Education Week - March 27, 2013 - (Page 18)
MARCH 27, 2013
FOCUS ON: ENGINEERING
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
one appear to be building steam.
Those developments come on top
of the many recent, and some longstanding, programs and projects that
bring engineering into the classroom.
In Mobile, Ala., for instance,
middle schools are using a recently
crafted set of curricular units, each
intended to be taught half in math
class and half in science.
“The students, as they go from
math to science, are trying to solve
a design challenge,” said Susan A.
Pruet, the director of Engaging
Youth Through Engineering at the
Mobile Area Education Foundation, which devised the curricula
with support from a $3.5 million
National Science Foundation grant.
In one unit, students design a
barrier system for a stream bed to
reduce the sediment discharge rate.
In another, they design a device to
catch blood clots before they reach
the lungs and ensure that blood still
flows at a fast enough rate, she said.
Ms. Pruet argues that engineering really is at the heart of stem.
“To me, stem is integrated science, technology, and math through
engineering. It is the glue.”
Meanwhile, a yearlong course, Engineer Your World, developed by the
University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with engineers from nasa,
is being piloted this year at 23 high
schools in eight states, with plans to
reach 100 campuses next year.
Two of the best-known precollegiate engineering initiatives have
seen exponential growth in recent
years. Project Lead the Way’s Pathway to Engineering curriculum, a
sequence of engineering courses
that aim to deliver a “hands-on, realworld” approach to solving problems, is being offered this academic
year in some 2,760 U.S. high schools,
10 times the figure from a decade
ago. More than 45,000 elementary
teachers are using curricular units
from Engineering Is Elementary, a
program launched in 2004 by the
Museum of Science in Boston.
“The kids keep asking: ‘When are
we going to be able to be engineers
again?’ ” said Jennifer L. Haynes,
a 2nd grade teacher at Woodland
Elementary School in the Lakota
district in southwest Ohio, which
brought the program to its elementary schools this year.
Charlie Mahoney/Prime for Education Week
Study of Engineering
Is Getting Elevated
In K-12 Curriculum
Lots of out-of-school stem initiatives with a strong engineering component have cropped up or substantially expanded over the past few
years, from robotics competitions to
after-school engineering clubs. The
Family Engineering program, for
example, launched in 2011 with nsf
support, offers a guide to planning
engineering activities and events for
elementary-age children and their
Enlarging the Pool
Advocates cite several reasons
for devoting school time to engineering. A top pitch is the power
of the engineering-design process to engage young people and
bring math and science concepts
to life with practical, real-world
applications, such as ensuring
clean water for communities and
designing robots or smartphones.
Another selling point is the skills
and traits engineers bring to solving problems, including persistence, creativity, collaboration,
systematic thinking, and an ability to work within constraints,
whether technological, economic,
or even ethical.
Some advocates see an economic
imperative in drawing more
young people, especially women
New NAEP Demands Application of Knowledge
20,000 students to be
assessed next year
By Sarah D. Sparks
Understanding the mathematical formula
to calculate lift and thrust is still a long way
from designing a 747 airplane, and the U.S.
Department of Education is trying to get
students to cross that bridge with the development of a new way to gauge how well
they both understand and apply technology
and engineering principles.
The National Center for Education Statistics is nearing completion of a 15,000-student pilot test—the largest in the history of
the National Assessment of Educational
Progress—to craft a new technology- and
engineering-literacy test, or the tel.
“What we’re talking about here is trying
to put the ‘t-e’ in stem,” said nces Commissioner Sean P. “Jack” Buckley, referring to
the common term for science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics. “We’ve been
assessing the [science and math] for some
time, but it’s been much harder to figure
out the framework for an actual, practical,
functional field assessment for technology
and engineering components.”
The current pilot, on track to be finished by
the end of this month, targets 8th graders. In
2014, a final version of the test is slated to be
administered to a nationally representative
sample of 20,000 such students, with results
expected in 2015. Eventually, the tel will
cover the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades.
“This is really important, and I’m glad to
see it,” said Adam Gamoran, a member of
the National Board of Education Sciences,
the Education Department’s research advisory group, and the director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at
the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
While a few curricula, such as the International Baccalaureate program, include engineering and technology courses, Mr. Gamoran noted there is little research on how well
even today’s “digital native” generation understands technology and engineering.
