Talk about old school. Building blocks, those indestructible wooden mainstays of elementary classrooms since the 1900s, are finding new favor as a way to boost student learning, particularly in math and science. In New York City, parents are creating castles and toppling towers at oversubscribed building-block workshops. Some charter schools advertise block corners along with chess programs and science labs.
California officials and business leaders want to correct what they say is a failure to invest enough time, money and training to teach science well. Only 10% of elementary students regularly receive hands-on science lessons, a recent survey found. Just one-third of elementary teachers said they feel prepared to teach science, and 85% said they have not received any training during the last three years.
SAT math scores for the Class of 2011 dropped a point nationally this year and have barely budged for a decade. Reading scores, meanwhile, fell three points this year and have dropped 33 points from 1972 levels. The College Board says the growing number of test takers includes many who are less prepared for college or learning English as a second language.
Education reformers oversell the importance of highly skilled teachers and undervalue the benefits that come from teacher collaborations, according to a University of Pittsburgh specialist in organizations. An article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review says students “showed higher gains in math achievement when their teachers reported frequent conversations with their peers that centered on math, and when there was a feeling of trust or closeness among teachers.”
Prowess in math may be apparent in children as young as three, according to a new study by Johns Hopkins University researchers that may help point the way to improved learning. Children display a “number sense” even before formal mathematical education takes place, the study published in the journal of Developmental Science suggests.
Fewer than 18 percent of engineering undergrads are female. In an attempt to find the best ways to bring more women to the field, Arizona State University (ASU) education specialist Tirupalavanam Ganesh will soon begin a study of sixth grade girls as they explore hands-on learning experiences focused on engineering.
Science and Engineering Indicators, from the National Science Board, provides a broad base of quantitative information on the U.S. and international science and engineering enterprise. Its Education Timeline provides statistics and data for every step of the education process that are helpful for students, faculty, parents, and more.
The summer break will cost many students a month of learning, a sweeping new study by the nonprofit RAND Corporation and the Wallace Foundation reports. The setbacks also are cumulative, disproportionately affecting pupils from low-income families and all but guaranteeing a permanent achievement gap. The good news: quality summer programs can help stave off summer slide.
Teacher layoffs nationwide threaten to make a bad STEM education situation worse, as more educators must cover subjects they are not certified to teach. A new survey by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that fewer than half the chemistry and physical science teachers in public high schools had degrees in those fields, with about 30 percent lacking certification in those subjects.