Last week, I attended the White House Convening on Better, Fewer and Fairer Assessments. The event coincided with the release of final rules by the Department to guide states in administering annual assessments as required by the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the regulations build on the President’s 2015 Testing Action Plan. While these actions are critical, positive steps in ensuring high quality assessments in our classrooms, I think there are three simple lessons from my classroom that can be used to further this work:
- Teachers need more time and resources to develop assessments- This should extend to in-class assessments as well as standardized tests. However, in order for this to happen, teachers need the time and tools to master the craft of assessment development. Teachers rarely receive quality training this area; a 2012 study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that only one percent of pre-service programs adequately address how to analyze assessments in individual or collaborative settings. In addition, teachers need more time to plan and collaborate on assessment design. The 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey of teaching in 35 industrialized nations found American teachers spent the most hours per week in direct instructional settings and had some of the least time for planning and collaboration. This factor presents a significant barrier for teachers seeking to create high quality assessments that include multiple measures of student learning.
- Tests must be a reasonable length– In my classes, I have never imposed rigid time caps on tests because I’m more interested in assessing student knowledge instead of how quickly they can finish, but assessment design should ensure adequate time to demonstrate content mastery without making the assessment an endurance test. Unfortunately, standardized tests often fall short in this area. In the past, I have witnessed students working on a standardized assessment for over four hours straight without a break, with some students continuing to test beyond the end of the school day. This type of test design is simply unacceptable and not in the best interest of students.
- Tests must provide formative feedback, not just summative- Four years ago, I implemented a new testing program in my classes. If a student scored below a “C” on a test, I would let them re-take the questions they missed after tutoring with me. Doing so allowed the student to improve their grade, but, more importantly, it allowed them to increase content mastery. This program has resulted in substantial gains in student performance, because unit tests are now both summative and formative tools to identify areas of student weakness in order to foster growth. However, schools often receive limited diagnostic feedback from standardized test results, and the limited results provided often don’t arrive until after student schedules for the next year are developed. These factors prevent testing data from meaningfully informing instruction and class placement. A colleague once told me that, “If data cannot be used to drive instruction, then it’s not worth anything,” and too often assessment data is not received quickly enough to inform instructional practices. Fair and high quality assessments need to be tools for continued learning, not just measures of past learning.
The post Transforming Assessment into Great Learning Experiences appeared first on ED.gov Blog.
This week we are happy to welcome Dr. Katie Linder, Oregon State University Ecampus, as our guest blog post author. Dr. Linder is here to discuss a national research project on student use of closed captions and transcriptions. The important results show that while these resources are not yet widely available, many students, even those who may not need these resources as an accommodation, are able to use transcriptions and captions to increase their success. Thank you Dr. Linder for bringing these important results to our attention!
Enjoy the read,
Recently, the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit completed a national research project in which we surveyed students on their use of closed captions and transcripts to support learning. This study was conducted in collaboration with the closedcaptioning company 3Play Media. We focused on a broad population of students from 15 colleges and universities who both need these resources for academic accommodation for disability, as well as students who choose to use these resources for access and learning purposes. About 50% of those who responded take most of their courses online.What We Learned on Student Use of Closed Captions
This data set is one of the first we have that tells us more about how students use closed captions and transcripts in academic environments. Here are some of the things we learned:
- Closed captions are still not being made widely available. When asked in the survey how many videos in their courses had closed captioning or transcripts as an option, only 30% of respondents reported that closed captions were available for “all,” “most,” or “many” videos. Almost an equal number (a combined 26.7%) said that closed captions were available for “just a few” or for “none” of the videos in their courses. Over one quarter of respondents were unsure about the availability of closed captions (27%).
- Transcripts are even less available to students than closed captions. Only 12.2% of students surveyed reported that transcripts were available for “all,” “most,” or “many” videos and 61% said that transcripts were available for “just a few” or for “none” of the videos in their courses. One in five survey respondents were not sure about the availability of transcripts (18.4%).
