ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Illinois Schools Report Features New Assessment Criteria.

The AP  (10/31, Keyser) reports “the yearly report card on Illinois schools released Friday contains a host of new features and benchmarks, including one showing more than 70 percent of recent graduates enrolled in college even though fewer than half of ACT test takers were deemed ready for college coursework.” The report also included “other new assessment criteria,” including “the number of high school freshmen on track to graduate (87.4 percent) as well as rates of teacher retention (about 86 percent) and principal turnover at each school (a statewide average of about two within the past six years).”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch  (10/31, Bock) reports that “in the past, school ratings in Illinois revolved largely around whether schools were showing ‘adequate yearly progress’ under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.” However, “as part of a federal waiver, Illinois no longer needs to track schools in that manner.”

The Chicago Tribune  (10/31) reports “the 2014 state report card depicts the broadest picture yet of how students perform as they move through and out of high school.” Christopher Koch, the state school Superintendent, “called the report card a ‘more holistic view of schools’ that replaces what many educators considered a punitive approach that focused on test scores and labeled schools failures if not enough students passed state exams.”

Another Chicago Sun-Times  (10/31, Lafferty) article reports that, as part of the new report card system, “every two years, school districts will anonymously survey staff, students and parents at each school to determine if the school has a supportive environment, good leadership, collaborative teachers, involved parents and engaging classes.”

Chicago Selective-Enrollment Schools Lead The Way. The Chicago Sun-Times  (10/31, Schlikerman) reports that, “once again, Chicago’s elite high schools dominate the top of state’s high schools, with selective-enrollment schools taking the top four statewide spots.” Meanwhile, “28 of the state’s bottom 40 schools are Chicago neighborhood or contract public high schools, according to a Sun-Times ranking of state standardized test scores.”

ISAT To Be Replaced. Chicago Sun-Times  (10/31, FitzPatrick) reports the Illinois State Achievement Test will be replaced by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, “in spite of Chicago Public Schools’ recent request and ongoing lobbying efforts for another year’s reprieve from the new test.” Meanwhile, “State superintendent of schools Christopher Koch said all schools and districts must administer the PARCC under the federal No Child Left Behind Act because the state accepts federal money for poor students under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”

‘Welcoming Schools’ Results Are Mixed. The Chicago Sun-Times  (10/31, Schlikerman) reports some of the city’s largest drops in Illinois State Achievement Test scores happened at so-called “‘welcoming schools’ where children were sent after 50 of their neighborhood schools were permanently closed in June 2013.” Some of the schools did see jumps, however. “Students at a school are scored by looking at how many Illinois students scored below them, on average, on the ISAT.”

Higher Education

NSF Grant Will Support STEM Degree Students At University Of Texas At Arlington.

The Fort Worth (TX) Business Press  (10/31) reports a National Science Foundation grant of approximately $974,000 will support a dozen University of Texas at Arlington doctoral students in STEM fields, paying for tuition and a $30,000 yearly stipend for two years. The goal of the grant is to “increase the quantity and quality of” STEM degree recipients among women and minorities.

Cal State Los Angeles Wins $11 Million ED Grant To Train STEM Teachers.

The Los Angeles Sentinel  (10/30) reports that ED has awarded the Charter College of Education at California State University, Los Angeles, an $11 million grant “to train new teachers to help close the achievement gap of students in high-need urban schools.” The focus of the grant is improved teaching in STEM fields.

Penn To Offer “Wasting Time On The Internet” Course.

USA Today  (10/30, Russell) reports the University of Pennsylvania will offer a course entitled “Wasting Time on the Internet” next spring, which will focus on “redefining the Internet and using everyday posts to create something more in depth.” Professor Kenneth Goldsmith stated he wanted to “break the stigma that surrounds modern-day technology specifically with the Internet, by creating the course.”

University Of Utah Uses Wireless Electric Bus To Move Students.

The Salt Lake (UT) Tribune  (10/31) reports a battery-powered bus is moving students around downtown Salt Lake City and the University of Utah using an innovative system that doesn’t use cables to charge the vehicle. The bus gets its charge from a wireless system where an in-ground plate emits a “trickle” charge that powers the bus battery. The program began at Utah State University with a Federal transportation grant.

Michigan State University Adds Biomedical Engineering Department.

The AP  (10/31) reports Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees voted to approve the addition of the Department of Biomedical Engineering to the College of Engineering. The first course offerings will be in the spring of 2016 with master’s and doctoral students and will add a undergraduate program once the department is fully established.

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Research and Development

NASA Successfully Tests Scale TGALS Prototype.

Andrew Tarantola at Gizmodo  (10/30) wrote that in the face of high launch costs, NASA was testing the Towed Glider Air-Launch System (TGALS), a “drone-towed, pilot-less, rocket-launching glider” that is “designed to launch orbital rockets from high altitude at a fraction of the cost of current methods.” Tarantola described how the TGALS works, adding that NASA “successfully tested its 1/3-scale prototype (which still measured 27 feet wingtip to wingtip) earlier this week at Edwards AFB in California as part of the Armstrong Flight Research Center’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Game Changing Development program,” though the test did not include a rocket launch.

GM CEO: New Technology Could Revolutionize Auto Safety.

