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Class Struggle: December 13, 2009 - December 19, 2009

Finally some sense about 21st century skills--part three, the Wagner dialogue

Here's a resource your readers might not know about: the College and Work Readiness Assessment. It is an online test of critical thinking, analytic reasoning, problem solving, and writing. High schools get a report back comparing their students' scores with those of freshman students in 200 colleges using the same test.

By Jay Mathews  |  December 18, 2009; 5:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Trends  | Tags: 2lst century skills, Advanced Placement, Tony Wagner, college graduation rates for each high school  
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Extra Credit: Are we dumbing down 9th grade physics?

I recently looked on the MCPS website and I see that the review for semester A Physics 2010 is now releasing the questions, worth 15 % of the exam, in advance. These are specific questions, not topic guidelines. Any teacher can give the answers the day before the test and the answers will be regurgitated word for word on test day.

By Jay Mathews  |  December 17, 2009; 12:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Extra Credit  | Tags: 9th grade physics, Anita O'Neill, Montgomery County, science course sequence, watered down tests  
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Maryland, Virginia and the U.S. News best high schools list

So, to be clear, there is no requirement that schools have students who are economically disadvantaged in order to be evaluated. As you point out, many schools have so few of these students that their results are not reported under NCLB rules (or perhaps student privacy rules).

By Jay Mathews  |  December 16, 2009; 6:31 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: I find that it's always good to hear how people interpret my attempts to be clear, Thanks for the opportunity to respond, and as much as he and I talked it through, as I would like to clear up Sid's misunderstanding. I spoke to Sid many times several months back, as sometimes it reveals that I need to take a second - or third - crack at eliminating misperceptions and misunderstandings., it appears that some things still were not clear. In his defense  
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Why Maryland high schools dropped off the U.S. News top 100

The reason that Montgomery County's previously recognized schools did not meet this criterion is that, while they improved from year to year, other schools in the state improved more, and the bar got higher.

By Jay Mathews  |  December 16, 2009; 1:36 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: Montgomery County, Newsweek high school list, Paul Gazzerro, U.S. News high school list  
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A holiday guide to books for kids

My colleague Valerie Strauss recently raised objections to the point system, noting that some of the teen vampire books earn more credit than a short simple classic like "The Red Badge of Courage," but the points have few consequences---they are not used in grading. I think they are the least important reason why students choose some books rather than others.

By Jay Mathews  |  December 15, 2009; 1:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Extra Credit  | Tags: Accelerated Reader, Jeff Kinney, Renaissance Learning, Stephenie Meyer, children's books  
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This Vietnam vet says: let's hear from the Taliban

I don't recall any effort to present the views of the North Vietnamese or the Viet Cong in high school, but I am certain my teachers and classmates could have handled it. There was LOTS of that kind of debate in college and grad school, and in the army too. It is part of being an American to try to see other points of view.

By Jay Mathews  |  December 15, 2009; 12:18 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: Arlington County, Vietnam debate, banning Taliban debate, good teachers, well-meaning but short-sighted parents  
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Why I have no use for the achievement gap

We talk about narrowing the achievement gap as if it is always a good thing, but that's not so. Here are some ways the gap could narrow: Low-income scores improve but high-incomes scores don't; low-income scores don't change but high-income scores drop; low-income scores drop but high-income scores drop even more. In each of those cases of gap-narrowing, something bad is happening.

By Jay Mathews  |  December 15, 2009; 5:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (49)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: Bill Turque, NAEP, Tom Loveless, achievement gap, math scores  
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Are women really overloading our colleges?

The rise of women educationally is a good news story that we are seeing all over the world, particularly among women from low-income backgrounds. It should be celebrated. Just what the civil rights commission can do in this area to raise achievement for all students remains to be seen. .

By Jay Mathews  |  December 14, 2009; 1:19 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, discriminating in favor of male college applicants, gender balance in college  
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Should they close this bad charter school?

Nida said his board had not had enough time to turn the school around. Ideal's original overseer, the D.C. school board, only ceded control two years ago. The board needs to evaluate several indicators of academic, financial and other kinds of performance, and give each school goals to shoot for, Nida said.

By Jay Mathews  |  December 13, 2009; 10:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Metro Monday  | Tags: Ideal Academy Public Charter School, President Obama, charter schools  
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