What's holding back America's science performance?
February 07, 2012
While business leaders rue the lack of American workers skilled enough in math and science to meet the needs of an increasingly high-tech economy, the situation may be growing even grimmer. The latest installment of TIMSS showed stagnation in U.S. science achievement, and the 2009 NAEP science assessment found that only 21 percent of American twelfth-graders met the proficiency bar. Yet while the gravity of the problem is clear, the root cause is not. Is our science curriculum lacking? Is it being squeezed out by an emphasis on math and reading? Is there a problem with our pedagogy? Are our teachers ill-prepared? Or are we simply expecting too little of teachers and students alike?
Coinciding with its new review of state science standards, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute will bring together experts with very different perspectives to engage this crucial question: "What's holding back America's science performance?"
Watch the discussion with UVA psychologist Dan Willingham, NCTQ President Kate Walsh, Fordham's Kathleen Porter-Magee, Project Lead the Way's Anne Jones, and Achieve, Inc.'s Stephen Pruitt and join the conversation on Fordham LIVE!
Last week, I wrote a post about how reading instruction would change when aligned to the Common Core. Specifically, I outlined the vision of “close reading” that has been promoted by David Coleman and Sue Pimentel, the two chief architects of the CCSS ELA standards, which puts the focus on reading and re-reading grade-appropriate texts and using effective, text-dependent questions to guide lessons and class discussions.
The vision is compelling—I believe in the power of close reading and I also agree with Coleman’s point (made clearer in his comment on the post I wrote) that reading strategies are important only inasmuch as they are used to support comprehension of difficult texts. (They are not, in other words, an end in themselves.)
Its hard not to be biased in favor of one’s own interpretations of a text when it repeated back to you.
That said, there is one part of Coleman’s vision—specifically, his rejection of using “pre-reading” strategies to help prepare and provide context to students before they dive in to a complex text—that is likely to send shock waves into reading classrooms around the country,...
Mike and Rick channel the shock jock king as they discuss the
implications of Fordham’s science standards report (which made an
appearance on the Stern show) and the latest NCLB waiver craziness.
Amber looks at the recent MDRC study and Chris learns never to call a
Catherine Gewertz at Curriculum Matters penned a post describing a meeting of chief academic officers from 14 urban school districts who came together to discuss how to help teachers implement the Common Core. According to Gewertz, the CAOs spent “hours exploring one facet of the common standards: its requirement that students—and teachers—engage in ‘close reading’ of text.”
It is exactly this “close reading” that Common Core supporters hope will usher in a new era of reading instruction—one where teachers select grade-appropriate texts for all students; where they have students read and reread those texts—perhaps more times than even makes sense or feels comfortable—to support deep comprehension and analysis; and where they push students to engage in the text itself—in the author’s words, not in how those words make us feel.
Common Core challenges us to help students (and teachers) understand that reading is not about them.
The reality is that the Common Core challenges us to help students (and teachers) understand that reading is not about them. Of course, what students read will often touch them, sometimes even change them. But that will happen only if, while they’re reading, they deeply understand and absorb the words and images in...
When it comes to low-performing schools, we seem to be witnessing the same thing over and over—not unlike the classic movie, Groundhog Day.Ground Hog Day
A recent study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute tracked about 2,000 low-performing schools and found that the vast majority of them remained open and remained low-performing after five years. Very few were significantly improved. So, are failing schools fixable?
Join the Thomas B. Fordham Institute for a lively and provocative debate about that question. Fordham VP Mike Petrilli will moderate, and the discussion will be informed, in part, by Fordham's study, Are Bad Schools Immortal? The Scarcity of Turnarounds and Shutdowns in Both Charter and District Sectors.
Apple's announcement last week that it is entering the textbook market in a big way, with a free product allowing content creators to build engaging digital textbooks more easily, has already gotten lots of reaction
Mike and Rick wonder what (if anything) Newt’s resurgence means for education in the 2012 election and whether the white working class would benefit from schools that sweat the small stuff. Amber delves into NCTQ’s latest teacher policy report and Chris ponders a texting-free education.
The front page of Sunday’s New York Times featured a pair of articles, each of which was informative and alarming in its way but which, taken together, produced (in my head at least) a winter storm—as did Tuesday evening’s State of the Union message by President Obama.
The longer, more informative, and more alarming, of the articles was an extensive account of why Apple’s iPhones are now made in China rather than the U.S. The short version is that “the flexibility, diligence, and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.”
Flexibility, diligence, and industrial skills. Hold that thought.
Simply put, although the President spoke of restoring millions of manufacturing jobs to U.S. shores, it’s hard to picture Apple (or similar firms)...
Last week, Education First and the EPE Research Center released a report entitled Preparing for Change. It’s the first of three that will look at whether states have developed Common Core implementation plans that address three key challenges:
Developing a plan for teacher professional development,
planning to align/revamp state-created curricular and instructional materials, and
making changes to teacher evaluation systems.
Many CCSS supporters cheered at the main finding, which indicated that all but one state—Wyoming—“reported having developed some type of formal implementation plan for transitioning to the new, common standards.” There is cause for excitement—this is a clear indication that states are taking CCSS implementation seriously and that they are working to reorient their education systems to the new standards.
That said, while developing implementation plans is an essential step, it’s far more critical to ensure that those plans are worth following—that they properly identify the gaps in teacher knowledge and skills so they can target state-led PD efforts, for example, and that they prioritize the essential components of the CCSS in state-created curricula and instructional materials. This report doesn’t get...
Last week, Apple launched two programs for the iPad that it hopes will transform the textbook industry in the same way the iPod transformed the music industry. The first, iBooks 2, will make media-rich electronic textbooks available for purchase on the iPad at a fraction of the cost of a hard-copy text. (Currently, all titles are available for $14.99 or less.) The second, iBooks Author, allows anyone to create textbooks for free using an iMac, and to publish them to iBooks immediately.
There were many skeptics who, when the iPod was launched a decade ago, believed it would have only a negligible impact on the way people listened to music. Helping those folks eat their words has become something of a cottage industry on the web. Just yesterday, tech blogger and Apple enthusiast John Gruber gleefully documented all of the people who underestimated the appeal of the...