Edtech News Round Up: NY’s Elite Schools, Online Learning, And The Comfort Of Books


New York’s elite schools have a problem with equity, but what’s the solution?


What’s Going On With New York’s Elite Public High Schools?

Getting into New York City’s specialized public high schools isn’t easy.

Admissions are based on how students do on the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). However, earlier this month, New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio proposed getting rid of the test due to the problem of fairness in admissions. The mayor proposes a system that would admit the top 7 percent of students at every public middle school in the city.

The competitiveness of getting into a specialized school is understandable. Nearly all students who attend these schools go to college and develop impressive professional careers.

One major factor that contributes to these specialized schools reputations for success is the peer-driven expectation of achievement. All these smart, driven kids push and learn from one another.

This peer-effect is an important concept for all schools to take into consideration. It suggests that if there is a large amount of achievement-oriented kids, then it will have a positive impact on the rest of the student body.

Until 2014, school admissions in New York City were based on school zones. Now, parents cans apply to get their kids into any school in the city. Today, 40 percent of all kindergarteners go to schools other than the one they are zoned in. As a result, some schools are struggling with under-enrollment.

It is possible that de Blasio’s proposal could incentivize parents to choose these under-enrolled schools, where they may have a better chance of finishing at the top of their class.

The Number of Students Taking Online Courses Is Quickly Rising, But Perceptions Are Changing Slowly

Online course offerings in the US are expanding through K12 and higher education.

Between 2012 and 2016, online enrollment in universities increased by over 17 percent. This increase doesn’t necessarily correspond with people’s perception of the quality of online courses.

Public perceptions of online learning over the last 15 years have gradually become more positive. Evidence shows an increase in the number of students enrolling in courses.

Researchers note that perception change only happens in particular areas. This is a result of strategic practices such as universities not listing online courses within student transcripts.

They also found that changing the perception of online courses correlated with experience. Academic leaders who have good experience pass it on to others through teaching or taking a course.

Other research found that learners tend to give online courses more negative evaluations than in-person courses. This may be due to the lack of experience some educations have in teaching online courses. Over time it is more likely that good in-person teachers will become good online teachers.

The research also suggests that a good course and teacher is effective regardless of the platform. It is unfair to group them all in the same category. Bad lectures don’t mean all lectures will be bad, and it is the same with online courses.

How Bibliotherapy Can Help Students Open Up About Their Mental Health

Mental health concerns can hinder students’ ability to concentrate. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) can only help so much. Getting kids, especially teenagers, to talk about their feelings can be difficult. This is especially true when they worry about being judged or feeling like they are outsiders.

A Westborough High School librarian has developed an alternative way to support students with mental health issues. Along with a school counselor, she has begun a six-week group specifically targeted at students who had experienced trauma or loss.

This unique school-based support group uses storytelling and literature to help kids understand and confront their feelings.

The method behind this group is Bibliotherapy. The focus of the group is on helping people understand, process, and consider difficult emotions. In addition, it makes them feel less alone because they are able to relate to characters they encounter in books.

The use of books as a therapeutic tool can be invaluable for students suffering from depression, anxiety, and grief.

Social media fuels beliefs of being left out or alienated from peers. This can take a major toll on a student’s mental health.

Reading about a fictional character’s experiences can normalize those feelings. It can also help give kids the courage to open up about what they are going through.

Each meeting of the Bibliotherapy group, students were invited to share their thoughts about a book they’d read.

Students that experience the therapeutic benefits of bibliotherapy also begin to see the library as a place where they can find books that help them understand their own feelings and feel a greater sense of connection with others.


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