Education Week - September 19, 2012 - (Page 13)

EDUCATION WEEK n SEPTEMBER 19, 2012 n 13 BLOGS of the WEEK by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, who are also major donors to alec. Ms. Dreyer, the Connections Education ceo, said that she didn’t know the particulars of what happened in Maine, but typically the company is contacted by enthusiastic people in the state “who have already done their research” and want to work with the company. “It’s not a case where we go in, identify a state, and then call up our friends and buddies and say, ‘Do you want to be on the board?’ ” she said. Earlier this year, Connections and K12 entities applied to the new independent state charter school commission for permission to start full-time virtual schools in Maine. According to its application, K12’s school was to grow to 1,000 students, and expected to receive $6,287 to $6,735 for each one from the state treasury, depending on grade level. Connections’ school would have 3,000 students. | NEWS | Teaching Now Is the Culture of Achievement Undermining Student Morals? Responding to a cheating scandal at Harvard, renowned developmental psychologist Howard Gardner worries that elite students’ relentless drive for success, fueled by what he refers to as “market ways of thinking,” has crippled their moral sense. In a Washington Post opinion piece, he reports on a study on career ambitions he and colleagues conducted through interviews with top students: Over and over again, students told us that they admired good work and wanted to be good workers. But they also told us they wanted—ardently—to be successful. They feared that their peers were cutting corners and that if they themselves behaved ethically, they would be bested. And so, they told us in effect, “Let us cut corners now and one day, when we have achieved fame and fortune, we’ll be good workers and set a good example.” A classic case of the ends justify the means. Relatedly, in a back-to-school article on the Time website, journalist Paul Tough says that parents’ all-consuming focus on their children’s grades and test scores has left little room for kids to develop character traits like “perseverance, grit, optimism, conscientiousness, and self-control.” He writes: In fact, there’s growing evidence that our anxiety about our children’s school performance may actually be holding them back from learning some of these valuable skills. If you’re concerned solely with a child’s gpa, then you will likely choose to minimize the challenges that child faces in school. With real challenge comes the risk of real failure. And in an ultra-competitive academic environment, the idea of failure—even a small, temporary failure—can be very scary, to students and parents alike. Scary enough, perhaps, to lead to cheating? It’s hard not to see Gardner’s and Tough’s apprehensions converging, in any case. Tough, incidentally, is the author of the just-published How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of —ANTHONY REBORA Character. | NEWS | Plans Put on Hold On June 7, the charter school commissioners set aside both applications, expressing concern both about the proposed schools’ level of independence from the for-profit online education companies from which they would contract their services and the all-volunteer commission’s competence to evaluate their proposals in the time available. “By statute, you have to have a governing board that has an arm’slength relationship with any organization they would hire to perform the virtual contract,” said the charter commission’s chair, Jana Lapoint. “Those contracts need to be scrutinized very carefully because unfortunately they don’t have that sort of relationship.” For instance, in its application, Maine Virtual Academy delegates all day-to-day management and operations to two officials, both of whom are to be recruited and employed by K12, as would be teachers. The school’s board would play little or no role in the hiring of these officials. “K12 itself is in the best position to make final hiring and supervisory decisions relative to the administrators,” the application reads. The charter school commission’s decision to postpone evaluation of the virtual schools’ applications elicited a fiery June 11 letter from Gov. LePage, who suggested they reconsider or resign. The commissioners stood by their decision, and both entities recently withdrew their applications, though they said they intend to reapply next year. Copyright © 2012, McClatchyTribune Information Services. Scan this tag with your smartphone for a link to a more extended version of the Portland Press Herald special report on virtual education. said world events were not “regularly discussed” in their high school classes. Only about half, 54 percent, agreed that their high school teachers “knew a lot about global events and incorporated a global perspective into their curriculums.” Almost half disagreed somewhat or completely with the notion that their education in middle and high school helped them understand the “roots of global issues that affect my life today.” Answers to other survey questions indicate that young adults do see the value of global understanding. Three-quarters said they wish their high school classes had taken a more global approach. Eighty-six percent agreed that developments abroad can have significant implications for the U.S. economy, and 80 percent say they are curious about world events. Many would like to have spent more time studying foreign languages in secondary school. In fact, when presented with nine subjects (and able to choose more than one), the most popular to have been studied far and away was foreign languages, at 60 percent. When asked to pick just one topic, foreign languages again won out again, with 31 percent picking it over eight others. The nationally representative sample of 502 high school graduates ages 18-24 was conducted by Colligan Market Research this summer. It was commissioned by the San Francisco-based nonprofit World Savvy with financial support from the International Baccalaureate organization. Despite an apparent lack of knowledge about world affairs, most of those surveyed seem to believe they know a thing or two about the topic. A full 70 percent say they know more about the world and world —ERIK W. ROBELEN events than their parents. | NEWS | Aside from saving