Archive | February, 2014

Children of older fathers can have genetic issues: Study reports mental illness risk higher

28 Feb

Apparently there is not an unlimited shelf life for sperm. Benedict Carey reported in the New York Times article, Father’s Age Is Linked to Risk of Autism and Schizophrenia:

Older men are more likely than young ones to father a child who develops autism or schizophrenia, because of random mutations that become more numerous with advancing paternal age, scientists reported on Wednesday, in the first study to quantify the effect as it builds each year. The age of mothers had no bearing on the risk for these disorders, the study found.
Experts said that the finding was hardly reason to forgo fatherhood later in life, though it might have some influence on reproductive decisions. The overall risk to a man in his 40s or older is in the range of 2 percent, at most, and there are other contributing biological factors that are entirely unknown.
But the study, published online in the journal Nature, provides support for the argument that the surging rate of autism diagnoses over recent decades is attributable in part to the increasing average age of fathers, which could account for as many as 20 to 30 percent of cases.
The findings also counter the longstanding assumption that the age of the mother is the most important factor in determining the odds of a child having developmental problems. The risk of chromosomal abnormalities, like Down syndrome, increases for older mothers, but when it comes to some complex developmental and psychiatric problems, the lion’s share of the genetic risk originates in the sperm, not the egg, the study found. Previous studies had strongly suggested as much, including an analysis published in April that found that this risk was higher at age 35 than 25 and crept up with age. The new report quantifies that risk for the first time, calculating how much it accumulates each year.
The research team found that the average child born to a 20-year-old father had 25 random mutations that could be traced to paternal genetic material. The number increased steadily by two mutations a year, reaching 65 mutations for offspring of 40-year-old men.
The average number of mutations coming from the mother’s side was 15, no matter her age, the study found.
“This study provides some of the first solid scientific evidence for a true increase in the condition” of autism, said Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, director of the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research. “It is extremely well done and the sample meticulously characterized.”


Rate of de novo mutations and the importance of father’s age to disease risk
Journal name: Nature
Volume: 488,
Pages: 471–475
Date published: (23 August 2012)
DOI: doi:10.1038/nature11396
Received 28 February 2012 Accepted 04 July 2012 Published online 22 August 2012
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Carey is updating this study with findings from a newer study.

Benedict Carey reported in the New York Times article, Mental Illness Risk Higher for Children of Older Fathers, Study Finds:

Children born to middle-aged men are more likely than those born to younger fathers to develop any of a range of mental difficulties, including attention deficits, bipolar disorder, autism and schizophrenia, according to the most comprehensive study to date of paternal age and offspring mental health.
In recent years, scientists have debated based on mixed evidence whether a father’s age is linked to his child’s vulnerability to individual disorders like autism and schizophrenia. Some studies have found strong associations, while others have found weak associations or none at all.
The new report, which looked at many mental disorders in Sweden, should inflame the debate, if not settle it, experts said. Men have a biological clock of sorts because of random mutations in sperm over time, the report suggests, and the risks associated with later fatherhood may be higher than previously thought. The findings were published on Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
“This is the best paper I’ve seen on this topic, and it suggests several lines of inquiry into mental illness,” said Dr. Patrick F. Sullivan, a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina, who was not involved in the research. “But the last thing people should do is read this and say, ‘Oh no, I had a kid at 43, the kid’s doomed.’ The vast majority of kids born to older dads will be just fine.”
Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler, a professor of psychiatry and human molecular genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University, also urged caution in interpreting the results. “This is great work from a scientific perspective,” he said. “But it needs to be replicated, and biomedical science needs to get in gear and figure out what accounts for” the mixed findings of previous studies.
The strengths of the new report are size and rigor. The research team, led by Brian M. D’Onofrio of Indiana University, analyzed medical and public records of about 2.6 million people born in Sweden from 1973 to 2001. Like many European countries, Sweden has centralized medical care and keeps detailed records, so the scientists knew the father’s age for each birth and were able to track each child’s medical history over time, as well as that of siblings and other relatives. Among other things, the analysis compared the mental health of siblings born to the same father and found a clear pattern of increased risk with increasing paternal age.
Compared with the children of young fathers, aged 20 to 24, those born to men age 45 and older had about twice the risk of developing psychosis, the signature symptom of schizophrenia; more than three times the likelihood of receiving a diagnosis of autism; and about 13 times the chance of having a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder. Children born to older fathers also tended to struggle more with academics and substance abuse.
The researchers controlled for every factor they could think of, including parents’ education and income. Older couples tend to be more stable and have more income — both protective factors that help to temper mental problems — and this was the case in the study. But much of the risk associated with paternal age remained.


Original Investigation|February 26, 2014
Paternal Age at Childbearing and Offspring Psychiatric and Academic MorbidityONLINE FIRST
Brian M. D’Onofrio, PhD1; Martin E. Rickert, PhD1; Emma Frans, MSc2; Ralf Kuja-Halkola, MSc2; Catarina Almqvist, MD2,3; Arvid Sjölander, PhD2; Henrik Larsson, PhD2; Paul Lichtenstein, PhD2
[+] Author Affiliations
JAMA Psychiatry. Published online February 26, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.4525
Text Size: A A A
Importance Advancing paternal age is associated with increased genetic mutations during spermatogenesis, which research suggests may cause psychiatric morbidity in the offspring. The effects of advancing paternal age at childbearing on offspring morbidity remain unclear, however, because of inconsistent epidemiologic findings and the inability of previous studies to rigorously rule out confounding factors.
Objective To examine the associations between advancing paternal age at childbearing and numerous indexes of offspring morbidity.
Design, Setting, and Participants We performed a population-based cohort study of all individuals born in Sweden in 1973-2001 (N = 2 615 081), with subsets of the data used to predict childhood or adolescent morbidity. We estimated the risk of psychiatric and academic morbidity associated with advancing paternal age using several quasi-experimental designs, including the comparison of differentially exposed siblings, cousins, and first-born cousins.
Exposure Paternal age at childbearing.
Main Outcomes and Measures Psychiatric (autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, psychosis, bipolar disorder, suicide attempt, and substance use problem) and academic (failing grades and low educational attainment) morbidity.
Results In the study population, advancing paternal age was associated with increased risk of some psychiatric disorders (eg, autism, psychosis, and bipolar disorders) but decreased risk of the other indexes of morbidity. In contrast, the sibling-comparison analyses indicated that advancing paternal age had a dose-response relationship with every index of morbidity, with the magnitude of the associations being as large or larger than the estimates in the entire population. Compared with offspring born to fathers 20 to 24 years old, offspring of fathers 45 years and older were at heightened risk of autism (hazard ratio [HR] = 3.45; 95% CI, 1.62-7.33), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (HR = 13.13; 95% CI, 6.85-25.16), psychosis (HR = 2.07; 95% CI, 1.35-3.20), bipolar disorder (HR = 24.70; 95% CI, 12.12-50.31), suicide attempts (HR = 2.72; 95% CI, 2.08-3.56), substance use problems (HR = 2.44; 95% CI, 1.98-2.99), failing a grade (odds ratio [OR] = 1.59; 95% CI, 1.37-1.85), and low educational attainment (OR = 1.70; 95% CI, 1.50-1.93) in within-sibling comparisons. Additional analyses using several quasi-experimental designs obtained commensurate results, further strengthening the internal and external validity of the findings.
Conclusions and Relevance Advancing paternal age is associated with increased risk of psychiatric and academic morbidity, with the magnitude of the risks being as large or larger than previous estimates. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that new genetic mutations that occur during spermatogenesis are causally related to offspring morbidity.

