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In our last newsletter we talked about the importance of persistence, one of the metacognitive learning skills necessary for students to make a successful transition to college or career. It’s now several weeks into the New Year…are you persisting in your resolutions, both personal and professional? Let’s restart our resolve to improve the quality of education for our students by developing their higher-order thinking skills.
PISA 2012 Results: U.S. students rank 26th in the world
In December, the OECD released its 5th global survey assessing the competencies of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics, and science, with a focus this time on mathematics. Results this year show little change in performance for U.S. students over time: in mathematics, we are below average, ranking ~26th. The details are worth investigating; visit the OECD website or download the U.S. report. Of particular interest was this finding:
“Students in the United States have particular weaknesses in performing mathematics tasks with higher cognitive demands, such as taking real-world situations, translating them into mathematical terms, and interpreting mathematical aspects in real-world problems. An alignment study between the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and PISA suggests that a successful implementation of the Common Core Standards would yield significant performance gains also in PISA.”
Read on to learn of EPIC’s research-based tools and services that address these areas of concern raised by the PISA survey.
ThinkReady: Developing higher-order math skills
EPIC’s ThinkReady assessment tracks student development of the Key Cognitive Strategies (KCS) in grades 6–12. The KCS are the thinking skills necessary for college and career readiness: Problem Formulation, Research, Interpretation, Communication, and Precision/Accuracy.
ThinkReady provides complex performance tasks that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards or other national standards. Teachers choose tasks that fit within their existing curriculum. The math tasks have the “higher cognitive demands” that the PISA study calls for: “taking real-world situations, translating them into mathematical terms, and interpreting mathematical aspects in real-world problems.”
Here are some sample ThinkReady math tasks:
Choosing Electives: Conditional ProbabilityStudents consider the effect of hypothetical budget cuts in their school district. In order to determine whether a proposed cut to elective choices would be advisable, students will collect data from a representative sample of students in the school on their grade level and their preferred electives. They then use the data to estimate the probability that a selected student from the school will favor a certain elective given his/her grade level (conditional probability) and use these probabilities to determine if the grade level and elective preference are independent. Students should compare results for each combination and make an informed recommendation to the school board about what electives to offer.
U.S. Incarceration Rates: Data, Functions, and RatesStudents predict incarceration rates for 2020, 2025, 2030, and 2050. They then address the question, Will there be a point at which the incarceration rate is more than 10 percent of the overall U.S. population? Research involves collecting information about incarceration and probation rates. Students evaluate relationships found in the data and interpret them to determine the best model for the data. Advanced students may realize that the U.S. population will not stay static over time, and they will attempt to include this in their calculations.
Rebuild or Renovate: Cost-Benefit AnalysisStudents will conduct a cost-benefit analysis comparing the options of rebuilding an aging school versus renovating an existing one. Students will choose at least three criteria (such as the need for access to technology infrastructure) to investigate thoroughly. Students will determine quantities that can be measured for each of their criteria and collect data with respect to the criteria. Finally, students will organize their conclusions into a presentation for the school board.
As noted above, one finding from the PISA survey was that “An alignment study between the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and PISA suggests that a successful implementation of the Common Core Standards would yield significant performance gains also in PISA.”EPIC developed the online CourseCreate tool to help a school document its course content and align that content to the Common Core State Standards or its own state standards.Content from CourseCreate is automatically pulled into CoursePathway so that you can easily see how your school is doing overall. Using these tools, schools can examine standards coverage across their entire course catalog or across a sequence of courses. In this way, schools can identify where there are gaps and redundancies in their standards coverage. Learn more about CourseCreate and CoursePathway.
EPIC conducts research and analysis focused on providing educators with the information they need to teach, assess, and value higher-order thinking skills. Current and recent projects include:
CCSSO Innovation Lab Network: In collaboration with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO); the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE); and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE), EPIC is currently working to build and pilot a task bank of formative performance tasks related to deeper learning.
Oregon Department of Education—Career and Technical Education Performance Task Development. This set of workshops brought together educators throughout Oregon to guide secondary and postsecondary instructors in the development and implementation of formative performance assessments. The performance assessments were aligned to the Common Core State Standards and are consistent with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s model of performance tasks. Download the final report.
South Carolina Accountability Final Report. The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee contracted EPIC to inform the revision of the state accountability system. From January through July of 2013, EPIC engaged in a three-part research initiative: 1) conducting an environmental scan to understand the current policy context of South Carolina and to identify “peer state” accountability models; 2) designing and facilitating a series of regional meetings to elicit the values and priorities of stakeholders in the education system through a design charette process; and 3) constructing an analytical framework based on findings from those stakeholder meetings. Download the final report.
Roadtrip Nation Program Evaluation. Conducted in 2012–2013, this multimethod evaluation project triangulated EPIC’s research-validated definition of college and career readiness with the initiative-wide objectives of the Hewlett Foundation’s Deeper Learning rubric and the program-specific outcomes of the Roadtrip Nation experience. Download the final report.
College & Career Readiness ResourcesUsers of EPIC’s CCRS tools have access to an extensive, searchable database of resources geared toward college and career readiness. Here are some items from the Resource Bank on higher-order thinking skills: Critical Thinking and Technology
Cengage Learning’s Online Teaching Center provides an accessible overview about teaching critical thinking skills, including sample exercises and additional online resources for instructors.
The Foundation and Center for Critical Thinking aims to improve the higher order thinking and critical reading and writing skills of students from primary grades through university. Their website includes professional development materials for teachers and resources for students.
Written for teachers, this book offers a new conceptualization of intelligence that focuses on critical thinking and intellectual curiosity, rather than ability.
Join EPIC at SXSWedu!
Planning to attend the hottest education round-up this spring? Be sure to join Dr. David Conley, EPIC’s Founder, CEO & CSO, and Dr. Charis McGaughy, Director, Research Projects, as they discuss college and career readiness.
Dr. David Conley will dive into his new book, “Getting Ready for College, Careers, and the Common Core.” This session will explore the Four Keys to College and Career Readiness, the “big picture” behind the Common Core State Standards, and how to cultivate deeper learning, leading to more complex understanding and greater retention. He will highlight strategies to enable students to make stronger connections between their studies and aspirations in ways that lead to increased ownership of learning.
Vertical Alignment Between K–12 and Postsecondary
Dr. Charis McGaughy will moderate a panel that includes Dr. Juan Carlos Reina, Director of Academic Resources & Development, Houston Community College; Dr. Catherine O’Brien, Associate Vice Chancellor for Learning Industry, San Jacinto College; and Dr. Jean Keller, Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Campus Academic Transition & P–16, and College Readiness Coordinator, University of North Texas. The panel will discuss how to improve P–16 vertical alignment, including:
how to develop and sustain P–16 faculty vertical alignment teams for major disciplines;
how to create and manage the capacity to share data and results between secondary and postsecondary institutions; and
how to design and implement interventions that improve student outcomes.
The panel will also address the processes necessary for recruitment and retention of faculty teams, securing administrator buy-in, planning interventions, and use of available data.