No more SAT words or long essays: The new SAT is here, and it looks pretty different. Almost a year after first announcing the SAT would face a major redesign, College Board President David Coleman released new information this afternoon on how the exam is going to change.
The College Board says it is emphasizing “delivering opportunity” to all students and making the SAT more reflective of high school academics. “It is time to admit that the SAT and ACT have become disconnected from the work of our high schools,” Coleman said in a press conference. He also said he hoped the changes would remove the “sense of mystery and dismantle the advantages that people perceive in using costly test preparation.”
Here are some of the key changes, which will go into effect in 2016.
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The Common Core has started to take political flak from the right and the left. Conservatives worry about the overreach of federal incentives, while unions don’t want the standards connected to teacher evaluations. What is being lost? The standards’ significant emphasis on reinvigorating the democratic purpose of public education. Making good on this promise presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine and reprioritize the special role that schools play in preparing students for active civic participation.
These new educational goals emphasize higher-level abilities: analysis and critical thinking; marshaling evidence and making arguments; collaboration and problem-solving; and communicating clearly. The stated focus of the Common Core—to prepare students who are “college and career ready”—advances one fundamental purpose of public education: preparing students for productive employment and economic self-sufficiency.
But Common Core is not just about college and career readiness. It is also deeply and explicitly focused on preparing students for the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. And while many skills are transferable across the domains of college, career, and citizenship, the commitment in the Common Core to the democratic mission of public schools goes much deeper.
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New projections on student enrollment from the federal government hint at the financial pressure many states will face as their student populations rise considerably in the next decade.
The data, released last week by the National Center on Education Statistics, forecast that the nation’s number of public school students from prekindergarten through high school will grow by 7 percent between 2011 and 2022. Leading the charge are states in the Western and Southern parts of the United States.
The school populations of Nevada and Arizona are expected to swell by more than 20 percent. Utah is set to grow by 19 percent, and Texas by more than 15 percent. Florida, the researchers write, can look forward to 14 percent growth.
But these states stand out for another reason as well. The states expected to grow the most also are among those that spend the least per student.
Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Texas and Utah all fall in the bottom 10 on the list of state expenditures per pupil, according to Education Week data released this year. State and local money tend to comprise nine out of 10 dollars spent on students, though those students with disabilities or from cash-strapped homes receive a larger share of funding from the federal government.
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Why playing with algebraic and calculus concepts—rather than doing arithmetic drills—may be a better way to introduce children to math
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Seven years ago, inside an eighth-grade classroom at Mount Vernon Junior High School in central Los Angeles, Deborah Membreno began to imagine a life beyond the chain-link fence surrounding the concrete schoolyard. Her outlook brightened the day an adviser from a University of California outreach program visited to talk about college.
The adviser who showed up at the school, where nearly 90 percent of students qualified for free lunch, was from the university’s Early Academic Outreach Program. She argued a positive side to being poor: The government would help pay for college.
“I thought I was smart,” Membreno says. “I had good grades. But before that day I didn’t think going to college was a possibility. My friends and I thought the cost would be too great.”
Membreno’s parents were undocumented Honduran immigrants trying to eke out a living. Her mom cleaned houses in the beachfront neighborhoods of Venice and Santa Monica. Her dad worked in a clothing warehouse downtown. They were divorced. Most of the time, Membreno lived with her father in a house with 12 other people: aunts, uncles, cousins, and a few nonrelatives.
The Early Academic Outreach Program adviser gave Membreno a chart listing the standardized tests and subjects needed for admission to the University of California—history, English, math, lab science, foreign language, visual/performing arts and electives—highlighting those courses that should be taken as Honors or Advanced Placement “to increase competitiveness.” At home that afternoon, Membreno framed the chart and hung it on the wall.
“I knew what I had to do,” Membreno says.
In a recent discussion board thread on reading comprehension challenges in autism, a special-education teacher commented that her students can’t understand the assigned reading passages. “When I complained, I was told that I could add extra support, but not actually change the passages,” she wrote. “It is truly sad to see my students’ frustration.”
