How some profs are overhauling college science classes. Free kindergarten expands. And a lawsuit over handcuffing young students in Kentucky.

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ACTIVE LEARNING = BETTER LEARNING?

The journal Nature recently reported on a national push to teach undergraduate science courses in a way that makes students grapple with questions, not just “listen passively to answers.”  The journal refers to an analysis by University of Washington lecturer Scott Freeman and others that concluded that active learning helps more students pass.  (Freeman has been teaching that way for awhile now.)  Nature also quotes Evergreen State College associate professor Clarissa Dirks, who is part of an initiative to reform undergraduate education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

“At this point,” she said, “it is unethical to teach any other way.”

That said, the journal also notes that active learning is often done poorly, quoting a professor who said that’s “worse than a good lecture.”

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Similar efforts are going on in high school — and not just in science classes.

ENDING PAY-TO-STAY

State lawmakers promised, back in 2009, to cover the costs of a full day of school for kindergartners.  Up until then, they generally funded just a half day.  Schools often offered more, covering the costs with local or federal dollars, or requiring parents to pay.  Now that’s going away. Next fall,  847 schools will offer free full-day K, according to the state’s education office.  That will cover 72 percent of incoming kindergartners, or about 59,000 of them.  And the state expects to reach 100 percent by 2016-17.  (Reaching that goal is part of what’s required under the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.)

PASSING MUSTER

The State Board of Education decided Wednesday that students need to score in the mid-2 range (out of 4) on the state’s new, Common Core tests to graduate from high school, after earlier deciding that a 3 would be considered “proficient.”   Confused?  It is confusing. An attempt at clarity:  The board members say they are trying to do what’s fair, given that new state tests measure whether students have mastered the Common Core learning standards, which Washington state has only been using for a few years. They have argued that high school students haven’t had enough time to be held to those higher standards. So the board set a minimum score that it says it plans to raise later.

DISCIPLINE BY HANDCUFF

That’s allegedly what happened in an elementary school in Kentucky, which led the American Civil Liberties Union to file a federal lawsuit.  The ACLU says the children were so small that the school’s resource officer had to lock the handcuffs around their biceps. It has a video.  It said the  handcuffs were removed after about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile in the Seattle area, more than 300 people showed up last week for a forum on the school-to-prison pipeline sponsored by the Metropolitan King County Council and the Seattle City Council.

And later this month, the Seattle School Board is planning to vote whether to place a moratorium on suspensions and expulsions in the city’s elementary schools.

THIS AND THAT:

  • If you missed it: Education Lab reported Sunday on efforts to build strong math skills in preschool through play.  The effort is built on research that shows young children are capable of grasping much more math than we’ve known.
  • A study by two economists from Texas A & M says girls do better when their teachers are women, especially when the subject is math.

FINALLY, A QUOTE FROM Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former Stanford University dean who has written a book on the dangers of helicopter parenting, saying it leads to low self-confidence.

“Often brilliant, always accomplished,” she wrote in Slate, “these students would sit on my couch holding their fragile, brittle parts together, resigned to the fact that these outwardly successful situations were their miserable lives.”