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  • Q&A: What Three Arizona Mayors Have to Say About High School Graduation

    by LearnEd

    A shot of a smiling man

    Improving Education, More Graduations

    In today’s political environment, elected officials working together across party lines seems a rarity. But 10 Arizona mayors from all corners of the state and all political persuasions decided to buck the trend.

    They’re setting aside differing perspectives to improve their communities’ education systems.

    Working Together, More Success

    The Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable, established in 2013, was created with the  goal of increasing high school graduation rates. Ultimately, that makes an impact in the lives of young people and the overall good of the community.

    As these 10 mayors unite as one, they’re realizing they can make a far bigger change in their communities.

    Personal Views of Youth Today

    Three of those mayors sat down for a Q&A to share their thoughts on high school and the power of today’s youth. Each has his own story—each was once a kid with growing pains, educational struggles and personal challenges to overcome in order to get to where he is today.

    Meet Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, (D), Tucson, Arizona

    Mayor Rothschild is the founder and creator of the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable.

    A native of Tucson, Rothschild remembers being involved in a high school initiative called “Model Legislature.” During that program, he and a his fellow classmates not only learned how their government was structured, but they were also allowed to actively participate in their state’s legislative process.

    While he feels it was a time for his "inner nerd” to shine, there’s no question this experience paid off in his career path.

    Today, he is helping lead a successful program called Steps to Success. Rothschild, local celebrities and educational professionals knock on doors in the Tucson community and talk to kids who didn’t finish school.

    Their hope is that they can re-engage these kids to get them interested in returning to school and graduate.

    Steps to Success has seen overwhelming success by getting more than 300 kids back in school.


    Meet Mayor Greg Stanton, (D), Phoenix, Arizona

    Mayor Stanton grew up in Phoenix. Starting from an early age, Stanton recalls his uncertainty of attending college due to lack of financial resources.

    Rather than letting his at-home circumstances overpower his goals and ambitions, Stanton worked hard to get the best grades he could, setting himself up for college scholarships. Eventually, not only was he able to attend and graduate college, he also obtained a law degree.

    Stanton himself understands the burden of college expenses: he is still—to this day—paying off his college loans. Still, he feels college was the best investment he could have ever made in himself.

    Ask him what advice he has for young people, he believes learning to communicate will take you far in life. He says knowing how to write well, speak well and present yourself well will be invaluable in your professional and personal life.


    Meet Mayor Duane Blumberg, Ph. D., (I), Sahuarita, Arizona

    A math professor and administrator for 35 years at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Mayor Blumberg sees the Arizona mayors working together to make an impact in their state’s education to be the most innovative and productive way to make a difference in their communities.

    Students who do not finish high school or go to college impact the economic health of more than just one community. He sees a domino effect taking place from one person to the next.

    When asked what book kids should be reading today, it’s no surprise he believes books about personal finance and economics to be invaluable to students intellectual and literary lives.


    The Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable, supported by WestED, benefits from one of three state grants America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson have invested in to increase high school graduation rates. You can read more here.

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  • An Innovative Charter School, Blended Learning, and a Community Celebrates

    by LearnEd

    Shots of kids in class

    "Successful Beyond Anybody's Dreams"

    University of Maryland President Wallace Loh was asked recently about an innovative school in College Park, Maryland where some of the university's education students are involved in their own learning classes:

    "It's a great opportunity for our students who want to work with kids or go into education, and I think the whole unversity learns from the blended education model," Loh said. "I think it's successful beyond anybody's dreams."

    (His comments appeared in The Diamondback, the University of Maryland's independent school newspaper.)

    President Loh serves on the board of directors of College Park Academy, a public charter school in Maryland's Prince George's County. The school uses blended learning to prepare its students for college and beyond.

    Higher Than Average Test Scores

    The Diamondback also reports this claim from College Park Academy's principal Bernadette Ortiz-Brewster:

    During the 2014-15 academic year, the eighth grade students enrolled at the academy scored a higher average on the eighth grade science Maryland School Assessment than the county, state, and surrounding districts.

    From the Twitter feed of @CPAPrincipal with the caption: "HOW DOES RIVER EROSION WORK, the thrilling new science non-fiction coming soon to a 7th grade classroom near you!"
    From the Twitter feed of @CPAPrincipal with the caption: "HOW DOES RIVER EROSION WORK, the thrilling new science non-fiction coming soon to a 7th grade classroom near you!"

    More Options for Teachers

    Joshua Young teaches language arts at College Park Academy and chairs the department. He says the blended learning approach gives him the flexibility to be a better teacher—and improve student outcomes.

