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

Leading the News

Study Finds Women Falling Behind In Receiving STEM Bachelor’s Degrees.

According to the Washington Post  (1/27, Rampell), a National Student Clearinghouse report on degrees in STEM fields found the percentage of STEM bachelor’s degrees received by women has “ticked down over the past decade,” with women receiving 23 percent of BA’s in computer science in 2004 versus only 18 percent in 2014. The study also notes that both sexes were “slightly more likely” to major in STEM fields in 2014 than they were in 2004. The study also notes that educators have cited Harvey Mudd College “as a role model” for encouraging woman in STEM fields, as the school’s “revamped” intro course and other changes have led to women comprising “nearly half of its computer science majors.”

NNSA Helps Sponsor University Of Missouri Engineering Zone For Young STEM Students.

The Kansas City (MO) Star  (1/28, Robertson) reports on the Kansas City Engineering Zone at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which “is giving robotics teams from Paseo and Lincoln College Preparatory Academy a new space to collaborate and build.” The article notes that NNSA and Honeywell were two of the partners with UMKC on the center, having donated about “$300,000 worth of machine shop equipment.”

Higher Education

In Face Of Bipartisan Opposition, Obama Drops Plan To Limit 529 Plans.

The White House said on Tuesday that the President was dropping his plan to limit the tax benefits of 529 college savings plans. The coverage stressed the opposition that Obama’s proposal had faced was not only from Republicans, but also from top Democrats. The New York Times  (1/28, Weisman, Subscription Publication) reports that “facing angry reprisals from parents and from lawmakers of both parties,” the President has decided to drop the plan, but will still “keep an expanded tuition tax credit at the center of his college access plan.” The plan faced opposition not only from House Speaker John Boehner, but also from a number of top House Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). USA Today  (1/27, Singer) runs a similar report, noting opposition from Boehner, Pelosi and Van Hollen.

The AP  (1/28, Ohlemacher) reports that the White House move came “amid a backlash from both Republicans and Democrats.” Pelosi “pushed senior administration officials to drop it as she flew with the president aboard Air Force One from India to Saudi Arabia.” In addition, Van Hollen and Sen Charles Schumer (D) “privately weighed in against the plan.” An unnamed White House official said, “Given it has become such a distraction, we’re not going to ask Congress to pass the 529 provision so that they can instead focus on delivering a larger package of education tax relief that has bipartisan support.”

The Washington Post  (1/27, Douglas-Gabriel) says that the proposal “proved to be a serious political miscalculation,” because with student debt soaring, the 529 plan “has become one of the best tools for families to save for college.” The Post says that critics “quickly pounced” on the proposal, “saying it was tone deaf to the needs and aspirations of ordinary Americans who are looking for any help they can get saving money for college.”

The Wall Street Journal  (1/28, Mckinnon, Subscription Publication) says that the move is a setback for the President. However, a White House official downplayed the impact of the move, saying the 529 proposal was “a very small component of the president’s overall plan to deliver $50 billion in education tax cuts for middle-class families.”

McClatchy  (1/28, Hall, Subscription Publication) reports that GOP Congressional leaders “cheered” the White House decision to back off the plan. Boehner said, “I’m glad President Obama has decided to listen to the American people and withdraw his tax hike on college savings. This tax would have hurt middle-class families already struggling to get ahead.” Sen. Charles Grassley “questioned the view that the college savings instruments were another way for the rich to shelter income. He said his office checked stats at the Iowa treasurer’s office.”

The Washington Times  (1/28, Boyer) reports that RNC Chair Reince Priebus said Obama’s move was “welcome news for millions of families and an embarrassing blow to his agenda. Democrats are in real trouble heading into 2016 if they think raising taxes on middle class families counts as ‘middle class economics.’”

Bloomberg News  (1/28, Rubin, Dorning) reports that whatever the White House’s stance on the plan, the proposal “had almost no chance of advancing in the Republican-led Congress.”

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal  (1/28, Subscription Publication) says that it is good that the plan has died, but wishes that it had been the focus of scrutiny for a few more months as it would have been disconcerting to the middle-class taxpayers that the President claims to be working in favor of.

GOP Expected To Look To Expand 529 Plans. Politico  (1/28, Blade, Grasgreen) reports on the Democratic opposition and adds that “now Hill Republicans want to rub his nose in it by voting to expand the tax break.” Politico adds that a “legislative aide to one of the authors of a bipartisan bill to expand tax savings for 529s said House leaders’ ‘plan is for the bill to be brought to the floor in late February for a vote,’ giving Republicans another chance to flaunt the small tax victory.”

Jury Finds Defendants Guilty In Vanderbilt Rape Trial.

