Thursday, November 8, 2007

Some high schools drop AP course offerings

Many college students use AP credit when entering a place of higher education to help them speed up their academic careers and graduate earlier, thus saving more time and money. But some high schools have decided to drop AP courses from their curriculum, according to a post on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog. Some high schools, mostly private ones, have concluded that AP courses don’t actually benefit from AP courses in college, and that they don’t provide teachers with enough teaching flexibility.

I don’t see how high schools could even consider dropping AP courses from their course offerings, as I see them to be nothing but beneficial to students in college. Many students end up graduating a semester or two early because of their credit going into college, which affords them time for things like internships or study abroad opportunities without extending their normal stay at college.

A website called ExcellenceWithoutAP.org was debuted today, listing schools that either dropped AP or never had it. Some of the schools listed still offer one or two AP courses, which I think underscores their importance. The website says that many of the schools on the list have graduated students to selective, high-ranking colleges, but how much does that help them when they get there?

I think it’s safe to say that most college students at selective colleges have at least some AP credit, except for those who come from schools on the website’s list. This puts them at somewhat of a disadvantage to their peers and ensures that they will have to spend more time and money on introductory college courses that they could have taken in high school.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Adirondack Semester teaches students about life in the wilderness

I read an article on the New York Times website today about a program called “Adirondack Semester” at St. Lawrence University in New York. The program runs every fall, and it’s aims are to get students into the wilderness and “and give them a break from what he called rampant consumerism and consumption of ecological resources,” said Baylor Johnson, the program’s director.

A group of about 10 or so students participate in the 16-week semester, first going on a trek through the High Peaks mountains to find a small village of yurts (pole tents on wooden platforms), which become their new homes.

Students take classes in nature writing, the ecology of the Adirondacks and woodworking, and live off water they haul to the campsite from Lake Massawepie, and food from a nearby farm.

Two St. Lawrence employees with wildlife survival expertise live with the students at all times, and university professors drive an hour to the site, canoe across a lake to get there, and hold all their classes outside (except when the weather is bad; then they hold them in a yurt with a wood stove). Students travel to Tupper Lake every other Thursday to get supplies, and sleep in zero-degree sleeping bags every night.

This is such an intriguing idea that this university, and a few others, have come up with. Personally, I don’t know if I would do it, not even because it means I’d be cut off from the Internet and TV, but because it seems like a long time to go out in the wilderness without seeing friends or family, though it is a really interesting idea and must be a great experience. The students who do it really seem to have liked it. Here’s a quote from one of the women who completed the program in 2004:

“ ‘The first time I came home, I was literally paralyzed by the lights and sounds,’ she said. ‘It was around the holidays, and people were being rude and pushy. I literally froze and thought, “This is for nothing.” ’

She added, ‘What it’s done for me is make me think about what I really need to make for a fulfilling life.’ ”

Grant given to math and science teach training program

Here’s another story I found interesting about training future teachers in higher education. According to a post on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog, The Carnegie Corporation of New York has given $200,000 to help fund better education for future math and science teachers at public universities.

The Carnie Corporation gave the grant to the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, known as Nasulgc, which announced Monday that the program, called the Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative, is going to be devoted to better preparing future math and science teachers.

Officials from Nasulgc said the project aims to set up an online clearinghouse of practices among teacher-preparation programs that show potential, and will also measure the progress of each program to gauge the number of new math and science teachers by state.

Though I’m not interested in being a math or science teacher, I feel like this is another good example of strides being made to better prepare teachers and attract them to good programs. I like reading stories about new teacher education programs and grants because it shows how institutions are continuing to realize the importance of education and well-trained teachers in our society.

Good educations have proven to be good for the economy and society as a whole, but they start with good teacher and teacher-training programs.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Bush nominates Harvard professor as Vatican ambassdor

A professor at Harvard University was recently nominated by George W. Bushto be the U.S.’s ambassador to the Vatican. The professor, Mary Ann Glendon, teaches courses in the fields of human rights, legal theory, comparative law and constitutional law.

The article also mentions that this is just the second time a person from Massachusetts has become a Vatican ambassador, as former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn held the position from 1993 to 1997 under the Clinton administration.

Glendon is a reported anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage scholar who wrote a book in 1987 criticizing the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision. Bush announced his nomination Monday, but the Senate has to vote to confirm her as the next ambassador. I don’t know how strict the Senate is on ambassador nominations, but I don’t know if I see this one going through with the Democratic majority that’s in the Senate now. I wonder how many times in history a pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage ambassador has been sent to the Vatican. My guess is not often, but that's just speculation.

