Denver Public Schools pledged to pay tutoring vendors based on their results. Did it work?

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Two outside companies that Denver Public Schools hired to tutor students in an effort to make up for lost learning fell short of some targets that could have earned the companies extra pay.
Though one company fared better than the other, many students didn’t hit the academic benchmarks spelled out in the district’s contracts. Some students struggled with participation, and staffing was a challenge for the company that tutored students in person.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” said Angelin Thompson, the director of expanded academic learning for DPS. “It’s great if you can do it with fidelity and if you have qualified tutors. There are just a lot of components that go into it that make it effective or ineffective.”
But because the contracts with the companies linked part of their payments to the achievement of certain targets, DPS isn’t paying for outcomes that weren’t..

How listening to students’ stories can improve math class

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Walking into her sophomore year math class, Taylor Paris was nervous. She’d had a rocky relationship with the subject ever since long division showed up in elementary school. “I knew I didn’t understand math concepts very well. I knew that it was something that took me a longer time (than classmates),” she recalled.
So she was pleasantly surprised when one of the first assignments from teacher Sarah Strong required no calculating. Instead, Strong asked the class to write a letter to math – as if it were a person. These “Dear Math” letters are a tool that Strong developed as a way to understand students’ relationship to math when they arrive in her classroom, which researchers call mathematical identity. What Strong learns from these letters informs how she teaches individual students and whole classes throughout the year. Often that means working to disrupt the negative beliefs that students hold about their math abilities, which tend to revolve aroun..

Dealing with test anxiety? Practice quizzes can actually help

In education circles, it’s popular to rail against testing, especially timed exams. Tests are stressful and not the best way to measure knowledge, wrote Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in a Sept. 20, 2023 New York Times essay. “You wouldn’t want a surgeon who rushes through a craniectomy, or an accountant who dashes through your taxes.”
It’s tempting to agree. But there’s another side to the testing story, with a lot of evidence behind it.
Cognitive scientists argue that testing improves learning. They call it “practice retrieval” or “test-enhanced learning.” In layman’s language, that means that the brain learns new information and skills by being forced to recall them periodically. Remembering consolidates information and helps the brain form long-term memories. Of course, testing is not the only way to accomplish this, but it’s easy and efficient in a classroom.
Several meta-analyses, which summarize the evidence fr..

Amid youth mental health crisis, a Colorado district creates a school for students who need more support

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Next month, the Cherry Creek School District will open a first-of-its-kind facility — part school, part therapeutic mental health facility — to meet the needs of students in crisis.
The number of facilities in Colorado that serve students with intense mental health or behavioral needs has drastically dwindled over the past 20 years, leaving many children without critical care. The new Traverse Academy is an effort to address that problem.
Once open, it will serve students ages 10 to 18 who have severe behavioral, social, or emotional challenges, or are experiencing serious depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome, or suicidal ideation, district officials said.
“This school will save lives,” said Cherry Creek Superintendent Chris Smith.
Tony Poole, the assistant superintendent of special populations for Cherry Creek School District, shows off one of the transition clas..

How bibliocounseling can create space for Black girls and girls of color to connect in school

Like many school counselors, Christina Tillery had trouble reaching kids during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020-21 school year, only 100 out of 1800 students opted for in-person learning at her school, while her office remained in the building. Despite the challenges, Tillery used the opportunity to develop programming that could help her connect with students in new ways. Through many brainstorming sessions, she planned a bibliocounseling group, which she launched the next year. This group used literature to “facilitate therapeutic conversations and promote emotional well-being,” Tillery explained in a workshop at the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) conference last summer.
The bibliotherapy group brought together about a dozen students together under the supervision of Tillery and another school counselor at Highland Springs High School, a public school in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia. This group read a book together and met weekly six times to..

How important is homework, and how much should parents help?

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In recent years, homework has become a very hot topic. Many parents and educators have raised concerns about homework and questioned how effective it is in enhancing students’ learning. There are also concerns that students may be getting too much homework, which ultimately interferes with quality family time and opportunities for physical activity and play. Research suggests that these concerns may be valid. For example, one study reported that elementary school students, on average, are assigned three times the recommended amount of homework.
So what does the research say? What are the potential risks and benefits of homework, and how much is too much?
Academic benefits First, research finds that homework is associated with higher scores on academic standardized tests for middle and high school students, but not elementary school student..

ACT study finds it’s easier and easier to get an A in math

Amid the growing debate over how best to teach math, there is another ballooning problem: grades. They’re becoming increasingly untethered to how much students know. That not only makes it harder to gauge how well students are learning math and catching up from pandemic learning losses, but it’s also making math grades a less reliable indicator of who should be admitted to colleges or take advanced courses.
The latest warning sign comes from college admissions test maker ACT, which compared students’ ACT test scores with their self-reported high school grades between 2010 and 2022. Grade inflation struck all high school subjects, ACT found, but it was highest for math, followed by science, English and social studies.
Grade inflation accelerated after 2016 and intensified during the pandemic as schools relaxed standards. But as schools settled back into their usual rhythms in 2021-22, grades didn’t fall back to pre-pandemic norms and remained elevated. Grades continued to rise in math..

Schools face a funding cliff. How bad will the fall be?

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It’s an ominous phrase that is top of mind for many school district officials: the “funding cliff.”
This refers to the imminent end of billions of dollars in federal COVID relief money that schools have been relying on during the pandemic. “The feds pushed a lot of money into the K-12 system,” said Lori Taylor, an education finance researcher at Texas A&M University. “Now the districts are being weaned off of that funding — they’re losing that shock absorber, that cushion.”
This has educators and experts nervous: the money might be gone before students have fully recovered academically and could lead to painful layoffs and other budget cuts. Some schools have already begun cutting back on recovery programs including tutoring, summer school, and extra staff, like college advisors.
But what is not yet clear is how steep the fall from the funding cliff will be. That’s because there ..

Why schoolyards are a critical space for teaching about — and fighting — extreme heat and climate change

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On hot days, fourth-grader Adriana Salas has observed that when the sun beats down on the pavement in her schoolyard it “turns foggy.” There are also days where the slide burns the back of her legs if she is wearing shorts or the monkey bars are too hot to touch. Salas, who attends Roosevelt Elementary School in San Leandro, California, is not alone in feeling the effects of heat on her schoolyard. Across the country, climbing temperatures have led schools to cancel classes and outdoor activities to protect students from the harmful effects of the heat.
Jenny Seydel, an environmental educator and founder of Green Schools National Network, encourages teachers to leverage students’ observations about their schools to make learning come alive. According to Seydel, when teachers use the school grounds as a way to learn about social issues, they’re using their school as a three-dimensional textbook. For example, schools’ energy and water conservation, arc..

One-size-fits-all math homework may be more helpful than you think

In theory, education technology could redesign school from a factory-like assembly line to an individualized experience. Computers, powered by algorithms and AI, could deliver custom-tailored lessons for each child. Advocates call this concept “personalized learning” but this sci-fi idyll (or dystopia, depending on your point of view) has been slow to catch on in American classrooms.
Meanwhile one piece of ed tech, called ASSISTments, takes the opposite approach. Instead of personalizing instruction, this homework website for middle schoolers encourages teachers to assign the exact same set of math problems to the entire class. One size fits all.
Unlike other popular math practice sites, such as Khan Academy, IXL or ALEKS, in which a computer controls the content, ASSISTments keeps the control levers with the teachers, who pick the questions they like from a library of 200,000. Many teachers assign the same familiar homework questions from textbooks and curricula they are already usi..