Monday, January 31, 2011

President Obama's Plans for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)Education

Both education and STEM education were prominently mentioned during President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 25. During the speech, the President vowed to prepare 100,000 more STEM teachers over the next ten years with a $100 million investment designed to prepare undergraduates pursuing STEM careers to become teachers and to increase research on how to best recruit, prepare, and retain the best STEM teachers. Four STEM students and a STEM CEO were guests of First Lady Michelle Obama, and were on hand (and on camera) when the President said “We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.” During the speech he also called on Congress to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, stating “Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids.”

Tough, But Necessary Budget Vote for School Districts Around the Country

In what is becoming common place around school districts all over the country but especially in the states of California, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and Texas--- the Austin Independent School District is struggling with a number of unique factors which all contribute to the need to reduce their operating budget in FY12 by over $100 million dollars (FY11 budget = $714 million). The cuts can potentially raise teacher/student ratios from 22 to 1 to 30 to 1 as well as close over a dozen neighborhood schools. A large part of the need for the cuts is the expected massive deficit to the State of Texas budget ($27 billion as a best guess estimate). -Dr. Petrosino

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees unanimously voted, after hours of public input and discussion, to support Superintendent Carstarphen's proposed campus staffing formulas. The effect is that Austin ISD will employ approximately 500 fewer employees next school year. Lower anticipated property tax appraisals and greater expected state "Robin Hood" capture of local school tax funds mean a shortfall of potentially $90 - $130 million in Austin ISD's FY12 budget, against a base of $714 million for the FY11 budget.

Trustee action on the superintendent’s recommendation is the first of what will be several difficult votes in the coming months. The Chamber supports and thanks the Superintendent and Board of Trustees in prioritizing the budget to accomplish the strategic plan. When strategic plan targets are accomplished in 2015, 90% of AISD students will graduate, 77% will directly enroll in higher education and 70% will graduate ready to do college-level work.

The federal House Appropriations Committee has said that public education in Texas is facing as much as $10 billion in budget cuts for the upcoming two-year spending period. For AISD, the district is facing budget cuts from $94.4 to $113.8 million for one school year.

Austin Independent School District, an urban public school district with an annual budget of 12,000 employees, and 86,000 pre-K-12 students in 120 schools.

Picture: Austin Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Meria Carstarphen. See her biography by clicking HERE

Thursday, January 27, 2011

5 Questions For Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is one of the most visible advocates in the United States today for quality public schools, and one of the most outspoken opponents of much that is being done in the name of "school reform." This was posted on the Huffington Post by Larry Ferlazzo.

Ravitch, education historian and author of the bestselling book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education recently agreed to answer a few of my questions:

What got you interested in education issues -- was there a specific incident or family experience?

I have been interested in education as long as I can remember. My first paper in a political science course in college -- in 1956 -- was a study of the influence of a far-right fringe group on school board elections in Houston, where I attended public school. I have been writing about education since the late 1960s. My first book was a history of the New York City public schools, published in 1974.

In your education career, when were times you felt most discouraged? What got you through those moments?

I have never been more discouraged than I am right now. I have been lecturing this past year, and I have witnessed the profound demoralization of teachers across the nation in response to the vituperative, ill-informed and mean-spirited attacks on them. I am discouraged above all by the absence of any national officials willing to stand up for teachers. The current anti-teacher, anti-public education rhetoric is downright disheartening, and it is painful to acknowledge that both political parties have joined in, as has the national media.

What gets me through these times is my sense of history. I know that this: that many of the "reforms" are ill-considered, that the "reforms" that target teachers are doomed to fail, and that eventually this too will pass. Yet I worry about the lives and reputations that will be ruined before our leaders come to their senses.

In the face of all the policy battles, many of us teachers can feel discouraged. What is your best advice for teachers who might have days, weeks, or even months feeling like that?

I am asked this question whenever I meet with teachers, which is often. I urge teachers to hang in there, to focus on the social value of the work, to remember why they entered the profession, and to cling to their ideals. I also tell them that this is no time to be shrinking violets, but is a time to let your voice be heard. It is a time to write letters to the editor, write comments to blogs, contact your Congressman and your Senators and your local officials. Do not let the forces of ignorance, the wealthy and powerful and clueless "reformers" destroy the profession and privatize public education. Too much is at stake. Don't agonize, organize. Alone, you are only one voice; united with other educators and with parents, you can change the agenda and stop the attacks on education and educators.

Some of your critics say you spend all your time criticizing without offering constructive alternatives. What is your response to that kind of critique?

