Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Lawmakers work to move STEM to STEAM in schools

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

By Gina Curreri, State House correspondent, the Cape Cod Times


Lawmakers are looking to add arts education to the state’s STEM curriculum, arguing that artistic values and creativity also are required to excel in the innovation economy.

“I think many times art teachers feel sort of pushed aside,” said Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, who is co-sponsoring a bill with Rep. Kay Khan, D-Newton, to add an “A” for arts to STEM — the acronym for the national imperative to prepare students with a curriculum stressing science, technology, engineering and math education.

“If art becomes part of the STEM framework, a greater priority and focus has to be put on all the creative arts across the board, whether it’s painting, theater or creative writing,” she said.

The bill would create a commission to study the possible curriculum change.

The Joint Committee on Education is reviewing Peake’s bill.

Dan Springer, the visual arts department chairman at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School, supports the STEM to STEAM movement. He said Dennis-Yarmouth administrators already have begun to create a curriculum where course material would be taught across disciplines.

“We’re actively trying to find a way to do it and obviously having the support of the Legislature would make this a lot easier,” Springer said. “We’re hoping to sit down and really work on some links with initially math and science and eventually history and English.”

A science lecture on balance and fulcrums could be taught alongside an art course where students build their own sculptures that balance on a fulcrum, Springer said.

“Because we’re a very interdisciplinary school in general with a big art and especially music program, I don’t anticipate a lot of protest. It’s really just about coordinating,” he said.

Jody Craven, who teaches jewelry and metals classes at Nauset Regional High School in North Eastham, said his students have crafted perfume bottles, necklaces, hammers, pins and key rings, learning to cast, weld, solder and oxidize metals — techniques that require linking their math and science knowledge to art.

“Some people might say jewelry making is not relevant to a student’s education, but what they get is problem-solving skills they couldn’t learn in a math course alone. It teaches them how to make a transfer from theoretical problems to actual real-world problems,” Craven said.

Arts education isn’t required of students at Barnstable High School, but Carl Lopes, the school’s visual arts director, said a STEM-to-STEAM program would require adjustments to the curriculum but would be financially feasible.

“I don’t see much of an added cost because all of the schools on the Cape already incorporate art into the curriculum in some way and know that’s important,” said Lopes, a member of the Cape Cod and Islands Art Educators Association. “We have some great programs. It’s just a mecca for the arts out here, and our schools back that Cape arts and tourism culture.”

In 2001, Barnstable laid off 52 school employees, Lopes said Barnstable is lucky the cuts are always across the board, and not only in the arts department, “which happens, unfortunately, a lot of other places.”

Lopes said a majority of the public educational system is stuck in a mind-set that shuns the arts despite the influx of image-driven media, innovation and design jobs that are available today.

“We don’t know what jobs students in kindergarten now will have years from now, but once you learn to think creatively, you can apply that to any subject matter,” he said.

Third-graders lag in MCAS reading for 12th straight year

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

By Lisa Hagen, State House correspondent

BOSTON — Although statewide MCAS scores rose across the board this year, third-grade reading proficiency fell short for the 12th straight year, according to figures released Friday by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Forty-four percent of third-graders around the state received “not proficient” grades, a 5 percent decrease from last year. Sixty-three percent of 1,088 third-graders in Lowell tested below proficiency.

“It is discouraging that we have virtually no progress on scores for over a decade as a state,” Carolyn Lyons, president of Strategies for Children, said. “The only way we can turn this around for children is to make sure we’re investing in more resources.”

Third-grade reading results have remained consistently low since 2001. According to Lyons’ group, a nonprofit organization geared toward third- grade reading proficiency, students who struggle with reading in that grade are four times less likely to finish high school by age 19.

Lyons said research has indicated third grade as a “critical predictor for future success in school.” After releasing a report about reading proficiency in 2010, her group launched a 10-year campaign with a goal of having every child in the state achieve reading proficiency by third grade.

“This isn’t just an issue for public schools to address,” she said. “We need to respond to research that learning starts at birth before the bell begins at kindergarten.”

With cuts in early education on both federal and state levels, Lyons said it is “our collective responsibility” that children continue learning outside the classroom whether they are involved in an after-school or summer program.

State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester noted that although the state has some of the highest scores nationally, there remains room for improvement.

He said one way of accomplishing this is by encouraging more writing in early education in addition to reading.

“I do think that we can do better than we’ve been doing and some of this is about more deliberately having children write as well as read, improve writing approaches, and an investment in preschool-level opportunities,” he said.

The state is looking to replace MCAS, previewing a standardized K-12 assessment test of students’ readiness for college and careers called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). After a two-year pilot program, the state will decide whether to replace it.

Chester noted that the new test would have a writing component for every grade level and shift to analyzing more nonfiction reading.

“I do think that having to develop writing and develop vocabulary will boost literacy achievement in both fiction and nonfiction,” Chester said. “That will make the reading and writing connected to one another much more powerful.”

Jamie Gass, director of the Center for School Reform at the nonprofit think tank, Pioneer Institute, cautioned that PARCC focuses less on classic literature, drama and poetry, which he said strengthens a higher quality of vocabulary for students.

“We’ve known for several years that the reading scores are stagnating or declining, especially with low-income students, and (PARCC) is an unnecessary transition that is not going to help things out and create greater confusion and less continuity,” Gass said.

To make up for the loss in fiction reading, Gass encourages parents to read the classics to their children at home.

