Blog: The Educated Reporter

U.S. May Be More Competitive Than We Think, Strong Assessments, Creationism: Thursday STEM Express

U.S. Schools Fair Better in Analysis: One of the motivating factors in creating a policy initiative around STEM is the threat other countries pose to U.S. economic interests with their perceived strengths in subjects like math and science. But what if the international studies used to make those cross-national comparisons overstate America’s lag? A new study suggests that U.S. scores appear low relative to other leading countries because we test more low-income students.

In fact, after comparing test scores of poor students across the globe, U.S. pupils from the lower economic rungs outperform their international peers. Interestingly, it’s the top U.S. students that are falling behind to their international peers.

In leading countries like Finland, test scores have gone down, especially among its poorer students. (Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle)

[See EWA Story Starter on STEM]

 Common Core Assessments Could Be Big Improvement: A new study argues that if the new standard in U.S. education is to teach to the test, the test should be worth teaching to. If that’s the case, proponents of a stronger curriculum in classrooms have reason to be cautiously optimistic. The report concluded the groups picked to design the assessments tied to the Common Core have the potential to create models that are more intellectually demanding than what states currently use to gauge student knowledge. (Mikhail Zinshteyn, EdMedia Commons)

[Journalists, Receive Scholarships for our STEM Seminar in Baltimore...

With New Science Standards Draft Out, Early Impressions Roll In: Earlier in the year Education Week reported on the big changes made in the second draft of the Next Generation Science Standards, the body of curricular guidelines meant to function as the Common Core for science. Early reports suggest the science and educational community have some gripes and worries, but are overall impressed with the latest draft. The comment period is only three weeks, teachers will have to significantly bone up on their understanding of key scientific concepts, and it’s also unclear how these standards will change the classroom. Still, there’s something of a consensus that the NGSS are clear and robust. (Erik Robelen, Education Week)

How Math Got Its Groove Back: Using dance patterns, a pair of instructors is helping kids connect with the building blocks of math in a fun and interactive way. Here’s more from the article: 

“The students then choreographed their own dance routines. The teachers required that each routine contain at least five moves that repeated at least once. Songs were to be set to instrumental music of the students’ choice — some opted for hip-hop; others for the Mario Bros theme.

“Using stopwatches to clock the average time of their routine, students were asked to then calculate how many times their pattern would repeat throughout the course of the song, and then turn the resulting data into a graph.” (Rebecca Jacobson, PBS)

Opinion: Vouchers Promote Creationism: ”He’s also tracking what schools are accepting vouchers across the country, and so far has found 310—three hundred ten!—that teach creationism, in nine states and in the District of Columbia. They are receiving tens of millions of dollars for these vouchers.

“And it’s not just that schools are downplaying evolution. The heroes at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) just wrote about schools in Texas that are actively teaching creationism.” (Phil Plait, Slate)

Goodbye 8th Grade Algebra, Hello Common Core: “The State Board of Education ended a decade-long controversial policy of pushing eighth graders to take Algebra I when members voted unanimously Wednesday to strip California’s Algebra I standards from the state’s eighth grade math standards. 

“Those standards will now mirror the national Common Core standards, which do not include Algebra I for eighth graders.” (John Fensterwald)

Schools Using Legos to Teach Science and Math: “But to the youngsters’ coach — Lily’s dad, Scott Rosenow — and to Tennessee Valley Authority economist and adviser Charley Spencer, the Lego robots and gameboard represent a serious series of math and science lessons.

“Here at Battle Academy for Teaching and Learning, the gamesmanship began a decade ago with about a dozen students. Now the program has grown to include about 500 young people at more than 20 other Hamilton County schools.” (Pam Sohn, Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Maryland Eastern Shore President Leading STEM Charge: “During 2011-’12, [University of Maryland Eastern Shore] awarded a record 166 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in STEM disciplines combined, exceeding the previous year’s total by 42 percent. This spring, the university will graduate its charter class of doctoral pharmacy students, too. And, in recent weeks, the National Science Foundation awarded the university a $220,000 grant to support its minority women faculty and undergraduate curriculum in STEM subjects.” (Lydia Lum)

STEM Grant: “Funding from a teachers union, a foundation and a utility will provide $400,000 to help train teachers in science, technology, engineering and math, Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia announced Tuesday. 

“The National Education Association is providing $200,000, with $150,000 coming from the Morgridge Family Foundation and $50,000 from Xcel Energy. The money will go to the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning for expansion of its STEM training programs into Colorado. “(EdNews Colorado Staff)