Media Mentions

Jackson Discusses Higher Ed Pay Gaps

February 28, 2017

New evidence suggests some colleges and universities are taking bold steps to even out the playing field when hiring and retaining female faculty and staff.

Jerlando F. L. Jackson, Vilas Distinguished Professor of Higher Education at UW–Madison, was recently quoted in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education on the matter.

From the article:

"Understanding and addressing pay gaps in higher education is a complex matter. Unpacking how these gaps continue to exist, albeit with some progress, requires both a close look a the institutions and individuals involved.

Read more.

Researchers and Teachers collaborate on Educational Video Games

January 30, 2017

Ten middle school teachers from across the state spent the day with University of Wisconsin researchers, including David Gagnon, director of Field Day Lab, co-designing video games that will be used in the classroom.

Program participant and Middleton middle school teacher Sarah Sprangers said educational video games would provide another way for teachers to connect with their students.

"Technology is such an integral part of their lives," she said. "It seems only natural and important to include that in the classroom."

The group of teachers is part of a UW fellowship program that is funded by the National Science Foundation, which fosters collaborations between researchers and educators.

Program facilitators said this group of teachers is expected to create games in the next few months that will be played by people across the country.

The archived news feature is available here.

The Skills Gap: Redefining the Problem, Reframing the Narrative, and Reinventing Partnerships

January 10, 2017

The EvoLLLution reviews Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work, written by WCER's Matthew T. Hora.

From the article:

Emerging from the record-setting 2008 recession, conversations about economic recovery often focused on the apparent disconnect between jobs and workers. As businesses tried to fill key vacancies, they encountered a shortage of applicants with the right qualifications. Likewise, job seekers were stymied by the “jobless recovery” and the number of openings that required skills they did not possess.

Thus, the “skills gap” took hold in our economic vernacular. Despite the prevalence of this term in mass media and political discourse, there has been little consensus on its definition, significance, causes, and possible solutions.

Read more.

2017’s Best & Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals

January 10, 2017

Matt Hora discusses STEM job prospects with Wallet Hub.

From the article:

STEM workers are in fierce demand and not just in the global epicenter of high tech known as Silicon Valley. According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — professions will expand 1.7 times faster than non-STEM occupations between 2010 and 2020. That should be welcome news to job seekers with skills in these areas, half of which do not even require a four-year college degree.

Read more.

New UW Video Games Institution Will Get in GEAR Tuesday

January 4, 2017

From the article:

A new group dedicated to video games for learning launches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Tuesday.

Games Education and Research, or GEAR for short, will be the spiritual successor to the now-defunct Games+Learning+Society group, an institution that pioneered the study of games and their educational properties and made the university a hub of video game scholarship. GLS disintegrated this year after the organization's leaders — education professors Kurt Squire and Constance Steinkuehler — announced they were leaving for new jobs at the University of California-Irvine.

GEAR's director Mike Beall said that while it's going to take time to get the "wheels on the ground," he's confident that the new group has the potential to "blow up" as a learning games institution on its own merits.

"It's not going to be the same thing that Kurt and Constance brought," said Beall. "But we can be a beacon."

GEAR will be distinct from GLS in a number of ways. For one thing, GLS was an unofficial network of academics who collaborated on research and game development. GEAR will be a formalized body within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, and will operate out of the basement of a School of Education building on Mills Street.

Also unlike with GLS, the brunt of GEAR's work won't involve research. Instead, the focus will be on actually making and distributing games for learning.

Read more.

Percy Brown Named One of the 44 Most Influential African Americans in WI

December 19, 2016

Madison 365 named Percy Brown, senior outreach specialist at WCER, one of the 44 Most Influential African Americans in Wisconsin.

From the article:

Percy Brown, Jr. is one of the great leaders to arise from the south side of Madison and a true Madisonian who graduated from West High School. He followed his grandfather's footsteps into a career in education, beginning in his hometown school district before moving on to become Director of Equity and Student Achievement in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District. Brown is a difference-maker in the lives of numerous youth and was named a Rising Star, one of five President's Award presented by the Urban League of Greater Madison, at its annual Urban Cabaret at the Monona Terrace. He helped to create the curriculum and also taught a special course on African American History for the Justified Anger Coalition, with about 100 people in attendance. The achievement gaps in Madison are real. Mr. Brown overcame the odds and stayed home to make a difference. From one Madisonian to another … you're inspiring! Or as Jay-Z says, we “love it just to see one of us make it!”

Read more.

Hess, McAvoy Book Featured in the Badger Herald

November 11, 2016

 From the article:

In today’s world of heated politics, it can be hard to understand how to talk about controversial issues, but one book seeks to bring open debate and civil discourse to the classroom.

The Political Classroom,” which won the American Educational Research Association’s Outstanding Book Award for 2016, was written by Paula McAvoy and Diana Hess to help teachers show students how to discuss diverse political perspectives.

Read more.

New Study: Effect of Act 10 on Teacher Pay in Wisconsin

November 2, 2016

From the article:

The passage of Act 10 in 2011 essentially outlawed public employee unions, and has had a huge impact on teacher salaries in school districts everywhere in Wisconsin. 

But until now, there has been no formal study of how the districts dealt with the issue of teacher compensation after the teachers unions were abolished. 

Read more.

Hora on ‘Beyond the Skills Gap” in Insider Higher Ed

October 27, 2016

From the article:

Q: Many books with “skills gap” in the title tend to advocate that higher ed shift to a vocational orientation. Your book is different. How are you trying to redefine the skills gap?