money, getting a degree in three years means students have better access to courses, a clear path to completion, and can start earning an income sooner, the paper explains. For institutions, it can be a recruitment tool, prompt innovations in curriculum, and result in higher productivity. But on a large scale, Harley and Harnisch suggest the three-year approach is an ineffective and inequitable model. First, it has limited student appeal. Not many participate in these fast-track programs. It’s not suited for many students who work, rely on Pell Grants (which are no longer available year-round), or lack the academic preparation for college, the report suggests. Then there is the concern over rushing the college experience. Some may need four years or more to really develop criticalthinking skills, become engaged in campus life, and make full meaning of their new —CARALEE ADAMS knowledge. | NEWS | Schooled in Sports Presidential Fitness Test Will Be Replaced Gym class could become less traumatizing for some K-12 students under a new national initiative announced last week. If you’re like me, you remember having to endure the Presidential Physical Fitness Test back in the day, which tested students in curl-ups, pull-ups, a timed shuttle run, an endurance run/walk, and the sit-and-reach. If you’re like me, being faced with the prospect of 40 push-ups, 10 pull-ups, and a 6:30-mile run for a Presidential Physical Fitness Award as a 14-year-old was about as appealing as a daily trip to the principal’s office. Starting next school year, the test will become a thing of the past. It’s being replaced by the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, a “health-related, criterion-based assessment” which resulted from a partnership between the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition; the Amateur Athletic Union; the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance; the Cooper Institute; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The departure from the test, part of the President’s Challenge, signals a move away from measuring students’ performance and puts more emphasis on assessing students’ health, according to the program’s website. “To keep fitness in a positive mode, children’s individual fitness scores will not be used as a criteria for grading in physical education class and will be confidential between the teacher, student, and parent,” said Paul Roetert, chief executive officer of the aahperd, in a statement. Under the new program, students’ fitness will be measured using the Cooper Institute’s fitnessgram, which measures five areas of health-related fitness: aerobic capacity, body composition, flexibility, muscle strength, and muscular endurance. The program’s website also includes a section devoted to professional development, which includes a free monthly webinar series on youth fitness and health. The first webinar in this series will take place on Sept. 25, at 1 p.m. Eastern, where the aahperd will walk through the basics of the new program. It’s been a good run, Physical Fitness Test. I’ll always remember how few pull ups I could do back in my earlier years, thanks to you. —BRYAN TOPOREK College Bound Examining Push for 3-Year Bachelor’s Degrees With the cost of college soaring, paying three years’ of tuition instead of four (or more) has its appeal. Who wouldn’t want to save time and money to enter the workforce sooner? Not so fast, say the authors of a policy brief by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. While a threeyear bachelor’s degree sounds good, it’s not for everyone and shouldn’t be seen as the silver bullet that will solve the issue of college affordability. Many states, including Indiana, Minnesota, and California, are exploring three-year bachelor’s degrees at public universities. In Ohio, the governor called for the state’s universities to offer threeyear degrees in 10 percent of their degree programs by 2012 and 60 percent by 2014. The aascu paper, “The Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree: Reform Measure or Red Herring?” by Daniel Hurley and Thomas Harnisch, examines the various goals and models of three-year degrees, along with their potential benefits and pitfalls. Just how do you finish in three years? Students can rack up credits before they arrive on campus with Advanced Placement and dual-enrollment credits. And one advantage of a three-year program is that it can motivate students to make better use of high school, the authors note. Colleges can also reduce the number of courses required for a degree or use a competency-based model, which rewards student knowledge over seat time. However, the most common method is to compress time to degree with summer courses or heavier loads. Curriculum Matters David Who? Young Adults Lack World Knowledge British Prime Minister David Cameron seems to have an image problem in the United States. The problem is that most recent high school graduates have no idea who he is, a new survey suggests. Most also don’t know that Afghanistan is located in Central Asia, or that Mandarin is the most commonly spoken language on the planet. (Take one guess which language got the most votes.) One reason for this apparent knowledge gap could well be that U.S. students typically don’t hear much about the rest of the world in school, as the survey report issued last week explains. At least, that’s what many recent high school graduates say. A majority of respondents (62 percent) >> To see all Education Week blogs, go to

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - September 19, 2012

Education Week - September 19, 2012
Table of Contents
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Low Proficiency Seen on Computer-Based NAEP Writing Exam
Global Study Finds U.S. Trailing In Early-Childhood Education
Scholars and Educators Team Up For the Long Haul
Focus On: School Turnaround
Virtual Ed. Providers Work to Influence State Policy in Maine
Blogs of the Week
In Designated Schools, Children Play Waiting Games
Chicago Dispute Puts Spotlight On Teacher Evaluation
Race to Top Winners Plug Away At Promises
Chiefs’ Vacancies Offer Prospect Of Policy Shifts
Policy Brief
Learning From Success
Using National Service To Ignite School Turnaround Efforts
You Don’t Know Me
TopSchool Jobs Recruitment Marketplace
Schooling Beyond Measure

Education Week - September 19, 2012