Report: Schools Should Focus More on Soft Skills

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A new study from Wainhouse Research finds that a large minority, 39 percent, of education stakeholders say their schools should be doing a better job of preparing students for the workforce.

Among more than 1,000 administrators, teachers, students and parents surveyed from North America and the United Kingdom, “many” said they “believe that schools are doing a decent job focusing on the 3 R’s: reading, writing and mathematics, but are not doing as good a job focusing on other aspects of education essential to preparing learners for entering the workforce,” according to the report.

Sixty percent of those surveyed said too little emphasis is placed on collaborations with other learners outside the classroom, while 46 and 40 percent, respectively, said there should be more emphasis on group achievement and working in teams.

The two soft skills respondents said were important most often were problem solving, at 96 percent, and the ability to collaborate, at 95 percent.

“A total of 58 percent of those surveyed believe schools are placing too much emphasis on teaching to mandated tests,” according to a news release. “In order to change that, many responders say schools should improve professional development, offer new methods of assessment, provide greater leadership and adopt new approaches to teaching.”

The full report, which was sponsored by Smart Technologies, is available at downloads01.smarttech.com.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is the multimedia editor for Campus Technology and THE Journal. He can be reached at jbolkan@1105media.com.

Superintendents to schools: Stop fighting over Common Core

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Superintendents said the battle over the Common Core standards is having a negative impact on their schools.

While the superintendents largely agreed that the controversial Common Core testing standards can be improved, more than 75 percent of the school leaders said that they see the standards as having a positive impact on education, a survey released Thursday for the state Council of School Superintendents found.

“Most superintendents regard the Common Core Standards as promising although not perfect,” Robert Reidy, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “They see the state’s testing system as trying to serve too many purposes and therefore not showing enough value for educators and families in helping to improve instruction.”

Nonetheless, 96 percent said the ongoing fight between the state and parents, teachers and students over the standards is hurting the school environment as a whole.

“Debates over matters of public policy are now so often inflamed and any leader who steps forward with solutions invites criticism,” the group’s report said. “Condemning is easier than consensus building. But if nothing is ever good enough, nothing can change, and nothing will ever improve.”

Superintendents from among the state’s nearly 700 school districts gave mixed grades to state tests: They can be useful for identifying strengths and weaknesses in instruction, but are not the best measure for evaluating teachers.

The state Education Department and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have convened separate panels to figure how to improve the Common Core testing and teacher evaluations, which are based in part on student performance. In April, 20 percent of students opted out of the tests.

The council conducted two on-line surveys: One last spring asked about the opt-outs and the state assessment system, and 45 percent of superintendents participated. Another survey over the summer sought views on the Common Core standards and usefulness of state assessments; 48 percent of superintendents responded.

Dispelling Myths about Improving Student Achievement # 8

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Myth: Ability grouping is effective.

Some believe grouping students by ability allows teachers to customize learning to student’s learning pace, but the opposite is true — it has little impact on achievement. The greatest negative effect is that students from minorities are more likely to be in the lower groups and such equity issues should raise major concerns.

From District Administration Magazine by John Hattie, Educational Researcher at the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Dispelling Myths about Improving Student Achievement # 7

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Myth: Eliminating social promotion gives students more time to learn foundation skills.

Repeating a grade has a negative effect on student achievement (at every age) and is correlated with negative social and emotional achievement, behavior and self-concept.

From District Administration Magazine by John Hattie, Educational Researcher at the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Dispelling Myths about Improving Student Achievement # 4

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Myth: Teachers need deep content knowledge to be effective.

Some reform initiatives primarily focus on ensuring teachers have deeper content knowledge, particularly in secondary subjects. Yet most teaching today occurs at the surface level, so in-depth subject knowledge in not as influential as many believe.

It is only when there is right mix of surface and deep learning does content knowledge matter. Expert teachers use their content knowledge to make meaningful connections between concepts by using students’ prior knowledge and adapting lessons to meet students’ needs.

From District Administration Magazine by John Hattie, Educational Researcher at the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Dispelling Myths about Improving Student Achievement # 2

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Myth: Homework Matters:

Only for older students — those in middle or high school who are reinforcing what happens in the classroom — does homework substantially influence student achievement.  To be effective, homework should be four things; brief, linked to the in-class lesson, monitored by the teacher, and exclusive of new learnings that disadvantages those who most need a teacher present.

From District Administration Magazine by John Hattie, Educational Researcher at the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Dispelling Myths about Improving Student Achievement # 1

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Myth:  Smaller class size improves learning

Despite much of the current rhetoric, reducing class size doesn’t come close to meeting the threshold for impact. In fact, smaller class size only marginally affects student achievement because teaching practices rarely change when teachers move from larger to smaller classes.  The ROI is also low when reducing class size because personnel spending goes up on more classes and teachers.

From District Administration Magazine by John Hattie, Educational Researcher at the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

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