Paul Raeburn posted the article, The conversation we’re not having about dads’ biological clocks at Today’s Moms blog.
According to Raeburn:

Even genetic counselors, who advise couples on such risks, often ignore the risks associated with older fathers, said Jehannine Austin, a genetic counselor at the University of British Columbia whose specialty is psychiatric genetic counseling.
“Medicine tends to focus on the role of mothers in bringing children into the world far more so than we do the role of fathers,” she said. “And I think that really should change.”
Sandra Darilek, an expert on prenatal genetic counseling, says it is still unclear what to do about the risks associated with older fathers.
“There aren’t guidelines about what you should and shouldn’t expect with regard to paternal age,” she said. “Older fathers have a higher risk of passing on what we call new mutations. The problem is that there isn’t any prenatal test that will identify that.”
Furthermore, counselors often do not see couples until the woman is already pregnant, she said. And then it might be wiser not to tell couples about the increased risks associated with fathers’ age. “We’d just be alarming couples when we have nothing to offer them,” she said.
D’Onofrio’s research found that risk increased steadily as fathers aged. There was no age at which the risk zoomed up. Instead, the older the father was, the greater the risk to his children.
“Everyone wants to know when it is safe to have children and when it is not safe,” D’Onofrio said. “There is an increasing risk as men get older. There is not a safe age and a risky age.”
Our two boys are now 7 and 4 — yes, we had another one knowing the risks — and they are fine. We have years to go before we will know for sure whether they have avoided the risks related to my age, but Elizabeth and I have not had any second thoughts about our choices.

Both older males and older females bring genetic issues to any possible late-in-life birth. Potential parents should be advised and counseled concerning these risks.

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U.S. Department of Education guidelines on student privacy

26 Feb

Many schools and districts are using cloud computing. Judith Hurwitz, Robin Bloor, Marcia Kaufman, and Fern Halper from Cloud Computing For Dummies wrote about cloud computing in What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is the next stage in the Internet’s evolution, providing the means through which everything — from computing power to computing infrastructure, applications, business processes to personal collaboration — can be delivered to you as a service wherever and whenever you need.
The “cloud” in cloud computing can be defined as the set of hardware, networks, storage, services, and interfaces that combine to deliver aspects of computing as a service. Cloud services include the delivery of software, infrastructure, and storage over the Internet (either as separate components or a complete platform) based on user demand. (See Cloud Computing Models for the lowdown on the way clouds are used.)
Cloud computing has four essential characteristics: elasticity and the ability to scale up and down, self-service provisioning and automatic deprovisioning, application programming interfaces (APIs), billing and metering of service usage in a pay-as-you-go model. (Cloud Computing Characteristics discusses these elements in detail.) This flexibility is what is attracting individuals and businesses to move to the cloud.
The world of the cloud has lots of participants:
•The end user who doesn’t have to know anything about the underlying technology.
•Business management who needs to take responsibility for the governance of data or services living in a cloud. Cloud service providers must provide a predictable and guaranteed service level and security to all their constituents. (Find out what providers have to consider in Cloud Computing Issues.)
•The cloud service provider who is responsible for IT assets and maintenance.
Cloud computing is offered in different forms: public clouds, private clouds, and hybrid clouds, which combine both public and private. (You can get a sense of the differences among these kinds of clouds in Deploying Public, Private, or Hybrids Clouds.)
Cloud computing can completely change the way companies use technology to service customers, partners, and suppliers….

Moi wrote about cloud privacy concerns in Does ‘cloud storage’ affect student privacy rights?

Benjamin Herold reported in the Education Week article, U.S. Education Department Issues Guidance on Student Data Privacy:

