There’s a worldwide problem in math, and it’s not just about the pandemic

Numbers don’t lie, right? But they also don’t always tell the whole story. That’s the case with the most recent results from a key global education test, the Program for International Student Assessment or PISA.
In the past, PISA results have often spurred anguished discussion about why U.S. students are so far behind other countries like Finland, Korea and Poland. But the most recent rankings, released in December 2023, indicated that U.S. 15-year olds moved up in the international rankings for all three subjects – math, reading and science. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona credited the largest federal investment in education in history – roughly $200 billion – for keeping the United States “in the game” during the pandemic. (The tests were administered in 2022.)
But that rosy spin hides a much grimmer picture. Rankings may have risen, but test scores did not. The only reason the U.S. rose is because academic performance in once higher ranking countries, such as Iceland, fell by ..

Government efforts to erase student loan debt have now reached 3.6 million borrowers

More than 900,000 borrowers have had roughly $44 billion in federal student loan debts approved to be erased in the last year because of a little-understood effort to address past mistakes with federal income-driven (IDR) repayment plans, the U.S. Department of Education announced today.
In addition, the Department said almost 750,000 borrowers have now received up to $53.5 billion in relief through changes to the once-troubled Public Service Loan Forgiveness plan.
Combined, the Biden administration says it has approved the cancellation of nearly $132 billion in federal student loan debts for more than 3.6 million Americans.
“The data released today once again make clear that the Biden-Harris Administration’s relentless efforts to fix the broken student loan system are paying off in a big way … ” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “This level of debt relief is unparalleled and we have no intention of slowing down.”
The announcement is the latest result ..

The College Board releases a new framework for its AP African American Studies course

The College Board has released the updated framework for its AP African American Studies course, which was embroiled in controversy earlier this year following criticism from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state officials.
The College Board — which offers Advanced Placement courses that can help high school students earn college credit — said Wednesday that it arrived at the newest version of the course framework after “intense public debate.”
The new framework is intended to be used when the course officially launches in the 2024-2025 school year.
“This course is a vibrant introduction to a dynamic field that offers a broader perspective,” Brandi Waters, senior director and program manager of African American Studies in the Advanced Placement Program, said in a statement.
“This is the course I wish I had in high school,” Waters added. “I hope every interested student has the opportunity to take it.”
Months back, Florida’s Department of Education rejected the course, with state off..

How to build a Black history children’s book collection for your classroom

From Beyond February: Teaching Black History Any Day, Every Day, and All Year Long, K-3 by Dawnavyn James © 2024 by Stenhouse Publishers. Reproduced with permission.

I have been building my Black history library since my junior year of college, when I taught third and fourth graders about the Harlem Renaissance. My library has been growing ever since, but whether you have a large collection of books or are just starting out, there are always new titles for you to discover. Here are a few tips for getting started building your own collection of Black history-focused books.
Choose a Black history that interests you As I am writing this right now, I cannot choose a single Black history that interests me the most; there are so many to choose from! Cowboys were my obsession last summer, and now it’s cuisine. But I also love learning about Black artists, and inventions and inventors will always be an all-time fave. I also want to know everything I can about Africa. Do you get my point?

‘Right-to-read’ settlement spurred higher reading scores in California’s lowest performing schools, study finds

In 2017, public interest lawyers sued California because they claimed that too many low-income Black and Hispanic children weren’t learning to read at school. Filed on behalf of families and teachers at three schools with pitiful reading test scores, the suit was an effort to establish a constitutional right to read. However, before the courts resolved that legal question, the litigants settled the case in 2020.
The settlement itself was noteworthy. The state agreed to give an extra $50 million to 75 elementary schools with the worst reading scores in the state to improve how they were teaching reading. Targeted at children who were just learning to read in kindergarten through third grade, the settlement amounted to a little more than $1,000 extra per student. Teachers were trained in evidence-based ways of teaching reading, including an emphasis on phonics and vocabulary. (A few of the 75 original schools didn’t participate or closed down.)
A pair of Stanford University education r..