- When they are made available as resources, students are using closed captions and transcripts to help them learn. When we asked about how students use these tools, their qualitative responses showed that they are using both tools as learning aids. In the case of closed captions, qualitative comments mentioned using them as a learning aid 75% of the time. In the case of transcripts, qualitative comments mentioned using them as a learning aid 85% of the time. More specifically, students use these tools to help with accuracy, comprehension, retention, and engagement.
- Students with and without disabilities are using closed captions and transcripts. When we looked just at the group of students who did not identify as having a hearing impairment or deafness, over 70% of that group were using closed captions at least some of the time. The study clearly shows that closed captions are not just being used by those who need them for disability accommodation purposes.
The study also helped us to identify some “hindrances” that students associate with closed captions and transcripts. Here are some of the most common:
- Closed captions are distracting or required too much cognitive load. This was the top hindrance shared in 41% of the qualitative comments on hindrances and students mostly mentioned that their attention strayed to the text rather than the visuals in the video.
- Closed captions include incorrect information. This was the second highest hindrance cited in about 35% of the comments. In particular, survey respondents mentioned things like typos or captions being incorrectly synced with the audio.
- Closed captions block important information. Mentioned in about 32% of the qualitative comments, this hindrance was tied to the design of captions and their placement within the videos.
In the case of transcripts, there was some overlap in the hindrance cited by survey respondents:
- Transcripts are distracting from the video or visual cues or required too much attention or cognitive load. Almost half of survey respondents who offered qualitative comments noted this hindrance.
- Transcripts include incorrect information such as typos, are not well-written, or are not formatted well. About one in five respondents who provided qualitative comments found the lack of accuracy or poor formatting to be a hindrance.
- Transcripts are too long, are too much to read, or require too much time. About 12% of the qualitative comments focused on this hindrance.
- Transcripts are costly and/or inconvenient to print out and carry around. Approximately one in ten students noted this hindrance.
One of the most important things to note is that most of these hindrances are fixable with a strong quality assurance process for the creation of closed captions and transcripts.Get the Full Report
Interested in learning more about our findings? The full student study report is available for download at 3Play Media’s website. While you’re there, you might also want to check out a second study we completed with 3Play Media on closed captioning implementation at U.S. institutions of higher education.
Dr. Katie Linder
Oregon State University E-campus
Have you ever wondered about pursuing a federal career? Are you interested in public service? Would you like to gain valuable work experience and help move the needle on education issues in this country?
The Department of Education may have opportunities that match your interests – and we’re currently accepting applications for interns!
Our Department is a place where you can explore fields like education policy, education law, business and finance, research and analysis, intergovernmental relations and public affairs, or traditional and digital communications, all while learning about the role federal government plays in education.
Our interns also participate in professional development sessions and events outside of the office, such as lunches with ED and other government officials, movie nights, and tours of the Capitol, Supreme Court and other local sights.
One of the many advantages of interning at ED is our proximity to some of the most historic and celebrated sites in our nation’s capital, all accessible by walking or taking the Metro.
ED is accepting applications for Summer 2017 internships through March 15, 2017.
If you are interested in interning during the upcoming term, there are three things you must send in order to be considered for an interview:
- A cover letter summarizing why you wish to work at ED and stating your previous experiences in the field of education, if any. Include which particular offices interest you. (But, keep in mind that – due to the volume of applications we receive – if we accept you as an intern we may not be able to place you in your first-choice office.)
- An updated resumé.
- A completed copy of the Intern Application.
Prospective interns should send these three documents in one email to StudentInterns@ed.gov with the subject line formatted as follows: Last Name, First Name: Summer Intern Application.
(Note: For candidates also interested in applying specifically to the Office of General Counsel, please see application requirements here. For candidates interested in internships with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) please click here.)
