Trends in Ed 09.27.2010: Merit Pay Not The Answer?

Submitted by George Nantwi on Mon, 09/27/2010 - 2:02pm.

The results of a recent study conducted by Vanderbilt University notes that teacher bonuses usually don’t result in increased test scores for students. Merit pay has increasingly become a key staple of President Obama’s educational plan and has been praised by some school districts and counties much to strong opposition from teacher unions. The US Department of Education has made merit pay almost an informal requirement in their Race to the Top competition though most school districts argue there is not a clear or precise way to accurately measure student performance.

The research was conducted by the National Center on Performance Incentives (NCPI) at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education over three years and involved 296 middle school math teachers in Nashville. The general methodology and results of the study are as follows:

Half were placed randomly in a control group, while the rest were eligible for bonuses of $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 if their pupils scored significantly higher than expected on the statewide exam known as the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program. One third of the eligible teachers — 51 of 152, or 34% — got bonuses at least once. Eighteen teachers received bonuses all three years. Except for some temporary gains for fifth-graders, though, their students progressed no faster than those in classes taught by the 146 other teachers.

Believe, Believe, Believe

Submitted by Gary Natriello on Mon, 09/27/2010 - 7:39am.

As we begin a week of distracting the American public from the continuing erosion of the nation's founding ideals in the form of diminished democracy and greater economic inequality, it might be worth a minute to question the latest "big news" in the education sector. So, let's consider both The Legend of Mark Zuckerberg and the gift of $100 million to the Newark schools based on the value of Facebook.

Five Year of Post-Katrina Educational Reform Conference I

Submitted by Ching-Fu Lan on Sun, 09/26/2010 - 11:21pm.

During the past couple of days (9/23-9/25), Professor Crocco and I were attending Five Years of Post-Katrina Educational Reform Conference at University of New Orleans and presented our paper ( Using Multi-Media representations of Katrina and Its Aftermath to Promote Educational, first authored by professor Crocco and coauthored by Professor Natriello , Hui Soo and myself). It was a great conference with great keynote speakers and research paper sections that addressed not only local educational reform issues in New Orleans, notably the charter school movement, but their implications on the United States educational system in general. Below are some of my observations from the conference.

Brief Background of New Orleans Public Schools

  • 61% of the student population in New Orleans enrolled in charter schools
  • “Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) and the district central office were considered sufficiently corrupt that in 2004 a special FBI task force was assigned to investigate the school system” (before Katrina) and OPSB was taken over by the Recovery School District (RSD) in 2005.

Ten Usability Tips Based on Research Studies

Submitted by Frank Webster on Thu, 09/23/2010 - 1:32pm.

Ten Usability Tips Based on Research Studies:

How could we use these research-based ideas to improve our web site and other tools?

I was most surprised by Tip 7. Whitespace of Text Affects Readability.

Who knew that margins affected both reading speed and comprehension?

1. Forget the "Three-Click Rule"

2. Enable Content Skimming By Using an F-Shaped Pattern

3. Don’t Make Users Wait: Speed Up Your Website

4. Make Your Content Easily Readable

5. Don’t Worry About "The Fold" and Vertical Scrolling

6. Place Important Content on the Left of a Web Page

7. Whitespace of Text Affects Readability

8. Small Details Make a Huge Difference

9. Don’t Rely on Search as a Crutch to Bad Navigation

10. Your Home Page Isn’t As Important as You Think

Liberated from Six Revisions, a website that publishes practical and useful articles for designers and web developers.

Alice Wilder (Seminar Snapshot)

Submitted by Skye MacLeod on Wed, 09/22/2010 - 2:29pm.

IDEO's vision for the future of the book.

Submitted by Patrick Carey on Wed, 09/22/2010 - 9:37am.

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.

This is very slick, assuming these are just ideas/prototypes.

Why Aren't Muslim Holidays Observed by NYC Public Schools?

Submitted by Duncan Asiedu on Tue, 09/21/2010 - 6:14pm.

The recent completion of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Jews celebrating Rosh Hashanah and the recent controversy about the Ground Zero mosque got me suddenly pondering why Muslim holidays are not observed in NYC public schools and to a greater extent, around the nation. There are two major holidays observed by Muslims: Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha. The former is a three-day feast and celebration that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan while the later is usually celebrated after Hajj, a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, which is required for all physically and financially able Muslims at least once in their lifetime.

Both Muslim holidays usually fall on months when school is in section. Both holidays also follow the Islamic calendar, which goes by the lunar calendar, and the days always vary in respect to the modern solar calendar. As a result of this, with each passing year on the modern calendar, the observed dates are pushed back approximately 10 days. Regardless of the dates been pushed back, there is still a greater chance the holidays will fall on days when schools are in session.

Trends in Ed 09.21.2010: Change The Equation

Submitted by George Nantwi on Tue, 09/21/2010 - 3:37pm.

Spurred by President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” program, former Intel Chairman Craig Barrett and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns along with other top executives CEOs have created Change the Equation, their answer to make the US global competitor in education. The organization plans to achieve this goal by placing a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The organization is funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and its members include 100 top CEOs.

According to the Obama administration, some objectives of Change of Equation are:

Great teaching: Improve STEM teaching at all grade levels

Inspired Learners: Inspire student appreciation and excitement for STEM, especially among women and under-represented minorities

A Committed Nation: Achieve a sustained commitment to improve STEM education

One of the primary goals of the organization is to create privately funded programs in over 100 schools and districts where there is a great need to teach STEM. Those programs will aim to improve students’ understanding of STEM courses, help them enroll in advanced STEM courses as well as compete in STEM related competitions. The program will also be aimed at providing professional training and development for STEM teachers and recruiting more undergraduate students with a STEM background. Keeping true to their entrepreneurship and business spirit, Change the Equation will create a “scorecard” for each state where they have a program to highlight areas for improvement and also ways to help the private sector to become actively involved in STEM education.

Managed Hosting Comparison Guide

Submitted by Frank Webster on Tue, 09/21/2010 - 11:11am.

Managed Hosting Comparison Guide

You never know when something useful will show up in the SPAM.

This free guide promises to compare side-by-side 12 of the top vendors, including:

  • PEER 1

  • Rackspac
  • Hostgator.com
  • Singlehop
  • NeoSpire

Crazy like a fox

Submitted by Josh Anderson on Mon, 09/20/2010 - 8:57pm.

Sometimes it's good to be crazy, just not too crazy.

In this NYTimes article, see how one hypomanic entrepreneur inspired venture capitalists with his tireless hours, frantic speech patterns and incessant enthusiasm, all after a psych eval, of course. Equal parts charismatic authority and draconian tyrant somehow leaves us wanting something more human than these types of personalities would allow.

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