Join Focus on Change in Education and Esolution

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Who Needs Algebra? Geometry? Trigonometry? Calculus? Differential Equations? Statistics? Linear Algebra? Topology? Number Theory?

Ashjame Pendarvis, a first-year community college student, works on her math homework at the University of District of Columbia.
Ashjame Pendarvis, a first-year community college student, works on her math homework at the University of District of Columbia.
Elissa Nadworny/NPR
Let's start with a little word problem. Sixty percent of the nation's 12.8 million community college students are required to take at least one course in subject X. Eighty percent of that 60 percent never move on past that requirement.
  1. Let Y = the total percentage of community college students prevented from graduating simply by failing that one subject, X. What is Y?
    The answer: Y = 48.
  2. And if you haven't guessed it by now, What is X?
    The answer: Subject X equals the course sequence known as developmental or remedial math, and especially its final course, algebra.
"Here at LaGuardia, and at every community college in the country, it is the single most-failed course, and the gateway" that determines who graduates, says Gail Mellow, the president of LaGuardia Community College in Queens, N.Y.
Mellow is one of a growing number of educators out there who believe it may be time to rethink the algebra requirement.
"More than half of the students who come to LaGuardia are not ready for college-level math," she says. "We're pretty typical that way. Should we take them back through high school just because math is important? Or should we take seriously the fact that these are adults, they're overwhelmingly poor, and we want to give them the type of skills that will be useful in their lives?"
'What Is The Purpose?'
Ashjame Pendarvis, 20, is studying in the lounge at the University of the District of Columbia Community College with her laptop, calculator and papers spread around her. She's taking the most basic level of math at UDC.
She plans on majoring in infant and early childhood education, but she has to get two semesters of remedial math out of the way before she can start on courses relevant to her major, and two more of college-level math before she can graduate — a typical required math sequence.
"I feel like, if math isn't important in your career, then there is no need for it in college," she says. "What's the purpose of wasting your time and your money?"
Anyone who's had to deal with math homework probably has heard, or uttered, a version of that complaint. What's surprising is that educators like Mellow agree with Pendarvis.
They're trying a new way of teaching math that gets rid of most algebra altogether. It's being tested on almost 5,000 students across the country. So far, many more students are succeeding in the courses, which abandon traditional math sequences in favor of new content, new teaching techniques and even a little psychology.
You Can Get It If You Really Want
"Adult learning theory tells us that adults learn better when the intellectual work is applicable to their lives," says Mellow, who is on the steering committee of an initiative called Community College Pathways. The new approach seeks to largely skip over abstract algebraic formulas and go directly to math concepts that students will use and find engaging.
Pathways consists of a yearlong course, Statway (for "Statistics") and a pair of semester-long courses, Quantway (for "Quantitative Reasoning").
In their traditional forms, both subjects typically come after remedial algebra in the college math sequence, and are offered for college credit — but these topics have far more immediate applications than algebraic equations do.
"Algebra is useful if you're going to be compounding chemical substances for a manufacturing firm or if you're an engineer," Mellow explains. "But understanding statistics, probability, levels of risk — whether for retirement planning or the risk of your kid getting a concussion in football — those are real-life issues people will face."
Similarly, the Quantway course is organized around concepts important for immediately useful topics: personal finance, health and civics.
This may sound like the old debate over replacing "pure math" with "applied math" or "business math." But Karon Klipple, who directs the Pathways project, says what's even more important to this new approach is changing how teachers teach, and how students think about math — and even how they feel about it.
Pathways tells instructors to emphasize "productive persistence" — using good study strategies, and trying hard. They talk explicitly with students about calming math anxiety. They try things like putting students into study groups whose members are responsible for following up if one of them skips class.
And, amazingly, they've found that simply by teaching students that the brain is like a muscle that gets stronger with use (known as "growth mindset"), the students go on to try harder and perform better.
The Carnegie Foundation started offering Pathways in fall 2011. Currently 49 institutions use the courses, including the California State University system and community colleges in 14 states. The foundation is tracking their success closely, and the institutions are collaborating to see how they can make the courses better. (The Gates Foundation, which also supports NPR, is a supporter of this collaboration.)
So far, about half of the Quantway and Statway students at LaGuardia and elsewhere finish developmental math and earn their college-level math credit within a single year. In the traditional sequence, just 15 percent do the same — and that's in two years.
"We've tripled our success rate in half the time," says Mellow.
Is This Cheating?
But is skipping algebra cheating somehow? After all, the traditional college math sequence has been in place since at least the 19th century. Karen Klipple, who directs the Pathways Project, says they can prove they're not dumbing down Statway and Quantway.
First of all, the material covered in the courses, which do include some algebraic topics, was vetted independently by the Mathematical Association of America, the American Statistical Association and other groups. Second, a report released in July showed that Pathways students, when given the same final exam as other college-level math and statistics students, scored as well or better.
A related question is whether creating alternate pathways means tracking students away from math-heavy, lucrative STEM careers.
"That's what a lot of people say," says Mellow. "I think that the way we do it now allows students to fail multiple times."
She points out that some students who succeed in Pathways gain confidence, and even a love of math, as opposed to the majority of remedial students, who retake courses again and again or drift away from college altogether.
"[Pathways] doesn't feel like closing off anything to me. I want students to have more choices and appropriate challenges."