An internship at ED is one of the best ways students can learn about education policy and working in the civil service. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to develop crucial workplace skills that will help you in whatever career path you choose. And, it’s an opportunity to meet fellow students who share your passion for education, learning, and engagement.
Sam Ryan is Youth Liaison and Director of the Student Volunteer Unpaid Internship Program at the U.S. Department of Education.
One of the most important decisions that students make about their futures is where to enroll in college. And higher education remains one of the best investments that you can make in yourself, as you pursue your passions, launch a career, and strive for fulfilling, thriving lives.
Accreditation is important to consider as you choose a college, because it signals whether a school offers a quality education. For the U.S. Department of Education, it’s more than just a signal; it’s a requirement for any college or university to receive accreditation from an agency recognized by the Department before its students can use federal financial aid (like Pell Grants and federal student loans) at the school.
Unfortunately, too many schools have maintained their accreditation status in recent years even if they have misled or defrauded students, provided students with a poor education, or closed suddenly and without appropriate supports for students. This situation is unacceptable. It’s why the Department of Education has worked over the last eight years to strengthen America’s higher education accreditation system.
As part of our regular process for reviewing accreditors, earlier this year, staff at the Department recommended that the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) should no longer receive recognition from the Department as an agency that can provide schools with that “seal of approval” tied to receiving federal aid. An independent advisory body called NACIQI agreed, and a Senior Department Official issued a decision withdrawing recognition.
Today, Secretary John B. King Jr. officially decided to cease federal recognition of ACICS as an accrediting agency.
There were a lot of red flags with how ACICS was doing business as a quality assurance agency, and it did not seem likely that the agency could possibly fix them all in a reasonable amount of time. Some of those areas include problems ensuring the accuracy of data ACICS-accredited institutions provided to the accrediting agency; uneven ACICS monitoring of schools and enforcement of quality standards; and difficulties meeting the accrediting agency’s federal financial aid responsibilities under the Higher Education Act, including instances of concealing critical information from the Department. Not terminating ACICS’s federal recognition would be to sanction egregious behaviors that put students and taxpayers in harm’s way.
What does this mean for me?
This decision does not immediately affect you or your school, nor do our findings against the accreditor mean that your school is no good. For most institutions, there will be at least 18 months before federal student aid at the school is at risk. By law, schools can have up to 18 months of continued eligibility for federal aid, so that they can find another accreditor. That means some students—like those who are near the end of their program or who are preparing to transfer to another college or university—probably will not see their program of study interrupted. Students can expect to receive a notice from their school within 120 days—four months—if the institution doesn’t have an accepted application in with another accreditor by then.
For students who want to transfer anyway, or whose school closes instead of finding another accreditor, the Department will work closely with institutions and states to identify the options for students. When a school closes, those who were unable to complete but who were enrolled when the school closed (or withdrew within the four months prior to closure) can either transfer their credits or get their loans discharged. Schools are required to start setting up plans for how their programs will be taught out in the event of closure right away, and if they’re still off track closer to the 18-month deadline, they’ll have to start formalizing those agreements with other institutions. You can expect to receive information about that from the school further down the line.
Will my school remain open the full 18 months?
Please know that no matter what happens your school is required to stay in touch with you. A school could decide to close (or stop accepting federal financial aid), rather than find a new accreditor. Also, if an institution is particularly high-risk, the Department will apply some additional conditions to ensure students are protected; a school might decide to close or stop taking federal financial aid rather than comply with those requirements. If either of those happens, your school will provide you with more information as soon as it makes the decision to close; and the Department will do everything we can to provide more information about your options.
Additionally, some states might have different rules as they do for licensure, for example. Your school is required to disclose to students if they might be affected by a licensure issue, so look for more information. If the school loses its license to operate from the state, it will likely close, so watch for more information from your school.
