players around San Jose. Photo: Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group

It’s encouraging gamers to get outside and do a lot of walking, though a San Jose start-up will chauffeur players and the especially lazy can entrepreneurs will hire someone to play for them. (What’s the point? I don’t know.)

Educators dream of using the game to teach local history, mapping, math and literacy, writes Leo Doran in Education Week. “Commentators are weighing in on potential educational applications.”

The game is a “way to enchant the environment,” said James Gee, an Arizona State professor who’s studied gaming. “Every human would love to think that there are fairies running around and the environment is full of magic — that’s been a theme of literature and many cultures actually believe it. Now Pokémon comes out and actually does those things.”

Pikachu, the most popular character, has the power of static: It releases a burst of energy.

Pikachu, the most popular character, has the power of static: It releases a burst of energy.

Greg Toppo, author of The Game Believes in You, also looks at Pokémon  as an educational tool. “Teachers have been blogging about how they might use the game once school begins,” he writes in USA Today.

Matthew Farber, a Denville, N.J., middle school social studies teacher and author of Gamify Your Classroom, predicts teachers will use the game to get students to “explore and research important historic Poké Stops near their home or school,” writes Toppo.

Pokémon creatures lurk in “art museums and churches and historical places and parks,” game designer Kellian Adams-Pletcher told Toppo. Museums are “thrilled” by the prospect of drawing in new visitors.

Game designer Jane McGonigal noted that scientists are already taking advantage of the game’s millions of users, urging them to take photos of species of bugs, fish and animals that don’t look familiar.

“It’s a slippery slope from video games to citizen science,” she said.

When collecting Pokémon cards was a fad in the late 1990s, Gee called the game a brilliant literacy curriculum, writes Toppo. A generation learned to read “specialized, technical, cross-referenced text” and “analyze and classify more than 700 different types of creatures,” the professor pointed out.

Toppo writes: “Gee predicted, a bit cynically, that if we were to turn Pokémon into a school subject, ‘certain children, many of them poor, would all of a sudden have trouble learning Pokémon’.”