The new federal guidelines are non-binding and contain no new regulations, reflecting a desire to encourage “self-policing” by industry and better policies and practices by school systems as first steps towards shoring up students’ privacy protections.
Dozens of privacy-related bills are making their way through statehouses this spring, however, and U.S. Senator Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts who has been critical of the education department’s stance on privacy, said Monday he would soon introduce new federal legislation on the matter.
Reaction to the document from key stakeholder groups was swift, reflecting the growing urgency around data-security issues. A trade association for the software and digital content industries commended the department for an approach it said “affirms and reinforces the strong safeguards in current law,” while a leading parent advocate said the guidance “completely misses the point when it comes to addressing parental concerns about their children’s privacy and security.”
FERPA Questions
Much of the 14-page department document, titled “Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices,” focuses on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA….
The departmental guidance issued Tuesday, however, makes clear that FERPA and another relevant federal statute, the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, are somewhat limited in their power to prevent such outcomes in the new age of “big data” and ubiqitous digital learning tools.
Take, for example, the “metadata” collected on students via digital devices and online learning programs, which can include keystroke information, the time and place at which a device or program is being used, the type of device on which the service is being accessed, and more.
Under some circumstances, such metadata are not protected under FERPA and may thus eligible to be used for data-mining and other non-educational purposes.
According to the federal guidelines, vendors that have not collected any personally identifiable information on individual students may be permitted to use metadata for data-mining and other purposes.
And even when vendors have collected personally identifiable information on students, they may still be permitted to use metadata for their own purposes, provided those data are stripped of any identifying elements, and so long as the vendor received students’ information under an exception to FERPA that allows vendors to more easily be designated as “school officials…”
Privacy advocates, however, have criticized—and even sued—the department over its recent decisions to expand the definitions of who may be authorized to gain access to student data under FERPA.
“The guidance really underscores the fact that student privacy rights are under attack, and it was the [department’s] regulations that opened the door,” said Khaliah Barnes, an attorney with the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Best Practices
The uses of students’ personally identifiable information by third-party vendors can also be murky, according to the guidelines.
Under FERPA, parental consent is usually required for the disclosure of such information, although there are exceptions. Schools and districts are also supposed to maintain “direct control” over their data, even after it is passed to third parties—a requirement that is hugely complex given the massive amounts of data now being collected, the rise of cloud-based service providers, and the rapid-fire cycle of business start-ups, mergers, and acquisitions that mark today’s ed-tech landscape.
The new guidelines suggest that better contracting practices and school- and district-level policies are key to protecting student privacy amid all the confusion.
Among the best practices recommended by the department:
Maintain awareness of relevant federal, state, tribal, or local laws, particularly the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which includes requirements for providing online educational services to children under 13.
Be aware of which online educational services are currently being used in your district. Conducting an inventory of all such services is one specific step districts can take.
Have policies and procedures to evaluate and approve proposed online educational services, including both formal contracts and no-cost software and that requires only click-through consent.
When possible, use a written contract or legal agreement. Provisions should be included for security and data stewardship; the collection of data; the use, retention, disclosure, and destruction of data; the right of parents and students to access and modify their data; and more.
Such reliance on district contracting processes and policy development could pose a problem, given the current state of such efforts. In December, Fordham University professor Joel Reidenberg published a scathing study of the shortcoming and vulnerabilities of most districts’ contracts with cloud-service providers.


Here is the citation from the U.S. Department of Education:

Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services
PTAC is pleased to announce the release of new guidance, “Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services.” This guidance should clarify questions related to student privacy and the use of educational technology in the classroom.
The Department of Education and PTAC will be holding a joint webinar on March 13 to review this guidance and solicit your input on it. To register for the webinar, please click here.
If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate in the webinar, please notify Ross Lemke at by March 6th. For those who are unable to join the webinar on March 13, a recording and transcript will be posted to the PTAC website.

See, Testing the Waters of Cloud Computing

Sean Cavanaugh reported in the Education Week article, Districts’ Use of Cloud Computing Brings Privacy Risks, Study Says:

School districts have become increasingly reliant on cloud-based technologies despite “substantial deficiencies” in policies governing those Web-based systems and their protection of private student data, a new study finds.
The study, released today by the Fordham Law School’s Center on Law and Information Policy, seeks to provide the first national examination of privacy and cloud computing in public schools. The study authors also put forward a series of recommendations to policymakers for ramping up safeguards on students’ private information.
Fordham researchers based their study on a national sample of public school districts, asking for detailed information from 54 urban, suburban, and rural systems around the country.
Among the information they sought: contracts between districts and technology vendors; policies governing privacy and computer use; and notices sent to parents about student privacy and districts’ use of free or paid, third-party consulting services.
The study concludes that privacy implications for districts’ use of cloud services are “poorly understood, non-transparent, and weakly governed.”
Only 25 percent of the districts examined made parents aware of the use of cloud services, according to the study. Twenty percent do not have policies governing the use of those services, and a large plurality of districts have “rampant gaps” in their documentation of privacy policies in contracts and other forms.
To make matters worse, districts often relinquish control of student information when using cloud services, and do not have contracts or agreements setting clear limits on the disclosure, sale, and marketing of that data, the Fordham researchers say.
The Fordham study concludes that districts, policymakers, and vendors should consider taking a number of steps to increase privacy protections, including:
• Providing parents with sufficient notice of the transfer of student information to cloud-service providers, and assuring that parental consent is sought when required by federal law;
• Improving contracts between private vendors and districts to remove ambiguity and provide much more specific information on the disclosure and marketing of student data;
• Setting clearer policies on data governance within districts, which includes establishing rules barring employees from using cloud services not approved by districts. States and large districts should also hire “chief privacy officers” responsible for maintaining data protections;
• Establishing a national research center and clearinghouse to study privacy issues, and draft and store model contracts on privacy issues. The center should be “independent of commercial interests to assure objectivity,” the study authors said.
“School districts throughout the country are embracing the use of cloud computing services for important educational goals, but have not kept pace with appropriate safeguards for the personal data of school children,” said Joel Reidenberg, a professor at Fordham’s law school who worked on the study, in a statement accompanying its release. “There are critical actions that school districts and vendors must take to address the serious deficiences in privacy protection….”


Center on Law and Information Policy
Privacy and Cloud Computing in Public Schools
Joel R. Reidenberg, Fordham University School of Law
N. Cameron Russell, Fordham University School of Law
Jordan Kovnot, Fordham University School of Law
Thomas B. Norton, Fordham University School of Law
Ryan Cloutier, Fordham University School of Law
Daniela Alvarado, Fordham University School of Law
Download Full Text (760 KB)

There is a complex intertwining of laws which often prevent school officials from disclosing much about students.


What cloud computing really means

What Is Cloud Computing?,2817,2372163,00.asp

FERPA General Guidance for Students

No Child Left Behind A Parents Guide

Click to access parentsguide.pdf


Data mining in education

Who has access to student records?

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Adding the arts to science produces STEAM

25 Feb

In STEM majors profit college students of color, moi wrote:
The Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM defines STEM:

What is STEM Education?
Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics
In 2001, Judith A. Ramaley, a former director of the National Science Foundation’s education and human-resources division was credited by many educators with being the first person to brand science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum as STEM. It was swiftly adopted by numerous institutions of higher education as well as the scientific communities as an important focus for education policy focus and development.
TIES always views STEM instruction and the STEM resources that support the instruction with a trans-disciplinary lens. Issues in our world arise and are demanding of solutions. Since before Da Vinci, we have taken up this call to action through the design process. It asks for a multiplicity of pathways to offer a series of plausible solutions. From that process has come the power of prototyping, and beta testing. Rarely have our classrooms offered children the chance to engage in such questioning and processes. Now, through STEM education we have the chance to invite our children to look at their school work as important to the world.
For information on how TIES STEM Consulting can work with your organization to launch a comprehensive STEM curriculum program contact us at 443-955-9168 or via email .

