Category Archives: School funding

STEM education in the media spotlight

In the wake of his State of the Union address this past week, President Obama is touring the country and speaking, among other topics, about the relationship between STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and the American economy.

For instance, yesterday, Obama toured a new Intel manufacturing plant in Arizona that has struggled to find qualified workers in the U.S. and thus has had to outsource some parts of the manufacturing process overseas, as PC Magazine reports. The president addressed the issues of STEM education and the American workforce’s readiness to participate in the high technology economy in his State of the Union speech (see Scientific American’s roundup of expert reactions to Obama’s STEM-related remarks).

Perhaps due to the attention brought to this topic by the president’s speech, a number of STEM education-related news items have surfaced in recent days:

  • A new survey conducted by M.I.T. uncovers reasons why American secondary students decline to pursue STEM studies (and, hence, STEM-related careers). Reasons include the perception that STEM fields are “too challenging.”
  • The National Center for Science Education has announced it will “fight efforts to slip incorrect climate science information into school lessons. ‘We are seeing more efforts in legislatures and schools to push climate misinformation on teachers and students,’ says NCSE head Eugenie Scott.” [Source: USA Today]
  • In a new podcast, the New York Times reports “an increasing number of parents are turning to outside organizations to supplement science education in the schools.”
Advertisements

Higher teacher salaries lead to better student achievement, economists argue

Writing in the blog of the London School of Economics and Political Science, researchers Peter Dolton and Oscar Marcenaro-Gutierrez describe their analysis of data from the world’s largest economies and argue:

[There is] a clear statistical association between higher relative teachers’ pay and higher standardised pupil scores across countries. Our research with aggregate country data supports the hypothesis that higher pay leads to improved pupil performance. As an indication of the relative size of this effect, we find that a 10 per cent increase in teachers’ pay would give rise to a 5-10 per cent increase in pupil performance. Likewise, a 5 per cent increase in the relative position of teachers in the income distribution would increase pupil performance by around 5-10 per cent.

Thousands of students transfer to private schools as Indiana implements nation’s most extensive voucher program

The Associated Press (via St. Louis Today) reports:

Weeks after Indiana began the nation’s broadest school voucher program, thousands of students have transferred from public to private schools, causing a spike in enrollment at some Catholic institutions that were only recently on the brink of closing for lack of pupils.

It’s a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them vital tax dollars that often end up at parochial schools. Opponents say the practice violates the separation of church and state.

New report: State assessments generally less challenging than national standards

The Wall Street  Journal reports:

States have increased the difficulty of their elementary-school math and reading tests, but the standards are still far below what students are expected to know on national achievement exams, according to a federal report released Wednesday.

The data help explain the disconnect between the relatively high pass rates on many state exams and the low scores on the national tests, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)…

Virtually every state uses math and reading exams that are far easier to pass than the national test.

The report, from the U. S. Department of Education’s National Center on Education Statistics, is available here (PDF).

May 20 K-12 news round-up

  • “At a Denver area elementary school, students are organized into classes in an unconventional manner — they are arranged by what they know, not their age or mandatory grade level.” [CNN, via the Huffington Post]
  • ABC News reports that Florida high school principal George Kenney has been placed on administrative leave after a student Kenney hypnotized committed suicide.
  • In a cost-cutting move, the Los Angeles Unified School District is individually interrogating librarians to determine if they actually have a teaching function and hence are eligible for employment protections afforded to educators but not, LAUSD argues, to librarians. [L.A. Times]
  • “Our public schools are woefully unprepared to deal with the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S. Only 17% of Hispanic fourth-graders score proficient or better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress while 42% of non-Hispanic white students do. Nationally, the high school graduation rate for Hispanics is just 64%, and only 7% of incoming college students are Hispanic, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.” [TIME Magazine]
  • T.H.E. Journal reports on “six technologies that will change education.” Among these technologies are open resources and cloud computing.
  • The Huffington Post examines efforts across the U.S. to redefine teacher tenure – and, in some cases, to eliminate it completely.

Billionaires’ investments in K-12 bring mixed results

Newsweek reports:

[There has been] a decade-long campaign to improve test scores and graduation rates, waged by a loose alliance of wealthy CEOs who arrived with no particular background in education policy—a fact that has led critics to dismiss them as “the billionaire boys’ club.” Their bets on poor urban schools have been as big as their egos and their bank accounts. Microsoft chairman [Bill] Gates, computer magnate Michael Dell, investor Eli Broad, and the Walton family of Walmart fame have collectively poured some $4.4 billion into school reform in the past decade through their private foundations.

Has this big money made the big impact that they—as well as teachers, administrators, parents, and students—hoped for? In the first-of-its-kind analysis of the billionaires’ efforts, NEWSWEEK and the Center for Public Integrity crunched the numbers on graduation rates and test scores in 10 major urban districts—from New York City to Oakland—which got windfalls from these four top philanthropists.

The results, though mixed, are dispiriting proof that money alone can’t repair the desperate state of urban education. For all the millions spent on reforms, nine of the 10 school districts studied substantially trailed their state’s proficiency and graduation rates—often by 10 points or more.

San Antonio schools install “calorie cameras” in cafeterias

Reuters reports:

Using a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the schools in San Antonio are installing sophisticated cameras in the cafeteria line and trash area that read food bar codes embedded in the food trays.

“We’re going to snap a picture of the food tray at the cashier and we will know what has been served,” said Dr. Roberto Trevino of the San Antonio-based Social and Health Research Center, which is implementing the pilot program at five schools with high rates of childhood obesity and children living in poverty.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News brings us this other Texas-related item:

Texas, which may balance its budget by firing thousands of teachers, plans to commit $25 million in state funds to Formula One auto racing each year for a decade…

As many as 100,000 teachers in Texas may be fired because of spending cuts to cope with the state’s budget crisis, according to Moak Casey & Associates, an Austin-based education consultant. For $25 million a year, the state could pay more than 500 teachers an average salary of $48,000.