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

Leading the News

Michigan State University Student Aims To Set Guinness World Record.

Technology Century  (7/16) reported that Michigan State University College of Engineering student Steve Price and his team of 15 international builders were preparing to make an attempt Saturday “at a Guinness World Record for the Largest Chain Reaction Machine.” They were setting up the Zeal Credit Union’s Incredible Science Machine, which “feature[d] more than half a million objects, about 200,000 dominoes and thousands of other common items,” at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit. The piece added that the event would “be filmed for the Discovery Channel show, ‘Daily Planet.”

Higher Education

Some Universities No Longer Requiring Standardized Test Scores.

The Philadelphia Inquirer  (7/19) reports that some Northeastern universities are allowing students to apply without submitting standardized test scores, and this is having positive results, especially at Temple University. There, enrollment is up, with the new policy “expected to yield a freshman class well over 4,500.” In addition, the percentage of enrolled minorities has increased, along with average class GPA. The Inquirer reports that critics have said for years that the SAT is unreliable, and that it “discriminates against minority students and those from low-income families.”

New Study Looks Into Who Is Getting An Online Education.

US News & World Report  (7/17, Haynie) reported Aslanian Market Research and Learning House released a study on online education. The study found the popularity of online education programs is growing among young people below the age of 25. The proportion of online college students under 25 has risen from 25% in 2012 to 34% in 2015. In choosing an online education program, students deemed cost and reputation as the two most important factors. The study also found that the majority of online students are women at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Open Letter Criticizing Science Journal For Not Being Welcoming Gaining Signatures.

The Washington Post  (7/17, Feltman) reported more than 300 scientists have signed an open letter to the journal Science criticizing the publication for not doing more to welcome women and other marginalized groups into the scientific community. The letter specifically criticizes the methodology of recent studies that have argued that women are no longer unwelcome in the community. The article then outlines the recent mistakes made by Science that inspired the open letter.

Op-Ed: How Women Can Counter Sexism In Science.

In a Boston Herald  (7/18, Chandra) opinion piece, Ph.D student Kavita Chandra outlines how women in science can counter sexism in the field. Chandra opens by relaying the recent story of Tim Hunt who questioned women’s place in science by saying that the “trouble with girls” is that they are “romantically distracting and too emotionally vulnerable.” Chandra then goes on to explain how women can counter imposter syndrome themselves and together.

Some See More Sex Education As Key To Curbing College Sexual Assault.

The Washington Post  (7/20, A1, Brown) reports that as colleges and universities “grapple with the widespread problem of sexual assault,” there is “a growing consensus that the nation’s schools need to do more to educate young people about sex and relationships before they ever set foot on campus.” The Post notes that “a little-noticed measure tucked into the Senate’s 600-page bill to rewrite No Child Left Behind, which passed Thursday, would require the nation’s high schools to begin reporting how they teach students about safe relationships, including what it means to consent to sex and how to avoid sexual violence and coercion.” The provision “is one of the ways that advocates, educators and lawmakers are pushing to reexamine what children learn about sex and sexual assault while in public schools.”

Bankruptcy Judge Decision Cited As Reasoning For Changing Standard To Determine Discharge Of Student Loans.

The New York Times  (7/17, Bernard, Subscription Publication) reports a bankruptcy judge’s 2013 written decision explaining why he discharged a debtor’s student loans under the “undue hardship” standard has been increasingly cited as an argument for changing the standard. Judge Jim D. Pappas of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Bankruptcy Appellate Panel described the undue hardship standard as “too narrow” and also said that it “no longer reflects reality and should be revised.” The judge’s opinion is being cited as additional evidence that the standard for discharging student loan debt should be changed. Other judges have also questioned the third-prong of the test, which some describe as requiring that the debtor’s future prospects be “hopeless.”

Free College Plans Facing Scrutiny.

CNBC  (7/19, Keane-Lee) reviewed the arguments in favor of and opposed to proposals to make college education free in the US. The article discusses the growing concern about college affordability and discusses whether making college free is the solution to the problem.

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Accreditation and Professional Development

Column: Weingarten Reports American Federation Of Teachers Conference Was A Success.

In a Huffington Post  (7/19, Weingarten) opinion piece, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, shared the stories of teachers who attended the union’s biennial TEACH conference in Washington, DC. Two thousand teachers attended the conference where they learned from experts and each other how to be better teachers. Weingarten recounted the efforts of teachers in New York City and Boston to better help their students.

