History is a mystery

Fourth-graders at the New Hampshire Historical Society Photo: Jason Moon/NHPR

Each year, fourth graders visit the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord as part of their study of state history. It used to be a “capstone” field trip, said Elizabeth Dubrulle, the society’s director of education. Now it’s a substitute for the history education most no longer receive in the classroom.

“We used to employ a very Socratic method with the kids,” she told NHPR reporter Jason Moon. “We would try keeping them engaged by asking a lot of questions, drawing on what they knew. We had to change that because we would ask questions and it would be crickets. They didn’t know. They weren’t getting the background.”

Dubrulle and the museum teachers give examples of the “history deficit.”

. . . students who named ISIS as America’s enemy in the Revolutionary War or who were unable to name the president during the Civil War.“

. . . “We’ve had kids from Manchester schools, who when they came through our field have trip said they had no idea there were mills in Manchester. They had no idea what those brick buildings were that they saw everywhere.”

The society is creating a free, online curriculum on New Hampshire history for fourth graders.

It’s not just a New Hampshire problem, according to Knowledge Matters. Elementary students devote 85 minutes a day to language arts, but just 18 minutes a day to social studies. (And social studies may not mean history or civics.)

Most elite universities don’t require history majors to study U.S. history or government, complains George Will, citing an American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) study.

Who he?

Who he?

Others let students satisfy the requirement with “micro-history” courses such as “Hip-Hop, Politics and Youth Culture in America” (University of Connecticut), and “Jews in American Entertainment” (University of Texas).

More than a third of college graduates couldn’t identify Franklin Roosevelt as the architect of the New Deal in a recent ACTA survey. Nearly half did not know the lengths of the terms of U.S. senators and representatives.

Virtual competence

A “virtual” student in New Hampshire, Emily Duggan, 16, has time to dance 12 hours a week.

All-online schooling is growing in popularity, despite weak performance by students, writes Hechinger’s Chris Berdik in WIRED.

However, New Hampshire’s self-paced Virtual Learning Academy Charter School is an online success story, he writes. With a “focus on building strong student-teacher relationships,” VLACS boasts full-time virtual students who do as well or better than the New Hampshire average in reading and math and on the SAT.

Most virtual schools are paid based on enrollment, leading to arguments about whether a student is really “in attendance.” VLACS, a nonprofit, is paid when students show mastery of specific skills and abilities. Students use “a personalized blend of traditional lesson plans, offline projects and real-world experiences” to learn “competencies.”

Students do the bulk of their learning independently. They make their own way through online lessons, digital texts and multimedia, and follow links to extra, explanatory resources. They upload all their work. Yet the students and parents interviewed for this story said that they have more one-on-one interactions with teachers than they did in traditional schools.

(PE/wellness teacher Lisa) Kent opened her laptop to show the dashboard that tracks her students. She can sort them by grade or by the last time they logged into class, submitted work or checked in with her. If a student has been inactive for more than a week, Kent will reach out to see if everything’s OK.

VLACS doesn’t assume parents will serve as teachers and tutors.

Students are also matched with a guidance counselor and an academic adviser who help them create and follow a “C3” (short for college, career and citizenship) readiness plan. . . . tutoring is available through four “skills coaches.”

New Hampshire requires high schools to offer credit for mastering competencies rather than “seat time,” writes Berdik. That opened the door to VLACS.

Here are three recommendations for improving online charter schools.

Competency-based funding would place the emphasis where it belongs — on student learning and mastery, rather than on whether a child is logged into a computer,” said Fordham’s Chad Aldis in response to a proposal to change Ohio’s funding of virtual schools.

Testing for competency

New Hampshire requires high schools to measure credit in terms of competency rather than “seat time,” writes Julie Freeland. Schools are trying different ways to evaluate competence.

At Sanborn Regional High School, students take pen-and-paper exams, but they can retest if they haven’t achieved mastery.

North Country Charter Academy students follow a self-paced online curriculum with frequent online tests to evaluate mastery. Teachers provide support as needed.

