Thanks to a $100,000 Google sponsorship, as well as additional money from private donors, educators will be able to take full-credit engineering-education courses for free this spring and summer at the University of St. Thomas. The three-credit courses offered during June are “Engineering in the P-12 Classroom,” “Digital Electronics and Computing Systems” and “Material Science and Engineering.” Information on the courses, scholarships, and application process is at http://www.stthomas.edu/cee/
Kay O’Keefe, SciMathMN Vice-Chair and longtime member of the MHTA Foundation board, will receive a well-earned Lifetime Achievement Award from the Minnesota High Tech Association at their annual TEKNE Awards gala November 18.
After receiving her Ph. D from the Ohio State University in educational research and evaluation O’Keefe taught at both the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Maryland. She arrived in Minnesota in 1992 and led the science education work of the Medtronic Foundation for 15 years. Additionally O’Keefe served on the boards of the Triangle Coalition for STEM and the National Association of State Science and Math Coalitions.
The TEKNE Awards are given annually by the MHTA to innovators and leaders in Minnesota’s broad technology community. This year’s award ceremony is November 18. You can learn more about the Tekne awards here.
The NAEP test is often referred to as “The Nation’s Report Card”. It serves in that role because it is one of the few exams used in all 50 states. Since the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) are unique to MN – and each of the other states have their own math, reading and science tests – based on their own state standards, the NAEP serves as a common measure across all states to enable us to do state-to-state comparisons.
In the current political climate where the overuse and misuse of standardized tests is being hotly debated, NAEP rises above the criticism in many ways. First, the NAEP test is not used at each grade; only grades 4, 8 and 12 are tested. NAEP also uses a random sampling approach in each state, so even at the targeted grades, only about 2500 students are tested at each grade level on each topic (MN has approximately 62,000 students at each grade). By using this approach, NAEP can establish a statistically accurate rating of each state in mathematics and reading, yet the vast majority of students will never be inconvenienced by having to take the exam. Finally, the NAEP exam in a given subject such as math is only administered every 2 years. Since the NAEP math test has been administered since 1973, it provides long-term trends.
However, the NAEP test is not without criticism. Currently in mathematics nationally, between 36 and 40 percent of students at the 4th and 8th grades are scoring at or above the “Proficient” level on NAEP. While a test that is rigorous is often held in high regard, we don’t really have evidence that the scale that NAEP is built on is a realistic expectation for most students. And that has a ripple effect on the messages that are sent out regarding the results and the performance of schools. Legislation and school budget allocations often reflect decisions based on standardized test results.
As the current results (2015) are released there is often a rush to “claim or blame” policies and political leaders for their role in the results. And this year is no exception (see Diane Ravitch’s comments: http://dianeravitch.net/2015/10/28/naep-scores-released-today-showing-the-fiasco-of-nclb-and-race-to-the-top/). But the reality is that when an 8th grade student participates in the exam, the knowledge that they bring to that test reflects their learning from Kindergarten to grade 8 and it is not likely that the NAEP results are sensitive to recent policy or leadership changes.
Historical NAEP results:
Chad Aldeman wrote an interesting article regarding the 2015 NAEP results – interesting from the perspective that it was written prior to the results being released. His wise advice is to pay more attention to long term trends than to what happens over the two year span between consecutive tests. His article and a link to long term trends can be found here:
Aldeman points out the following national trends of point-gains over time:
4th grade math
- All students: +25*
- White students: +27*
- Black students: +36*
- Hispanic students: +32*
8th grade math
- All students: +19*
- White students: +19*
- Black students: +36*
- Hispanic students: +32*
12th grade math
- All students: +2
- White students: +4*
- Black students: +18*
- Hispanic students: +17*
The 2015 NAEP Results:
Results for the 2015 NAEP mathematics performance at grades 4 and 8 were just released and the results for grade 12 will be released in 2016.
National Mathematics Results:
At grade 4 nationally, 40% of students were at or above proficient.
At grade 8 nationally, 33% of students were at or above proficient.
MN Mathematics Performance:
At grade 4 in MN, 53% of students were at or above proficient.
At grade 8 in MN, 48% of students were at or above proficient.
MN ranks second only to Massachusetts and has held a similar location for many years.
So when the 2015 results show a plateau in growth in mathematics, or a one to two point drop (as MN experienced this year) it needs to be placed in that long term perspective. MN, like the other states, has its challenges such as addressing the achievement gap, but also has much to celebrate in its long-term achievement and state ranking. SciMathMN looks forward to partnering with MN education leaders to maintain and improve our K-12 mathematics performance.
Images are from the NAEP Website: http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2015/#?grade=4
Contributed by Mike Lindstrom Ed.D.
The Afterschool Alliance, a national organization focused on afterschool and summer learning opportunities found that 70% of parents surveyed valued science, technology, engineering, and mathematics opportunities for their children after the school day ends. A similar number of programs that children were involved in offered those STEM learning opportunities and 80% of parents reported being highly satisfied with the quality of those programs.
The America After 3 PM report surveyed 30,000 parents and did indepth interviews with 13,000 of them. 53% of the parents, according to the findings, reported choosing their child’s after school program based on its STEM content.
“Afterschool is a dynamic, effective setting for innovative STEM education,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “With their focus on hands-on learning and youth development, and the time they can give students to experiment, afterschool programs are well positioned to help increase STEM skills in this country. These new data make clear that parents recognize the value of the STEM education afterschool programs can provide. Our country will be better positioned to succeed in tomorrow’s economy if we make afterschool STEM education offerings even more robust.”
- Most parents say afterschool programs can help students gain STEM skills. Sixty-five percent of parents agree with that statement, as do 68 percent of low-income parents and more than 70 percent of both African-American and Hispanic parents. More than half of parents in every state agree as well.
- Low-income, African-American and Hispanic parents are more likely than others to report that their child’s afterschool program offers STEM learning. While 69 percent of parents with children in afterschool programs agree with that statement, 74 percent of Hispanic parents, 73 percent of low-income parents and 72 percent of African-American parents say their child’s program offers STEM activities.
- Most afterschool students have STEM learning opportunities at least once per week. Seventy-six percent of parents of students in afterschool programs that offer STEM education say it is offered at least once per week. Eighty percent of parents of boys and 73 percent of parents of girls in afterschool programs offering STEM education say STEM is offered at least once per week.
- Parents whose children learn STEM in afterschool report that math is offered most often among the STEM subjects. Almost 60 percent of children in afterschool programs study math, while 45 percent have science learning opportunities, their parents say. Technology and engineering activities are offered much less frequently in afterschool programs, these parents report.
The full report is available to download from the Afterschool Alliance website.