Much like apple pie and motherhood, everybody wants better schools and higher student achievement. The only problem is that no one can quite agree what's the best way to get there.
Once a week, our team of education reporters would like to share stories that look at trends in education here and across the country. In particular, we want to focus on people, research and even gizmos that may help make kids learn better. This week, we've discovered some high-tech — and low-tech — solutions.
Mistrust of CEE-Trust
The name “CEE-Trust” can raise a lot of suspicion in certain segments of the Missouri education world. The consultant was hired by the state board of education to analyze the Kansas City schools – and by extension, other troubled districts in Missouri – and come up with recommendations on how to improve student achievement. Its report was presented to the board last month, but even before it became public, the manner in which the contract for the research was approved led to controversy. Now, an analysis of its report adds fuel to the fire, raising questions about how effective its recommendations for Kansas City have succeeded elsewhere. (Dale Singer)
Flipping in the classroom
About 2,000 educators and technologists from across the Midwest recently gathered in St. Charles to get up to speed on the latest in education technology, including something called a flipped classroom. It’s catching on in districts around the country that are looking to use technology for an edge in the classroom. Check out this report from CBS Evening News on how a district just north of Chicago is using the technique. The instruction style certainly has its share of criticisms. Steve Blank used the technique to teach classes at UC Berkeley and Stanford and wrote an article for Forbes about all the problems he ran into and suggests some fixes. Like so many things in education technology, when it comes to landing a successful flip in the classroom, many educators and researchers say it depends how you perform it. (Tim Lloyd)
Snow days? Why not E-Days?
Tired of having to figure out what to do with the kids when the relentless snow cancels class? The Fort Recovery District in Ohio converted its snow days into E-Days, when students who couldn't make it to their brick-and-mortar classroom studied online instead. The E-Days are approved by state education officials as a legitimate day of instruction, where students can find assignments online and have two weeks to complete them. Teachers submitted their E-Day lesson plans in advance, and they were accessible by email to answer questions from students -- and their parents, who no doubt were relieved that bad weather didn't have to totally disrupt their children's education. But not everyone was happy. Some parents complained about children fighting over the only computer available and the cost of paper and printer ink. (Dale Singer)
Google Glass in Class?
Sure, they may look a little odd today, but some educators see big potential for Google Glass. Not sure what Google Glass is? Go here to learn more. Some examples: In Green Bay, Wis., the local history museum is using it to take students on virtual tours and a professor at the University of Denver is recording his lectures using Google Glass. Efforts like these are part of Google’s Glass Explorer Program, essentially a crowd-sourcing project where Google solicits applications from people who want to figure out how the technology can be hardwired into everything from firefighting to teaching. While the potential is tantalizing for some, privacy concerns abound. (Tim Lloyd)
Hidden in plain sight
It's a problem that's both obvious and invisible -- at least until someone points it out. You can have all the special educational programs you want, but students can't learn if they're not in school. Chronic absenteeism undermines learning, and kids who fail to attend all too frequently fail. When schools have lots of kids who come and go, they, too, get stuck at the bottom of the achievement scale. Fortunately, people are starting to recognize the impact of absenteeism. St. Louis Radio and the Beacon is preparing an in-depth look at the issue. In the meantime, this five-part series in the Oregonian shows just how corrosive the problem can be and what can be done to prevent it. (Susan Hegger)