National / International News

What if Greece really does leave eurozone?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-02-09 11:30

The man they’re calling “the rock star of anti-austerity” rocked financial markets Monday. Yanis Varoufakis — the new Greek finance minister — sent bank shares reeling on the Athens stock exchange with his comments on the euro.

Over the weekend, he warned that the eurozone would collapse if his country is forced out of the currency union by Germany’s refusal to accept a renegotiation of the terms of Greece’s bailout. Varoufakis said he believes that if Greece left the eurozone, investors will pull their money out of other heavily indebted euro countries – forcing them to leave too. With its biggest export market – the rest of Europe – then in turmoil, Germany could be the biggest loser.

Yangon's architecture under threat

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 11:30
The battle to preserve Yangon's architecture

MPs to launch inquiry into HSBC

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 11:18
The Public Accounts Committee will be launching an "urgent" inquiry into tax evasion by wealthy clients of HSBC.

With Common Core testing, you get what you pay for

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-02-09 11:14

Think “standardized test,” and you might picture kids sitting at their desks filling in bubbles with No. 2 pencils or a Scantron machine cranking out scores.

It’s time to update that picture. This spring, millions of kids around the country will take a whole new kind of computer-based test aligned to the Common Core state standards. They’ll be able to use online tools like highlighters and calculators. They’ll be asked to “drag and drop” their answers into boxes and to respond to video.

In one sample from a 7th-grade English test, children read two articles about electricity, and then watch a video clip from a TED talk about building circuits with Playdough. Then they’re asked to write an essay, supporting their response with evidence from each source.

No bubbles in sight.

“Whether it’s the English test or math test, there’s a great emphasis on constructing responses to questions,” says Jeff Nellhaus, chief of assessment for PARCC.

That stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It’s one of two multi-state consortia that shared $360 million in federal grants to create tests aligned with the common core standards. The standards focus on critical thinking, problem solving and analytic skills. Nellhaus says the old measures won’t do.

In life, he says, there are no multiple-choice answers. “You have to construct your own answers from your own knowledge and drawing on other sources to get information,” Nellhaus says. “That’s what this test focuses on primarily.”

That kind of test is more expensive, says Scott Marion, associate director of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational AssessmentEach question has to be written, then reviewed for bias and age-appropriateness, and field tested. Then it may be revised or even thrown out. When you add up nine grade levels, all with different tests in math and English, we’re talking thousands and thousands of questions. Marion estimates a single multiple- choice question costs roughly $1,000 to develop.

“When you get into more open-ended questions, you get into three, four, five thousand dollars per question,” he says.

That’s because it’s harder to write questions that demonstrate different levels of ability. They also have to be changed out every year or so. Those are just the development costs. Then there’s the scoring.

“Scoring open-response questions generally requires human beings to read the papers and then assign scores,” Marion says.

Humans need to be trained and monitored to make sure they’re scoring fairly. Under pressure from states, PARCC has tried to keep costs down through technology. A feature on the math tests lets students type in equations that can be scored by machine. There will still be some multiple choice. Nellhaus says PARCC is also testing technology to score essays by computer.

“We’ll always have humans doing a check on the machines,” he says, but computerized essay scoring could be incorporated in the tests within a few years.

The savings won’t come soon enough for states like Georgia, which withdrew from the consortium when PARCC estimated its tests would cost about three times what the state had been spending. PARCC’s price has since come down to about $24 per student. That’s less than what many states spend, but much more than others. The cost has added to the controversy surrounding the new tests.

For some, though, it’s not enough.

“I think we’re spending actually too little on testing,” says Matthew Chingos, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “If we’re talking about 30 bucks a kid, to round up, that’s less than the cost of a textbook.”

A few years ago Chingos did a rough estimate of what states spend every year on K-12 assessment. He came up with about $1.7 billion – out of more than $600 billion in total spending on public education.

