Raising the Bar for Teacher Training

Teacher training is critical to student success. But despite high-profile education reforms such as Common Core standards and a new state education funding formula, teacher preparation is still not getting the attention it deserves. That's one of the conclusions of "Preparing World Class Teachers," a new study by the education think tank EdSource. We talk to the report's co-author and other education experts about model programs and the best way to reform teacher preparation and credentialing.

New State Law Defines Consensual Sex, Aims to Fight Campus Assaults

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a law that makes California the first state in the country to legally define consensual sex. The "yes means yes" law aims to improve how colleges investigate and prevent sexual assaults by requiring "an affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement" for sex. Victims' advocates are cheering the measure -- but critics say it's too broad and puts an unfair burden of proof on those falsely accused of sexual assault.

PBS NewsHour

Cheating suspicions keep Chinese, South Korean students waiting for SAT scores

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

SAT scores for college hopefuls that took the exam in October are out. That is, unless the test taker is a resident of China or South Korea.

Concerns over cheating have the College Board and the Educational Testing Service, the nonprofit organizations that design and administer the SAT, withholding scores for students from those countries.

“Based on specific, reliable information, we have placed the scores of all students who are current residents of Korea or China and sat for the Oct. 11 international administration of the SAT on hold while we conduct an administrative review,” the groups wrote in a joint statement published by the Washington Post.

It appears some test takers were found with scans of test pages and answers saved on their phones, which aren’t allowed in testing rooms, the Post reported.

The decision to withhold scores came just before the Nov. 1 early application deadline at many elite U.S. universities.

Nearly 94,000 Chinese undergrads were enrolled in U.S. universities last year, a 25 percent increase over the 2011-12 school year. Just over 38,000 undergrads at U.S. schools came from South Korea last year.

Taking the SAT can be an expensive undertaking for Chinese students especially. The mainland has no testing sites outside of international schools, so many students travel to Hong Kong and elsewhere to take the exam.

As college and university budgets and endowments weathered the stresses of the recession, attracting foreign students, who usually pay the full tuition price, became an important revenue source for schools.

The Educational Testing Service plans to complete its investigation and release students’ scores by mid-November, the New York Times reported.

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For toddlers, it’s the quality of the screen time that matters, study reveals

Photo by Flickr user Austin Marshall

A new study gives parents a guide on how to let their children interact with screens like TVs and tablets. One of the keys: when kids are using devices, parents should be active participants. Photo by Flickr user Austin Marshall

Parents, you can give up the twinge of guilt you feel when you let your toddler watch television or play with your smartphone or tablet, according to a new report from Zero to Three.

It’s true that young children learn most easily from one-to-one interaction with their parents and other caregivers or educators. The American Academy of Pediatrics’s guidelines go so far as to say children younger than 2 shouldn’t spend any time in front of the TV or any kind of screen.

That leaves parents asking questions like whether reading to a child from a device counts as story or screen time and whether their own screen time could be hurting their kids.

But, Claire Lerner, a Zero to Three social worker, and Rachel Barr, director of the Georgetown Early Learning Project write “[t]he reality is that young children now grow up in a world of technology.”

On average, they say, children younger than 2 years old watch nearly an hour of television a day and almost 40 percent have used a smartphone or other mobile device. For children 2 to 4, the average amount of daily TV rises to 90 minutes and 80 percent have used a mobile device.

Their review of existing research shows all of that media time isn’t necessarily turning toddlers’ brains to mush. In fact, they say, much of it “suggests that screen media can become tools for learning if two critical factors are taken into consideration: content and context.”

In their paper, Lerner and Barr tease out some practical advice for parents and caregivers.

First, parents should still limit children’s time with devices. Kids do their best learning from one-on-one time with adults.

When kids are using devices, parents should be active participants. They can talk about what they see on the screen the same way they would with a picture book. Dr. Pamela Hosmer gave the NewsHour examples of strategies for making screen time interactive earlier this year.

Once the screen is turned off, parents should draw connections between the ideas, words and objects seen on a device to the real world. They can do that by playing with and pointing to objects or acting out skits.

The content children are exposed to on television or in an app should be age-appropriate.

Make kids’ screen time deliberate. Studies do show that background TV disturbs children’s play and development.

It’s best to keep adults’ television and device time separate from time with young kids. A Boston Medical Center study found the longer parents used devices during a meal, the more kids acted out.

Finally, it’s probably best to keep sleeping and eating separate from television watching. Kids who watched TV within two hours of their bedtime have a harder time falling asleep and snacking in front of the TV has been tied to childhood obesity.

PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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For-profit colleges face ‘gainful employment’ rule

Photo by Joshua Lott/Bloomberg

The Education Department will announce a “gainful employment” rule, targeting for-profit schools that produce grads who can’t find jobs to pay off loans. Photo by Joshua Lott/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON — For-profit colleges that don’t produce graduates capable of paying off their student loans could soon face the wrath of the federal government.

Schools with career-oriented programs that fail to comply with the new rule being announced Thursday by the Obama administration stand to lose access to federal student-aid programs.

To meet these “gainful employment” standards, a program will have to show that the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 20 percent of his or her discretionary income or 8 percent of total earnings.

