Teachers at the Table: Voice, Agency, and Advocacy in Educational Policymaking
June 3, 2019 | By Julie Kallio, New Books Network
Published by New Books Network
Annalee Good, an evaluator and researcher at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, joins us in this episode to discuss her recently published book, Teachers at the Table: Voice, Agency, and Advocacy in Educational Policymaking (Lexington Press, 2018). Our conversation begins with her own journey from teaching middle school social studies to studying teacher engagement in policy advocacy. This research is particularly timely (though of course always timely!) with the 2018 wave of teacher strikes across the United States and record numbers of teachers running for office.
Having teachers involved in policy advocacy is critical for policy quality and legitimacy, yet they often aren’t. Annalee’s book is a systematic inquiry into the institutional forces that make it hard for teachers to engage in policymaking, and she contrasts these barriers with the ways they do have a voice and agency. Her study focuses on mentor and intern teachers who participated in a policy-focused professional development program in West Virginia. Through her qualitative data analysis, contextualized with national surveys, the voices of the participating teachers come through, underscoring that teachers have more power and more expertise than they often perceive.
We close the episode hearing about the new work Annalee and Jerry are doing through the Wisconsin Education Policy, Outreach, and Practice group (WEPOP), which is dedicated to teacher-driven conversation about public policy. This group work runs summer policy 101 workshops with pre-service teachers, writes policy-in-practice briefs, and offers sessions at regional EdCamps. Find out more about their work and follow them on twitter @WEPOPwisc.
Online Credit Recovery Fuels Higher Grad Rates, But Learning Suffers, Report Finds
May 28, 2019 | By Alyson Klein
Published by Education Week's Digital Education blog
Schools are increasingly turning to online-only credit recovery courses to help students who have fallen behind in their regular classes graduate on time. The good news: These courses do seem to help students graduate on time and even enroll in college.
The not-so-great news? These students don't seem to be learning as much as their peers in regular, face-to-face classes.
That's the conclusion of a new "working paper" released this month, and an article published earlier this year in the American Educational Research Journal.
The researchers—from Vanderbilt University and the University of Wisconsin—did a longitudinal study of an unnamed large urban school district in the Midwest, which started offering online course taking opportunities in 2010, generally to help students who had fallen behind catch up. By the 2016-17 school year, 40 percent of seniors had taken at least one course through the online system.
Researchers examined the data from the online program's vendor and the district's student outcome data. What's more, they conducted more than 300 observations of student and classroom use of the credit recovery software and more than 30 interviews with instructors and district staff.
In a nutshell: Their preliminary analysis found that there's a positive association between online course-taking and graduation. In fact, students who took the online courses were about 13 percent more likely to graduate than similar students who didn't' take the courses. And those who participated in credit recovery were more likely to enroll in college, with estimated increases in two-and-four-year college-going of about 2.5 percent.
But there was a negative association between taking online courses, primarily for credit recovery, and performance on districtwide standardized tests, the researchers found. And the more online classes a student took, the worse they scored.
Classroom observations also showed a mix of promising practices—and obvious trouble spots.
"We've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly," said Carolyn J. Heinrich, a professor of public policy, education, and economics at Vanderbilt University, and one of the authors of both the journal article and the working paper. "There are kids who come in and they are really motivated to get done, we do believe, and we've heard from teachers that some kids wouldn't be in school if they didn't have this option."
That's especially true of pregnant or parenting teens and those just coming of the criminal justice system, she said.
But there are others who are just sitting in the labs, not really listening to the online lectures. Students will instead skip to the end-of-course assessments and just google the answers.
"Some teachers were really blatant and said they didn't think that learning was happening," Heinrich said. The problem? Vendors design many of these credit-recovery tools as "blended learning," meaning the teacher is suppposed to play a big role in supporting instruction. But teachers don't always have the time or bandwidth to do that.
Heinrich and her team are far from finished exploring credit recovery. They have plans to track labor market and college outcomes for kids who took the online courses.
The credit-recovery trend isn't going away anytime soon. Three quarters of U.S. high schools are offering digital instruction to help students who have failed a course make up the credit, stay on track for graduation, and finish their degree, according to the working paper.
The findings don't come out of nowhere. Researchers have been puzzling over the fact that national graduation rates are inching up year after year, hitting an all-time high of 84 percent in the 2015-16 school year, at the same time that scores on the National Assessment for Educational Progress are stagnant.
And the results are similar to what other researchers have found. Students who took an online Algebra course had lower credit recovery rates, lower scores on an end-of-course algebra assessment, and less confidence in their mathematical skills than students who took a face-to-face credit recovery class, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness.
What's more, the American Enterprise Institute also examined the issue and found that high-poverty schools were more likely to rely on credit recovery. And districts aren't putting out nearly enough information to help assess the quality of those courses. For more information, check out this commentary piece by Nat Malkus, the deputy director of education policy at AEI, and Amy Cummings, a research assistant.
Itinerant English-Learners Pose Challenges for School Systems
May 23, 2019 | By Corey Mitchell
Published by Education Week: Learning the Language Blog
A new 15-state analysis found that 1 in 5 English-learners move so frequently or so far that schools and state education agencies are unable to track them over the course of their academic careers, placing the students at greater risk of struggling in school.
The revelation is one of the key findings of new research from the WIDA Consortium, a group of nearly 40 state education agencies that share English-language-proficiency standards and assessment for ELLs.
The study sought to examine learning conditions across the country for long-term English-learners, those students who are not considered proficient in English after being educated in U.S. schools for five to seven years.
Between the 2009-10 and 2014-15 school years, 20 percent of English-learners in the study cohort either moved to another state, left the country, or dropped out of school altogether, making them almost impossible to track, the researchers found.
Overall, research has linked high student mobility to lower school engagement, reading struggles, and increased risk of high school dropout.
Those students who cross state lines often face inconsistent state reclassification criteria and district implementation strategies that could leave them labeled as a long-term English-learner in one state and English-proficient in another. That also means they may not have had the opportunity to benefit from consistent language support. Overall, research has linked high mobility among all students, not just English-learners, to lower school engagement, reading struggles, and increased risk of high school dropout.
Across the nation, long-term English-learners are a group with a growing significance and presence for school systems: Research suggests that more than 1 in 4 English-learners will remain classified as ELs for six years or more.
"They are the most vulnerable population of the most marginalized population," said Narek Sahakyan, the study co-author and an associate researcher in the WIDA research, policy, and evaluation department. "These are usually the kids who are swept under the rug. They need our attention the most."