Next Charter School uses student projects.

For example, the students in a social studies course might be asked to write a letter to President Obama proposing foreign policy strategies. The letter might have to include both a historical account of previous foreign policy strategies, a proposed action, and a rationale and justification for why that proposed action was the best option.

If the project doesn’t show mastery, the student can revise it or pick a new project.

From Policy to Practice, by the Christensen Institute, looks at New Hampshire’s shift to competency-based learning.

CreditWren McDonald

Replace the college admissions systems with assessment centers, proposes Adam Grant in the New York Times. Businesses, government and the military use these to evaluate job candidates, he writes. “Today, at a typical center, applicants spend a day completing a series of individual tasks, group activities and interviews. Some assessments are objectively scored for performance; others are observed by multiple trained evaluators looking for key behaviors.”

Educating for ‘competence’

“Competency-based” education is hot, but what does it really mean? The Christian Science Monitor looks at New Hampshire, a leader in the competency movement.

At Sanborn Regional High in Kingston, N.H, students must be proficient in four “competencies” — concepts and skills — to pass each class. They show their competence through quizzes and tests, projects, portfolios of their work and class performances.

If they fall behind, they’re expected to keep working during flex-periods, where teachers reteach key concepts. Students reflect on and revise their work until they meet expectations. “They take ownership of it,” says Aaron Wiles, an English teacher.

In a freshman Global Studies classes, competencies include understanding the role of conflict and cooperation among individuals and governments and applying knowledge of geography.

For the unit on World War I, teachers divide students into teams representing six fictional Balkan countries. Students create flags and anthems for their countries — and seek alliances covering nonaggression, right of passage, mutual defense, or mutual support.

. . . “I didn’t really know what caused wars,” Brianna (DeRosier) says. “I knew it was conflict, but I didn’t really understand why – I was like, why can’t everybody just get along? But now I understand that there are other parts to it, with the allies, and sneaking around each other’s back.”

The simulation takes several class periods and drives home lessons on nationalism, geography, economics, military strategy, and culture, so when the teachers incorporate the facts of World War I, students can take away more than just a string of events.

Playing Risk in school sounds like fun. Is it worth the time? And how does the teacher judge whether Brianna has achieved competency in understanding conflict and cooperation?

New Hampshire tries credits for competence

New Hampshire schools have moved away from “seat time” to “competency-based learning,” advancing students when they have mastered course content. Strengthening High School Teaching and Learning in New Hampshire’s Competency-Based System, a report from the Alliance for Excellent Education, looks at how this is working at two high schools.

“When people are buying a new car, they don’t ask how long it took to build,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Instead, they ask how well it performs.”

Sanborn Regional High School and Spaulding High School have replaced A-F grades with ratings that include “not yet competent” and “insufficient work submitted.” Students who haven’t achieved mastery can use online tools, one-on-one tutoring and student collaboration to improve.

NH overrides school choice veto

New Hampshire parents will get help paying for private school or homeschooling. The Legislature voted to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto of a new parental choice tax credit.

Businesses will receive an 85 percent tax credit for donations to scholarship organizations, which would distribute the scholarships for students to attend private or religious schools. The money could also be used to defray the cost of a home-school education.

The scholarships could only go to families earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level – about $70,000 for a family of four.

The program would be limited to $4 million in scholarships in the first year, then $6 million the next year and $8 million the third year.


States may un-adopt Common Core

New Hampshire, Minnesota and South Carolina legislators are considering bills that would block or reverse the adoption of Common Core Standards, reports Curriculum Matters.

Teacher of Year nominee laid off

Nominated for New Hampshire’s Teacher of the Year, Hampton Academy teacher Christina Hamilton received a layoff notice — by cell phone — the same week.  Kevin Fleming, grievance chairman of the teachers union, tells the Portsmouth Herald, “Even though she is recognized as a candidate for Teacher of the Year, they have to go on seniority.” Hampton has taught eighth-grade social studies.

Via EIA Online.