Op-Ed: Teaching Needs To Become An Attractive Profession Again.

In an opinion piece in The Indianapolis Star  (7/19, Whitson) Bob Whitson argued that the current teacher shortage facing Indiana and the rest of the nation can only be faced if teaching is made an attractive profession again. The editorial says that the parallel trends of teachers leaving the field and declining enrollment in education programs at colleges has created the shortage. The editorial then argues that these trends can only be reversed by increasing funding for teachers, reducing the pressure put on teachers by standardized tests, and countering the “blame-the-teacher mentality” that underlies many education reform efforts.

Florida Board Of Education To Set Teacher Evaluation Standards.

The Tampa Bay (FL) Times  (7/18, Solochek) reported in its “Gradebook” blog that the Florida Board of Education is expected this week “to adopt a new rule setting standard definitions for the ratings in courses associated with statewide tests.” The new rule would assess teacher performance levels as highly effective, effective, needs improvement/developing, or unsatisfactory. The rule would also set the value-added model formulas for districts, noted the Times, adding that the step “comes on the heels of lawmakers’ decision to let districts reduce the amount that student test scores count on evaluations.”

Research and Development

Cities Racing To Become Ed-Tech Hubs.

Education Week  (7/17, Cavanagh) summarized several recent stories about different cities across the country including Boston, Baltimore, and Los Angeles that are trying to “mold themselves into attractive home bases for established education companies and startups.”


LAUSD Program Shows New Teachers How To Manage Stress.

The Los Angeles School Report  (7/17, Szymanski) said LA Unified School District is helping new teachers learn how to manage stress by offering workshops through its New Teacher Summer Institute. The School Report briefly described how Suzanne Silverstein, with the Psychological Trauma Center at Cedars-Sinai, shows teachers how “to create a quiet working environment for the students, which also relieves stress for the teacher.” It added that about 1,800 teachers are expected to participate this year.

Los Angeles Unified School District Investigating Famous Teacher For Alleged Misconduct.

The Washington Post  (7/20, Mathews) reports the Los Angeles Unified School District is investigating Rafe Esquith, a fifth-grade teacher, after he made a joke about nudity in his classroom. Esquith was removed from his classroom in April and is privately battling accusations of misconduct that have been made by the district. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has rejected a formal complaint that was filed with them by the district, but now the district is accusing Esquith of molesting a child when he was a teenage counselor at a summer camp. Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews considers Esquith to be “America’s best classroom teacher” because of his “annual Shakespeare productions, real-life economics lessons, advanced readings and imaginative field trips.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Additional Coverage Of ESEA Legislation, Debate Over NCLB.

The Washington Post  (7/17, Strauss) reported in its “Answer Sheet” blog on the “backdrop for the push by Congress to fix No Child Left Behind,” in which the “biggest issue” is how much power should be returned to states. The blog lamented that the debate has been more about “states’ rights vs. federal control” than improving schools, and there is no guarantee that states would be able to “make any better decisions than Duncan’s Education Department has since 2009” if the law is changed. It acknowledged that there were amendments in the Senate and House bills “that addressed some important issues. … Still, the debate about a new education law did not, unfortunately, put these issues in the forefront, where they belong.”

NPR ’s (7/17) Claudio Sanchez spoke with “Sandy Kress, one of the architects of NCLB,” about the law and its impact. Kress said the implementation was flawed, but the reform has led to improvements in learning and a narrowing of the achievement gap. Kress also noted that “NCLB never called for this massive amount of daily or weekly testing that has made the law unpopular,” explaining that much of that testing has been at the state or local level. Kress predicted that NCLB/ESEA has a 50-50 chance of reauthorization, with obstacles including funding and “opposition to ‘all things Obama.’”

The Los Angeles Times  (7/20, Blume) reports that “political and policy hurdles” could prevent the Senate and House bills passed last week from becoming law. Both measures would return some authority to states and require annual standardized testing, but differences between them over “federal funding and the rules for using these dollars” could possibly “doom the effort.” The piece notes that the Administration has indicated that President Obama “could sign the Senate bill, but still wants revisions.” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is quoted as saying via a statement: “This bill still falls short of truly giving every child a fair shot at success by failing to ensure that parents and children can count on local leaders to take action when students are struggling to learn. … We cannot tolerate continued indifference to the lowest performing schools.”

