Education Update: 3/18/2015

Vashion Island High School Lara Swimmer Photo Wood Shared Space Education

Education Update is a weekly blog post highlighting recent developments in the world of education. The linked articles and summaries are not endorsements, rather frame points of view to begin conversations about the state of education, trends, and how we as designers can play an active role in shaping schools.

Stunning surge in graduation rate as Rainier Beach gamble pays off

The Seattle Times reports on how Rainier Beach high school has dramatically improved graduation rates through building an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Rainier Beach was known for its athletes, not academics. After a push from local parents to begin the three year certification process to establish an IB program, teachers and students are finding pride in the rigor of the challenging curriculum. Interest in the program is growing exponentially. While the class of 2015 only has eight candidates eligible to graduate with the IB Diploma, 22 are on target in the class of 2016, and 74 in the following class. “I was hesitant at first, kind of intimidated. But IB is the reason why I come every day. I don’t honestly think I’d still be in school if it wasn’t for IB and how it challenged me,” said Tavares Tagaleo’o, a Rainier Beach student.
The IB program is not guaranteed to stay at Rainier Beach as it is not considered part of the District’s Advanced Learning Options, and there is no plan in place to retain funding after 2017. Ingraham and Chief Sealth high schools resort to parent-funded IB programs. With a significantly higher population of low-income students, Rainier Beach is at a disadvantage for fundraising. While the future is in question for now, there is no doubt a transformation is happening.

Four models of non-traditional schools at SXSWedu

The Hechinger Report details four innovative education models at the South by Southwest Education annual conference. At Beaver Country Day School in Massachusetts, what started out as coding in a geometry class turned into integrating coding in every subject. The Stanford Online High School uses a model of the flipped classroom, in which students watch lectures and read before bi-weekly online Socratic circles. Another, quite literally outside the box, is a mobile school housed in a self-driving bus that houses tutoring and study materials. While this isn’t a reality yet, it is another sign that there are a myriad of opportunities to be explored at the crossroads between schooling, technology, and place.

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades?

After decades of focus on developing legible writing, new standards limit practicing this skill to kindergarten and first grade. The shift to digital has focused writing curriculum toward keyboard proficiency over pen and paper. Maria Konnikova of the New York Times examines what students may be missing out on by shifting away from handwriting in the classroom. According to Konnikova, handwriting, generally, opens a variety of neurological pathways that typing simply does not. The benefits can range from improved learning when taking notes by hand to stronger pattern recognition.

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