Tag Archives: Education Policy

Should We “Embrace The Common Core”?

That was the question being debated on the most recent episode on the Intelligence Squared podcast.

Moderated by ABC News’ John Donvan, the debate featured Carmel Marin (American Progress) and Michael Petrilli (Fordham Institute) who argued for the motion; and Carol Burris (South Side High School Principal) and Frederick Hess (American Enterprise Institute)who argued against the motion.

Here is description of the debate:

In K-12 education, there is nothing more controversial than the Common Core State Standards, national academic standards in English and math. Adopted by more than 40 states, they were developed, in part, to address concerns that American students were falling behind their foreign counterparts and graduating high school without the necessary skills for college and the workforce. But is this the reform we’ve been looking for? Has the federal government overreached and saddled our schools with standards that have been flawed from the start? Or will the Common Core raise the bar and improve the quality of our children’s education?

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“Genetics and Education”

In a recent book, G is for Genes: The Impact of Genetics on Education and Achievement, Robert Plomin and Kathryn Asbury explore the science of genetics and the potential impact of genetics on education policy.  Plomin and Asbury argue against the taboo (*eugenics*) surrounding use of genetics to inform education.  G is for Genes is the basis of  recent BBC Moral Maze debate.  


Here is a description of the podcast: 

For centuries philosophers and theologians have wrestled with the question of nature versus nurture. Increasingly and for some controversially, the science of behavioural genetics is starting to come up with some of the answers. The argument is perhaps at its most sensitive when applied to education. When it was revealed that Education Secretary, Michael Gove’s outgoing special advisor, Dominic Cummings, called for education policy to incorporate the science behind genes and cognitive development he broke a modern taboo and there was a predictable outcry. In a wide ranging paper Mr Cummings cited the work of Professor Robert Plomin who’s about to publish a book with psychologist Dr Kathryn Asbury which calls for “genetically sensitive” schooling. It’s based on a study of how genes and environment have shaped the development of over 10,000 twins who were studied from birth to early adulthood. The scientists say their work is about probability not prophecy and can be used to personalise education and create better outcomes for all, but fears of genetic determinism are deeply ingrained. How should we use genetics in education? Science is a very long way from knowing exactly which genes influence individual differences in learning but as knowledge in this field advances that time will surely come. We already use genetics to screen for various medical conditions, so why not for learning abilities? And what happens if, or when, the science of genetics becomes so powerful that we can identify different populations that are endowed with different genetic make-ups that we believe are more or less desirable? Is that just a scientific inevitability that we have to come to terms with, or does it open the door to eugenics? How should we use the science of genetics?

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November 9, 2013 · 1:15 pm

Affirmative Action After Fisher v. the University of Texas

On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down Fisher v. the University of Texas  a highly anticipated affirmative action case.  In a somewhat anticlimactic decision, the High Court remanded “the case back to the lower court to apply “strict scrutiny” to the University’s admissions policy.” NPR’s Talk of the Nation discussed the future of affirmative action after Fisher

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June 27, 2013 · 11:26 pm

Expelling Suspension from School Policy

Recently, NPR’s All Things Considered ran a story about a California school district that no longer suspends trouble students from school.  Here is a description of the story: 

The effectiveness of school suspensions is up for debate. California is the most recent battleground, but a pattern of uneven application and negative outcomes is apparent across the country.

California students were suspended more than 700,000 times over the 2011-2012 school year,according to state data. One school district decided it was getting ridiculous. In May, the board for the Los Angeles Unified School District passed a new resolution to ban the use of suspensions to punish students for “willful defiance.”

Those offenses include: bringing a cellphone to school, public displays of affection, truancy or repeated tardiness. They accounted for nearly half of all suspensions issued in California last year.

But there’s mounting research that says that out-of-school suspensions put students on the fast track to falling behind, dropping out, and going to jail. Moreover, some groups are disproportionately suspended more than others. . . . 

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June 7, 2013 · 7:47 am

MOOCs: The Future of Higher Education?

Top universities are increasingly offering MOOCs, or massive open online courses.  

Don’t ever email the professor. Never friend the teacher on Facebook. Those are some of the rules A.J. Jacobs learned when he joined the ranks of millions enrolled in massive open online courses, MOOCs. Harvard, MIT and Stanford are among universities offering virtual classes free of charge


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April 28, 2013 · 10:18 am

Teaching Grit: How “Non-Cognitive Skills” Lead to Success

Last year, Ira Glass devoted an episode of This American Life to interviewing Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed.  

They talk about the focus on cognitive abilities, conventional “book smarts.” They discuss the current emphasis on these kinds of skills in American education, and the emphasis standardized testing, and then turn our attention to a growing body of research that suggests we may be on the verge of a new approach to some of the biggest challenges facing American schools today. Paul Tough discusses how “non-cognitive skills” — qualities like tenacity, resilience, impulse control — are being viewed as increasingly vital in education, and Ira speaks with economist James Heckman, who’s been at the center of this research and this shift.

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April 20, 2013 · 9:38 am