The students often can communicate in English, but have yet to master academic language—the sort of subject-area-specific vocabulary that can help them solve story problems in math class or grasp science concepts. In some districts, including Los Angeles Unified, long-term English-learners are a majority of the English-learner population.
The WIDA study also found that native Spanish-speaking children and students with individualized education plans in the cohort were more likely to be identiied as long-term English-learners than their peers who are also learning the language.
Sixteen percent of Hispanic students were identified as potential long-term English-learners, making them twice as likely to be tagged with the designation as their white and Asian English-learner peers.
The study also found significant overlap between students' disability status and long-term English-learner potential: Among students with IEPs, 45 percent were identified as potential long-term English-learners. The same was only true of 10 percent of English-learners who never had IEPs.
Being identified as a long-term English-learner or even a potential long-term EL can have implications for what and how students are taught. English-learners are often denied full access to STEM education, take fewer advanced and college-preparatory classes, and are most often immersed in coursework that focuses on basic skills instead of lessons centered on problem-solving or critical thinking.
Here's a look at the report:
UW-Madison Team Received ACTS Distinguished Educator Award for Research Mentor Training Programs
May 20, 2019
Two University of Wisconsin collaborators were recently honored with a prestigious award from the Association of Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS). Christine Sorkness, PharmD, RPh, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacy and Medicine, and Christine Pfund, PhD, Senior Scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education and director of the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experience in Research (CIMER), were honored in March at the 2019 ACTS Annual Meeting with a Distinguished Educator Award for their decades long partnership to improve research mentor training programs for scholars in the biomedical workforce.
Together, Sorkness and Pfund have led programs at UW ICTR to prepare early stage investigators for successful careers in biomedical research, in particular research that speeds the translation of scientific findings into interventions to improve human health. Nominators applauded their passion for improving teaching and mentoring through evidence-based mentor training programs, alongside a deep commitment to diversifying the biomedical workforce. Marc Drezner, MD, former executive director of UW ICTR, comments,I was privileged to work with ‘the two Chrises’ during my time at ICTR. The mentor training practices they established became national benchmarks for improving the guidance that research mentors provide to their mentees.
Furthermore, they established a train-the-trainer model to widely disseminate their research mentor training curricula and both played leading roles in the NIH National Research Mentoring Network. Ultimately, their mentor training programs reached more than 9500 graduate students, junior faculty, and senior faculty nationwide, a very impressive achievement!
Sorkness and Pfund were nominated on behalf of local and national colleagues by Allan Brasier, MD, current executive director of ICTR and SMPH Senior Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research. UW ICTR receives support from an NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) and is a member of the nationwide consortium of over 60 CTSA sites. Brasier notes,
Our yearly reviews from NIH consistently point to the mentor training program led by Sorkness and Pfund as an important strength of our program. Remarkably, their mentor training programs have reached 75% of CTSA sites across the country. They have really had a national impact on workforce development beyond UW.
As the mentor training programs housed at ICTR expanded, Sorkness and Pfund were able to leverage that success, ultimately becoming leaders in the NIH-NRMN initiative. One outcome of NRMN has been the creation of a new Culturally Aware Mentoring (CAM) module, focused on improving mentor relationships for individuals from diverse backgrounds, communities, and cultures.
Designed to support the NRMN goal of significantly advancing the representation and success of traditionally underrepresented groups in biomedical research, CAM has been delivered as intensive one-day training workshops at select CTSA sites. Other trainings have been held at pre-conference sessions linked to regional and national meetings drawing diverse scholars, such as the CIC Academic Network (Big 10 Academic Alliance).
Angela Byars-Winston , PhD, Professor of Medicine and Associate Director of the UW Collaborative Center for Health Equity, leads the CAM Initiative for NRMN at ICTR. She adds,
[Angela Byars-Winston] Pfund and Sorkness have been dedicated to advancing the careers of others and have worked alongside people from diverse backgrounds in an effort to diversify the workforce. Our collaborations in the area of cultural influences on academic and career development have been very productive. Congratulations on a well-deserved honor!
Byars-Winston currently chairs the Committee on the Science of Effective Mentoring in STEMM through the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, of which Pfund is a member.
A Look Inside Online Learning Settings in High Schools
May 14, 2019 | By Annalee Good, Emily Cheng, Jennifer Darling-Aduana, Carolyn J. Heinrich
Published by Brookings Institution's Brown Center Chalkboard
High school graduation rates have soared in recent years despite stagnating high school student performance on national assessments, raising concerns about whether these trends reflect real learning advances. The rapid rise in graduation rates has been linked by some to the proliferation of online credit recovery programs, in which students access course content primarily over the internet to repeat failed courses. Subsidized by federal funds and marketed to state and local educational agencies with the promise to increase opportunities for customizing content and individualizing instruction, more than three-quarters of the nation’s school districts are now using online learning to deliver instruction to public school students.
Research evidence stresses the importance of continued live interactions between teachers and students as online instruction is adopted, as well as more collaborative (rather than independent) interactions with online instructional programs. Yet enormous differences in schools’ commitment and capacity to implement and support high-quality online instruction raise the specter of differential access by student race and socioeconomic status to quality learning experiences. Indeed, we find reasons for concern about the implications of online learning for equality in educational outcomes.
In a multiyear study of the implementation of online learning in a large, urban school district, we went inside of high school online instructional settings. We explored which secondary-school students are taking courses online, how they are interacting with the online course system, what structural factors (e.g., physical environment, instructional support) impede or support their access to quality learning opportunities, and how online learning affects whether or not students make academic progress.
A STUDY OF ONLINE LEARNING IN AN URBAN, MIDWESTERN DISTRICT
We conducted our research in an urban school district in the Midwest. We drew on hundreds of classroom observations and staff interviews, and over seven million records of online instructional sessions linked to student school records. The online learning program that we studied is used in school districts in all 50 states, including eight of the 10 largest districts in the nation. Nearly every high school in our study district enrolled students in online courses in at least one year. By the 2016-17 school year, about 20% of all credits accrued in middle and high schools were completed through this online learning program, and 40% of graduating seniors had completed at least one online course in the system.
Which high school students take courses online, and how are they progressing academically?
We found that indicators of student performance—particularly course failure and suspensions in the prior school year—were consistently the strongest predictors of online course taking in high school. In addition, students in alternative high schools that primarily serve opportunity youth (e.g., pregnant and parenting teens, those transitioning back from expulsion or incarceration) had the highest rates of online course taking in the district. Because these students typically complete their online coursework in computer labs that effectively segregate them from their higher-performing peers, this represents a form of “ability grouping” that may not only shape students’ access to academic content and resources, but also reinforce historical inequities in education processes by race and class. These patterns are even more concerning given our analysis showing that the students who were least prepared academically and had special educational needs were also less likely to engage with and progress in their online courses.