Why must this teacher’s students contend with passages that are too complex for them to understand? She attributes this inflexibility to the Common Core, new standards—created in 2009 by a group of education professionals, none of them K-12 classroom teachers or special-education experts—that have been adopted by 45 states. Though most Common Core goals are abstract and schematic, collectively they constitute a one-size fits-all approach that, in practice, has severely straightjacketed America’s special-needs students.
The teacher I quoted above—one of the many special-ed instructors I
teach at the Drexel University and University of Pennsylvania
education schools—is hardly alone. She’s echoing the concerns of dozens of other special-education teachers I’ve spoken with, most of whom have already gotten the message from their supervisors or superiors that they must adhere to the standards and give all their students the designated grade-level assignments.
Precocious students, students with learning disabilities, precocious students with learning disabilities: How does the Common Core suit them?
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But outdated web filters make that mission quite difficult.
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There are lots of tricky situations when it comes to educating children. But whether or not to take food out of a hungry child’s hands and throw it out should be one of the easiest calls for an administrator to make. And yet. Students lined up for lunchtime at Uintah Elementary School last Tuesday expecting to receive lunch just like any other day. But a school official had changed the rules: Now, if a student’s prepaid lunch account had insufficient funds, cafeteria workers were to take back the lunch, which costs about $2, and throw it out. So on Tuesday, when about 40 Uintah Elementary students tried to pay for their lunch at the end of the lunch line, cafeteria workers took their lunch and threw it into the trash.
This Dickensian scene inspired near-universal condemnation. When the district posted an apology on its Facebook page, it attracted more than 8,000 comments. One wrote, “Shame on every one of you for this for the actions taken or for standing by and allowing this to happen. You should ALL be fired. I am ashamed of you.” Another commented, “This is so disgusting! Why would anyone do this to little children?” One mother, whose 11-year-old daughter had her lunch thrown out, told the Salt Lake Tribune the incident was “traumatic and humiliating.” Another Facebook post announcing the decision to put the cafeteria manager and her supervisor on paid leave got more than 1,500 comments. Many commenters called for the employees to be fired. One wrote, “Paid leave?? PAID LEAVE???? Paid leave is for vacations, on the job injuries, and expecting mothers! NOT for BULLIES who take lunch from children!!”
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When it comes to teaching history, nothing destroys student interest faster and more completely than a heavy reliance on textbooks.
During my first three years of teaching high-school history I would see students’ eyes glaze over as we reviewed from a 1,000 page textbook. Five years later, I don’t blame them. So much is wrong with history textbooks, I hardly know where to begin, but here is my short list.
- Textbooks present history as unchanging, but as time passes, our understanding and interpretation of the past constantly evolves.
- Textbooks are one-sided, offering a top-down, often white-male-centric view of history.
- Without a thesis or any semblance or argument, textbooks don’t accurately reflect how most scholars (at least good ones) write and present history. Teachers should assign readings that model effective historical writing.
- Most importantly—and this merits repeating—textbooks are boring and intimidating.
- Textbooks can serve as a crutch for teachers who don’t know history or the historian’s craft.
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Weather-related school closings are a constant source of anxiety this time of year. Sometimes the anxiety is generational: “They never canceled school in my day,” parents and grandparents complain when a new snow day gets announced. Sometimes it’s regional. D.C. isn’t as “flinty” as Chicago, President Obama sighed when schools closed during his first winter in the capital. Northerners watched in puzzlement as two inches of snow crippled Atlanta earlier this week.
A new map from Reddit user atrubetskoy is sure to stoke this regional competition. Using “data was taken from hundreds of various points from user responses…interpolated using NOAA’s average annual snowfall days map,” Trubetskoy made a map showing how much snow it typically takes to close schools in the U.S. and Canada. Notice that for much of the southern U.S., all it takes is “any snow” to shut schools down. For the Upper Midwest and Canada, two feet of snow are required for a closure.
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