The Tennessean  (1/27, Tamburin) reports that a jury found former Vanderbilt University football players Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey guilty of rape on Tuesday, as staffers from almost 80 Tennessee colleges began a two-day summit dedicated to stopping on-campus sexual assaults. It says “Organizers started planning the summit” last year in response to new Department of Education regulations on sexual violence, also mentioning what topics the summit panels will address.

The WSMV-TV  Nashville, TN (1/28, Bruck) website reports that ED officials were on the Vanderbilt University campus when the verdict was delivered, noting that this “is one of more than 50 universities under federal investigation for mishandling of sexual assault cases.” WSMV relayed comments from students and victims’ advocates, who hoped the outcome would contribute to more dialogue about rape.

The Tennessean  (1/27, Wilemon) reports that two women who were also raped on the Vanderbilt campus welcomed the verdict and said the student who took Vandenburg and Batey to court was a hero. One of these two, graduate student Sarah O’Brien, is pushing “the university’s leadership to do more to protect students from sexual violence and, along with others, has filed a complaint against the university with the U.S. Department of Education.”

In an editorial written on behalf of The Tennessean  (1/27) Editorial Board, Opinion Engagement Editor David Plazas asserts that the trial, which “was painful and revealed horrible truths about the extent of heinous behavior fed by a culture of irresponsibility and shaming,” should lead to a loud and open conversation about how rape affects everyone.

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Accreditation and Professional Development

North Carolina Recommends Changes to Teacher Training Programs.

The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer  (1/27, Stancill) reports a “daylong summit” ending with the unveiling of seven proposals could mean “major changes” are on their way to the North Carolina public university teacher training programs that have “seen a precipitous drop in students” recently. The Observer notes the recommendations include “a longer, more intensive practical teaching experience for students,” improved collaboration between educational and arts and sciences schools within the university, a “publicly available ‘UNC teacher quality dashboard,’” and expansion of a program providing “support and mentoring to new teachers.” UNC leaders stated “the recommendations are necessary” to curb the drop in the number of students enrolled in the program, which the board chairman deemed “inadequate to meet the demand.” Ellen McIntyre, dean of education at UNC Charlotte, stated that they prepared “enough teachers” but simply “don’t keep them.”

Research and Development

Drones May Change Energy Exploration.

The AP  (1/27, Legere) reports that drones may be used in the search of oil and gas deposits once the technology becomes available for smaller, more energy-efficient magnetic sensors. Energy companies will save time and money using new technology to perform surveys and safety checks. “The options available to them are wildly expensive, very slow and very dangerous for anybody that’s deployed on site,” said Dick Zhang, CEO of Identified Technologies, a Pennsylvania drone company. “We saw this problem and proposed a solution.” Rob Schwarz said his company, Remote Intelligence, is also developing drone services: “Gas pipelines, erosion and sedimentation, security – that’s where a lot of the interest is, as well as pad layout,” he explained.

Workforce

Oklahoma Official Proposes Teacher Pay Increase.

The Houston Chronicle  (1/28, Perera) reports newly-elected Oklahoma superintendent of public instruction Joy Hofmeister “wants to invest $150 million toward a five-year plan to raise teacher pay,” according to KOKH-TV. Under that plan, teachers would see a $5,000 pay increase, as well as five more days of instructional time.

Engineering and Public Policy

Maryland College To Host Satellite Event For Climate Change Conference.

The AP  (1/27) reports that the public is being invited to Frostburg State University “to watch a satellite feed of a national conference on climate change.” School officials “say the university is one of just seven institutions in the United States selected to host a satellite site for the event starting Tuesday. The conference in Washington runs through Thursday.” The conference “on science, policy and the environment attracts more than 1,200 experts.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Senate Holds Hearing To Revise NCLB, Focuses On Teacher Evaluations.

The Washington Post  (1/27, Brown) reports the Senate’s Tuesday hearing was the “most serious effort” yet to rewrite the No Child Left Behind law, an effort being led by the chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R, TN). The article notes that lawmakers do not want to continue linking “teacher evaluations and teacher pay to student test scores,” with Sen. Patty Marry (D, WA) stating she is “wary” of using tests as the “sole factor” for salaries or evaluations. According to the Post, Alexander’s draft law says the Secretary of ED “may have no role in approving state-level teacher evaluations” and eliminates the “highly qualified teacher” requirement. The draft law also expands “funding for the Teacher Incentive Fund” and gives “states much more flexibility” on the use of Federal funds for teacher and principal training. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D, MA) was “sharply critical” of this flexible approach.

The Education Week  (1/28, Camera) “Politics K-12” blog also reports, noting what some witnesses had to say. Kentucky education commissioner Terry Holliday called for an overhaul of “the entire teacher and principal-leader pipeline” and used the opportunity “to take a jab at the U.S. Department of Education. ‘In order to create a system of support for teachers and school leaders, we as state leaders in education do not need review or approval from the U.S. Department of Education,’ he said.” Principal Christine Handy-Collins from Maryland’s Gaithersburg High School emphasized the need for “a more serious effort into recruiting and training principals to work in high-needs school districts.” First-grade teacher and National Education Association member Rachelle Moore agreed, adding that “she favored creating a teacher-induction program…where novice teachers are paired with experienced teachers for an entire year.”