We also examined associations between online course taking and changes in students’ intermediate academic outcomes—credits earned, grade point average (GPA), and test scores—while controlling for factors that influenced how likely they were to take courses online. On average, we found mostly negative associations between online course taking and these intermediate outcomes, especially for grades nine and 10. We did find a positive relationship between online course taking and credits earned and GPA among students in grades 11 and 12 but did not see significant increases in student learning (as measured by reading and math test scores) at any grade level. Indeed, we found that students taking courses online for multiple years experienced penalties in terms of their academic outcomes.
Why wasn’t online learning improving instruction and student learning?
Our classroom observations of online course taking in high schools, interviews with teachers, and discussions of findings with district staff pointed to potential explanations for the largely negative associations between online course taking and student academic outcomes. For example, a consistent concern reported in teacher interviews was a mismatch between the reading levels of students directed to online course taking and the reading levels required for online courses. This was described to us as a “big de-motivator” for student learning effort.
In addition, we frequently observed a lack of active engagement during online instructional sessions, with student headphones plugged into cell phones instead of the computer and “Googling” for answers during the completion of end-of-lesson quizzes or tests. Higher ratios of idle time (i.e., absence of interaction) to total session time in an instructional session were associated with slower progress toward completion and lower course grades.
With larger class sizes, instructors in online learning labs struggled to help students when they were challenged in their online courses, particularly in subjects outside their content expertise. Language supports in the online course-taking system for English learners were inadequate, and teachers also lamented limited accommodations in the online course-taking system (beyond pacing) for students with special educational needs. Teachers rarely had access to information about students’ individual educational plans or extra resources to support them.
Reflecting on the potential for online courses to serve students, teachers commented that without an online course-taking option, some students might not be in school at all. Yet in describing how students came to their classrooms for online course taking, more than one instructor used the term “dumping ground.”
Stepping back, our findings suggest both a need for caution in the rapid expansion of online courses in high schools and a need for stronger scaffolding of support and appropriate targeting of students to realize the benefits of online instruction. While online credit recovery programs potentially provide a cheap technical solution to the problem of low graduation rates, especially for upper classmen who appear to replace failed courses with credits earned online more quickly, our results suggest this may come at the cost of learning, with longer-term implications that we are currently investigating.
Girls Inc. Asks O’Keeffe Girls About Social Media
May 7, 2019 | By Cora Kruzicki
Published by Eastside News
The Girls Inc. sixth grade leadership class at O’Keeffe Middle School is taking social justice into their own hands.
The class has revolved around creating leadership skills for students by having the girls research a social justice topic that had meaning for the students at their school.
The topic the girls chose is how girls and women are portrayed in the media, including social media. After the girls identified the topic, they developed a survey to find out the opinions and knowledge of other girls in the school when it comes to the media and social media.
Before the survey could be created, the girls got information from Dr. Annalee Good, co-director of the Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative at the University of Wisconsin, on how to lead a focus group, and how to write and administer a survey. Journey Henderson, an FYI Youth Evaluator with the Goodman Community Center, helped the girls create an online and paper survey to reach the O’Keeffe girls.
The survey asked O’Keeffe girls to use a scale of 1 to 10 to rate their opinions of their own leadership identity, self-confidence, social media and bullying. The survey also asked the girls if they see sexism in their school and to list examples.
In order to reach as many people as possible, the class held focus groups during lunch to get girls’ opinions in person, made it available online and passed out paper copies.
Once all of the surveys are in, the girls will use the results to plan an interactive workshop and to use as a baseline to see if opinions and awareness change when their entire project is done at the end of the school year.
Gloria Ladson-Billings, Educator and Theorist, Named Towson University Commencement Speaker
April 23, 2019 | By Libby Solomon
Gloria Ladson-Billings, an educator and theorist whose work focuses on educating African-American students, will be Towson University’s spring commencement speaker.
The professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who is also president of the National Academy of Education, will speak at the College of Education’s commencement ceremony on May 22, according to university spokesman Sean Welsh.
Ladson-Billings is the author of books about teaching diverse student populations, including “The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children.”
Towson University has six commencement ceremonies, one for each of its colleges running between May 22 and May 24, each with separate alumni speakers. The designation of University Commencement Speaker is made for one speaker each year in a rotation among the colleges, Welsh said.
Those speakers will include:
Kara Ball, a 2008 graduate, speaking for the College of Education;
Brian Stelter, a 2007 graduate and host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, speaking for the College of Fine Arts and Communications;
Brian Davis, a 1997 graduate, speaking for the College of Business and Economics;
Richard Holley, a 1996 graduate, speaking for the College of Health Professions;
E. Clarke Porter, a 1976 graduate, speaking for the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics; and
Gerry Gaeng, a 1981 graduate, speaking for the College of Liberal Arts.
Why We Should Focus More On Refugees’ Goals In Higher Education
April 22, 2019 | By Rachel Vasquez
This interview, featuring the Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions', Matt Wolfgram, who works in UW-Madison School of Education's Wisconsin Center for Education Research, aired at 4:15 and 6:15 p.m. on April 22, 2019, and is available for playback here: https://www.wpr.org/why-we-should-focus-more-refugees-goals-higher-education .
Why the Educational Dreams of Refugees Get Put on the Back Burner
April 18, 2019 | By Matthew Wolfgram and Isabella Vang
Refugees who make a new home in Wisconsin carry with them hopes and dreams as diverse as their backgrounds. But many find upon arrival that their education and career goals don’t necessarily align with the government's refugee resettlement program. The paramount and singular goal of refugee resettlement in the United States is for refugees to secure rapid economic "self-sufficiency," as measured by employment and transition off support services.
The way the federal government defines this goal significantly limits how refugee resettlement providers are able to support higher education opportunities for refugees in Wisconsin.
College education for refugees, as one resettlement service provider in Wisconsin explained, "[is] really hard. There are a lot of challenges. So I would say that for adults the reality is, you need to work."
Another resettlement service provider in Wisconsin explained that in terms of federal policy, "success" is characterized by the speed in which refugees transition off of social services.
"You are expected to get a job as soon as possible," they said. "And that sometimes is very demoralizing for people, that they had a lot of hopes and dreams of opportunity here, and the first thing you have to tell them is, "'Sorry, the goal of you being here is to get a job first thing. It’s not to go to school, it’s not to get a degree.'"