The Education Department estimates that about 1,400 programs serving 840,000 students won’t pass. Ninety-nine percent of these programs are offered by for-profit schools, although affected career training programs can come from certificate programs elsewhere in higher education.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the department wants to make sure that programs that prey on students don’t continue abusive practices.

However, Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, calls the effort “nothing more than a bad-faith attempt to cut off access to education for millions of students who have been historically underserved by higher education.”

Some questions and answers arising from the new rule:

Q: Who goes to for-profit colleges?

A: Students seeking training in areas such as nursing, truck driving, culinary arts and auto repair. Such fields attract many nontraditional students, including veterans and workers laid off during the economic downturn. About two-thirds are over the age of 24. Half have dependents and almost 40 percent work full time while enrolled, according to the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. Students at for-profit schools are more likely to live at or below the federal poverty level and receive food stamp benefits than students in other sectors of higher education. About 1.3 million students enrolled last spring at a for-profit school, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. That was about a 5 percent decline from a year earlier.

Q: In what ways are for-profit colleges under fire?

A: The regulation, which goes into effect on July 1, is the latest step in a yearslong fight by the Obama administration to improve outcomes and end aggressive recruiting at for-profit colleges. In 2012, the for-profit colleges convinced a judge that similar regulations were too arbitrary.

Last summer, the Education Department reached an agreement with Corinthian Colleges, a chain based in Santa Ana, California, to sell or close its more than 90 U.S. campuses.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this year filed suit against the large, for-profit college chain ITT Educational Services Inc. alleging that it pushed students into high-cost private loans that would likely end in default. The company denied the charges.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has aggressively investigated the industry. At the state level, several attorneys general have also pursued action.

“These regulations are a necessary step to ensure that colleges accepting federal funds protect students, cut costs and improve outcomes,” Duncan said.

Q: Why is the sector a target?

A: The industry has among the highest student loan default rates and lowest graduation rates in higher education. Some veterans’ advocates have accused it of aggressively targeting veterans because of their federal GI Bill money. Critics say the schools are too expensive and a waste of money not just for students, but for taxpayers who fund the GI Bill and other loan and grant dollars used by a large chunk of students to help pay to attend for-profit colleges.

Q: What’s the other side of the story?

A: For-profit colleges argue that they provide educational programs to students who have historically been left out of higher education and that the regulations would reduce the educational opportunities for students most in need of training programs. They say it’s unfair to target just career-oriented programs because poor outcomes can be found in other areas of higher education.

“We will vigorously contest all these issues to help ensure that students, employers and communities are not harmed by such an arbitrary and biased regulation,” Gunderson said.

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1 in 6 female undergrads sexually assaulted on MIT campus, survey finds

In an unprecedented, broad-based survey, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology polled students about their attitudes and experiences with sexual assault on campus. One in six female undergraduate students who responded to the survey say they’ve experienced sexual assault on the Cambridge, Mass. campus, although fewer than 5 percent reported the experience to authorities or to the school.

MIT released its comprehensive survey results yesterday. The poll is the first of its kind for the MIT community, and it goes beyond the scope of similar studies at other colleges and universities. Nearly 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students were surveyed last spring, and 35 percent responded.

Many students who reported experiencing unwanted sexual advances did not consider it assault. Courtesy of MIT.

Many students who reported experiencing unwanted sexual advances did not consider it assault. Courtesy of MIT.

Students answered questions about their attitudes and views on sexual assault, their experience with sexual misconduct, and their thoughts on bystander intervention.

Administrators took a decidedly scientific approach, collecting data and facts to help understand the issue. Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart has been charged with proposing solutions. She says MIT faces a serious problem.

Listen to the reporting that aired on WGBH radio and an extended interview with Chancellor Barnhart here.

“What we find from the survey is that we need more education in our community, and that’s exactly what we’re positioning ourselves to do,” said Barnhart.

One of the most striking findings, Barnhart points out, is that there’s genuine confusion among students about what actually constitutes sexual assault.

“There’s a gap between the percentage of students who say that they’ve been sexually assaulted and the number of students that by answering the behavioral questions indicate that they’ve been sexually assaulted,” said Barnhart.

While virtually all survey respondents agreed that it’s important to get consent before sex, more than half said “rape and sexual assault can happen unintentionally, especially if alcohol is involved.”

Twenty five percent of male undergraduates that responded to the survey, agreed that “a person who is sexually assaulted or raped while drunk is at least somewhat responsible for putting themselves in that position.” That is in contrast to 15 percent of female undergraduates who say the same.

More than a quarter of respondents agreed rape and sexual assault are caused by men getting carried away in sexual situations.
         Courtesy of MIT.

More than a quarter of respondents agreed rape and sexual assault are caused by men getting carried away in sexual situations. Courtesy of MIT.

MIT will be increasing staff who respond to reported sexual assaults and has launched a Sexual Assault Education and Prevention Task Force.

The results of MIT’s survey provide context to the national conversation on sexual assault on college campuses.

In the spring, the White House called on all U.S. colleges and universities to survey their students. Several schools, including Harvard and MIT, have hired sexual assault investigators. And many schools have seen a dramatic increase in the number of reported sexual assaults on campus.

This story comes from On Campus, a public radio reporting initiative focused on higher education produced in Boston at WGBH.

PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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