Sen. Alexander Says Feds Should Allow States To Determine How To Evaluate Teachers. The Chattanoogan  (1/28) reports Senate education committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander stated that, regarding reforms to mandated teacher evaluations, the Federal government “will get the best long-term result by creating an environment in which states and communities are encouraged, not ordered, to evaluate teachers.” Following a hearing on revising NCLB and teacher evaluations, Alexander noted that he considered “finding a fair way to encourage and reward outstanding teaching” was the “holy grail of K-12 education.” The article reproduces the entire remarks of Alexander.

Washington Democrats Ask State Leaders To Revoke Common Core.

The Seattle Times  (1/27, Todd) reports on Saturday the Central Committee of the Washington State Democratic Party adopted a resolution condemning the Common Core, “saying private and corporate interests pushed the reading and math standards without evidence they will improve student learning.” The measure contends that the Department of Education pressured states into adopting the testing standards and “asks state lawmakers and schools chief Randy Dorn to revoke” them.

Maryland’s Graduation Rates Hit Record High.

The Washington Post  (1/27, George) reports “state officials cheered the new milestone” as Maryland’s graduation rates improved 4 percentage points from 2010 to over “86 percent of students earning diplomas within four years,” setting a “record high.” Prince George’s County’s graduation rate improved from 74.1 to 76.6 percent in one year, while Montgomery County’s rate jumped from 88.3 to 89.7 percent in one year. Compared to 2010 statewide rates, the African American student graduation rate increased 4 percentage points to 80.5 percent and the Hispanic student graduation rate increased 6 percentage points to 77.5 percent. The state data also indicate “Maryland’s drop-out rate declined from 11.9 percent in 2010 to 8.4 percent in 2014.”

Graduation Rate For ESL Students Drops. The Baltimore Sun  (1/26, Bowie) reports that, as Maryland’s graduation rate hits “a historic high,” some educators state “many students learning English as a second language are falling behind,” with their graduation rate dropping “3 percentage points to 54 percent.” The article notes educators cite “language barriers,” school interruptions, and “emotional trauma” as possible reasons for the low rate. Regarding the increase in the state’s overall graduation rate, State Superintendent Lillian Lowery said schools are becoming “more adept at using test data to find and help students who need extra assistance,” allowing the schools to “target students more directly.”

Hundreds Attend Roosevelt School Science Fair.

The Chicago Tribune  (1/27) reports that on Friday evening at Roosevelt School in Park Ridge, students gathered “to celebrate their love for science.” The 2015 Roosevelt School science fair “featured 83 unique handmade science projects designed by more than 150 students.” The students “were treated to a cryogenic demonstration by Fermilab scientist Jerry Zimmerman.” He “focused his demonstration on liquid nitrogen and how it performs at super-low temperatures.”

Pima County Teens Not Enrolling In Tech Program Despite Good Job Prospects.

The Arizona Daily Star  (1/28, Dale) reports that “despite promising job growth in the field,” student enrollment in the “Pima County Joint Technical Education District’s computer maintenance, information technology and software development classes” has dropped over 50 percent since 2012 to 300 students. JTED Assistant Superintendent Aaron Ball noted “it’s a real quandary” why students haven’t enrolled, since the “jobs are out there.” The Star reports that while attracting students to the JTED program is “one hurdle,” finding instructors was another obstacle. The Star notes that students that have enrolled in the classes stated they’re “interested in the money” the computer-related fields offer.

Also in the News

Gillespie: How To Reform The Complex Educational System.

In an opinion piece for the Huffington Post  (1/28, GillespiePh.d.), Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Executive Director Nicole M. Gillespie, Ph.D. states that the “cause-and-effect assumptions” that are often made when attempting to reform education have failed because the “education system is complex.” Gillespie argues that we must “look beyond centralized top-down approaches with limited impact” and not assume that focusing on specific roles within the system can produce the desired results. Accordingly, Gillespie notes that, instead of merely appointing “teacher leaders” to help steer changes, “we need to cultivate the capacity” within all teachers “to mobilize their peers and together create leadership events that change the system.” Gillespie argues that we must harness the “energy that is already in the system” in order to change it.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

SpaceX Settles Its Lawsuit With The Air Force.
Despite Push, Number Of College Students Pursuing Science, Engineering Stagnates.
Metamaterials Discovery Brings Invisibility Closer To Reality.
Study Says 100% Of Women Of Color In STEM Fields Experience Bias.
Republicans Fail To Overcome Filibuster On Keystone Legislation.
IT Trade Group Working With STEM Career Service To Promote Cybersecurity PD.

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