There is an assumption among both researchers and refugee resettlement providers that the socioeconomic barriers refugees face are so high, and the need for emergency food, health and housing along with basic employment services is so great, that college and professional post-graduation employment is an overly optimistic, even utopian goal.
It is true that the overwhelming majority of refugees coming to the U.S. typically require, and sometimes struggle to access, basic services.
But it is also the case that many refugees come to the U.S. with some college background, and others come with a goal of going to college and manage to achieve that ambition despite the obstacles they face.
Some refugees arrive in Wisconsin with college credits, degrees or professional credentials acquired prior to displacement, or as a refugee in a nearby country. With the protracted nature of modern conflicts, where people may be displaced for many years — and in some cases, decades — some refugees use that time to attend college and obtain educational and professional credentials.
However, upon resettlement in Wisconsin, refugees face serious obstacles with the recognition of those credentials. Colleges and universities require "official" copies of transcripts and other educational documents in applications for admission. Often, refugees lack the needed documentation to support such applications.
Further, on occasion, colleges in the nation of origin may be destroyed or not recognized by higher education accrediting agencies in the U.S.
Refugee resettlement providers refer such cases to private credentialing specialists, who review the available documentation and produce a report that identifies credentials that enrollment officers may approve. In some cases, credentialing specialists work with refugees and their former educational institutions abroad to track down missing documentation. Often, though, this is impossible.
In such cases, refugees can employ a "narrative approach." This process involves describing the educational background of the refugee as best as possible, to try to fill in the gaps left by uncertain documentation.
Ultimately, the decision to recognize a refugee's credentials is in the hands of enrollment officers of the particular institution. Often, they do not recognize the credentials as equivalent, or rule the application as "incomplete" because of the unofficial status of the transcripts.
Other barriers that refugees face to access higher education include poverty and a lack of affordable housing, struggles with learning academic English, challenges associated with cultural differences in educational settings and a lack of knowledge for how to prepare, access and finance higher education.
The adjustment to such social, economic and cultural differences can be bewildering for new refugees.
As one service provider explained: "I think it depends on how educated the people are when they arrive. You know, how much adjustment they have … it's such a huge adjustment just to be here and start life here, to think about going to college or going to the technical college or adding anything to your plate, I think it's, you know, unrealistic."
The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Research on College-Workforce Transition is investigating the barriers and pathways to college success for refugees within the state.
This work has included interviewing resettlement providers and educators in Wisconsin about their work to support higher education for refugees. It has subsequently turned to interviewing refugees with college experiences and goals in communities around the state.
While resettlement service providers and educators work hard to support the college attainment of refugees in communities around Wisconsin, the Center is finding that the narrowly defined goal of refugee resettlement as "self-sufficiency" and the highly structured and time-limited nature of the resettlement process effectively thwart and complicate this goal.
Yet, there is evidence that a more robust resettlement and social services support system can facilitate access to higher education.
Exemplifying this potential is the story of a Hmong refugee who came to Wisconsin as a young woman, resettled into a rural community in the Fox Valley, and graduated high school and college. She eventually became a leader in the Hmong community and a social service provider for refugees in Wisconsin.
As both a former refugee, and now as a provider of services to refugees in Wisconsin, she was able to reflect on the impact of changing federal and local support for refugees to resettle and access education over the past decade, and increasingly today:
'Like I always say, "I'm a product of, you know, the food stamp," and I'm proud to say that because of that support I'm able to concentrate and do what I do, right? And get out of the system, and become on the other side, and contributing it back. But for refugees who come right now, that piece is kind of, like, being policed so heavily that you don't have that sense of pride that you're being supported, that you are being embraced. But you're, you know, coming, and becoming, you know, a burden. So I think that feeling has changed, and I think if I'm now coming in as a refugee, I think it'd be hard to, you know, integrate with not having, you know, an environment for you to truly focus on developing yourself, because you have to work. … And so, I think that honeymoon stage for refugees is not there anymore, compared to during our time, where I feel like we have a honeymoon stage where our sponsor and the people around us who knew us gave us that shelter to develop ourselves. But now, I feel like there's no honeymoon stage for refugees at all.'
Resettlement service providers can support refugees' higher education goals by connecting them with advisors, educators and community members, as well as to pre-college and college support services.
More information about the question of how refugees in Wisconsin seek higher education is detailed in a Feb. 6, 2019 interview with Wisconsin Public Television's Noon Wednesday.
Madison Community Schools Look to Be An ‘Extension of Home’
April 14, 2019 | By Chris Rickert
More than two and a half years into the Madison School District’s launch of “community schools,” there are signs that students and parents are benefiting from the expanded array of services the schools provide.
Less clear is whether such a wrap-around pedagogical approach — which largely aims to boost student success by boosting family stability — will result in measurable academic improvements.
District officials and UW-Madison researchers say it will likely take several years to see the full effects of a model that some advocates see as being as much about social justice as improving student learning, and that so far has cost district taxpayers relatively little.
The district spent $169,195 in 2016-17 and $195,640 in 2017-18 implementing the first two community schools, at Leopold and Mendota elementaries. About 35% of the total spent over the two years came from donors.
“You wouldn’t expect academic metrics to change in the first five, six years probably,” said Nichelle Nichols, who oversees the district’s Family, Youth and Community Engagement Department.
An analysis of test scores at Mendota and Leopold show slight improvements in reading and math proficiency from the year before they were converted into community schools, or 2015-16, to last school year, although attendance rates fell slightly and chronic absenteeism rose.
During a meeting of the School Board’s Instruction Work Group on April 1, board president Mary Burke said she was “shocked” by the increase in chronic absenteeism and reiterated her skepticism about the community schools effort generally.
“We cannot be all things to all people,” she said. “We are working with families that have very, very high needs.”
Measures of how parents, students and staff perceived the climates of the schools — including their safety and how engaged they are with students and families — also didn’t move much from 2015-16 to 2017-18.
Evaluations of the schools’ first two years by UW-Madison researchers laud the schools’ work to include parents and community members in the lives of the schools, and to provide varied programming and develop partnerships with local organizations.
But they also found that parents of color were underrepresented on community schools committees, black parents were less likely to have positive interactions with staff and rank-and-file teachers didn’t always have a good understanding of what the community schools model means.
Overall, Mendota appeared to have a better handle on the model and buy-in from parents and community members. After the loss of its first community schools coordinator, Leopold is in the process of “rebooting” the model this year, according to district officials.
