Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hoboken Board of Education Meeting: Public Meeting Notice 12-13-2011

Hoboken Board of Education Meeting

12/13/2011 - 7:00pm

Board Meeting Room
1115 Clinton Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030

Picture: The Iowa State football team will practice at the Hoboken High Football Field in preparation for the annual Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec 30, 2011.

December 13 2011 BOE Stated Session Agenda

Friday, December 9, 2011

Take this 1931 8th grade test (If you dare)

The following exam was given in 1931 by the West Virginia Department of Education to students seeking graduation from eighth grade. For many students, that was the last year of formal schooling. The exam was posted by Valerie Strauss (Washington Post- The Answer Sheet) who received it from John N. Beall of Wilmington, N.C., who received it from his father. The teacher who administered the test in a one-room school in Gilmer County, W.Va. Unfortunately, we do not know the results of the test- how students did. But, it is a wonderful example of what students were expected to know in the 8th grade in 1931 public schools.

Beall sent this to Ms. Strauss and wrote:
"When I have shown the exam to people, including teachers, I am invariably asked if the teacher 'taught to the test.' The answer is 'no.' The students were given standard textbooks from which they studied as students do today. Two or three days before the day of the exam the school received a package from the state with directions not to open it until the day of the exam. In 1931, during the Great Depression, with work so difficult to come by, it is doubtful that any teacher would have risked the loss of their position by revealing the contents before exam day. My father certainly would not.

"The scope and depth of the exam speaks for itself. What is important to understand is that the students came from families that were very challenged financially, especially during the depression years. They lived on small family farms, and, just to make ends meet, every member of the family had to work on the farm. Each child had chores to do before and after school, and, as there were very few automobiles in that area, they walked to and from school each day, some of them walking several miles each way. At night after chores there was homework and then to bed. These young people were part of the 'Great Generation' that fought and died for freedom. Those who survived the war went on to build this great nation.

1931 Test

Picture: Gloster Elementary School. Gloster, Mississippi. 8th Grade. January 1931

Monday, December 5, 2011

Invitation to be on National Research Council (NRC) Board on Science Education

This is an invitation I received recently to take part in a conversation and eventual meeting in Washington, DC with the National Research Council (NRC) Board on Science Education. The NRC is a division of the National Academies of Science. The issue at hand appears to be the integration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in K-12 education. I imagine some of my research work, along with the work with the UTeach program and my work in the Hoboken School District all contributed to being asked to participate.

In classroom discussions this semester I have tried to talk to students and colleagues about the differences between university life and life in a school district. At the university, this type of invitation is often seen as a positive thing and something that brings honor to the institution. At the school level, things are much more complicated. While a majority of people in the district would feel similarly to the university-- the school district often has an ill informed and politically motivated minority view. In Hoboken, this was embodied by a political group known as "Kids First." People from this group would often criticize and fault me for being out of the district for any imaginable reason-- this was true whether I was giving a lecture at Harvard, a presentation at the National Science Foundation, or visiting another university. I bring this up simply to point out the vile and vitriol that exists sometimes when dealing with district level politics in K-12 schools. -Dr. Petrosino


Dear Dr. Petrosino,

I am writing regarding a new study the NRC Board on Science Education is undertaking in conjunction with the National Academy of Engineering to develop a strategic research agenda for determining the approaches and conditions most likely to lead to positive outcomes of integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (iSTEM) education at the K-12 level. I am writing now to invite you to present to the committee at their second meeting on January 10 & 11 in Washington DC.

The focus of the session, which would be on the 10th, is a broad sense of the goals/objectives for integrated STEM. We are thinking this could be both the goals that people engaging in integrated STEM articulate themselves as well as the goals that integrated approaches might be especially effective in supporting. By goals/objectives we mean outcomes for students (achievement, learning, "21st century skills", interest, motivation, persistence in STEM, etc.) rather than the really broad overarching goals such as broadening participating or increasing workforce capacity. Following such an overview, we envision that the presentation would then provide a sketch of the evidence supporting the claims that iSTEM can support these goals/objectives. Or, in the absence of evidence, the kinds of evidence that would be needed. Our notion is the committee would get this broad cut to chew on at this meeting. Then we anticipate digging more deeply into the evidence base on individual goals/objectives at later meetings.

Of course, this is our starting point for thinking about the session. If you are interested and available, I'd like to talk to you in more detail about the session and get your input on what might be possible. Please let me know your availability for a call. If you are not available, I welcome your suggestions for others who might be good for presenting on these kinds of issues.

Thanks so much,


Board on Science Education

The National Research Council