The Department takes seriously its responsibility to make sure accreditors are meeting the standards laid out for them in law, as well as our duty to protect students and taxpayers. We are committed to ensuring those accrediting agencies that present the biggest risks to students and taxpayers receive the most rigorous reviews possible, while continuing to enforce statutory and regulatory requirements for recognized accrediting agencies. For more information about today’s ACICS decision, please read this piece on the Department’s official blog and visit www.ed.gov/acics.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this blog post appeared here. This post has been updated to reflect the most recent developments.
For millions of Americans, federal student loans and grants open the doors to a college education. That critical federal student aid must be used at a school that is (among other things) given the seal of approval by an “accrediting agency” or “accreditor” recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. It’s one of the safeguards in the system. Accreditation is an important signal to students, families, and the Department about whether a school offers a quality education. Accreditors have a responsibility under federal law to make sure colleges earn that seal.
But what happens when the Department stops recognizing an accrediting agency?
It’s a relatively unusual case, but it’s a relevant one today. Today, Secretary King—as part of our regular process for reviewing accreditors—upheld the decision to stop recognizing the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (or ACICS) as an agency that can provide schools with an accreditation that makes them eligible for participation in federal aid. For more information about the failures that led to that recommendation click here.
I’ll try to answer some of what you might be wondering today, and we’ll continue to provide more information as the process plays out.
How do I know if my school is accredited by ACICS?
Good first question. You can look it up here.
What does this mean for students at ACICS-accredited institutions?
Many institutions will not be impacted for the next 18 months, which is the time they have to receive accreditation by another recognized agency.
The 18-month timeframe means that a number of students who already have started at one of these schools will be able to complete their certificates or degrees before anything changes.
Generally speaking, if you’re near the end of your program or you’re preparing to transfer to another college or university, this news probably won’t interrupt your program. Your school will let you know directly if that’s not the case.
States also have a role to play with schools’ ability to receive student aid. So we’ve also required your school to notify you if any state action or other circumstance affects their ability to participate while they look for a new accreditor.
What happens next?
Your school and others accredited by ACICS now have 18 months to get a seal of approval from a different recognized accreditor in order to stay eligible to participate in federal student aid programs. Schools are eligible to continue their participation in the meantime.
Again, if you’re wondering whether changes in your school’s accreditation status might affect your specific plans, you should reach out to your school for individualized advice.
It’s worth noting here that licensing for some jobs – but not all – may require that your program is currently accredited by a Department-recognized accreditor. Contact your institution and/or the licensure board in your field to see if this is the case.
Okay, so it will take a while, but what if a school ultimately can’t find an accreditor?
At that point, students would no longer be able to use their federal student aid at those schools. Students who have not completed their program and want to continue to use federal loans or grants past that point would need to transfer to another school. Schools also need to have a plan in place to inform students about their options.
What if I want to transfer out of my school?
That’s a decision only you can make, but we have some tools that can help if you decide to transfer. In particular, you might want to check out the College Scorecard to look into other options and see how well those schools prepare their graduates for life after college.
Again, circumstances will be unique to each student and each school, but you may be able to transfer your credits. You’ll want to check with the new school’s registrar.
I just started a program at an ACICS-accredited school. What should I do?
You may want to be in touch with your school now, at the start of the 18-month period, to understand its plan to pursue accreditation with a different accreditor. Throughout the coming months, if the school isn’t taking steps towards a new accreditation process, we’ll require it to disclose that information directly to its students.
You might also want to do a little research using the College Scorecard. There, you can make sure your school has a track record of preparing its students for successful careers. You can also compare other options if you’re interested in transferring.
I already graduated from an ACICS-accredited school. Is my degree compromised?
Nobody can take away the hard work you put in or the skills you gained. Your school was accredited when you completed your program, and you’ll never have to return your certificate or diploma.
If you have concerns about your license or credential, please contact the relevant licensure board in your state.
If your school is not on track to be accredited by another Department-recognized accreditor, then your school should be in touch immediately with you to share information about your options. Also, you can continue to track your school’s accreditation status here.