Public education is under attack; so is the education profession. My critics would prefer that I not say so, but I think it is demonstrably true. I am a historian and I try to ground my critique in history. My critics think that anyone who disagrees with their destructive policies is a "defender of the status quo." I think the "reformers" represent the status quo. It is now 10 years since the passage of No Child Left Behind. This law made testing, accountability and choice the law of the land. The law and the policies it spawned have proven ineffective, divisive and costly. The "reformers" want to change the name of the law -- perhaps call it Students First, Children First, Learning First, whatever -- but continue to fire principals, fire teachers, close schools, and privatize schools. All of this is wrong.

No high-performing nation is pursuing this punitive path. I don't believe in any quick fixes. I have proposed constructive alternatives:

I believe that all children should have a balanced curriculum in the arts and sciences, physical education and health. We must improve schools and strengthen the education profession instead of closing schools and destroying the profession. Every district should offer high-quality pre-K programs for all children. Teachers should have more and better preparation and mastery of their content. They should have good working conditions and adequate resources, including reasonable class sizes. All principals should have experience as master teachers. All superintendents should be highly experienced educators.

Instead of blaming schools for all that is wrong in school and society, we as a nation must take action to improve the lives of children; instead of saying that poverty is just an excuse, we should try to help families and do whatever is possible to reduce poverty and its related disadvantages. None of these is a quick fix, but together they represent constructive alternatives to the present course.

What do you see as the brightest rays of hope -- policies, people, organizations, etc. -- do you see for public education these days?

When I visited San Diego in November, I was very impressed by the collaboration I saw there among different stakeholders. The teachers' union was working together with the district leadership, and the school board, and together they are trying to create a vision of community-based school reform, involving parents and local communities. I saw a spirit of "it takes a village to educate a child." Will it last? I hope so. In Cincinnati, I was impressed by a collaboration of civic and educational organizations called STRIVE. The spirit again was one of people working together to improve education from many angles.

I was reminded in these places that the current "reform" movement is extremely divisive. It sets parent against parent, in battles for space in public buildings, and its sets young teachers against older teachers, and it sets the media and the public against teachers and public education. We won't make any genuine progress until everyone who cares begins to work together towards the common goal of educating children and improving their lives.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stevens' CIESE Center Awarded Prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring

I first became involved with CIESE when I was a high school science teacher at Hoboken High School in the late 1980's and early 1990's. At that time, the center was under the direction of Dr. Ed Friedman. I had many wonderful interactions with professors and undergraduate students at Stevens including Professor Roger Pinkham and then undergraduate student Alice Yuen. Now, under the direction of my colleague Beth McGrath, CIESE continues to be a leader nationally in in-sevice teacher education in STEM related fields. This recognition is well deserved and recognizes over 2 decades of professional service at both the local and national levels for Stevens Institute of Technology. -Dr. Petrosino

The Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE) at Stevens was named a 2011 recipient of the prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring given annually by the White House. The 11 individuals and 4 organizations to receive the awards this year were announced today by President Barack Obama.

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) program seeks to identify outstanding mentoring efforts that enhance the participation of groups that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The awardees serve as leaders in the national effort to develop fully the Nation's human resources in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), awarded by the White House each year to individuals or organizations, recognize the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science or engineering—particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in those fields. By offering their expertise and encouragement, mentors help prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers while ensuring that tomorrow’s innovators reflect the full diversity of the United States.

Candidates for the presidential mentoring award are nominated by colleagues, administrators and students from their home institutions. The mentoring can involve students at any grade level from elementary through graduate school.

Official White House Press Release: Click HERE

Official Stevens Institute of Technology Press Release: Click HERE

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

President Honors Outstanding Science, Math, Engineering Mentors

President Obama today named 11 individuals and 4 organizations as recipients of the prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. The mentors will receive their awards at a White House ceremony next week. The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, awarded by the White House each year to individuals or organizations, recognize the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science or engineering—particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in those fields. By offering their expertise and encouragement, mentors help prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers while ensuring that tomorrow’s innovators reflect the full diversity of the United States. Candidates for the Presidential Mentoring Awards are nominated by colleagues, administrators, and students in their home institutions. The mentoring can involve students at any grade level from elementary through graduate school. In addition to being honored at the White House, recipients receive awards of $10,000 to advance their mentoring efforts. “These individuals and organizations have gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that the United States remains on the cutting edge of science and engineering for years to come,” President Obama said. “Their devotion to the educational enrichment and personal growth of their students is remarkable, and these awards represent just a small token of our enormous gratitude.” The individuals and organizations receiving the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring this year are: · Richard L. Cardenas, St. Mary’s University, TX