Despite the lack of improvement in third-grade reading scores, Chester noted that Murkland Elementary School in Lowell was one of 14 schools around the state once labeled “underperforming” that has increased achievement and progress after a three-year improvement program.

“I’m encouraged by what we’ve seen at Murkland and the other schools over the past three years,” Chester said. “It is a very hopeful sign for what is possible in early grades for both reading and math.”

Students urge lawmakers to expand financial aid

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Feb 27, 2013  By Lindsey Reese, The Gazette Contributing Writer

BOSTON — College students from across Massachusetts gathered at the Statehouse Tuesday to tell legislators their personal stories of tuition struggles, joining with Gov. Deval Patrick in support of a state budget with more financial aid.
Sponsored by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, the event attracted 150 students from 25 to 30 colleges and universities, according to association president Richard Doherty.
“Currently financial aid in Massachusetts tracks well below the national average of state’s support for higher education,” Doherty said.

‘Virtual schools’ earn praise from panel

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Feb 10, 2013 By Allison Thomasseau, The Lowell Sun

BOSTON — Legislators and educators applauded the benefits of virtual schools at a Thursday seminar, praising the innovation that allows students to learn at their own pace and take advantage of technology in the classroom.

“Virtual learning will totally change the architecture of what is school,” Michael Horn, co-director and founder of the Innosight Institute, a think tank for the social sector, told about 50 New England educators in the seminar.

Virtual schooling ranges from online classes at home to a blended model where students do their schoolwork on computers in the school’s “learning labs” and discuss subjects with students in seminar rooms.

Area rep battles governor over immigrants’ tuition

Friday, December 7th, 2012

By Jim Morrison, The Sun Chronicle

Calling his stand “a matter of fairness,” an area legislator is leading the chorus of opposition to Gov. Deval Patrick’s executive order allowing children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.

“The executive branch has data on this that we are not privy to,” said Rep. Daniel Winslow, R-Norfolk. “We want to see his analysis. It’s good fodder for debate.”

“This is an issue that should be addressed in the Legislature. Our constituents should be engaged,” Winslow said.

Fewer students could mean less money

Monday, November 19th, 2012

By Katie Doyle, The Lowell Sun

BOSTON – Public schools in Massachusetts face an uncertain future as student enrollment continues to decline, a trend that could increase costs, cause school closures and fuel conflicts over charter schools, according to a report released last week.

The report by the Pioneer Institute was an update to a 2008 study published by a conservative-leaning public-policy group.

According to the Pioneer study, between 2003 and 2008, large urban districts, such as Cambridge, Fall River and Somerville, saw enrollments fall by slightly more than 16 percent. Lawrence enrollment dropped by 2.4 percent, while Quincy, meanwhile, saw a gain of 0.4 percent.

Gateway Cities partnership seen boosting Lowell

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

By Katie Doyle, The Lowell Sun

BOSTON — Onetime booming manufacturing cities, such as Lowell and Fitchburg, have an official new friend following Wednesday’s launch of a new independent think-tank aimed at bolstering their educational and economic development.

The Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, created by the nonprofit, MassINC, was introduced to municipal officials, state politicians and the public at a rollout held at the Statehouse.

Ben Forman, research director at MassINC, said the institute hopes to build on collaboration between the cities and other public and private sectors. But he also alluded to the need for additional funding.

Brockton, Stoughton students join Governor Patrick at anti-bullying event

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

By Edward Donga, Patriot Ledger

BOSTON – Students from Brockton and Stoughton were among the 100 Massachusetts teens who joined Gov. Deval Patrick for a rally Thursday to raise awareness about bullying in schools.

“Stand up, show up and we as adults owe you young people the certainty that, when you do, we will have your back, that we will stand up, too, and not look the other way,” Patrick told the high school and middle school students, who wore black “Blackout Bullying” T-shirts as they marched from Boston Common to the Statehouse.

The rally began at a downtown theater for the screening of the movie “Bully,” a documentary about bullying in schools across the United States, before marching to the Statehouse, where Patrick proclaimed October to be Bullying Prevention Month.

Milford ready to teach its teachers

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

By Monique Scott, Milford Daily News

MILFORD – Milford educators will face some schooling of their own this fall as the state implements a new system for evaluating teachers.

“Every district comes with a different understanding, but training is the name of the game,” said Superintendent Robert Tremblay.

“It’s all about process and procedure and Milford is on board.”

The evaluation system, passed by the state Legislature in June, gives greater weight to assessments of teacher performance when it comes to promotion and pay. The law was a compromise among lawmakers, the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Stand for Children to avoid a ballot initiative vote in November.

Report: one-third of Mass. high school seniors unprepared for college

Monday, October 1st, 2012

By Chelsea Sheasley, Metro West Daily News

BOSTON – Massachusetts high school seniors lead the nation in reading and math tests and enroll in college at one of the highest rates, but one-third are unprepared for college-level work, according to a report released Thursday by the state Department of Higher Education.

The report, called “Time to Lead,” is the first time the state compared data from all of Massachusetts’ 29 public universities and colleges to figures from other states. It is a part of the “Vision Project” adopted by the state higher education board two years ago that establishes a data-driven effort to become a national leader in public higher education.

“We have to recognize that we are competing today not just with North Carolina and California, but with China and Brazil and India,” Gov. Deval Patrick said at the release of the report at the State House.

Other News »