Friday, October 10, 2014

Teens need to sleep in, High-School start times too early.

Lofgren Wants Congress to Consider Later School Start Times for Teens

Download audio (MP3) 

Research on the importance of sleep for high school students is prompting one California congresswoman to take act action. Zoe Lofgren is introducing legislation in Congress that would require the U.S. Department of Education to research the relationship between school start times and academic performance. Lofgren's action comes on the heels of an American Academy of Pediatrics study which found teenagers' school days should start around 8:30 am to improve learning. Reporter: Ana Tintocalis
- See more at: http://www.californiareport.org/archive/R201410060850/a#sthash.bUkTcwnN.dpuf

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Partisan Politics and Public Education


Partisan Politics and Public Education 35 MIN, 19 SEC

More than 1,000 kids from a dozen high schools joined teachers and parents last week on the streets of Jefferson County, a large and politically important suburban area outside Denver. As a result, the County’s elected school board may be re-thinking plans for Advance Placement in American history.
Guests:
Eric Gorski, Denver Post (@egorski)
Jim Earley, resident of Westminster, Colorado (@SupportJeffKids)
Jane Robbins, American Principles Project (@approject)
Fritz Fischer, University of Northern Colorado (@UNCo_edu)
Stephanie Simon, Politico (@StephanieSimon_)

Listen to "TO THE POINT"

Read the book: The Memory Hole 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Michael Towns - Fishman Prize

Getting Ahead with Physics

In 2012, over a quarter of the Latino students that passed a California AP physics exam came from one classroom. We hear from the class' 
Mr. Michael Towns - winner of the Fishman Prize for outstanding education in low income schools. Citrus Hill High School has created an education machine in Physics and Engineering. Advanced Placement (AP) Courses are not always available to the low income schools.  "There's more than one way to define genius." - Michael Towns on Tenacity. http://www.npr.org/2014/08/08/338939605/getting-ahead-with-physics

Monday, June 30, 2014

University of Pheonix Web College Doesn't Work for Students

Review - Center for Investigative Reporting 
The post-World War II GI Bill of 1944 was a hugely successful government program that helped millions of returning veterans get a college education. Under the expanded GI Bill passed in 2008, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have their college tuition paid for, up to $19,000 a year. But instead of giving veterans a launching pad to a civilian career, for-profit schools are making billions in GI Bill money and leaving veterans with worthless degrees and few job prospects, according to an investigation by Aaron Glantz of The Center for Investigative Reporting.
Key findings:
Listen to our segment and read the full story from CIR here.
http://revealradio.org/gi-bill/

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dr. David Suzuki on Education for a Changing Biosphere


Changing the future of Higher Education during the coming global crisis.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

BBC Education Revolution Documentary (listen online)

Learning with Videos and Video Games

The Education Revolution Episode 1 of 2

Sarah Montague asks what the classroom of the future will look like.

In the first programme, she travels to Silicon Valley, home of the Khan Academy.

The Khan Academy is an online teaching service whose mission is to provide a free world-class education to anyone, anywhere. In Bill Gates' view, it's "a radical rethinking of what it means to go to school". With 10 million users every month logging onto their online videos, Salman Khan - the Academy's founder - is arguably the most important teacher in the world.

Sarah visits schools that are using technology in revolutionary new ways. And she talks to Nolan Bushnell, the "father of modern video gaming". His latest venture is a company called BrainRush. Bushnell believes children can learn almost anything through video games.

We meet Rupert Murdoch's head of education, Joel Klein. His company has developed a tablet that they're rolling out to schools across America.

We ask is this the future of education? Have traditional teaching methods outlived their usefulness? And how do children learn best?

Pay for performance at Rocket Ship Academy in San Jose, CA.
Duration: 
25 minutes
First broadcast:
 
Tuesday 22 April 2014