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Education reform, by the numbers

first_img“I make numbers talk,” Richard Bowman likes to say when describing his new profession.But he isn’t in finance or economics, he’s in education policy, and he hopes to use his analytic expertise to help reform the country’s public school systems with the help of a program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (HGSE).Since 2008, the Strategic Data Project (SDP), under Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research, has placed fellows like Bowman in state education agencies, school districts, and charter school management organizations where they are helping policymakers to decode an avalanche of educational data. Their mission is to transform the use of data in education to improve student achievement.“We are creating a new profession in education called analytic leaders,” said SDP Executive Director Sarah Glover. “These are people who are facile with data, strong analytically, and who know how to think about problem solving.”In the past, educational data analysts have often been isolated inside education agencies, said Glover, simply crunching numbers with a focus on compliance versus problem solving, and with a limited ability to prompt reform. Through a dual fellowship program, with a strong emphasis on leadership, the SDP aims to alter that dynamic.The project both recruits fellows with backgrounds in public policy and data analysis and places them in its partner organizations, while simultaneously developing a corps of analysts already employed within those partner agencies. Working in tandem, they explore solutions based on the numbers.“Our goal is to really build capacity in the agency, by catalyzing with external talent, but also investing in the people who are already there so that collectively they will make progress faster,” said Glover.The two-year program supports its fellows through web-based discussion groups, weekly conference calls with Harvard experts, and a series of workshops hosted both at Harvard and its partner organizations, which use case studies from the field focused on current data analysis and research methods.The workshops also address issues of leadership.“These are not people who just generate methodologically sound but completely hard-to-explain analysis,” said Glover. “They are exploring how to offer decision makers compelling, understandable data they can act on. We want our fellows at the management table and the policy table, not in the back room pulling data sets.”Many experts acknowledge that the education sector has struggled in its efforts to use data effectively. One problem has been that, until recently, large sets of education information were generally nonexistent. The landscape changed in 2001 with enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act, a framework of federally mandated educational reforms that placed heavy emphasis on test scores and standardized measures to evaluate student performance.Christopher Leake (far left) Data Fellow, New York State Education Department, attends the Strategic Data Project conference inside Harvard’s Gutman Conference Center.With statewide testing came a host of newly available information. And advances in data analysis software made those test results easier to analyze.But some observers have failed to use a strategic approach, or may not have examined “the story of what the numbers are saying with an eye toward how things can improve,” said Bowman, who has an engineering degree and a Ph.D. in policy analysis. The SDP is helping provide “the context in which the numbers can be understood and made relevant for policymakers.”An example of that work is a recent project conducted by fellows placed in the Fulton County school district in Georgia. The Harvard researchers took a closer look at the numbers of high school seniors who indicated on surveys that they would be heading to college after graduation. Comparing those figures with the statistics in a national database that collects information on college enrollment, the fellows found that many seniors who said they planned to go college never actually made it there.Together, the fellows and school officials developed a program that paired guidance counselors with seniors during their summers after graduation to help the students prepare for college.“It had a major effect,” said former SDP fellow Korynn Schooley, who worked on the program. “It increased college enrollment for those students in the range of 4 to 5 percentage points.”Placed with the Albuquerque Public Schools, Bowman is working on a teacher evaluation pilot program. He praised the Harvard project for connecting him with a network of people with a shared vision. “The ability to take time out and be able to think and talk with other people who are trying to solve similar problems,” he said, “has been very helpful.”Equally helpful, he said, is the project’s strategic approach. The program reinforces the idea that “I need to make sure that somebody besides me can actually understand the data,” said Bowman. “That is the strategic part of the project, because there is data everywhere. … But if you can’t make it mean anything [to others], then you’ve wasted your time.”last_img read more