‘Feels like home’
In Madison, the community schools model has been applied at poorer, more diverse schools at a time when the district is attempting to reduce it’s longstanding achievement gap between white students and students of color, and as the district struggles with a disconnect between its mostly white, middle-class teaching force and the district’s students and parents, who tend to be more racially diverse and poorer than Madison’s overall population.
Among the programs offered at Mendota is a food pantry open on Tuesdays and Thursdays that brings about 60 families per week to the school’s community resource room, where parents can also get help with financial literacy and finding housing.
On a Thursday earlier this year, the pantry had closed for the day when Marcus Jordan, 26, Diamond Tribble, 25, and their son Dayton, 6, a kindergartner at the school, showed up.
Principal Carlettra Stanford and community schools resource coordinator Sonia Spencer nevertheless welcomed them in to peruse the refrigerator and storage closet stocked with dry goods. Dayton spent much of the time working on a puzzle.
The couple have no car, so it’s good to have a pantry within walking distance, said Tribble, who was able to get a better job as a certified nursing assistant with help offered at Mendota.
“It’s real helpful,” Jordan said of the pantry. “It’s just stuff you need. Everything counts.”
Spencer said she wants families to see the school as “an extension of their home,” and Stanford said school officials “want them to know that this is their school.”
Tribble, at least, appeared to be buying in to that notion.
“If I’m going to have my kid in this school, I need to know everything that’s going on,” she said. “It feels like home (at Mendota). They actually welcome you.”
Stanford said social services for parents can have positive effects on their children’s academic achievement.
If services can help a parent get a better job with better hours, for example, she said, maybe that will help get the child to school on time.
‘Chance to shine’
Elsewhere in the building, third-, fourth- and fifth-graders were rehearsing for the school’s performance of the Disney musical “The Aristocats.”
Mendota was one of four Madison elementary schools named in 2016 to the Disney Musicals in Schools program, which provides training and scripts and other materials for students and staff to do musical theater. Stanford believes the school’s status as a community school was key to winning the grant.
Fourth-grader Giselle Tlahuextl Toxqui, 10, said she wanted to be in the show “because I wanted to raise my spirits and not be afraid to sing.” Eleven-year-old fifth-grader Wilson Foueppe isn’t one for singing or performing in front of crowds but for three years running has been among the students who create props for the show.
“This is something for some kids where you have a chance to shine,” said first-grade teacher and show director Kathy Chamberlain. “For some kids, it’s just kind of that link we needed.”
“They’re definitely more focused,” fifth-grade teacher Rachel Mohrmann said of how participation in the show translates into work in the classroom. “It builds responsibility.”
Seeking other voices
Two of the UW-Madison researchers who evaluated the district’s community schools program, Gwen Baxley and Annalee Good, declined to say whether they thought the district was following best practices in community school creation, according to guidelines set by the national Coalition for Community Schools.
“It is important to note that there are mixed results with some schools,” Baxley said, but “research suggests that the schools that have been successful have been around a while.”
Community schools-like approaches have been around for decades, but the model itself started to gain in popularity about 20 years ago. The 2015 federal Every Student Succeeds Act encourages community schools-like initiatives.
Two aspects of the model — providing social services in school and, in part as a result, more time in school for children — are both important to the approach’s success, Baxley said, and “instruction needs to be high quality as well.”
“One of central tenets of community schools is around changing the power structures on whose voices are engaged,” Good said, as the structure of traditional schools “privileges white youth and families.”
Community schools require staff and administrators to reflect on racial bias in a school, Baxley said, and to take into account things such as who leads the school and the parent-teacher association, who has the most access to the principal and which children are getting into advanced courses.
Focused on priorities
Hawthorne and Lake View elementary schools are next on the district’s list for getting the community school treatment, and are spending this year determining what services they need and might be able to provide.
Needs will ultimately be narrowed down to three “priority areas,” said Lake View community schools resource coordinator Rachel Deterding. Hawthorne Principal Beth Lehman said that at Hawthorne, there will likely be one priority area each for students, families and staff.
The goal is to be a school that is a “hub of information and resources for students and their families,” Deterding said.
The Sun Prairie School District, in partnership with the city and community groups, has also been offering a variety of programs as part of its community school initiative, which got started at Westside Elementary and the district’s alternative high school, Prairie Phoenix Academy, in 2012 but stalled in 2014.
The program was renewed in 2016 when the district and city kicked in funding, and the district is seeing some associated, if preliminary, positive results. Math scores from spring 2018 were higher among community schools participants than non-participants, for example, and the percentage of Prairie students on track for on-time graduation increased from 42% in 2016 to 54% in 2018.
About $274,000 was spent on the program last school year.
Among the other events held at Mendota has been a yearly block party that brings in some 1,500 people. Last year, the school focused on career development, with more than 70 employment organizations participating. Ten Mendota family members got on-site interviews and three people got full-time jobs, according to the school. Seven people also gained employment through Northside Planning Council’s Ready Set Go! job-training program.
A “beauty boutique” in December brought in 30 professional beauticians and barbers who cut or styled hair for more than 100 people.
Spencer said it often makes sense to pair something the school wants parents and children to do together, such as a parent-teacher conference, with something parents and children want or need, such as an activity or a flu shot clinic.
Chamberlain said that for the first time in 35 years of teaching last fall, she had 100% attendance at her parent-teacher conferences, and the school as a whole has seen conference attendance rise over the last three school years.
No classrooms reached the 100% mark in fall 2016, but two had by fall 2018, and the percentage of classrooms with at least 80% attendance had risen from 41% in the fall of 2016 to 72% two years later.
Ultimately, Stanford said the goal of community schools is not just improving academics or providing families with needed services.
She pointed to an effort run by Door Creek Church last year in which students helped put together care packages for people devastated by the 2016 earthquake in Haiti, and to a parent who gives carpentry lessons at the school once a month and whose classes are “always full.”
Then, she said, there were the two students who in January gave the money they earned shoveling snow to the school’s food pantry and the two students who in summer 2017 gave the $1,100 they earned from lemonade and ice cream stands to help fund new playground equipment.
“That’s how we know that students are really understanding what it means to be a community school,” Stanford said.
6 Reasons You Can’t Design Great Learning Games without Teachers
April 11, 2019 | By Field Day Lab
From Medium | April 11, 2019
Want to know the secret ingredient that all great learning games have in common? Great teachers.
Teachers know the standards and requirements. They understand the limits of the classroom. And most of all, teachers really care about their kids.
