Study: Hotter Classrooms Make it Harder for Students to Learn

STUDENTS’ ABILITY TO learn is undermined when their classrooms are too hot, new research says, a finding that could help explain persistent gaps in performance between students in poorer regions and countries without consistent access to air conditioning and those in wealthier areas.

An analysis published by the National Bureau of Economic Research comparing student test scores with average temperatures suggests that when classrooms get too hot it prevents students from learning as well as they would in more comfortable temperatures, with lasting impacts on students’ future success and their ability to contribute economically. It also found that adequate investment in school infrastructure – namely air conditioning – can mitigate the negative effects of hot weather.

Researchers compared daily historical weather data collected by a network of thousands of weather stations across the United States operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the PSAT scores of 10 million students who took the test at least twice between 2001 and 2014.

Full story at US News

The Value of a Video

IN THE LAND OF parenting there are two camps: those who think educational videos can be good for their kids and those who think they’re a mind-numbing wasteland.

I tended to side with the latter when my daughter was in her preschool years because I was convinced that books and active play were superior. But we’ve all been exhausted at 6 a.m. and streamed videos from YouTube. Let’s just assume that my daughter watched more videos in her early childhood than I care to admit. Over time, I convinced myself that the videos I chose were better than most of the crap out there.

Wrong.

A team of four education researchers, led by Susan B. Neuman at New York University, conducted an in-depth study published in April 2018 of 100 of the most popular videos that claim to be “educational” and stream over Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now and Google Play. They include “Sesame Street,” “Blue’s Clues,” “Martha Speaks” and “Dora the Explorer,” all highly regarded programs that frequently turn up on recommended lists. The researchers found that the majority of the videos taught specific vocabulary – more educational content than critics might assume. They also found that 4-year-olds were actually paying attention and learning new words.

Full story at US News

California’s Higher Ed Diversity Problem

In 1996, right after voters in California banned affirmative action in employment and college admissions, minority student enrollment at two and four-year institutions plummeted. What has happened since though, is pretty remarkable.

Of the 2.8 million students attending college in California today, two out of three come from racially and ethnically diverse populations. The most eye-popping increase in enrollment has been among Latinos.

They now make up 43 percent of all college students in California. Twenty-six percent are white, followed by Asian and Pacific Islanders at 16 percent and African Americans at 6 percent.

Full story at npr.org

Disparities Persist In School Discipline, Says Government Watchdog

Black students, boys, and students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined in K-12 schools across the country. That’s according to a new report, out Wednesday, from the non-partisan federal watchdog, the Government Accountability Office.

Those disparities were consistent, “regardless of the type of disciplinary action, regardless of the level of school poverty, and regardless of the type of public school attended,” says Jacqueline Nowicki, who led the team of researchers at the GAO.

Nowicki and her team interviewed administrators, visited schools across the country, and used 2013-2014 data from the Civil Rights Data Collection, which includes disciplinary actions in more than 95,000 schools across the country. Those numbers include suspensions, expulsions and referrals to law enforcement.

Full story at npr.org

Secretary DeVos Issues Full Forgiveness of HBCU Hurricane Relief Loans

Today U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced full forgiveness of the hurricane relief loans provided to four Historically Black Colleges and Universities after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast in 2005.

“This additional disaster relief will lift a huge burden and enable the four HBCUs to continue their focus on serving their students and communities,” said DeVos. “This relief provides one more step toward full recovery.”

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 made funds available to fully forgive the loans of Dillard University, Southern University at New Orleans, Tougaloo College and Xavier University of Louisiana under the HBCU Hurricane Supplemental Loan program.

Full story at ed.gov

How U.S. Kids Might Have Performed Better in Math

Here’s a puzzle: If U.S. students do so badly on international tests, especially in math, how can it be that the U.S. economy is so strong? An educated workforce is supposedly a big predictor of a country’s income and annual growth. Yet the performance of American 15-year-olds on the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, has always been lackluster. Since 2012, U.S. math scores have slumped down into the bottom half. Meanwhile, the U.S. remains the top economy in the world this year with over $19 trillion of goods and services produced. No other country even comes close.

A group of behavioral economists wondered if U.S. students are actually not as incompetent as their scores would suggest, but simply lazy when they’re taking the PISA exam. To test this, they created a PISA-like exam of just 25 questions and asked 447 sophomores at two different high schools to take it. Seconds before the test started, they surprised half the students at each school with an envelope of 25 $1 bills. The researchers told those students they would take away one dollar for each incorrect or unanswered question.

Full story at USNews.com

Hackers are targeting schools, U.S. Department of Education warns

When Superintendent Steve Bradshaw first received a threatening text message in mid-September, he didn’t know it was coming from a hacker trying to exploit his Montana school district.

But soon, students and other schools around Flathead County were receiving threatening messages, too. More than 30 schools in the district shutdown for three days.

“The messages weren’t pleasant messages,” Bradshaw said. “They were ‘splatter kids’ blood in the hallways,’ and things like that.”

The U.S. Department of Education is now warning teachers, parents, and K-12 education staff of a cyberthreat targeting school districts across the country.

Full story at CNN.com

Why are so many teachers ‘effective’ when many kids don’t learn?

United Federation of Teachers chief Mike Mulgrew reportedly is crowing that almost 97 percent of city teachers rated “effective” or “highly effective” this year. As well he should — since it means he’s succeeded in making the evaluations a joke.

After all, how do you have so many effective teachers when so many kids can barely read?

Officially, the latest number is 93 percent — for 2016. The State Education Department won’t release the 2017 figures until Oct. 27. But Mulgrew has lots and lots of inside pals at SED: After all, the state’s teachers unions basically dictate who runs the department, thanks to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Full story at the New York Post

Want Change In Education? Look Beyond The Usual Suspects (Like Finland)

In a tiny hamlet in Tanzania, children who have never been to school, and can’t recognize a single letter in any language, are about to start learning basic math and reading. They’ll do this with the help of a cutting-edge, artificially intelligent “tutor” who can hear what they are saying in Swahili and respond meaningfully.

In the slums of Bogota, Colombia, children play with special board games, dominoes and dice games that can teach them math and reading in a matter of months. Youth volunteers in the community help bring the games to younger children.

Full story at NPR

Filling the pipeline for computer science teachers

It’s not easy to teach a subject in which you have no training. But Kristen Haubold, a computer science teacher at James Whitcomb Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, was up for the challenge.

Haubold arrived at Riley 5 years ago as a math teacher after graduating from Indiana University in Bloomington. A year later, Indiana began developing a new computer science requirement for elementary and high school students, and Haubold signed up for the course that the state was offering. She also began looking around for resources to create a curriculum that would meet the new standard, which Indiana officials finalized earlier this year.

The course, Computer Science Principles, debuted in 2014. This fall she’s added a second course: Computer Science A. But Haubold remains the only computer science teacher in the 18,000-student district.

Full story at Science Mag