Many are asking whether the focus on STEM education is too narrow and arts should also be added to the curriculum to produce STEAM.

Mozart was a child prodigy. Most of us don’t come close to possessing his gifts. The Journal Times reported about the “Mozart effect.” Mozart Effect

Scientific research has found some basis for the notion that music instruction stimulates general intelligence. About 10 years ago that was called the Mozart effect, the result of some research that reported that listening to a Mozart sonata increased the ability of some college students on a test of mental ability. Popular wisdom twisted that into the notion that listening to music makes you smarter, which is more magic than science. What scientists say at the moment is that music instruction will make you smarter about music, and that for music to help children they need to begin instruction really, really early.
Music consists of rhythms and mathematic like patterns which change a child’s brain and way of thinking. Research which was published in the Journal of Neuropsychology suggests that children who study music will as adults will benefit from music study. The research shows “….that the region of the brain involved in verbal memory is larger in adult musicians than in those who are not musicians.” Mental Ability Affected by Music Study Further, Rauscher’s study concludes “the research suggests that music may act as a catalyst for cognitive abilities in other disciplines, and the relationship between music and spatial-temporal reasoning is particularly compelling.” Music Affects a Child’s Cognitive Ability

Berkowicz and Ann Myers wrote a thoughtful Education Week essay, The Arts Are Essential:

In his February 18th article in Edutopia, Jeffrey T. Schnapp, director of Stanford Humanities Lab at Stanford University wrote about the arts and said,
It is both a form of serious play governed by rules and techniques that can be acquired through rigorous study, and a realm of freedom where the mind and body are mobilized to address complex questions — questions that, sometimes, only art itself can answer: What is meaningful or beautiful? Why does something move us? How can I get you to see what I see? Why does symmetry provide a sense of pleasure?
The answers to those questions are both very personal and somewhat universal. But none can be answered without activating a different part of the brain than the part that accumulates all the information presented in 13 years of education. The arts are where we expand our ability to transcend generations and cultures. The recognition that the current dynamics of human interaction happened centuries ago as well and are recorded in literature offers a perspective no lecture or textbook can offer. The masterpieces of painters and composers, long gone, move us still. And, we can learn about textures, colors, light and sound. Producing art is an expression that connects one from the inside to the world. Music offers a study in changing times, experimentation, and expression that reveal the undertones of each period. Art is both about the creation of the piece and the appreciation of it. Simple appreciation needs attention and development these days….
Most teachers are confident that if their students were engaged and motivated, they could teach them. Well, we suggest that the evidence is telling us that presently we have students with a wider range of values about education, abilities, disabilities, challenges both in and outside of our buildings, health issues, and socio-economic and cultural differences. At the same time, we are pressed to finally make changes to our system that offer a more relevant education to our students, preparing them for the world in which they will live as adults. We have to make it different. Without art, we deny students the opportunity for
…serious play governed by rules and techniques that can be acquired through rigorous study, and a realm of freedom where the mind and body are mobilized to address complex questions — questions that, sometimes, only art itself can answer (Schnapp, 2014).
And it is through those experiences students will be better able to attend to other complex problems in science, technology, engineering, math, and society with the skill, engagement and motivation that every teacher wants for their students. Minimizing the arts makes no sense but neither does preserving them as a separate and apart from academics, especially in this time of focus on STEM subjects. They are interrelated. While we are struggling to find the best way to best educate today’s students, we cannot let the arts slip away.

There are reasons why arts education is important:
The Arts:

• Engage students in learning.
• Help children build thinking skills.
• Enhance self-discipline, perseverance, hard work and creativity.
• Provide a gateway to other subject areas.
• Promote cross-cultural learning.
• Teach the ability to utilize resources.
• Enhance interpersonal skills of cooperation and teamwork.
The Arts Help Students Become:
• Better Students
• Innovators
• Better Employees
• Problem-solvers
• Lifelong Learners
• Collaborators
Current Research says:
In 1995, those who studied the arts more than four years scored 59 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on the math portions than students with no coursework or experience in the arts.
The College Board, Profile of SAT and Achievement Test Takers, 1995
Arts education contributes significantly to general academic achievement, including achievement in science, mathematics, social studies, language arts, other subjects and to the development of general cognitive skills, self-expression and fluency.
The Schooled Mind: Do the Arts Make a Different Way of Knowing?
Arts education is related to certain fundamental indicators of education success. For example, the arts in early childhood help prepare children for their first years of school.
Evaluation of Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts
Arts education programs are related to safer and more orderly school environments.
Safe Havens: Portraits of Educational Effectiveness in Community Arts Centers
Arts education programs are related to keeping students interested and staying in school.
The Humanities Program Evaluation
Arts education programs make strong contributions to cross-cultural understanding.
North American Indian Music Instruction: Student Self Concept Influences Upon Attitudes, Cultural Perceptions and Achievement

All areas of the brain need to be stimulated.

All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.
Albert Einstein

Learning and mastery of a subject is important. But, so is nourishing the “whole child.” The arts are just as important to learning as are the sciences. STEM should become STEAM.

STEM Education Coalition

What Is STEM Education?

Importance of Arts Education

Why Arts Education is important

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National Education Policy Center study: Class size matters

24 Feb

In Battle of the studies: Does class size matter? Moi said:
There is an ongoing discussion or battle about whether class size matters in effective learning. Class size reduction theory has both supporters and skeptics. Leonie Hamson writes in the Washington Post article, 7 Class Size Myths — And the Truth There is of course, a contrary opinion. The Center for American Progress report by Mathew M. Chingos, The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction says advocates for class size reducation have not made their case.

In the Executive Summary Chingos reports:
There is surprisingly little high-quality research, however, on the effects of class size on student achievement in the United States. The credible evidence that does exist is not consistent, and there are many low-quality studies with results all over the map. The most encouraging results for CSR come from a single experiment conducted in the 1980s, which found that a large reduction in class size in the early grades increased test scores, particularly among low-income and African American students. But evaluations of large-scale CSR policies in California and Florida have yielded much less positive results, perhaps because of the need to hire so many (inexperienced and potentially less effective) new teachers.

Chingos does not believe the advocates for smaller class size have made their case.