A beach shack at Fingal Head has sold for a cool $1.475 million

first_img32 Lagoon Rd, Fingal Head.A BEACH shack at sought-after Fingal Head has sold for $1.475 million.The three-bedroom, three-bathroom home at 32 Lagoon Rd is on an 809sq m block within the tightly-held waterside peninsula.More from news02:37Purchasers snap up every residence in the $40 million Siarn Palm Beach North10 hours ago02:37International architect Desmond Brooks selling luxury beach villa1 day agoBacking on to Dreamtime Beach and opposite Wommin Lagoon, the well-maintained home has a rainforest setting.It is within walking distance of the Tweed River and Fingal Village. 32 Lagoon Rd, Fingal Head.The property also includes a garage conversion which could be suitable as a granny flat, along with a separate artist’s studio.It was marketed by Tony Holland and Rachael Ford from McGrath Coolangatta/Tweed Heads.last_img read more

Dynasties

first_imgYou hear the work “Dynasty” thrown around all the time in sports.  These teams or schools come to mind.  They are The New England Patriots in pro football, Warren Central in Indiana High School football, and Caramel High School in swimming.A dynasty is really something in the eye of the beholder.  There are no rules on when you become a dynasty.  The only sure thing is that you win a lot.  Becoming a dynasty usually starts with a coach selling his/her system to a group of athletes.  This is easier in high school–not because they are teenagers–but because they will work extremely hard if you show them a way to succeed. This means the coach not only sells his/her idea to them, but backs it up with results.last_img read more

UL Places 10,000 Students on Probation

first_imgTo streamline its academic activities in order to produce higher calibre graduates, authorities at the University of Liberia (UL) have with immediate effect, notified more than 10,000 undergraduate students that they have been placed on probation due to their “poor academic performance,” a UL Relations official has confirmed. The probation list was released a few weeks after the UL announced the names of its “good academic standing list,” which showed that more than 1, 400 students acquired cumulative Grade Point Averages (GPA) of at least 3.0 and above, while 16 students had perfect GPAs of 4.0.            In a statement issued yesterday, UL authorities said the probation notice serves as a strong warning for students to perform better during the current semester. “When grades are tabulated for the current semester, those on double probation will be suspended from school for one semester, while those in the category of three successive failures (semester GPA below 2.0) would lead to academic expulsion in keeping with the UL Student Handbook,” the UL statement stipulates.The lists were compiled by the office of Enrollment Management.  The first list showed that 5,349 students are on single probation after failing to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 or scored grade “C” for the 2nd semester of academic year 2012/2013. Names of students on probation are being concealed.  Instead, the public will identify them by their identification numbers or their major courses of study that are already posted on the UL bulletin board.    According to the UL Student Handbook Chapter IX, “A student is placed on Probation…, if his/her GPA for any semester falls below 2.0 or scores “C” at the end of the semester.” Therefore, for students on double probation, the Handbook says, “…he/she may remain at the university if the cumulative average is not less than 2.0 at the end of successive two semesters.” The double probation list shows that the Business College, with an enrollment of 11,242 students, has 1,955 or 17 percent on probation. The College of Agriculture and Forestry with an enrollment of 3,551 accounts for 755 or 21 percent on double probation; while out of the 8,000 in the Science College, 1852 or 23 percent of them are being placed on double probation.  Liberia College has a total enrolment of 5,524, but 598 or 10.8 percent of them are on double probation.As for Teachers’ College with 1, 993 students, there are 186 or 0.9 percent on double probation.  A further breakdown by departments shows the double probation affects 819 representing 15.33 percent of students from the Accounting Department; General Agriculture has 342 students, representing 10.14 percent; Biology Department has 533 students representing 10.35 percent, and Geology Department shows 532 students or 9.9 percent. However, based on the rules, students on the double probation list are likely to be suspended for one semester, but after serving the suspension, they will have the opportunity to apply for re-admission. Additionally, the Handbook states that a student is dropped from the university when at any time following the readmission after serving the suspension, his/her cumulative GPA remains less than 2.0 at the end of the semester.   That student will be dropped permanently from the university. The UL statement, signed by the vice president for UL Relations, Noris Tweah, added that presently, the university has more than 35,000 students on five campuses. Following the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, the university reopened on March 17.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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