· Anthony Carpi, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, NY

· Isaac J. Crumbly, Fort Valley State University, GA

· Jo Handelsman, Yale University, CT

· Douglass L. Henderson, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI

· Bruce A. Jackson, Massachusetts Bay Community College, MA

· Marigold L. Linton, University of Kansas, KS

· Maja J. Matarić, University of Southern California, CA

· Gerard F. R. Parkin, Columbia University, NY

· Julio J. Ramirez, Davidson College, NC

· Michelle A. Williams, University of Washington, WA

· Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education, Stevens Institute of Technology, NJ

· Baccalaureate and Beyond Community College Mentoring Program, State University of New York, Purchase College, NY

· Grinnell Science Project, Grinnell College, IA

· Women in Science and Engineering Mentoring Initiatives, Center for Research on Women and Gender, University of Illinois-Chicago, IL

Friday, January 21, 2011

National Meeting in Washington DC for National Science Foundation funded Math Science Partnerships

The Math and Science Partnership program at NSF responds to a growing national concern — the educational performance of U.S. children in mathematics and science.Through MSP, NSF awards competitive, merit-based grants to teams composed of institutions of higher education, local K-12 school systems, and their supporting partners. The 2011 National conference of MSP Partnerships will meet in Washington DC from January 23-25. The theme of this year's meeting is MSP: From Partnerships of Innovation to Student Success.

The main meeting will begin on the morning of Monday, January 24th, at 8:30 am, and will conclude by 3:00 pm on Tuesday, January 25th. Up to five members from each Comprehensive, Institute, Phase II and Targeted Partnership project, four members from each MSP-Start, and two members from each RETA project are invited to attend. Each four- or five-member team should include at least the PI, a K-12 administrator or teacher leader, a STEM faculty member, and an evaluator.

Special Interest Group: Engineering Main Ballroom: Over the past 2 years, the National Science Foundation has awarded 3 MSP Targeted Partnerships and 1 MSP Start to groups with a general interest in STEM education as well as a specific focus on engineering education. Collectively, these recent MSPs cover nearly the entire K-16 educational continuum and are involved in working with pre-service and in-service teachers to create and deliver innovative and exciting curricula that will allow their students to discover what engineering is, what engineers do, and the role that engineering plays in shaping their world. Specifically, these grants are Purdue University's Science Learning through Engineering Design (SLED) which focuses on the use of engineering design as a vehicle for teaching science in grades 3 through 6; Stevens Institute of Technology's Partnership to Improve Student Achievement in Physical Science: Integrating STEM Approaches (PISA 2) which will employ contemporary societal challenges as vehicles to engage and motivate teachers and their students in grades 3-8; Springfield Community College's MSP Start Partnership's Drafting a Blueprint for Educating Tomorrow's Engineers Today which includes the community college perspective and The University of Texas at Austin's UTeach Engineering which focuses on preparing secondary educators to teach design-based engineering courses. This SIG session will include brief overviews of each MSP, a summary of results to date, accomplishments and challenges, and a structured discussion on how to best move forward, both individually and collectively, in leveraging each others’ experiences and expertise as well as how to effectively include stakeholders across the nation interested in engineering education.

Facilitator: Anthony J. Petrosino, University of Texas at Austin

Taking Tests Actually Helps Students Learn (more than studying or concept mapping)

Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than two other studying techniques.

The research, published online in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.

One of those methods — repeatedly studying the material — is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other — having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning — is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts.

These other methods not only are popular, the researchers reported; they also seem to give students the illusion that they know material better than they do.

“I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge,” said the lead author, Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University. “I think that we’re tapping into something fundamental about how the mind works when we talk about retrieval.” -NY Times 1/21/11

Science 2011 Karpicke Science.1199327

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NJ Approves 23 New Charter Schools- The new schools will raise the state’s total to 97, serving approximately 25,000 students by September 2011

TRENTONNew Jersey today approved its largest-ever single batch of charter schools, taking the state total to nearly a hundred.

Below is the full list of approved schools, as sent out in a press release from the office of Gov. Chris Christie.

Arete:K-4 (300) East Orange, Orange – Essex County Arete Charter School will offer a single-sex classroom, co-ed school environment. The school will offer single-gender classroom settings to differentiate instruction and drive student achievement.

Atlantic City Community Charter School:K-8 (950) Atlantic City – Atlantic County AC Community will seek to replicate the success of the high-performing Chester Community Charter School in Chester, Pennsylvania. The school will focus on high expectations and strong student outcomes for urban students.