While I don’t agree with Professor Glendon’s views, I think it’s pretty neat that a professor from Massachusetts has been awarded this honor. When I saw the link on EdNews.org to the Boston Globe story (“Harvard professor is Bush’s pick as Vatican ambassador”), for some reason I immediately thought Bush had picked a man, because that's the vibe I get from him generally, so it’s also interesting to see that he picked a woman.

Monday, November 5, 2007

NSSE survey results released today

Almost 40 percent of first- year college students report a parent or guardian intervening on for them to solve a problem at college, says the results of a new research study released today. These parents, who are considered to go overboard when trying to help their college-age children, are often termed “helicopter parents” by college administrators. Thirteen percent said it happens frequently.

This was the first time that any sort of actual research has been done to get figures on how often students communicate with their parents, student study habits and how often “helicopter parenting” happens. The survey was done by the National Survey of Student Engagement, and the article, from The Boston Globe (the link was from EdNews.org), lists some of its findings:

“- About seven in 10 students said they communicated ‘very often’ with a parent or guardian, with electronic means being the most common. The proportion was about the same for seniors and freshmen. ‘Very often’ was not defined as a specific number of contacts.
- Well-educated parents aren’t more likely to be helicopter parents. Poorly educated ones also intervene at about the same rate as others.
- There’s an upside to intervening parents. Their children are more engaged in college life, happier and reporting getting more from the experience.”

This article caught my attention because I never really thought about this kind of research. Certainly different parents “let go” of their college-age kids at different rates, but I’ve never even really heard of someone’s parents as being what the article refers to as “helicopter parents.” It’ll be interesting to see if there is any more sort of research done looking into this concept in the future.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

"Reach" looks at shifting education for new teachers


This article appeared in the New York Times, but I found the link to it on EdNews.org. I found it particularly interesting because I’m studying to be a teacher myself right now.

The article, titled “Rethinking How to Teach New Teachers,” is basically about a new program based in Napa, Calif., called Reach, that is shaking up the world of how to teach future teachers.

At most colleges, education students spend countless hours in the classroom learning the theory and practice behind teaching, and significantly less time actually teaching or in classrooms. According to the National Education Association, there will be an estimated need of two million teachers in the next decade alone. The article also mentions that, according to many education experts, new teachers feel so unprepared after getting their initial license, that 50 percent of them quit the profession after five years.

Reach is a two year program that starts education students off in the classroom on the first day with a teaching mentor at their side, then works to apply what they learned in the classroom to theories of educational practice. Another important part of the program is that students are “in schools with strong leadership,” and that 10 to 12 students start the program in a “cohort” and spend the next two years together, helping teaching students to bond, bounce ideas off one another and give advice.

At Northeastern, I feel as though I will have gained more classroom experience than some prospective teachers who got their degrees at other colleges because of co-op, but still feel like I won’t be as prepared as I would like. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about my remaining education classes (five, plus a semester student teaching with a seminar; I've taken two thus far), and think, “I’m really supposed to know what I’m doing after that?”

I feel like having the opportunity to get involved with a program like Reach would be beneficial to all future educators, and a chance I would jump at if I had it. That program’s structure and aims seem amazing to me, and hopefully more colleges will hop on the wagon of more experience for future educators to go along with all the classroom learning they endure.

University of Georgia says "Every Drop Counts"

Here’s another somewhat bizarre story from the world of higher education that I found on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog.

Apparently Georgia is suffering from such a severe water shortage, that the University of Georgia at Athens has started a new campaign called “Every Drop Counts,” where they urge students not to flush “if it’s yellow.” At Saturday’s homecoming game, the university had attendants standing guard in every bathroom to ensure people flushed right.

This story reminded me of when I used to have to do the same thing at my best friend’s lake house as when I was in middle school and high school, because they didn’t have a proper septic system yet.



This story might be a little too strange to be posting on a higher education news website, but I guess that’s the “uncommon news gets attention” factor of journalism at play. I also liked the title of the posting, “U. of Georgia’s New Team Color: Yellow.” It definitely caught my eye.

I think it’s great that the university is doing its part to try and conserve water, but it just might be a little smellier now in the University of Georgia bathrooms.