Suzy Kihmm reported in the Washington Post article, Study: Class size doesn’t matter:

Two Harvard researchers looked at the factors that actually improve student achievement and those that don’t. In a new paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Will Dobbie and Roland Freyer analyzed 35 charter schools, which generally have greater flexibility in terms of school structure and strategy. They found that traditionally emphasized factors such as class size made little difference, compared with some new criteria:
We find that traditionally collected input measures — class size, per pupil expenditure, the fraction of teachers with no certification, and the fraction of teachers with an advanced degree — are not correlated with school effectiveness. In stark contrast, we show that an index of five policies suggested by over forty years of qualitative research — frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations — explains approximately 50 percent of the of the variation in school effectiveness.

As state and local budgets shrink, class size reduction is shelved in favor of increasing class size. A National Education Policy Center (NEPC) study which reviews prior studies finds class size does matter.

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post reported in the article, Class size matters a lot, research shows:

A new review of the major research that has been conducted on class size by Northwestern University Associate Professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and published by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder makes clear that class size matters, and it matters a lot. Schanzanbach, an associate professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern and chair of the Institute for Policy Research’s Program on Child, Adolescent, and Family Studies, writes in the review:
Considering the body of research as a whole, the following policy recommendations emerge:
*Class size is an important determinant of student outcomes, and one that can be directly determined by policy. All else being equal, increasing class sizes will harm student outcomes.
* The evidence suggests that increasing class size will harm not only children’s test scores in the short run, but also their long-run human capital formation. Money saved today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational costs in the future.
* The payoff from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children, while any increases in class size will likely be most harmful to these populations.
* Policymakers should carefully weigh the efficacy of class-size policy against other potential uses of funds. While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall.

Here is the press release from NEPC:

Class-Size Reduction: Better Than You Think
Reference Publication:
Does Class Size Matter?
NEPC policy brief finds strong evidence for the benefits of making classes smaller
William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,
Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, (847) 491-3884,
URL for this press release:
BOULDER, CO (February 18, 2014) – While a series of high-profile and often controversial school reforms has gotten the lion’s share of attention from policymakers over the last decade or two, one reform appears to have been consistently ignored and marginalized: reducing the size of classes.
Yet, as Professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach points out in a new policy brief released today, the evidence that class size reduction helps raise student achievement is strong. Schanzenbach’s report, published today by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado Boulder, provides a comprehensive review of class-size research.
According to Professor Schanzenbach, class-size reduction has been the victim of a popular misconception that the strategy has been largely unsuccessful. One recent example, Schanzenbach notes, is the writer Malcolm Gladwell, who in a recent book describes small class sizes as a “thing we are convinced is such a big advantage [but] might not be such an advantage at all.”
In fact, she writes, the real story is just the opposite. “Class size matters,” writes Schanzenbach, an economist and education policy professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. “Research supports the common-sense notion that children learn more and teachers are more effective in smaller classes.”
Citing evidence from the academic literature, Schanzenbach explains that “class size is an important determinant of a variety of student outcomes ranging from test scores to broader life outcomes. Smaller classes are particularly effective at raising achievement levels of low-income and minority children.”
Conversely, she points out, raising class size can be shown to be harmful to children. “Money saved today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational costs in the future,” she writes.
“Policymakers should carefully weigh the efficacy of class-size policy against other potential uses of funds,” Schanzenbach concludes. “While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall.”
Find Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach’s report, Does Class Size Matter? on the web at:
The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. For more information on NEPC, please visit
This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. A copy of this brief can be found at

The battle between those who say class size matters and those who say it does not continues to simmer.


Reducing class size in an era of reduced state budgets

Battle of the studies: Does class size matter?

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University of Cambridge study: Saliva test may detect depression in kids

23 Feb

Both the culture and the economy are experiencing turmoil. For some communities, the unsettled environment is a new phenomenon, for other communities, children have been stressed for generations. According to the article, Understanding Depression which was posted at the Kids Health site:

Depression is the most common mental health problem in the United States. Each year it affects 17 million people of all age groups, races, and economic backgrounds.
As many as 1 in every 33 children may have depression; in teens, that number may be as high as 1 in 8.

Schools are developing strategies to deal with troubled kids.

Anna M. Phillips wrote the New York Times article, Calming Schools by Focusing on Well-Being of Troubled Students which describes how one New York school is dealing with its troubled children.

>Mark Ossenheimer, principal of the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx, threw out a name to add to the list of teenagers in trouble.
Several teachers and a social worker seated around a table in the school’s cramped administrative offices nodded in agreement. They had watched the student, who had a housebound parent who was seriously ill, sink into heavy depression. Another child seemed to be moving from apartment to apartment, showing up at school only sporadically. And then there was the one grappling with gender-identity issues. Soon the list had a dozen names of students who could shatter a classroom’s composure or a school windowpane in a second.
Convening the meeting was Turnaround for Children, a nonprofit organization that the young-but-faltering school in an impoverished neighborhood near the Bronx Zoo had brought in this year to try to change things.
“This is the condition our organization was created to solve,” said Dr. Pamela Cantor, Turnaround’s founder and president. “A teacher who works in a community like this and thinks that these children can leave their issues at the door and come in and perform is dreaming.”
In focusing on students’ psychological and emotional well-being, in addition to academics, Turnaround occupies a middle ground between the educators and politicians who believe schools should be more like community centers, and the education-reform movement, with its no-excuses mantra. Over the past decade, the movement has argued that schools should concentrate on what high-quality, well-trained teachers can achieve in classrooms, rather than on the sociological challenges beyond their doors.

One strategy in helping children to succeed is to recognize and treat depression.

Catherine de Lange reported in the New Scientist Health article, Spit test could allow depression screening at school:

