Friday, May 27, 2011

In case you missed it: ECS report on STEM

Shameless plug: In February, ECS released a short report on science, technology, education and mathematics (STEM) education that touches upon:
  • Recent research (both on the need for improved STEM outcomes and on approaches to increase STEM degree completion among black and Hispanic students)
  • Examples of approaches to advance STEM through public/private partnership (i.e., with limited to no state funds)
  • The silent "T" and "E" in STEM education--and ways states are meaningfully incorporating technology and engineering in STEM at the K-12 level.
One study highlighted in the report found that Hispanic and Black students in Florida's class of 1997 who completed Chemistry II or Physics II in high school were as likely or more likely than their White peers to complete a four-year degree in a STEM field--but that 24 Black and 24 Hispanic students in the Class of 1997--for the entire Florida cohort--had completed these classes. Numbers these low beg the question (at least for me) of whether these students were all in one school or one district. At any rate, the study points to one approach that may increase, and increase the diversity of, the STEM workforce.

More interesting research and STEM public/private approaches were identified that were not incorporated into the February report--hopefully these will be reported out in a future ECS publication.

Monday, May 9, 2011

High school science: Which courses are "rigorous"?

I received an interesting call today from a high school science teacher in a state that has increased its graduation requirements in science in recent years. The state board in this state has set about determining which science courses meet the criteria of "rigorous" for purposes of fulfilling unit requirements in this subject--and this teacher was surprised and dismayed that some subjects she teaches--including AP Environmental Science--did not make the cut.

Her concerns did raise the question of how states striving to ensure rigor in high school graduation requirements in science determine which courses are "rigorous". Of course, there is the heavily-cited research identifying a correlation between high school coursetaking in lab-based biology, chemistry and physics and subsequent entry into and completion of a baccalaureate degree within a reasonable period of time. Yet not all courses approved by such states as "rigorous" seem to fit into the categories identified in the research, while others explicitly intended to bring students to college readiness--such as AP science courses--are not wholesale included in the definition of "rigor" in every state.

Transparency by state-level entities regarding the process used to define rigor among high school courses may result in greater buy-in from teachers, students and parents that the path to greater rigor in high school graduation requirements--in science as well as in other subject areas--is the right path to tread.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cost of anti-bullying measures?

I have been asked more than once what costs are associated with anti-bullying policies. The answer: it varies greatly depending on the type of policy enacted.

Some state policy components are no- to low-cost:
  • Establishing a statewide definition of bullying (or requiring local boards to establish a definition of bullying)
  • Requiring all incidents of bullying to be reported to administrators and parents (and providing immunity to those who report in good faith)
  • Requiring administrators to investigate incidents of bullying
  • Informing all students and parents of the district/state anti-bullying policy and of disciplinary actions to be taken against those found to be bullying
Some state policy components are of moderate cost:
  • Requiring the department of education to review districts' anti-bullying policies (for those states with a large number of districts, this may be a high-cost policy component)
  • Requiring data collection and annual reporting on bullying incidents in the state (again, for those states with a large number of districts, this may become a relatively higher-cost component)
  • Identifying research-based bullying prevention and intervention programs, and disseminating those to districts
  • Making available technical assistance to districts in adopting and implementing anti-bullying measures
Some state policy components may come with a relatively higher price tag:
  • Requiring all school staff to undergo bullying prevention training
  • Requiring bullying prevention education in K-12 schools
  • Requiring conflict resolution efforts to be adopted in all schools statewide.
What constitutes a comprehensive anti-bullying policy? Such a policy need not be high-cost. ECS' comprehensive state-level anti-bullying policy (from this 2005 report--to be updated later this year) includes the following components (I've added the related cost category each component would typically under):
  • Defines bullying (including cyberbullying) (LOW- TO NO-COST)
  • Prohibits bullying by students (LOW- TO NO-COST)
  • Informs students and others of anti-bullying policy (LOW- TO NO-COST)
  • Enables students and parents to report bullying incidents (LOW- TO NO-COST)
  • Requires teachers and other school staff to report bullying incidents (LOW- TO NO-COST)
  • Provides immunity to those reporting bullying incidents and protection from reprisal, retaliation or false accusation against victims, witnesses or others with information regarding a bullying incident (LOW- TO NO-COST)
  • Requires administrators to investigate reported incidents (LOW COST)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Georgia: Soft skills certification

Enrolled Georgia legislation described in my P-20 blog post today proposes encouraging changes to improve college-readiness--but also looks at workplace readiness.

H.B. 186, which is currently pending the governor's action, authorizes the Governor's Office of Workforce Development to establish certification in soft skills, which may include, but not be limited to, skills relating to punctuality, ability to learn, and ability to work in a team, as a discrete and complementary component to the current WorkKeys assessment used in the state. The legislation authorizes and encourages the office of workforce development to work with the department of education and the board of technical and adult education to facilitate coordination with high schools so that high school students can attain certification in soft skills and work readiness.

Many surveys of high school students indicate they would like to know how what they're learning in school applies to the "real world", while employers complain that young adults lack the soft skills needed to be successful in the workplace. This legislation offers an intriguing approach to provide both high school students and employers with what they are looking for.