GM CEO Mary Barra writes in the Denver Post  (10/31, Barra) about improvements in automotive safety. Barra says that a group of wireless technologies known as V2X could revolutionize vehicle safety by allowing vehicles to communicate with each other and with infrastructure to prevent accidents. Barra says that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has commenced a rule-making process to make the technology standard in all new automobiles, but car makers should voluntarily take steps to implement the technology before it is mandated.


NSF Grant To Help MTSU Identify Barriers To Women In STEM Fields.

The Tennessean  (10/30, Barnes) reports that Middle Tennessee State University has been awarded “a $195,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to further the advancement of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.” The grant will fund a study to “focus on identifying barriers that affect recruitment, retention, participation and promotion of women STEM faculty at MTSU.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Public Officials Call For Increased Infrastructure Investment.

The Trucker  (10/30) reports that Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx spoke to The Hill about transportation funding in an interview, saying that Congress has failed to pass a long-term highway funding bill. He told the outlet that there still may be time for his message to break through to Congress.

Engineering News Record  (10/30) adds that, speaking at before the North American Strategic Infrastructure Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C., Vice President Joe Biden “said improving and expanding infrastructure is a critical component in future U.S. job growth, highlighting a need for more public-private partnerships.” Biden encouraged more building projects and “specifically noted a need to upgrade U.S. ports so that they can accommodate New Panamax ships that will be in use after the Panama Canal expansion project completes in 2016.”

Similarly, Fleet Owner  (10/31) reports that former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood addressed the media last evening at the Caterpillar Demonstration & Learning Center, saying, “What Congress must do is pass a highway bill – one with no earmarks or sweetheart deals in it – to get the money flowing again to where it’s needed. It should be a six-year bill and it should include raising the fuel tax by ten cents a gallon.” He also said the tax should be indexed to inflation.

Other outlets noting public advocacy for increased transportation funding or a highway bill include the following: Aggregates Manager  (10/31), Aggregates Manager  (10/31), Roll Call  (10/31), For Construction Pros  (10/31), Truckinginfo  (10/31).

Elementary/Secondary Education

Survey Finds Districts Concerned About Common Core Linked Tests.

The Washington Post  (10/31, Layton) reports on a Center on Education Policy survey of school districts, which found that leaders in districts which will be giving “one of two major new standardized tests next spring linked to the Common Core math and reading standards are worried they don’t have enough computers, bandwidth or personnel.” The survey covered 187 school districts, and found that 76 percent of respondents said that “they face either major or minor challenges, including a lack of computers with adequate processing speed, bandwidth, and personnel who can handle technical problems during testing.”

States Increasingly Focus On Dyslexia.

USA Today  (10/30, Pieper) reports on dyslexia intervention programs, noting that Arkansas recently enacted a law to “require school districts to meet the needs of students with dyslexia,” while Connecticut, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia have enacted similar laws recently.

Michigan Introduces Bills To Provide High School Students With STEM Certificates On Diplomas.

MLive  (10/31) reports bills introduced into the Michigan Legislature last week could give high school students a STEM endorsement on their diplomas if the bills pass. Two bills were introduced in the state’s Senate with two mirroring bills to be introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives in November. The bills require high school students to take six credits of math and science in addition to the usual graduation requirements. The requirements still need to be approved by the Michigan Department of Education.

More Than 100K Arizona Students Fail Math Test.

The Arizona Republic  (10/31, Creno) reports “more than 100,000 Arizona students failed the math portion of Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) — more than five times as many as those who failed reading.” Experts blame the poor results on a lack of elementary and secondary math teachers. Further, Arizona does not have a statewide math-support program like it does for reading.

District Uses Mobile Classroom To Engage Students In Math And Science.

The Houston Chronicle  (10/31, Peyton) reports the Klein Independent School District will introduce in early November the “STEAM Express – a trailer retrofitted into a mobile learning laboratory that will travel the district, offering lessons to appeal to all ages.” Director Cindy Doyle explained that the acronym “STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.” A full-time instructor will be assigned to the STEAM Express as it visits schools around the district. The project stemmed from the District’s successful Reading Express, a mobile book program that “offers summer reading opportunities to students who might not otherwise have access to a library.”

Faculty Teaches Eureka Math to Parents Unfamiliar with Common Core.

The Alexandria (LA) Town Talk  (10/30, Guidry) reports the faculty at J.I. Barron Sr. Elementary School in Louisiana has not had any “visceral reactions” to the new Common Core structure but is hearing complaints that parents “can’t help their students or can get the right answer but not with the intended method.” In response to such concerns the school is “hosting regular Eureka Math nights for different grade levels,” where teachers explain the new mathematical methods to parents. The faculty also noted difficulties with Euraka Math seemed to arise more in the higher grades because the curriculum “is intended to build upon itself each year.”

Federal Investigators Recommend Science Teachers Receive Safety Training Following Spat Of Fires.

The AP  (10/31) reports that the US Chemical Safety Board recommended that science teachers receive more safety training before running “dazzling chemical experiments” that can result in fires after investigating three such incidents. The board found that the demonstrators lacked safety training and misused flammable chemicals while neglecting to put up barriers between the experiment and the audience. The article notes that Federal authorities are “not calling for criminal liability for negligent teachers, just better training.”

Also in the News

College Board Delays SAT Results From Asia Due To Cheating Concerns.

The Washington Post  (10/30, Anderson, Strauss) reports that the College Board and Educational Testing Service have decided to “withhold scores for students from China and South Korea,” due to “concerns about possible cheating on the SAT.” They have “revealed few details about the unfolding investigation.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories


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