We’ve worked with teachers from all across Wisconsin and beyond. Here are five reasons we would never design an educational game without them.
1. Teachers understand the pressures of the classroom
Let’s talk about this one with an example. Learning games need to be playable within a class period. Typical classes last 45–50 minutes. So how long do you think it should take to play an educational game?
If you guessed 40 minutes. . . well, we don’t blame you. We thought the same thing at first. Then we talked to the professionals.
According to teachers, it takes time to get organized. More time to introduce the game. Even MORE time to answer questions. And finally, teachers need to transition students out of class. That leaves 15–20 minutes for the game itself.
For game designers, this is crucial information. Without teachers, we might have ended up designing awesome games that nobody had time to play. Now, we make sure kids can play our games — or at least complete a level — within the first 15–20 minutes. That way, students feel a sense of accomplishment after playing our games, and teachers actually want to use them.
2. Teachers speak the language
Have you ever visited a country where you didn’t speak the language? Chances are, the local dialect was pretty different from what you found on Google Translate.
When it comes to the classroom, teachers are the locals. They know the vocabulary words that students are required to learn. They understand the language around certain topics.
We rely on teachers’ expertise to help us speak their language. This applies not only to in-game text, but also to website and promotional materials. Teachers look for classroom activities that match what they’re already doing. By working directly with teachers who teach specific topics, we are able to craft the language we use.
3. Teachers know the standards
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that teachers are under a lot of pressure. They need to cover the required curriculum, meet school goals, and match state and national standards.
We can try to imagine how this feels, but building games around our imaginary feelings is not a great design practice.
Instead, we listen. At the beginning of every game process, we spend a full day in conversation with teachers. They tell us where they see the gaps, the real needs. They explain what they’re looking for. This allows us to design games that will serve their needs and help them teach.
4. Teachers know kids
If you want to design a great game, you need to know your audience. What makes them laugh? What games are they playing? What do they get excited about?
Some of us at Field Day have kids ourselves. We felt like we were pretty in touch with kids’ media. But we haven’t heard half of what these teachers know.
That’s because teachers know kids. (Groundbreaking, right?) But seriously, teachers understand their kids’ age group better than anyone. They get constant insight into the depth and breadth of kids’ media.
5. Teachers help QA test
Educational games need QA testing at every stage of the design process. Luckily, teachers spend their days with the best QA participants possible — their students.
Teachers love to involve their kids in game design and testing. This gets them cool points with their students. And it gets us user data and feedback from hundreds of kids. It’s a win-win.
Kids play the game in class, and then teachers and kids fill out surveys. We look at the analytic data, line it all up, and make decisions about how to improve the game.
6. Teachers know how to teach
Learning games have a lot of boxes to tick. They need to be fun to play, and they need to teach specific learning goals. That means meeting kids right where they’re at.
If it sounds tricky, that’s because it is. Our university experts bring rich, cutting-edge content to our games, but they also have to deal with the “curse of knowledge.” (Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds.) Basically, they’ve undergone such a radical transformation in their thinking that they can’t remember what it was like to be a beginner.
That’s where teachers come in. Teachers aren’t just subject matter experts. They’re experts on the subject at the level it’s being taught.
Personalized Learning Advice From a Learning Scientist: 5 Questions K-12 Leaders Should Be Asking
April 8, 2019 | By Benjamin Herold
Education Week | Toronto
How can the science of learning help schools that are part of the personalized-learning movement?
Richard Halverson is glad you asked.
"This is a multi-functional model for schooling. Schools want to produce good outcomes, but they also want to invite student interest," he said. "The ideas from learning science can be good principles to build from."
A long-time professor of education leadership and policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Halverson led a team in 2015 that sought to document what personalized learning looked like in 20 of the state's public schools. Most were traditional public schools, and some were charters. Most were working with a group called the Institute for Personalized Learning, housed at one of Wisconsin's regional education service organizations. None received grant money or extra resources to experiment with the new educational models. And some of the study participants were revamping their entire schools, while others were trying "school-within-a-school" experiments.
At the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, being held here, Halverson presented a paper Monday based on that work, titled "Taking a Learning Science Perspective to Understand Personalized Learning in Schools."
Are you a K-12 educator, administrator or policymaker interested in personalized learning?
Based on his presentation and an interview, here are five questions K-12 educators, administrators or policymakers should be asking:
1. How will you address learner outcomes AND learner interests?
"The policy pressure in recent years are much more towards generating learner outcomes," Halverson said. "But there's also a big motivational crisis in schools, and we need to figure out how to get students more interested in their own learning."
Figuring out how to navigate that contradiction is key, he said. Some personalized-learning schools Halverson studied responded by placing students' interests at the heart of the educational enterprise. That meant inviting students to set their own goals for their learning, then allowing them to take control of how they pursued those goals (including everything from where they learned, to the pace at which they moved.)
In 2015, though, more common were schools that saw personalization as educators crafting for students a customized path through a set of adult-established academic standards.
The space in between those two approaches is "where a lot of personalized-learning schools now live," Halverson said.
The reality, he said, is "schools have to do both."
2. Who is creating the learning pathways students are expected to follow?
This is where the rubber hits the road and schools' priorities and choices are really laid bare, Halverson suggested.
"If you're focused on standards-based performance, a lot of times schools will try to get diagnostic data on students' skills and ability levels, then construct learning paths for them," he said. "If you're going other way, and focus on what students care about, those paths are more co-constructed."
There are tradeoffs with each approach, Halverson said. Focusing entirely on student interests, for example, might improve engagement, without raising test scores.
In response, Halverson said, many schools are trying a kind of hybrid approach.
"I've seen a lot of schools keep math more on the standards-based model, with a fixed curriculum, where teachers intervene with mini-lessons where kids are struggling," he said. "But they also open up the social studies and science curriculum, for example, to allow for more projects and community-based work."
3. How do you build relationships to support students in following a given learning pathway?
"This is the core insight we've had so far," Halverson said. "Building relationships with students so that conversation becomes the main form of assessment is the heart" of learning-science-inspired personalized learning.
That means building as much interpersonal contact between teachers and students into the school day as possible, making that interaction the "heart of the instructional process," he suggested. Often, that means completely reconfiguring the school day. It's worth it, Halverson said.
"I can tell what you understand by talking to you. Everything else is a proxy," he said. "If I have regular time to check in with you, and you tell me what you know and are interested in, we can construct a learning pathway together, and I can also tell the progress you're making."