A few globs of spit and a questionnaire could be all that’s needed to identify some teenagers who have a high risk of developing depression. That is the upshot of a study finding that teenage boys with elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as depressive symptoms, can be 14 times more likely to become depressed later on.
It’s the first biological flag to accurately predict the risk of an individual going on to develop depression, says Barbara Sahakian at the University of Cambridge, one of the study’s authors.
The finding could lead to new pharmacological treatments for depression and could change the way schools deal with the condition. Teenagers could be screened for the biomarker and those at risk provided with targeted treatments.
Early predictor
Around the world, depression is one of the leading causes of disability. It takes hold early in life: half of all cases begin by age 14, three-quarters by 24.
“Given that we know more teenagers are getting depressed, we should be looking actively for people who are developing problems and treating them early and effectively,” Sahakian says.
Her team measured morning levels of cortisol over three days in 660 teenagers aged between 13 and 18. Elevated levels of this hormone have previously been implicated in depression. The team also recorded any pre-clinical depressive symptoms the teens reported over a year, such as tearfulness or lack of motivation. The study was later repeated in a group of about 1200 teens.
Teenage boys who reported high levels of depressive symptoms, and had high levels of cortisol, were more likely to have become clinically depressed over the next three years than any other combination. Those in this high risk group were 14 times more likely to go on to develop depression than the lowest-risk group, those who had neither high levels of cortisol nor depressive symptoms. Seventeen per cent of teens fell into this group but cortisol levels were not more useful than depression symptoms alone in pinpointing at-risk girls.
School intervention
Sahakian says screening pupils would be easy to do and beneficial, even if there were social stigma associated with identifying people who had a high risk of developing depression. “It’s better than leaving them alone in their bedrooms to get worse and worse,” she says. Screening could be carried out using saliva samples collected over a few days and students could fill out the questionnaire by themselves.
A study in the BMJ in 2012 found that having a professional therapist teach cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques to an entire class was no more effective than having the teacher give their usual personal social and health education classes, in terms of the effect on pupils’ well-being. But the hope is that screening would allow for targeted treatment.
Talking therapies such as CBT may also not be the best thing for boys, says Sahakian, because boys tend to respond better to visual techniques.
Screening could be a better way to allocate limited resources, says Carmine Pariante of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London. Teenage years are a time of emotional turmoil, when pre-clinical symptoms of depression are likely to be common. “If you help all of the [people you see like this] you end up giving treatment and emotional support to those who might be alright,” he says.


Elevated morning cortisol is a stratified population-level biomarker for major depression in boys only with high depressive symptoms
1. Matthew Owensa,b,
2. Joe Herbertc,
3. Peter B. Jonesa,b,
4. Barbara J. Sahakiand,
5. Paul O. Wilkinsona,
6. Valerie J. Dunna,b,
7. Timothy J. Croudacee, and
8. Ian M. Goodyera,b,1
Author Affiliations
1. Edited by Bruce S. McEwen, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, and approved January 10, 2014 (received for review October 4, 2013)
1. Abstract
2. Authors & Info
3. SI
4. Metrics
5. PDF
6. PDF + SI
Clinical depression is a severe and common illness, characterized primarily by persistent low mood and lack of pleasure in usually enjoyable activities, that results in significant impairment in everyday living. It also involves alterations in cognitive and hormonal functions. There is substantial variation between depressed individuals in terms of the causes and therapeutic response, making it difficult to identify those most likely to benefit from intervention and treatment. We derived subtypes of adolescents in the population based on different levels of the hormone cortisol and subclinical depressive symptoms. A group (17%) with both high levels of cortisol and depressive symptoms of both sexes had more depressed thinking. Boys in this group were at high risk for clinical depression.
Major depressive disorder (MD) is a debilitating public mental health problem with severe societal and personal costs attached. Around one in six people will suffer from this complex disorder at some point in their lives, which has shown considerable etiological and clinical heterogeneity. Overall there remain no validated biomarkers in the youth population at large that can aid the detection of at-risk groups for depression in general and for boys and young men in particular. Using repeated measurements of two well-known correlates of MD (self-reported current depressive symptoms and early-morning cortisol), we undertook a population-based investigation to ascertain subtypes of adolescents that represent separate longitudinal phenotypes. Subsequently, we tested for differential risks for MD and other mental illnesses and cognitive differences between subtypes. Through the use of latent class analysis, we revealed a high-risk subtype (17% of the sample) demarcated by both high depressive symptoms and elevated cortisol levels. Membership of this class of individuals was associated with increased levels of impaired autobiographical memory recall in both sexes and the greatest likelihood of experiencing MD in boys only. These previously unidentified findings demonstrate at the population level a class of adolescents with a common physiological biomarker specifically for MD in boys and for a mnemonic vulnerability in both sexes. We suggest that the biobehavioral combination of high depressive symptoms and elevated morning cortisol is particularly hazardous for adolescent boys.
• adolescence
gender differences
• 1To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:
• Author contributions: J.H., P.B.J., B.J.S., V.J.D., T.J.C., and I.M.G. designed research; V.J.D., J.H., P.B.J., T.J.C., M.O., and I.M.G. performed research; M.O., T.J.C., and I.M.G. analyzed data; and M.O., J.H., P.B.J., B.J.S., P.O.W., V.J.D., T.J.C., and I.M.G. wrote the paper.
• Conflict of interest statement: B.J.S. consults for Cambridge Cognition Ltd.
• This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.
• This article contains supporting information online at

If you or your child needs help for depression or another illness, then go to a reputable medical provider. There is nothing wrong with taking the steps necessary to get well.


Schools have to deal with depressed and troubled children

School psychologists are needed to treat troubled children

Battling teen addiction: ‘Recovery high schools’


1. About.Com’s Depression In Young Children

2. Psych Central’s Depression In Young Children

3. Psychiatric News’ Study Helps Pinpoint Children With Depression

4. Family Doctor’s What Is Depression?

5. WebMD’s Depression In Children

6. Healthline’s Is Your Child Depressed?

7. Medicine.Net’s Depression In Children

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American Association of Community Colleges report: Community colleges are an education bargain

22 Feb

Going to a community college is one way to reduce the cost of college. The Lumina Foundation provides the following statistics:

◦ Forty-six percent are 25 or older, and 32 percent are at least 30 years old. The average age is 29.
◦ Fifty-eight percent are women.
◦ Twenty-nine percent have annual household incomes less than $20,000.
◦ Eighty-five percent balance studies with full-time or part-time work. More than half (54 percent) have full-time jobs.
◦ Thirty percent of those who work full time also attend classes full time (12 or more credit hours). Among students 30-39 years old, the rate climbs to 41 percent.
◦ Minority students constitute 30 percent of community college enrollments nationally, with Latino students representing the fastest-growing racial/ethnic population.
Source: The American Association of Community Colleges, based on material in the National Profile of Community Colleges:Trends & Statistics, Phillippe & Patton, 2000.