    "With the technology and the online curriculum that our kids have," he says, "it's wonderful that they are able to work outside of the classroom and at their own pace."

    "Students are doing rote memorization, taking notes, or reading outside of the classroom," Joshua says, "and then when they come into the classroom, they're doing more extended projects or discussions."

    Online Curriculum

    The school uses Pearson's Connections Learning curriculum.

    Herbert Williams who teaches science, says the curriculum gives teachers time to create deeper, more innovative lessons.

    "Everything is on the computer, including lessons, quick checks, and unit tests," he says. "With more teaching prep time, I can review lessons and develop an activity to reinforce them."

    A Community Partnership

    College Park Academy is created through an alliance between the City of College Park, the University of Maryland, and Prince George's  County Public Schools.

    College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn told The Diamondback:

    "This school is a great opportunity for the families and their kids living in the area," he said. "One of our greatest challenges in College Park is making sure that people of the city have access to quality education for their kids."

    A Growing Waiting List

    The mayor's claims ring true.

    College Park Academy had a waitlist of 500 students for the 2014-2015 academic year.

    This past fall, that waitlist had grown to 1,200.

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  • Automated Scoring: 5 Things to Know, and a History Lesson

    by LearnEd

    Kids looking at a laptop together

    A Problem with the Yellow Pages

    Karen Lochbaum earned her Ph.D. in computer science at Harvard University. At the time, she was at the forefront of new research about using computers to interpret language—but she didn't want to follow many of her peers into academia.

    "I wanted to write software and make stuff," she says.

    Karen stayed true to those aspirations, turning her talent as an up-and-coming software developer into work with Pearson. Today, she is Vice President of Technology Services at Pearson Knowledge Technologies.

    online search

    Karen worked for a time at Bell Laboratories during her academic studies.

    They were working with something called Latent Semantic Analysis. It was an early form of online search technology, applied to the dense information in thousands of pages of yellow pages. Telephone companies wanted their customers to have a better, easier, faster experience than they were having thumbing through those thousands of pages.

    "Before this kind of technology," Karen says, "you had to know that 'doctors' were listed in the 'physician' section, or 'drugstores' were listed as 'pharmacies.'"

    "Latent Semantic Analysis helped us develop ways for computers to learn about words and recognize other words and phrases that mean the same thing," Karen says.

    Fueling Everyday Technology

    Today, the same technology helps companies like Google perform internet searches. Other companies like Amazon use it to create algorithms that suggest books based on what customers previously purchased.

    It's also the technology used today for automated scoring. Developed through decades of research by cognitive and language scientists, automated scoring technology is used to provide consistent, accurate, and timely feedback on online tests or writing assignments. It can be used for both formative (used to gauge student learning during a lesson) and summative (used at the end of a year or course to assess how much content students learned overall) tests.

    Better Scoring, More Teaching

    "It's not just that we can take student essays and score them in a couple of seconds," Karen says. "It's all about consistency."

    "Computers apply the same standards to every essay every time," Karen says. "The process gives students immediate, detailed feedback—and it allows teachers to do more teaching."

    today searchWhile trained human scorers may be able to cross reference student essays with a handful of standard essays called "anchor sets," computers can reference thousands of essays.

    "And human scorers are always performing spot checks to see if the automated process is producing what's expected," Karen says.

    Scores Today, Complex Feedback Tomorrow

    Karen and her colleagues have plans to make the automated process even more beneficial to learning.

    "We don't just want to score essays and point out grammar errors or spelling mistakes," she says. "We want this system to give students more detailed feedback in the future. How can they improve the way they organize their thoughts on the page? What content was left out of an essay?"

    When used in the classroom setting, there are many benefits to explore. "With automated scoring, kids receive instant feedback and can practice their writing a whole lot more," Karen says.

    "And teachers can focus on teaching."

    Automated Scoring, An Overview

    more teachingEducators, students and parents have asked for quicker results of student performance on standardized testing to help inform teaching and learning. Automated scoring, which is based on and used in combination with human scoring, can help us deliver on that goal.

    So, what exactly is it? Automated scoring uses a computer to score open-ended test questions like essays. Experts train a computer – pulling on human inputs -- to create a learning algorithm that can score an assessment as accurately as human scorers.

    As this technology may be new to many, we understand that there may be some uncertainty about automated scoring. That’s why we’ve put together a list of five things you should know about automated scoring when used for assessments:


    5 Things Automated Scoring FINAL.2
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John Fallon

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