Atlantic Preparatory Charter School: 9-12 (552) Atlantic City – Atlantic County Application presents a sound plan for a blended learning school program. The blended learning would incorporate online learning into the regular school day as well as provide increased access to schoolwork for students and families while not in school.

Bright Horizon Charter School: K-8 (306) Penns Grove-Carneys Point - Salem County Charter school will aim to serve foster care students or students at risk of being placed in an out-of-home setting though the school would be open to all students. The school will establish partnership with local organizations and agencies to offer comprehensive wrap-around services for its student population.

Camden Community Charter School: K-8 (950) Camden – Camden County Camden Community will seek to replicate the success of the high-performing Chester Community Charter School in Chester, Pennsylvania. The charter school will focus on high expectations and strong student outcomes for urban students.

Dr. Lena Edwards: K-8 (396) Jersey City – Hudson County The Dr. Lena Edwards Charter School will offer a classical education program with a focus on character education.

Dr. Therman Evans Charter School for Excellence: 6-8 (225) Linden, Elizabeth, Roselle – Union County The Dr. Therman Evans Charter School will offer a program focused on character, leadership, and culture.

Forest Hill Charter School: K-8 (80) Newark – Essex County Forest Hill will provide a comprehensive program to serve students with autism and Pervasive Developmental Delay (PDD).

Global Visions: K-4 (165) Egg Harbor City, Galloway Township, Mullica Township- Atlantic County Global Visions charter school will be centered on project-based learning and teaching to the multiple intelligences of students.

Great Oaks: 6-10 (331) Newark - Essex Great Oaks program aims to serve minority and low-income students in a rigorous college-preparatory environment. Great Oaks is modeled on the successful MATCH school in Boston and other high-performing charter schools.

Kingdom: K-6 (210) Gloucester Township The Kingdom Charter School will offer an experiential learning program that addresses the various learning styles of children.

M.E.T.S.: K-6 (210) Jersey City The application presented a plan for a program that will have a strong mathematics, engineering, technology and science curriculum. METS is planning to partner with Liberty Science Center to implement the curriculum.

Martha Palmer Chaneyfield Charter School: K-4 (400) Newark – Essex County Martha Palmer Chaneyfield Charter School will offer a community-based school committed to excellence for its students.

Millville: K-5 (216) Millville – Cumberland County Millville Charter will focus on academic excellence with an emphasis on the arts and will build on the successes at Vineland Public Charter School.

New Day Charter High School: 9-12 (100) Newark – Essex County New Day Charter High School will offer a program focused on academic achievement and supporting the whole child. Specifically it will address the issues of substance abuse, wellness, and developing strong decision-making skills for its students.

New Jersey Virtual Academy: K-12 (1200) Newark – Essex County New Jersey Virtual Academy will offer a virtual learning program for students in Newark.

New Jersey Virtual: 10-12 (300) Camden, Perth Amboy, Neptune Township, Paterson New Jersey Virtual will offer a blended learning program for high school students who have dropped out of school.

People’s Prep: 9-12 (380) Newark – Essex County People’s Prep will be a school focused on ensuring academic excellence for all students, developing strong character, and building a commitment to community.

Roseville Community: K-4 (330) Newark – Essex County Roseville Community Charter School will offer a rigorous academic program committed to developing the character and discipline in students that is required to achieve academic excellence in high school, college, and beyond.

Shalom: K-8 (240) Englewood, Teaneck – Bergen County This application presents a plan for an academically rigorous, Hebrew language immersion program.

Spirit Prep: 9-12 (600) East Orange, Irvington, Newark – Essex County Spirit Prep will offer a blended learning model of project-based learning, face-to-face learning, and online instruction integrated with instrumental music.

Vailsburg Prep: 9-12 (600) Newark – Essex County Vailsburg Prep proposes to open a high school that will serve students using a research-based, blended learning curriculum. In this model, traditional classroom instruction will be supplemented with online learning.

Willingboro: K-5, 9-12 (410) Willingboro – Burlington County Wililngboro Academy Charter School will offer a curriculum that infuses technology and the arts throughout all content areas. Additionally, the school will focus on character development and community involvement.

Read an article about this story in the NY Times by clicking HERE.