4. To what extent is learning grounded in real-world activities?
This is one of the biggest challenges personalized-learning schools face, Halverson said. The learning-sciences research is rich with examples of why this matters and how to do it, he said. But such work is expensive, hard to coordinate, and often difficult to fit into existing school structures.
"I think personalized-learning schools have a lot to learn from researchers in this area," Halverson said. "All students live in families, cultures, communities. Anchoring learning in those resources that young people bring to school makes the learning come alive."
5. How do you put different technologies together to meet your needs and achieve your goals?
This is another biggie, Halverson said.
Personalized-learning schools are often using different technologies for different purposes: Google's G Suite for everyday instruction and administration, for example, mixed with adaptive learning software for specific subjects, a student information system to track data on student progress, and new digital media for student creation and connection.
Stitching all that together into a coherent ecosystem has huge potential rewards, he said. Without tech, it's basically impossible for an average high school teacher seeing 150 students per day to keep track of each students' individual learning pathway and progress.
But until the "student-relations management systems" that are just now being conceptualized and built really take off, he said, it's going to be a messy, ad-hoc process.
And if K-12 leaders truly do want to improve both student outcomes and student interest, they'll be wise to recognize and appreciate that.
"It's important that [administrators and policymakers] pay attention to the ways that is orchestrated at the school level," Halverson said. "When districts don't understand how people at the school level are building these systems to meet their needs, they end up making decisions that are at odds with successful work happening at actual schools."
To Chair or Not to Chair?
March 19, 2019 | By Jerlando F.L. Jackson
From The Chronicle of Higher Education | March 19, 2019
Every spring, a set of little-known deliberations — formal and informal — play out in many an academic department about who should serve as the next chair. The scope of the discussions varies based on the institutional process. Some departments conduct a national search to select a full-time chair, while others take an internal "it’s your turn" approach. The latter is how I ended up as chair.
The summer before starting my 19th year on the faculty, I was immersed fully in growing my research laboratory — managing a variety of projects, replacing and training new staff, starting a national study, outlining a book. Not to mention, I was teaching classes, advising graduate students, supervising dissertations, serving on committees. In short: I was already busy.
When I heard the words, "Would you consider being chair next year?," all sorts of thoughts ran through my head:
A nearly audible "Whyyyyyyyy meeeeeeeeeee?"
"No way. I am living my ‘academic best life’!"
"I thought someone was already pegged for this?"
"Do I have to quit my research?"
And, "There is no way in the world that I can do it and run my lab."
I had recurring visions of being chained to a desk.
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Once my initial panic subsided, I realized that my colleagues’ request was not unreasonable. After all, I’d been in the department for 18 years; it was natural my name would come up eventually in the who-should-serve-next debate.
Regardless of the chair-selection process, the choice has important implications for the department. Just as students consider whether to remain in courses or drop them, faculty members must consider the many reasons they should — or shouldn’t — be department chair. The process is both introspective and long-range, requiring you to consider how your skill set and your career trajectory align with the chair’s role.
Why might a faculty member aspire to be chair? Perhaps it represents a natural progression of service after you chaired the largest, most important committee in the department. Alternatively, maybe your research ideas have ebbed and you’re looking to make a different, yet important, contribution to the department. Possibly, a bump in pay and a reduced teaching load seem attractive in return for assuming the chair’s job. And let’s not forget the "unthinkable." You actually might aspire to a senior academic leadership role, such as dean, provost, or president, and view the chair’s position as your first step up the administrative-career ladder.
In my own case, while I didn’t seek the job, I realized that my colleagues saw value in my taking a turn. So I started to consider what it would mean for me, my lab, and for the department if I became chair.
I turned my attention to the most important question: Can I do this job well? Seeking an answer, I initiated a two-week discovery phase. First I talked with my family and my laboratory staff, all of whom would be affected in myriad unknown ways if I said yes. Next I spoke with former chairs, the department’s office manager, staff members in the dean’s office, and colleagues who headed departments at other institutions to gain insights into the role, function, and responsibilities of the position.
My discovery phase revealed seven key considerations that guided my own decision-making process. I offer the seven criteria here to help other faculty members faced with their own "to chair or not to chair" conundrum:
Nature of the appointment. What percentage of time will you be expected to devote to the department-chair role? For example, is it a 50-percent appointment? Does the position come with summer duties, and how does the summer appointment differ from the academic year? Does the post include any course-release time from teaching? Is the chair’s job a full-time position, disguised as a part-time one? How many years will your term last? Is it a one-time stint?
Workflow. This involves the annual budgeting process and other paperwork duties. How much of the workflow is handled automatically by the department’s support staff? How much is specific to — and/or initiated by — the department chair?
Job benefits. What benefits come with the position? A temporary boost in your base salary? An expense account? Do you have access to staff support to help you manage the increased demands on your schedule, and student-research assistants to enable you to maintain your research activity? Are there other forms of support provided for the chair, such as leadership coaching or professional-development opportunities?
Responsibilities and commitments. What are the daily and weekly schedules of the department chair? Are there "desk time" expectations for the job — meaning set hours in which you must be in the department office? What established and regularly scheduled meetings — committees and administrative councils — will require your attendance? What parts of the department chair’s schedule are inflexible?
Major projects. What are the known big-ticket items — hiring, retirements, program certifications, accreditation, budget reductions, curriculum overhaul — on the agenda during your stint as chair for the next three-to-five years?
Office environment. Who really runs the department? Will the regular staff members be open to your work style and approach? Or will you have to acquiesce to their approach?
Documents to review. What materials are essential to read during your discovery phase? Items you might want to study: policies and procedures, state-education regulations, campus handbooks, reports, and (definitely) budget reports and forecasts.
After I took some time to consider all of that information, I came to two main conclusions about my own foray into administrative duties.
First, the ingredients for me doing the job well were in place. Namely, my experience leading an externally funded unit on the campus, my knowledge of the budgeting process, my familiarity with the university and its key players, and my 18 years of lived experience as a faculty member here bode well for me in the position. Also, I would have plenty of help in both the department and my laboratory. The department has a highly skilled and knowledgeable support staff. Likewise, the staff members in my lab are experienced enough to manage commitments even if I am less available.
Second, to be honest, I came up with more reasons to say no than to say yes. All of those reasons were completely self-serving. Until being posed the question, research was the focus of my career, and a stint as department chair was not going to help me advance my scholarly agenda. It was not going to help me write a book, finish my various studies, apply for new research grants, or organize international research gatherings.
In spite of the preponderance of evidence pushing me toward no, I said yes. And I did so for one reason alone: to be a good departmental citizen.