WPost Urges Obama To Veto Education Laws That Fails To Hold States Accountable. The Washington Post  (7/18) editorialized that while the Senate’s passage of Every Child Achieves Act “is a significant step,” there is “a hollow ring to the name, given the failure of lawmakers to put in place any requirements that states actually do something about schools that consistently fail to help their students achieve.” The Post called upon President Obama to “make clear he will veto any measure that doesn’t make states accountable” and presses lawmakers to include such measures in conference committee.

Jeb Bush Says Education Bills Will Rein In Department of Education. The Washington Post  (7/18, Rubin) “Right Turn” blog called “the House’s and Senate’s passage of similar legislation to reauthorize No Child Left Behind” a victory for those seeking to reduce Federal involvement in the classroom. It said this was also a victory for Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, who “has had to defend accusations that he wants to federalize education through Common Core.” Through a spokesman, Bush praised lawmakers “for the substantial progress they have made towards reforming the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.” Bush said the bills would “rein in an overbearing and bureaucratic Department of Education and ensure that the federal government has no role in setting academic standards or curriculum.”

ED Releases Checklist Of Questions To Help Parents Assess Children’s Education.

The AP  (7/17, Hill) reported ED Secretary Arne Duncan released a checklist of questions for parents to assess the quality of education their children are receiving. Duncan said, “I have never met a parent who doesn’t want the best for their child. However, it can be hard for families to know how to support their child’s education. Engaging with their education is a good place to start.” The guide was created by the ED in partnership with the United Negro College Fund, the national Parent-Teacher Association, and other organizations.

Commentary: Parents Don’t Need a Government Manual On Parenting. In The Daily Signal  (7/18, Burke) opinion piece entitled, “How to Parent: A Department of Education Guide”, Heritage Foundation fellow Lindsey Burke discussed the release of the ED checklist and compared it to the release of suggested lessons plans by the ED back in 2009. The 2009 lesson plans were criticized by some as overreach by the ED and possibly violating federal law that prohibits the ED from getting “involved in curriculum.” Burke says the new ED guide for parents is another example of overreach by telling people how to parent. Burke says, “Parents don’t need a government manual to know how to support their children.”

Blog Relays Candidates’ Responses On Education Questionnaire.

The Washington Post  (7/20, Strauss) “Answer Sheet” blog looks in a lengthy piece at how Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT), and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley responded to an American Federation of Teachers questionnaire, before the AFT endorsed Clinton on July 11. The questions touched on education, health care, and the economy, and candidates were asked to state their positions on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, assessment, STEM education, and professional development for school staff, among other things.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Mississippi School District Gets State Grant To Start Robotics Program.

The AP  (7/20) reports the “Mississippi Department of Education is providing $200,000 to start a robotics program at the Moss Point Career and Technical Education Center” in Moss Point, Mississippi. Durand Payton, the director for Moss Point schools says the program will be a “pre-engineering curriculum” and will begin during the upcoming school year.

Zombie Survival Camp Teaches Elementary School Students STEM Skills In Fun Way.

The AP  (7/18, Grothjan) reported students at Rainier Elementary School in Longview, Washington attended a weeklong survival camp where they learned survival skills and about STEM fields by “battling radioactive pirate zombies.” Theater students from Rainier High School dressed up as the zombies to help motivate the elementary school students to learn survival and STEM skills. Students had to build fires, construct lean-tos, and make devices that repelled the zombies.

Amazon Updates Whispercast Platform With More Options For Teachers.

Education World  (7/17, Persaud) reported Amazon released an updated version of their popular education platform Whispercast that allows teachers and professors to better manage the materials they share with students over the platform. Whispercast allows teachers to share e-books and other materials with their students, and is used in 130 of the largest school districts in the US as well as 2,400 institutions of higher education.

In Colorado County, Realtors Try To Raise Student Test Scores.

KRDO-TV  Colorado Springs, CO (7/18) reported that realtors in Pueblo County, Colorado are trying to improve their chances of making a sale by working with District 60 to improve scores on the Colorado Measures of Academic Success tests. Real estate agent Kendall Curtis “said schools are a popular topic when people consider buying…properties,” and low scores make it harder to sell.

Friday’s Lead Stories

Senate Easily Passes NCLB Rewrite.
Massachusetts Student To Research Solar Panels With Northeastern University Professor.
Conference Focused On Digital Manufacturing.
DOE Going Ahead With New Standards For AC, Heat Pumps, Water Heaters.
Tuscaloosa County, Alabama To Launch Career Technical High School.
Guinness World Record Attempt At Largest Rube Goldberg Machine To Be In Detroit Saturday.

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