“From my vantage point as a sociology
researcher, I suspect there remains a substantial digital divide—that children from
different backgrounds will have vastly different experiences with these questions
about technology,” he said. “This will provide evidence of something we have many
suspicions about but virtually no evidence.”
lag behind that of students in other countries on pisa.
More than 2,000 engineering and technology professionals from around the
United States contributed to the development of the test’s framework, which covers three interconnected areas: the design
process and principles of dealing with
technology in daily life; information and
communication-systems technology, such
as computer networks and mobile devices;
and the social and ethical implications of
technology’s effects in the natural world.
“We’re pretty good at assessing students in
science, but how do we assess the difference
between a scientific solution—some sort of
global, perfect universal solution—and engineering, which is a lot more about trade-offs
and constraints in a given situation to get a
solution that works?” Mr. Buckley said.
The solution, he said, is to include
“much more complex and higher-orderthinking items” than have previously
been used in naep.
Roughly 20 percent of the test’s questions
will cover concrete facts and information.
The rest will use a new kind of question,
which requires students to interact in engineering or technology “scenarios,” to apply
ways of critical thinking and problem-solving that are associated with engineering.
Each scenario is 10, 20, or 30 minutes
long and gauges a student’s mastery of engineering practices, such as systematically
the tel represents a significant shift for
the battery of tests commonly dubbed “the
nation’s report card.” It will be naep’s first
entirely computer-based test and the first to
use a majority of interactive scenario-based
International assessments, in particular the Program for International Student
Assessment, already gauge proficiency in
more comprehensive and applied-science
questions, which is in part why experts say
American students’ performance tends to
Dennehy, center, watches
his creation as he and
last week for a robot
race in an introduction
course at Stoughton
High School in
using technology, tools, and skills to solve a
problem or achieve a specific goal, or using
technology to communicate and collaborate
with a team and consult experts.
For example, a student may be asked
to collaborate with a simulated “boss” via
videoconference to improve the consumer
“life cycle” of a toaster.
“Naep is not alone in the world of largescale standardized assessment in trying to
come up with ways to better assess how people work collaboratively,” Mr. Buckley said.
Moreover, the test will also begin to use
student-activity data to report and evaluate how the student solves each problem.
For example, naep’s writing test collects
information about how students used the
in-test word-processing software to check
spelling and edit sentences, but does not
use that information to evaluate students’
performance. In this assessment, a student
might get more points for answering a problem efficiently and making the best use of
the tools available.
“The intent is to be much more authentic
and closer to a real project,” Mr. Buckley said.
During the test’s administration, the
nces will also collect data on students’ access to technology at home and teachers’
use of technology in the classroom.
Coverage of science, technology, engineering, and
mathematics education is supported by a grant
from the Noyce Foundation, at www.noycefdn.org.
Scan this tag with your smartphone
for a link to information about
the Technology and Engineering
Literacy assessment at
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 27, 2013
Education Week - March 27, 2013
N.Y.C. System School-Match Gaps Tracked
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Educators Questioning Timing of
Resident Teachers Are Getting More ‘Practice’
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Race to Top Districts ‘Personalize’ Plans
News in Brief
Study Finds Gaps in ‘College Ready’ Math Offerings
Early-Algebra Push Found to Yield No NAEP Boost
Math Teachers Break Down Standards For At-Risk Students
More Teachers Group Students by Ability
San Diego Superintendent Pick Has Deep Parental Ties
Partnership Combines Science Instruction and English Learning
States’ Score Cards Pinpoint Problems Of School Climate
Experts: Later School Start Helps Sleep-Deprived Teens
Blogs of the Week
Project Aims to Expand Web Access
New NAEP Demands Application of Knowledge
Elementary Students Tackling Windmills
'Parent Trigger’ Laws Catching Fresh Wave
School Angles Seen in Same-Sex-Marriage Cases
‘Sequester’ Cuts Still in Place Amid Budget Wrangling
Political Storm Rages as Acting N.M. Chief Presses on With Job
Congress Eyes Pre-K
REGIS ANNE SHIELDS & KAREN HAWLEY MILES: Want Effective Teachers? Think About Your Value Proposition
ALISON CROWLEY: Getting Rid of the GPS: Teaching the Common Standards in Math
STEPHEN R. HERR: Celebrating Without Accomplishing
AMANDA GARDNER: The Many Keys To Radical Classroom Change
Education Week - March 27, 2013