Atlantic County

• Atlantic City Community Charter School:K-8 (950) Atlantic City
• Atlantic Preparatory Charter School: 9-12 (552) Atlantic City
• Global Visions: K-4 (165) Egg Harbor City, Galloway Township, Mullica Township

Bergen County

• Shalom: K-8 (240) Englewood, Teaneck

Burlington County

• Willingboro: K-5, 9-12 (410) Willingboro

Camden County

• Camden Community Charter School: K-8 (950) Camden
• New Jersey Virtual: 10-12 (300) Camden, Perth Amboy, Neptune Township, Paterson

Cumberland County

• Millville: K-5 (216)

Essex County

• Arete:K-4 (300) East Orange, Orange
• Forest Hill Charter School: K-8 (80) Newark
• Great Oaks: 6-10 (331) Newark
• Martha Palmer Chaneyfield Charter School: K-4 (400) Newark
• New Day Charter High School: 9-12 (100) Newark
• New Jersey Virtual Academy: K-12 (1200) Newark
• People’s Prep: 9-12 (380) Newark
• Roseville Community: K-4 (330) Newark
• Spirit Prep: 9-12 (600) East Orange, Irvington, Newark
• Vailsburg Prep: 9-12 (600) Newark

Gloucester County

• Kingdom: K-6 (210) Gloucester Township

Hudson County

• Dr. Lena Edwards: K-8 (396) Jersey City
• M.E.T.S.: K-6 (210) Jersey City

Salem County

• Bright Horizon Charter School: K-8 (306) Penns Grove-Carneys Point

Union County

• Dr. Therman Evans Charter School for Excellence: 6-8 (225) Linden, Elizabeth, Roselle

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Study Suggests U.S. Colleges Fail to Challenge Undergrads

From this week's issue of Education Week we read:

When you pay thousands of dollars for a college education, you expect to learn something in return. Right? Well, you may be disappointed to hear what's happening—or not—on college campuses according to a new study out today.

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) just released a report, Improving Undergraduate Learning: Findings and Policy Recommendations from the College Learning Assessment Longitudinal Study, and a book discussing the study's results, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.

The study—the first large-scale national survey of its kind—is based on an analysis of about 2,300 undergraduates at 24 four-year institutions to measure students' learning and study habits.

Traditional-age college freshmen from schools varying in size, selectivity, and missions, from liberal arts colleges to large research institutions, were contacted in the fall of 2005, in 2007 during their sophomore year, and again in the spring of 2009 to take a survey and the College Learning Assessment. The CLA measures general competencies, such as critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and written communication. It included three, open-ended prompts. Students used background documents to respond to a real-world scenario and solve a dilemma. (For more detail about the CLA, go here.)

Among the study's findings:

• 45 percent of students had no significant gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and written communication during the first two years of college; 36 percent demonstrated no significant gains in those area over four years of college.

• 50 percent of students did not take a course requiring more than 20 pages of writing during a typical semester, and one-third did not take a course requiring at least 40 pages of reading per week, according to survey results.

• On average, students spent 12 hours per week studying (one-third of that with peers), and they met with their professors outside of the classroom on average once a month.

To find out what all this means, the author spoke with one of the authors of the research, Richard Arum, a professor of sociology and education at New York University and program director of education research for the SSRC.

Arum said he was surprised to find that large numbers of students were being exposed to such modest levels of academic rigor.

Instead of placing a high priority on learning, he said, colleges value generating new knowledge, advancing science in the field, and using higher education to improve economic competitiveness. Administrators are focused on the financial bottom line, institutional rankings, and getting top researchers and endowment dollars, he said.

"Across the board, you don't see a great focus on traditional core mission—undergraduate learning," Arum said.

When freshman were interviewed for the study, they often said they were were surprised at how easy college was.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An Interactive Simulation for Constructivist Learning- Gaming, Technology and Evolution

Recently, two colleagues and myself submitted a small grant to BEACON: A National Science Foundation Center for the Study of Evolution in Action based on some work we have been working on for the past few years. The work combines some interesting and innovative uses of computer technology and gaming with some research on the understanding of the concept of evolution. Included below is a draft of the proposal along with some other relevant information.

Included is a brief description of BEACON as well as a draft of the grant/research application:

BEACON: An NSF Center for the Study of Evolution in Action

Erik D. Goodman from Michigan State University in partnership with colleagues at the University of Texas-Austin, University of Washington, North Carolina A&T State University, and the University of Idaho will establish a center that will promote the transfer of discoveries from biology into computer science and engineering design, and use novel computational methods to address complex biological questions that are difficult or impossible to study using natural organisms. BEACON will bring together scientists who, through research in their own disciplines, hold the interlocking keys to solving complex and fundamental problems in domains as diverse as cyber-security, epidemiology, and environmental sustainability. BEACON education and human resource development plans include K-12 programs, novel curricula development, undergraduate and graduate training, a mentoring program for faculty and post-docs, and outreach programs to educate the general public.

Picture: Hoboken Public Library