Collegiality is only a reality when all members of a department share in carrying out its responsibilities and obligations. For 18 years, someone other than me served as the chief caretaker of the department — ensuring that my fellow faculty members and I had the freedom to follow our intellectual interests. It is unfair when only "some" colleagues sacrifice time away from their own interests for the greater good.
The idea of not taking my turn in this crucial role, purely because of its inconvenience to my career, made me uncomfortable.
Consequently, I put my "academic best life" on pause to be a good departmental citizen. Now that I have been in the role for just shy of a year, it reinforces the reason I said yes. In order to approach the position with the appropriate temperament, any motivation other than being a good citizen would have yielded disappointment as the role involves a daily balancing of the interests of your department against institutional priorities.
Jerlando F.L. Jackson is a professor of higher education and chair of the educational leadership and policy analysis department at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is also director and chief research scientist at the university’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory.
Astronomy Society Pushes for Diversity in US PHD Programmes
February 21, 2019
From Nature International Journal of Science
February 21, 2019 | By Kendall Powell
WCER researcher Christine Pfund, director of the Center for Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER), is one of the 12 authors of the AAS report described in this article.
Task force hopes that a report on boosting participation by under-represented groups will ‘pull the alarm cord to say we can’t continue doing things the way we have been’.
The American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Washington DC wants those in charge of doctoral programmes in the field to work harder to recruit and retain students from under-represented groups. It aims to boost participation by women, minority ethnic groups, people of sexual and gender minorities, people with disabilities or who are neuroatypical, and under-represented socioeconomic groups, among others.
The society, which represents 8,000 astronomers across 57 nations, offers recommendations in the final report of a task force on diversity and inclusion in astronomy graduate education1. Those suggestions include partnering with undergraduate programmes that produce many graduates from minority groups, and holding department-wide discussions about the barriers facing under-represented students for advancing to graduate study, and about how to make departments more welcoming to diverse students.
Keivan Stassun, an astronomer and the director of the Center for Autism and Innovation at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and a co-author of the report, says that the society’s initiative is the broadest call made so far for diversity and inclusion in astronomy and astrophysics PhD programmes.
Between 2002 and 2012, students from under-represented minorities in the United States made up just 3% of astronomy doctoral students, even though they comprise 30% of the general population, the report finds. During that decade, no more than six US astronomy PhDs were awarded each year to members of under-represented groups.
The society has 1,620 graduate-student members and 500 undergraduate student members; together, these comprise about one-quarter of the society’s total membership. Women make up slightly more than one-quarter of the society’s membership, forming a demographic that is growing rapidly, but other groups that are under-represented in astronomy, such as African Americans and Latinos, make up only 5% of the membership.
“It was painfully obvious that waiting and hoping for progress in making astronomy inclusive wasn’t working,” says Megan Donahue, AAS president and an astronomer at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
US astronomy and astrophysics programmes award about 300 PhDs each year. Of those, only about one goes to an African American student and three to Latino/Latina students. These figures have not increased in the past decade, says Marcel Agüeros, an AAS board member who co-authored the report and is an observational astronomer at Columbia University in New York City.
Agüeros says that the society had been reviewing progress since publishing its last report on graduate education in 1996, and realized that diversity remained an outstanding issue. The AAS’s most recent report is based on peer-reviewed published studies whose findings have helped to increase diversity in US science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduate education, says Donahue. She says that the AAS had pledged to incorporate evidence-based results in its recommendations.
The proposals also include input from experts in STEM graduate education. “AAS was committed to providing the strongest research-based set of recommendations to their members, which meant tapping the social scientists with the best current knowledge,” says Julie Posselt, an educational sociologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the senior adviser on the report.
Agüeros notes that although astronomy departments’ faculty-member rosters have become more diverse, a large drop-off in diversity occurs at the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate studies. The reasons, he says, include a lack of cutting-edge research opportunities at institutions serving undergraduates, and students’ unfamiliarity with astronomy career paths.
The AAS says in its report that to attract higher numbers of qualified students who hold bachelor’s degrees in physics, astronomy and astrophysics, PhD-granting departments must build connections with institutions that serve minority groups. Those include historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions and Native American and Indigenous colleges and universities, which produce large numbers of under-represented graduates.
There is power in such cross-institutional networks, says Posselt. “That power can be leveraged for serving the status quo,” she says, when faculty members might choose students who have graduated from prestigious universities or who are members of those faculty members’ own networks. “Or, networks can be more open and can be used to diversify graduate education”.
The report also advises dropping standardized graduate-study exams, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and physics GRE, from admissions decisions. Instead, it says, programmes should use a holistic evaluation rubric, which includes specific criteria for admission and clear definitions of what high, medium and low scores look like for those criteria. The report also includes a protocol for evaluating letters of recommendation, together with sample scripts for graduate-school interviews, as ways of diminishing the effects of confirmation bias and implicit bias in admissions decisions.
To retain under-represented graduate students, the report calls for robust mentoring relationships to be developed between faculty members and students or postdocs, and for departmental cultures to be made more accessible, welcoming and family-friendly. Donahue says that departments can make some easy changes straight away, such as ensuring that students and postdocs have at least one other mentor beyond their research supervisor, and providing bystander and bias training for all department staff members.
“AAS can pull the alarm cord for the community to say we can’t continue doing things the way we have been,” Agüeros says. “The argument for diversity is not controversial any more. We have to figure out how to make it happen.”
DPI to Launch Evaluation Toolkit Created by Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative (WEC)
February 18, 2019 | By Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
From DPI-ConnectEd News
Monday, February 18, 2019
Thanks to educator feedback, there is now a tool for district and building leaders to systematically evaluate their Academic and Career Planning (ACP) programming. The ACP Toolkit* links the data inquiry process and qualitative tools so that schools can gauge the effectiveness of their ACP delivery programs.
The toolkit provides guidance for conducting an evaluation of ACP, along with a sample evaluation plan and question banks for surveys and stakeholder focus groups.
Combined with quantitative data in the Career Cruising educator CAMS portal and through the local regional economic development organization’s Inspire portal, users can investigate and analyze data questions.
Once the new Roster data is available in WISESecure later this year, districts will have even greater access to more information related to ACP activities that support college and career readiness such as dual enrollment, work-based learning programs, and Career & Technical Education course-taking.
Spring ACP training at each CESA will assist districts in making use of this data through a quality data inquiry process. Sign up for a spring training session now through the Academic and Career Planning Events web page.
For more information, visit the Toolkit: Evaluating Your ACP Program web page.
*Developed by the Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative: WEC