Many of those attending community college will need a variety of assistance to be successful in their academic career

Tyler Kingkade reported in the Huffington Post article, Community College Pays Off Too, Report Shows:

For every dollar a student spends on community college, they can expect a cumulative $4.80 back in higher future wages, according to a recent report.
The report, by the American Association of Community Colleges, concluded every tax dollar that goes into a community college education, yields a cumulative return of $6.80 over the course of students’ careers. Federal, state, and local governments will collect an additional $285.7 billion in higher tax receipts, and tax payers will save $19.2 billion over the course of students’ careers because their better lifestyles will lead to lower health care costs, reduced crime and lower need for safety net programs.
Community colleges served 11.6 million students in 2012, the year of data this report reviewed, representing 42 percent of the American collegiate population.
Although the report was released by a group representing community colleges, it falls in line with other recent studies showing associate’s degrees do pay off in the long run. According to an analysis by Hamilton Place Strategies, it will be “more attractive to get an associate’s degree, rather than a bachelor’s degree, in 2065,” if current cost trends continue….
The report was prepared by Economic Modeling Specialists International, and based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau, outputs of EMSI’s Social Accounting Matrix model.

Here is the press release from the American Association of Community Colleges:

Report: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges
Community Colleges Contributed $809 Billion to Economy in 2012
The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) released a report, “Where Value Meets Values: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges,” showing that community colleges are a boon to the American economy at large and to the individual student.
In 2012 alone, the net total impact of community colleges on the U.S. economy was $809 billion in added income, equal to 5.4 percent of GDP. Over time, the U.S. economy will see even greater economic benefits, including $285.7 billion dollars in increased tax revenue as students earn higher wages and $19.2 billion in taxpayer savings as students require fewer safety net services, experience better health, and lower rates of crime.
Students also see a significant economic benefit. For every one dollar a student spends on his or her community college education, he or she sees an ROI of $3.80.
Please access the links below to read more:
Where Value Meets Values: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges (Full Report)
Where Value Meets Values: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges (Executive Summary)
Economic Impact Study Fact Sheet
Return on Investment: Social
Return on Investment: Student
Return on Investment: Taxpayer
The study was compiled by Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., (EMSI). EMSI turns labor market data into useful information that helps organizations understand the connection between economies, people, and work. Read more about EMSI.

Here is a portion of the executive summary which deals with the economic impact of community colleges:

The economic impact analysis examines the impact of America’s commu¬nity colleges and their students on the national economy in 2012. Results are measured in terms of added income and are organized according to the following effects:
1. Impact of the increased productivity of former community college students employed in the U.S. workforce, and;
2. Impact of international student spending.

The greatest impact of America’s community colleges results from the education and training they provide to U.S. residents. Since the colleges were established, students have studied at the colleges and entered the workforce with new skills. Today millions of former students are employed in the U.S workforce.
During the analysis year, former students of America’s community col¬leges generated $806.4 billion in added income in the U.S. economy. This figure represents the higher wages that students earned during the year,
The greatest impact of America’s community colleges results from the education and training they provide to U.S. residents. Since the colleges were established, students have studied at the colleges and entered the workforce with new skills. Today millions of former students are employed in the U.S workforce.
During the analysis year, former students of America’s community col¬leges generated $806.4 billion in added income in the U.S. economy. This figure represents the higher wages that students earned during the year, the increased output of the businesses that employed the students, and the multiplier effects that occurred as students and their employers spent money at other businesses.
Approximately 1.3% of students attending America’s community colleges in 2012 were international students. These students paid approximately $1.2 billion to the community colleges to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and supplies. The colleges in turn injected these monies into the U.S. economy through their payroll and purchases. The net impact of these transactions was $1.5 billion in new income added to the U.S. economy.
The living expenses of international students also supported U.S. businesses. In 2012, international students spent $1.2 billion to purchase groceries, rent accommodation, pay for transportation, and so on. The net impact of these expenses was $1.1 billion in added income.
Altogether, international student spending added a total of $2.6 billion in income to the U.S. economy.
The overall effect of America’s community colleges on the national economy in 2012 amounted to $809 billion, equal to the sum of the stu¬dent productivity effect and the international student spending effect. This added income is equal to approximately 5.4% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product….
Ashley Marchand writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about strategies which can help community college students succeed.
In 6 Strategies Can Help Entering Community-College Students Succeed, Marchand reports:
The six benchmarks listed in the report offer staff members and administrators ideas about how to help more students stay in college and graduate or transfer. They are fostering “college readiness” programs for high-school students, connecting early with students, encouraging faculty and staff members to have high expectations for students, providing a clear academic path, engaging students in the learning process, and maintaining an academic and social-support network.
In the article, Community Colleges Address Financial Barriers to Success For Low-income Students which was published in the Sacramento Bee, student challenges were addressed :
Of the close to 8 million credit students annually attending community colleges, 46% currently receive some form of financial aid (state, federal, or institutional). The additional benefits the students might access through BACC include a range of federal programs, such as those that provide health insurance, food, and child care. Such support services are especially critical for community college students, many of whom juggle work, studies, and family responsibilities.

Given the numbers of students attending community college and the population demographic, more must be done to help this students graduate.


Helping community college students to graduate

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Transitional courses: Trying to prepare poorly educated high schoolers for college

20 Feb

Moi wrote in Remedial education in college:
Whether or not students choose college or vocational training at the end of their high school career, our goal as a society should be that children should be “college ready.” David T. Conley writes in the ASCD article, What Makes a Student College Ready?

The Big Four
A comprehensive college preparation program must address four distinct dimensions of college readiness: cognitive strategies, content knowledge, self-management skills, and knowledge about postsecondary education.
Key Cognitive Strategies
Colleges expect their students to think about what they learn. Students entering college are more likely to succeed if they can formulate, investigate, and propose solutions to nonroutine problems; understand and analyze conflicting explanations of phenomena or events; evaluate the credibility and utility of source material and then integrate sources into a paper or project appropriately; think analytically and logically, comparing and contrasting differing philosophies, methods, and positions to understand an issue or concept; and exercise precision and accuracy as they apply their methods and develop their products.
Key Content Knowledge
Several independently conducted research and development efforts help us identify the key knowledge and skills students should master to take full advantage of college. Standards for Success (Conley, 2003) systematically polled university faculty members and analyzed their course documents to determine what these teachers expected of students in entry-level courses. The American Diploma Project (2004) consulted representatives of the business community and postsecondary faculty to define standards in math and English. More recently, both ACT (2008) and the College Board (2006) have released college readiness standards in English and math. Finally, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (2008), under mandate of state law, developed one of the first and most comprehensive sets of state-level college readiness standards….
Key Self-Management Skills
In college, students must keep track of massive amounts of information and organize themselves to meet competing deadlines and priorities. They must plan their time carefully to complete these tasks. They must be able to study independently and in informal and formal study groups. They must know when to seek help from academic support services and when to cut their losses and drop a course. These tasks require self-management, a skill that individuals must develop over time, with considerable practice and trial-and-error.
Key Knowledge About Postsecondary Education
Choosing a college, applying, securing financial aid, and then adjusting to college life require a tremendous amount of specialized knowledge. This knowledge includes matching personal interests with college majors and programs; understanding federal and individual college financial aid programs and how and when to complete appropriate forms; registering for, preparing for, and taking required admissions exams; applying to college on time and submitting all necessary information; and, perhaps most important, understanding how the culture of college is different from that of high school….
Students who would be the first in their family to attend college, students from immigrant families, students who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups traditionally underrepresented in college, and students from low-income families are much more easily thrown off the path to college if they have deficiencies in any of the four dimensions.

