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Jennifer Tuzzeo
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Ask anyone who graduated college in the last 20 years why they went to college, and they’ll repeat the message they were always given: College = job = American Dream. But recent college graduates are quickly experiencing one of two things: There seems to be more college graduates than there are college-level jobs available. According to one analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 35 percent of the 49 million college graduates in the workforce have jobs that require less than a college degree. For example, 33 percent of flight attendants, 16 percent of bartenders, and 13 percent of waiters or waitresses are college graduates. Those lucky enough to have a college-level job have debilitating student loans. According to The Huffington Post, 2010 graduates left college with, on average, about $25,000 in student loans. But, in the same article, they interviewed a recent Ithaca College graduate, who earned a communications degree and also acquired $120,000 in school debt. She’s now an intern making $12.50 an hour. So, while 40 years ago, the American dream was to graduate from high school, get a good job, and retire comfortably, and 20 years ago, the American Dream was to go to college, earn a degree (or two), get a good job (or two or three), and retire comfortably, the new American Dream could be somewhere in the middle. Middle-skill jobs, that is. Two-year degrees, occupational licenses, and certifications are becoming more appealing to recent high school graduates. Two-year degree holders, especially... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2012 at McREL Blog
A growing trend in education over the last two decades has been exploring ways to use educational technology to maximize classroom time and extend learning opportunities beyond the classroom. The idea of a “ubiquitous learning environment,” where students can learn at any time and in any place, has long been a dream of many educators and goes back over one hundred years—correspondence courses, phonographs, radio, filmstrips, and television have all been re-purposed for learning. Today, with high-speed Internet and devices like smart phones and tablet computers more commonly in the hands of students, educators are closer than ever to realizing the dream of the anytime/anyplace classroom. Despite the (very real) digital divide, schools increasingly are providing students with mobile computing devices to take learning from the school into the home. Many teachers already take advantage of free online services that provide rich and engaging educational opportunities. For example, the Khan Academy provides video vignettes on a plethora of educational topics, and MIT hosts a wide selection of online courses. But today’s educators are not just looking to capitalize on these types of resources, but also to transform homework time into an extended classroom experience. McREL’s own research in the areas of Homework and Practice supports the idea that learning outside of the classroom has a high (and measurable) impact on student learning and achievement. Most recently, the ubiquitous classroom has been getting attention due to the “flipped classroom” movement started by two Colorado teachers, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, from... Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2012 at McREL Blog
An apple for a teacher is the education cliché, but do you know why? As far back as the 16th century, parents of students in Scandinavia, and eventually in the United States, gave fruit to their child’s teacher to show their appreciation. But it was also, in part, a form of payment to help low-salaried teachers feed their families. Today, the salary scale remains, but the appreciation seems lost, resulting in U.S. schools having a harder time than ever keeping good teachers. In fact, according to a McKinsey & Company study, 14 percent leave teaching after only one year, and 46 percent leave before their fifth. Why teachers leave When teachers enter the field, they have high expectations of making a difference. Too often, however, they quickly realize that they don’t have the professional support, feedback, resources, or modeling of what it takes to help their students succeed. Instead, teachers must teach to the tests, fight bureaucracies, and monitor cafeterias and hallways in addition to their daily lesson planning, classroom management, and administrative tasks. But it’s not just the heavy workload. In a July 2011 speech, as reported in The Huffington Post, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that teachers should earn between $60,000 and $150,000 a year. In reality, however, teachers earn an average $39,000 a year. But because salary is often indicative of the value society places on the profession, the emphasis on compensation may point to another issue. According to the McKinsey & Company study, the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2012 at McREL Blog
On July, 27, 2010, Secretary of Education and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan made this statement to the National Press Club about Chicago’s pay-for-performance program: “…every adult in the building—teachers, clerks, janitors and cafeteria workers—all were rewarded when [a] school improved. It builds a sense of teamwork and gives the whole school a common mission. It can transform a school culture.” However, we know, from studies of similar programs in New York and elsewhere that results of such programs have been inconclusive. In New York City Public Schools, from 2007−2010, teachers chose to receive bonuses based on the test performance of the entire school. Schools were randomly selected for the study from the city’s highest needs schools, and participation was mandatory. After analyzing data from over 200 participating public schools, researchers found no evidence that the bonuses influenced student performance. In fact, in some schools, student performance actually decreased during the trial. In 2006–2009, Vanderbilt University conducted a merit pay study that offered randomly selected middle-school math teachers up to $15,000 to increase student test scores. The result: Their students progressed no faster than the students of teachers not selected. And last year, Learning Point Associates conducted a review of Iowa’s merit pay program and found insufficient student test data to determine the real impact of the program on student achievement. Education Week blogger Justin Baeder points out what most teachers are probably thinking: “Teaching is highly complex…and teachers are already motivated.” So if it isn’t money, what... Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2011 at McREL Blog