A: We’re not necessarily attempting to redefine the skills gap idea, but instead choose to reject it altogether in favor of a counternarrative focused on a systemic and teaching-centered approach to dealing with the problems facing today’s college students, the higher education sector and society at large. The notion of a skills gap is problematic because it offers an overly narrow and inaccurate diagnosis of what ails the labor market as well as the role that higher education can and should play in society. It pins the blame for employer challenges with hiring (and sluggish economic growth) solely on higher education, especially the arts and humanities.

While some aspects of the skills gap narrative are true -- occupational shortages do exist in fields like nursing and career pathways could be better articulated for many college students -- many of its other premises are simply wrong. Hiring challenges are often due to low wages, the responsibility of employers to provide training is rarely mentioned, and labor economists point to issues with overly stringent hiring criteria and inadequate demand. If the skills gap were merely an academic debate, that would be one thing, but it is informing policy at the state and national levels, where the narrative of a failed higher education system dovetails with an ideologically driven attempt to reform the sector to operate more like private businesses.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the skills gap rhetoric, which unfortunately has become a bipartisan rallying cry, is that it ignores what our research shows is the central issue at hand when it comes to preparing college graduates for the challenges of the 21st century -- that of teaching and learning. The methods educators (and workplace trainers) use to design and teach their courses -- whether face-to-face or online, or in a certificate or bachelor’s program -- play a significant role in determining whether students and employees develop robust technical expertise, cultivate problem-solving and communication skills, transfer abstract knowledge to real-world situations, and foster a lifelong aptitude for self-directed learning. Thus, we aim to reframe the debate to focus on ensuring that all college students have access to experiential, inquiry-based courses that will not only help them get a job, but also expand their minds and foster a critically thinking, well-educated electorate …. So, many pieces of the puzzle are in place in terms of creating a learning-centered higher education, but what is missing is state support and a systems-oriented vision for change that links each of these areas of expertise and programming, celebrates teachers instead of blames them, and places the vocational, intellectual and civic purposes of education on equal footing.

Read more

Reducing Wisconsin’s Achievement Gap Will Require Many Changes

October 18, 2016

Wisconsin has one of the nation's biggest disparities in student acehievment, with black students graduating at a rate of 64.1 percent, compared with 92.9 percent for white students in the 2014-’15 school year, reports The Daily Cardinal. Madeline Hafner, executive director of the Minority Student Achievement Network, says the achievement gap can be reduced with a multifaceted approach, including giving more students access to successful teachers, encouraging rigorous classes for all students, reducing stereotype threats and not holding preconceptions about what certain students can achieve.

Read more.

Is the Educational System Failing Black Males?

October 6, 2016

Speaking from the Fifth Annual International Colloquium on Black Males in Education, Jerlando F.L. Jackson says that instead of asking what’s wrong with black males, we should ask what’s wrong with the systems they must survive and thrive in?

From the article

"One of the education system’s predominant problems is the lack of access to opportunity it offers black males, he suggested. Barriers include a scarcity of mentors and distractions such as potential safety concerns and financial difficulties."

Read more.

Testing Benefits, Castro Published in Language Magazine

October 5, 2016

Mariana Castro, Director of Standards at WIDA, recently published an article on the benefits of testing in Laguage Magazine.

From the article:

"If you are an educator, chances are that you have had or will have a student who is learning English as an additional language. Some of these multilingual students are eligible for language support services if their English proficiency limits their access to learning academic content. Districts typically have specific policies for identifying these students. Once these students are identified, by federal law, they are required to take an annual language proficiency assessment to confirm their eligibility for additional support until they are considered English proficient. Language proficiency assessments are used to monitor eligibility and language growth over time vary by state. Some states, like California, New York, and Texas, have developed their own assessments. However, most states join consortia, like ELPA 21 or WIDA, for enhanced support."

Read more.

Hora Op-Ed Stresses Active Learning at Core of Workforce Development

September 26, 2016

Wisconsin's lawmakers should embrace the teaching and learning functions of Wisconsin’s colleges and universities as the centerpiece of the state’s workforce development strategy, Wisconsin Center for Education Research scientist Matthew Hora argues in a column distributed by the USA Today network of newspapers and websites. Read more.

Polarized Classrooms, Paula McAvoy Published in Teaching Tolerance

September 23, 2016

Paula McAvoy, the program director for the Center for Ethics and Education, published an article in the Fall 2016 issue of Teaching Tolerance, a Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

From the article:

"Discussing partisanship and income inequality in the classroom is difficult. Students struggle to understand these concepts. Teachers often worry about appearing partisan or upsetting families or administrators, and putting all of these issues together in even the most well-developed civics program is no easy task."

Read more.

Paula McAvoy on the Political Education of Young People

September 15, 2016

Paula McAvoy, Program Director for the Center for Ethics and Education, is the lead author of a study of whether state education standards prepare future voters to understand the basics of contemporary American politics, in particular, the role that parties and ideology play in our democracy.

From the press release:

“This generation has grown up in a vitriolic and polarized political climate. In order to sort through the noise, young people need to have a deep understanding of the ideological values that divide us and how those values do, and do not, map onto political parties,” reports Paula McAvoy, lead author of the study and program director for the Center for Ethics and Education at UW-Madison, who completed this study with Rebecca Fine and Ann Herrera Ward. “Our team’s findings show that state standards stop short of asking students to make meaningful connections between partisanship, ideology, and the issues of the day. If schools are to fulfill their mission of preparing young people for political participation, teachers need to be encouraged to bring these ideas into the classroom.”

Read more.