The difficult question is whether current testing accurately measures whether students are prepared for college.

Caralee J. Adams reported in the Education Week article, ‘Transitional’ Courses Catch On as College-Prep Strategy:

With many students entering college ill prepared to succeed academically, one remedy states and districts are increasingly bringing to the table is transitional coursework for high schoolers who need extra help.
Take Tennessee. High school teachers and community college faculty members teamed up to develop an online math course, first piloted in 2012, for those who score poorly on the act and need to catch up before graduation. Since then, the initiative has drawn broader support, including backing from Gov. Bill Haslam.
This academic year, the course began to roll out statewide with some $1.12 million from the governor’s “innovation fund.” Mr. Haslam, a Republican, is proposing another $2.6 million to expand the program as part of his fiscal 2014-15 budget.
Eight states now offer transitional curricula statewide to high school students, and another 21 states have locally run initiatives, according to a recent review by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. The report, issued last May, also found that 25 states, and districts in another 13 states, measure the ability of all high school students by the junior year to succeed in entry-level courses at the postsecondary level.
Early assessments and corresponding course interventions are gaining traction as part of a concerted push to help students leave high school college-ready, said Elisabeth A. Barnett, a researcher at the center who led the recent state review. Her report also found that more than a dozen other states were in the process of planning such programs.
‘Paying Twice’
With the annual cost of providing remedial education in college pegged at nearly $7 billion, based on federal data, states are eager for ways to reduce the need.
“To policymakers, it’s like paying twice for the same education,” said Ms. Barnett.
The transitional curricula being offered by states and districts typically consist of a course, a set of instructional units, online tutorials, or other educational experiences offered no later than 12th grade to students considered at risk of being placed into remedial college courses, according to the Teachers College report.
These programs are designed for students who don’t quite meet college-readiness benchmarks, but who aspire to college and need some extra instruction. Students take the transitional courses during the school day, usually for high school credit with the goal of entering credit-bearing college courses upon matriculation.
A few states, such as California, were early adopters of the transitional approach, but most states have launched their programs in the past two to three years, and interest is rising, according to Ms. Barnett. The issue will be front and center in every state soon with the advent of assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Once students are deemed ready or not—and many educators anticipate that large numbers will not be college-ready—states will be scrambling to find ways to get students up to speed, Ms. Barnett added.
“The huge readiness gap has been apparent for several years, but it is growing, and we will continue to see it grow as the common core takes hold,” said Megan A. Root, a senior associate with the Southern Regional Education Board, in Atlanta, which has been an advocate of what it calls “readiness” courses to ease the transition to college or career training.
The SREB convened teams of teachers, college faculty members, and other experts who worked for three years to develop curricula for a math course and a literacy course for struggling high school students. The courses are being piloted now in 20 schools in seven states, including Arkansas, Indiana, and Louisiana, and the curriculum was posted free online in November. The board is working with 16 states, which have committed to the agenda with varying levels of policy to support it.
While such efforts with transitional curricula may be part of the answer to the challenge of improving college completion, alone they are insufficient, said Phillip Lovell, a vice president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington-based research and advocacy group.

See. Alliance for Excellent Education

Here is an explanation of the Core to College Program:

Core to College
What is Core to College?
Core to College is a multi-state grant initiative designed to promote strong collaboration between higher education and the K-12 sectors in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and aligned assessments. In 12 grantee states – Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington – Core to College is helping states drive higher levels of alignment and collaboration to achieve greater college readiness with financial resources, technical assistance and evaluation support.
How will Core to College Make an Impact?
Core to College has a number of intended state-level outcomes. Each grantee state has identified its own specific activities that support the following:
• Establishing a statewide definition of college readiness.
• Creating the conditions that lead to the adoption by post-secondary institutions of the CCSS assessments as a determinant of a student’s readiness for credit-bearing course enrollment.
• Promoting greater K-12/post-secondary sector alignment around the CCSS in areas including, but not limited to:
o Academic courses and sequences
o Data and accountability
o Teacher development (including both pre-service and in-service)
What are Core to College States Doing?
Core to College grantees have developed a number of strategies and activities to meet their goals:
Convenings. All twelve states are hosting trainings and convenings to foster connections between K-12 educators and leaders and post-secondary faculty and administrators. These are occurring at various levels – state, regional and local.
Dedicated Staff. All grantee states have hired an Alignment Director to add critical cross-sector capacity and drive the collaborative work forward.
Communications. States are developing communications plans to create and disseminate information about the Common Core State Standards and assessments, and how these new tools will improve college readiness and college completion in their state.
Data Activities. The grantee states plan to gather, analyze and distribute information about student transitions and preparedness to ensure that collaboration and initiatives are supported by outcomes data; in some cases, states will be collecting and sharing post-secondary student outcomes with high schools in their state.
Core to College is a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors with funding from the Lumina Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. WestEd will conduct an independent evaluation of the project. Education First is the project manager and oversees the Core to College Learning Network. For more information contact Anand Vaishnav at

In Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person, moi said:
There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the state of education in America. A lot of that dissatisfaction comes from the belief that the education system fails to actually educate children and to teach them critical thinking skills.
K-12 education must not only prepare students by teaching basic skills, but they must prepare students for training after high school, either college or vocational. There should not only be a solid education foundation established in K-12, but there must be more accurate evaluation of whether individual students are “college ready.”


What the ACT college readiness assessment means

Study: What skills are needed for ’21st-century learning?’

ACT to assess college readiness for 3rd-10th Grades

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