Whatever you choose to do, please know this: you have a wealth of options in pursuing your education, so don’t stop. Getting a high-quality degree or credential in a field where employers are hiring is still the surest way to provide for your future economic security.
For our part, we’ll keep working to protect students like you and support you as you work to complete your degree or credential.
Matt Lehrich is Communications Director at the Department of Education.
The post UPDATE: What College Accreditation Changes Mean for Students appeared first on ED.gov Blog.
Uriel Levitt and Sibtain Junejo come from two very different realities. While Levitt, 20, is from Silver Spring, Maryland, Junejo, 15, was born over 7,000 miles away in Karachi, Singh, Pakistan.
Now these two artists have something that unifies them: Their artwork is at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in Washington, D.C., along with that of other peers from Egypt, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and elsewhere in the U.S.
On Thursday, Nov. 17, VSA artists and their families, ED staff, representatives from VSA and the Kennedy Center, and arts educators and arts education advocates came together to celebrate the opening of ED’s 12th annual VSA Art Exhibit, titled Yo Soy…Je Suis…I Am…the World. The exhibit advances VSA’s mission to “provide arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities and increase access to the arts for all.”
The celebration kicked off with a program enabling many voices to share their perspectives on the importance of the arts. Among them was Sue Swenson, acting assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, who invited attendees to visit the exhibit and “not only just see it with your eyes, but see it with your heart.” The “heart” of the matter for Swenson is grounded in our Declaration of Independence, whose principles showed up in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as “All human beings are … equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Swenson posited that “our artists here today and those who have also contributed to this exhibit have communicated with us in the spirit of brotherhood.” She ended by asking the audience to “keep in mind what is at stake” and that is “peace in the world.”
More voices were heard in a panel discussion, “Changing Lives Through Arts Education,” comprising Levitt, Junejo, Levitt’s mom, Dina Levitt, Levitt’s art teacher, Katherine Johnson French, Junejo’s sister, Sindhiya Junejo, and Tarik Davis, a local hip hop artist and educator.
Each of the panelists shared his or her belief in the significance of art in educating a person. For Davis, art “builds a sense of confidence and a sense of sureness.” For Johnson French, art “speaks a transcendental language” that enables her students to show her who they are. For Dina Levitt, art gives her son the opportunity to be seen as an equal.
The moderator of the panel and senior vice president of education for the Kennedy Center, Mario R. Rossero, acknowledged the importance of art in the context of the show’s theme.
“With ‘Yo Soy, Je Suis, I Am,’ it’s all about the individual perspective but also being a member of the global community and of the world,” he said. Rossero described the power of the arts in our lives that he heard from the panelists: It is the expression of “identity, voice, collaboration and relationships, imagination, confidence, and no boundaries,” all of which connect us.
This opportunity for connection is special to the artists themselves, many of whom have never had their artwork displayed anywhere other than in their schools and homes.
“I am so happy to see people enjoying a masterpiece, my masterpiece,” said Uriel Levitt, whose piece, “Whole Family and My Museum,” is a mixed media work, a sort of self-portrait complete with fake teeth, a mask, Legos, string, a green pepper, pictures of him and his family, and other objects dear to him.
Though Junejo is nonverbal, his sister expressed her family’s appreciation to have a platform to make his voice heard. “We are thankful that you are showing the world that this art exists,” said Sindhiya Junejo. “Everyone has special needs, theirs are just more visible.”
The VSA exhibit will remain on display in the Department’s lobby until the end of December, reminding all who see it of the beauty of human connection and the meanings of Yo Soy… Je Suis…I Am…The World.
Amanda Cary was a fall intern from the University of Colorado at Boulder in the Office of Communications and Outreach at ED.
All photos here are by Paul Wood. More photos from the event may be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofed/albums/72157676628939656.
The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann.
The post 2016 VSA International Artists Honored in ED Exhibit Opening appeared first on ED.gov Blog.