First Lady Michelle Obama tours the country speaking of healthy eating habits, Dr. Oz answers your health questions on daytime TV, and the USDA recently updated the food pyramid. As obesity rates rise, healthy living is front page news. Then why are schools cutting physical education (PE) programs? That answer has also been front page news: budget cuts and falling academic scores. Schools need to do more with less, and cutting PE leaves more time and money for academics. In California alone, according to a policy brief released in May by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, 1.3 million teens in California do not participate in any school-based PE classes. However, research shows that PE may be just what students need to perform better at school. Researchers Kathryn L. King, MD, and Carly J. Scahill, DO, from the Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital implemented a program among 1st through 6th graders at low-performing schools in South Carolina that incorporated academic skills into physical activity. For instance, younger children used scooters to trace shapes on the ground, and older children climbed a rock wall outfitted with changing numbers to help them solve math problems. Students were engaged in this program for 40 minutes a day, five days a week. At the end of the year, test scores improved from 55 percent to 68.5 percent proficient. John Medina, author of Brain Rules (2008), cites a similar study that examined the brain power of children before they began an exercise... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2011 at McREL Blog
Here are two common classroom scenarios: A student is bored while waiting for classmates to finish a test and, therefore, becomes disruptive, or a student is frustrated due to misunderstanding the material, but the class moves forward, anyway. One student wants to speed up past the group and one wants to slow down from the group. In either scenario, the student is left feeling unmotivated. But what would the scenario be if schools were not structured around groups, but rather the individual? We’re all familiar with basic video game design: A player participates individually, and when a level is complete, moves on to the next level, right? Adams 50 School District in Westminster, Colorado, has taken a similar approach in how students progress from level to level. Students are tested and placed in one of 16 performance levels. They then move through the levels at their own pace, not according to a school calendar or their peers. There are still curriculum expectations, but students decide how to learn that content; they could write an essay, prepare a presentation, or work in a group and demonstrate key knowledge and skills. Is this an approach you would like to see in more schools or in your own school? Do you think individualized curriculum is the master key to student success? Can this approach hold up against the Common Core and state standardized testing? To learn more about how Adams 50 implements this approach to learning, read our story in the current Changing... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2011 at McREL Blog
In President Obama’s State of the Union address last week, he called out the Bruce Randolph School, a turnaround school here in Denver. Once one of the worst-performing schools in Colorado, Bruce Randolph graduated 90 percent of its seniors last year—and 87 percent of them headed to college a few months ago. Obama attributed the school’s success to reform that is not just “a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities.” So how did they do it? According to a Denver Post article, then-Principal Kristin Waters first asked all teachers to reapply for their positions (only 6 out of 40 remained). Then, the school became the first in Colorado to be granted “innovation” status, a move that allowed it to operate more like a charter school, granting it autonomy from district and union rules and giving it more flexibility in terms of budget, hiring decisions, schedule, calendar, and incentives. Waters said the school succeeded, ultimately, because it created “the supports for students, teaching them to ask for help and giving them that help…It was all about best practices, holding teachers and students accountable and creating high expectations.” These factors are also at the heart of ongoing school improvement efforts in McLeansville, North Carolina, at Northeast High School (NEHS), which has moved from the academic “watch list” to the county’s “most improved school,” having increased test scores sharply for two years in a row. Since 2007, the school has seen double-digit gains in the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2011 at McREL Blog
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Jan 7, 2011
Yale University is shutting down its teacher preparation graduate program in urban education—a small, focused, and intense program—as well as its undergraduate early childhood education and secondary certification programs by the end of 2012. The university plans to reinvest these funds in a Promise scholarship program offering full state college tuition for New Haven public school students. Tara Stevens, a graduate of the soon-to-be-obsolete master’s program, considers the program a long-term solution to educational obstacles in New Haven, particularly the wealth-opportunity gap. She claims Yale is only throwing money at the problem by creating a new program. Others from the school have concerns that while the Promise scholarship program will help some, ultimately, because of its hard-to-attain standards, the “promise” for many area students will remain out of reach. The university is not the first to go down this path. West Virginia instituted a similar Promise scholarship program in 2001. However, the “whys” behind their decision raise larger questions about the future of our education system. Can a scholarship program benefit the education system as much as a rigorous, high-quality teacher preparation program? The reality is attendance is down in teacher education programs everywhere. The Panetta Institute for Public Policy released survey findings stating that interest in becoming a public school teacher has fallen from 45 percent in 2006 to just 28 percent in 2010. What do you think about replacing a rigorous teacher preparation program with a scholarship program? Why are college students less and less interested in becoming... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2011 at McREL Blog
With the arrival of the Common Core, states, districts, and schools are asking themselves: Do our state standards measure up to the new expectations? How can we identify and fill gaps in expected knowledge and skills? McREL’s standards experts asked those same questions and have created ways to answer them. To help educators understand and identify differences, we’ve aligned our Compendium of state standards to the Common Core standards—and included instructional resources and a video tutorial that shows how to navigate to the information you need. We’ve also linked lesson and unit plans to Common Core expectations, via the Compendium benchmarks, providing supplemental material for teachers during this transition. So how can states fill their gaps? McREL’s John Kendall, in the November issue of Phi Delta Kappan, explains how establishing a set of “transition standards” can help prepare their students for the new expectations. For example, a 5th grader who is expected to know a, b, and c this year, according to the state standards, will be expected to know a, b, c, and d when he enters 6th grade next year, according to Common Core. Transition standards represent “d,” the missing content, which needs to be taught to the 5th grader now, while he’s still in 5th grade. Having a transition standards document would help teachers focus on what students really need now to be prepared. Is your school, district, or state ready for the Common Core? Share your story. Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2010 at McREL Blog
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Oct 8, 2010