“We’re really talking about a small amount of money, especially in comparison to the importance that’s attached to the results of these tests, and the uses to which people want to put them, which is to hold teachers accountable, to improve schools, to hold schools accountable,” Chingos says.

There’s another reason tests are so important. They don’t just measure what kids learn. We’ve all heard the phrase “teaching to the test.” PARCC’s Nellhaus says tests send a signal to teachers and principals.

“What the test measures and how it measures it is going to have an impact on what they teach and how they teach it,” he says, “so it’s really incumbent on the test to be great.”

A great test? It’s hard to imagine students will see it that way when get a load of the real thing in the next few months.  Common Core By the Numbers

45
The number of states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards.

2009
The year the Common Core standards were developed.

10
The number of states that are giving standardized tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which are aligned with the Common Core standards.

$23.97
The per-student cost of PARCC exams.

18
The number of states that will use Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests this spring.

$22.50 – $27.30
The per-student costs of SBAC exams.

$1.7 billion
The Brookings Institution estimated in 2012 that states spend $1.7 billion on standardized tests each year. Brookings also noted the entire public education system spends more than $600 billion annually.

McCoy rival Johnson eyes 2016 title

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 11:06
Richard Johnson says he will "give everything he's got" to be champion jockey after finishing second to AP McCoy 15 times.

Obama Defends Decision Not To Meet With Netanyahu During Upcoming Visit to D.C.

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 11:04

President Obama says it would break protocol to meet with Netanyahu just two weeks before the Israel elections. Obama adds the two men have "real differences" over Iran.

» E-Mail This

With New Rules In Place, Netflix Expands To Cuba

NPR News - Mon, 2015-02-09 10:42

Starting today, Cubans with an Internet connection and access to international payment methods will have access to a wide array of movies and shows. There are huge hurdles, though.

» E-Mail This

Doomed stars found at nebula's heart

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 10:40
At the centre of a mysterious nebula, astronomers discover two stars locked in such a tight orbit that they will eventually merge and explode.

Law student jailed for raping women

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 10:36
A law student who raped two partners and sexually assaulted a third is jailed for 10 years.

Vet jailed over bestiality images

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 10:35
A former vet who was struck off after being filmed having sex with a horse and a dog is jailed for possessing images of bestiality.

AUDIO: Dench on preventing memory loss

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 10:35
Dame Judi Dench has tells the BBC Radio 4's PM programme she has been taking a health supplement as a "preventative" to memory loss, but not as a cure, as suggested by some newspaper reports.

Key Delhi election count to start

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 10:33
Vote counting is due to begin in the Delhi state elections where Arvind Kejriwal's anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party is expected to push ahead of the PM's BJP.

Belgian rugby club record 356-3 win

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 10:29
Royal Kituro thrash Soignies 356-3 in the Belgian top division - but remain behind their opponents in the table.

Probe into Lynette corruption trial

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 09:58
The solicitor for one of three men wrongly convicted of killing a Cardiff prostitute said Home Secretary Theresa May is to order an investigation into the collapse of the UK's biggest police corruption trial.

VIDEO: Tax evasion v tax avoidance - in 90 seconds

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 09:56
The BBC explores the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion in 90 seconds.

LTA alters Wimbledon wildcard policy

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 09:51
A world ranking inside the top 250 will no longer be enough to earn British players a wildcard at Wimbledon.

EU probes rail project fraud claim

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 09:46
An EU fraud investigation opens into the Lyon-Turin high-speed rail project, after Green MEPs complained of serious misspending.

Four die in tipper truck hill crash

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 09:31
Four people are killed in a crash involving a tipper truck that hit cars and pedestrians as it travelled down a steep hill in Bath.

Briton held over fatal resort attack

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 09:26
A Briton has been arrested in Spain on suspicion of killing a man he had caught filming his daughter on a tablet, reports say.

Netflix launches service in Cuba

BBC - Mon, 2015-02-09 09:13
Internet movie and television streaming service Netflix launches in Cuba, as diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba thaw.

Pages