How incorporating Indigenous knowledge can deepen outdoor education

This opinion column about outdoor learning was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.
As part of a new program, every third grader in Albuquerque Public Schools spends a day at the Los Padillas Wildlife Sanctuary just outside the city. There, a wide variety of local landscapes are packed into five acres: a meadow, piñon, juniper and cottonwood trees, an arroyo and even a pond — a rarity in the desert.
“All the way into October they can fish in the pond with a net,” said Monie Corona, an environmental education resource teacher for the district. “There’s cattails, dragonflies. For the kids to feel like they’re playing, but they’re actually learning — that to me is the key thing.”
The sanctuary borders the black mesas to the west and to the east and the Rio Grande bosque — a term for a forest near a river bank. To the south is the Pueblo of Isleta, one of New ..

Free COVID tests headed to nation’s schools

Schools across the U.S. will soon be able to order free rapid COVID-19 tests from the federal government.
The administration’s initiative will make available millions of tests for school districts as they enter the winter months — a time when COVID activity is expected to peak. Already, emergency department visits and wastewater data indicate that cases are climbing in the U.S.
Schools can begin ordering tests in early December, the administration said.
While there have been some smaller efforts to distribute rapid tests to schools, this represents the first time that 19,000 school districts will have the ability to order tests directly from a federal stockpile, says Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response within the Department of Health and Human Services.
“We really would like to see these tests move into communities, especially as we hit this fall and winter season,” says O’Connell, who leads the Administration for Strategic Response and Preparedness, a..

How parents can help their kids feel seen

In his new book, How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen, author and New York Times columnist David Brooks writes about a period of singular connection between him and his young son. The boy was just over a year old and would wake every morning at 4 a.m. Rather than shush the boy back to bed, Brooks would join him on the floor for several hours and play. “I’m naturally immature,” Brooks told me, “And I loved to play.” He recalls those extended, wordless sessions with his son as a time of profound tenderness and understanding, when each knew the other more completely than they did any other person. It was made possible by the natural bonding that comes with simple play.
Echoing the late British author Iris Murdoch, Brooks believes that looking closely at another person and striving to understand their place in the world, as he and his son did decades ago, is “the essential moral act” — a posture towards others that determines the kind of person we be..

A group of scientists set out to study quick learners. Then they discovered they don’t exist

Some kids appear to learn faster than others. A few years ago, a group of scientists at Carnegie Mellon University decided to study these rapid learners to see what they are doing differently and if their strategies could help the rest of us.
But as the scientists began their study, they stumbled upon a fundamental problem: they could not find faster learners. After analyzing the learning rates of 7,000 children and adults using instructional software or playing educational games, the researchers could find no evidence that some students were progressing faster than others. All needed practice to learn something new, and they learned about the same amount from each practice attempt. On average, it was taking both high and low achievers about seven to eight practice exercises to learn a new concept, a rather tiny increment of learning that the researchers call a “knowledge component.”
“Students are starting in different places and ending in different places,” said Ken Koedinger, a cog..

When parents only focus on college admissions, essential skills can slip through the cracks

The transition from high school to college has become a rite of passage laden with expectations – chief among them is the assumption that admission to a prestigious college is the golden ticket to future success. However, Ana Homayoun, an academic advisor and early career development expert, challenges the belief that taking all AP classes, starting on the varsity team and being first string in orchestra guarantees the skills a student needs to thrive in college and beyond. “We all play a role in supporting students beyond grades, test scores and college admission,” she said. “I started to think about what are the key skills that are not just crucial for our livelihood but also for social and economic mobility.” In her book Erasing the Finish Line: The New Blueprint for Success Beyond Grades and College Admission, Homayoun draws from over two decades of working with students to show how the narrow focus on competitive college admissions has inadvertently sidelined necessary skills like..