Indiana State Board Approves, Then Quickly Reverses ‘Nuclear’ Change In A-F School GradesBY EMMA KATE FITTESfor Chalkbeaat IndianaIndiana’s State Board of Education on Wednesday passed a major change to how it grades schools — and then, at the very same meeting, voted to reverse its own decision.In an effort to rein in how the state rewards student improvement on its standardized exam, the board initially approved a cap on so-called growth scores, which measure year-over-year performance.Every year Indiana gives each school an A-F grade, meant to evenly weigh student growth and passing rates on state tests. But a board member, David Freitas, said the grading system skews unfairly toward growth. That’s because students could earn more than 100 points on growth but could get a maximum of 100 points for answering every test question correctly.It’s not clear how drastically the cap the board passed, and which Freitas initially favored, would have affected school grades. But an Indiana Department of Education spokesperson, Adam Baker, said in an email Wednesday it would have negatively impacted school grades overall.The board voted to reverse course when Board Chair B.J. Watts asked that his colleagues reconsider the decision before making a “huge change.”“The vote that we took was a nuclear option,” said Watts, who at first was the only board member to vote against the cap. “It changes accountability on a level that I want to make sure that we all understood what we did.”Indiana’s education department, which calculates schools’ growth scores, did not recommend the growth score cap. State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who heads the department, sits on the 11-member state board but was not at Wednesday’s meeting.Ready or Not Ultimately, Freitas, along with all board members but one, voted to undo the decision.Proponents of growth scores say they are a more fair measure of what a child has learned than whether or not they pass a high-stakes test. For example, a student who did not pass the ILEARN exam can still score well if they improve more than their peers did on average. The measure is particularly important at low-performing schools, where school leaders want to see significant year-over-year growth as they work to improve passing rates.But on Wednesday Freitas argued that the ultimate goal of schools is to get every child learning at or above grade level. Such a metric places more value on whether or not they can pass the test.This discussion comes at a time when schools’ A-F grades are already expected to be low statewide. That’s because nearly two-thirds of Indiana students didn’t pass both math and English portions of ILEARN, Indiana’s new standardized test.Although the education department is still working to calculate school grades, it could be months before they are made public. The state board already voted to hold their release until state lawmakers could consider a one-year reprieve, which would shield teachers and schools from any negative consequences of declining scores. Without such a reprieve, state grades could negatively impact teacher evaluations and trigger state intervention at chronically struggling schools. Chalkbeat reporters in Detroit and Newark are examining whether students from struggling schools are prepared for college — and whether colleges are prepared for them. Join in! By Emma Kate Fittes [email protected] FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmail
Notes from the new normal Signing onlineIf you think teaching French or Chinese online is difficult, consider Andrew Bottoms’ challenge of moving his American Sign Language (ASL) courses to Zoom.The linguistics preceptor has been teaching ASL classes at Harvard since 2016, but the pandemic forced him to rethink how to do spatial and body-based language learning at a distance.“My first reaction was how to stay committed to my students and how to fulfill their expectations of the class,” said Bottoms, who is deaf and uses ASL in class. “I wanted to maintain the level of value of the course.”He first had to adjust the syllabus — originally students were required to attend ASL events and sign with deaf people — then split his 20-person “ASL 2” course into two smaller classes.“Twenty students in ASL class doesn’t work in Zoom. I provide lectures by video in preparation for the online class time, when we practice conversation,” he said, noting that his videos include built-in repetition so students don’t have to rewind to practice. “ASL is different from other languages because it’s completely visual. You are learning to use your eyes and your body to listen to language, but it’s going better than I expected, to be honest.”Bottoms had just completed the purchase of his first home in Jamaica Plain when the pandemic hit, but decided to move down to North Carolina to isolate with his family. His priority is to keep students’ stress levels low, and try to maintain some of the dynamic energy that makes the class so popular.“Many have said it’s their favorite class, and it’s a 9 a.m.,” he said. “I have one student in California who gets up at 6 a.m. That’s a lot of commitment.”Cuba comes to CambridgeSenior lecturer on music Yosvany Terry has been isolating at his home in Cambridge, cooking up a feast inspired by his native Cuba and his love of travel: Bits of the socially distanced lives of staff and faculty, from a LEGO model of the Music Building to Gov. Andrew Cuomo as Henry V to cereal for dinner — in the shower Lisa Albert’s wedding was just a few weeks away when the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued the stay-at-home advisory. After postponing the planned event at Ventfort Hall in Lenox, Mass., until next year, Albert, a faculty assistant in sociology, and her partner, Matthew Tuttle, decided to go ahead and just get married for now.On their wedding day, the couple gathered for their ceremony and reception in the living room of their Somerville home with an officiant and two photographers, along with more than 100 guests who watched over Zoom. They projected the laptop screen onto a wall so they could better see the guests.“Doing the Zoom wedding alleviated a lot of the pressure” of the ritual, said Albert. “I don’t really like being the center of attention, so even the idea of getting up in front of everybody and talking, with all these people looking at me in person, was anxiety-provoking. But they [were] all tiles on Zoom, [so] it was kind of easier to forget that they were there during that time.”Following the ceremony, the couple hosted a reception and sent their guests into randomized Zoom breakout rooms to imitate a sit-down dinner at assigned tables. Then they visited each room to thank everyone for coming and catch up with their guests, some of whom had logged on from as far away as the U.K. Albert and Tuttle ordered in barbecue to imitate their planned menu and drank home-brewed beer (with hand-drawn labels by Tuttle) called “Here Comes the Rye” that they had planned to give out as favors.“It was pretty much exactly what it would have been like, just not in person,” said Albert. “There are clearly other people who are in the same situation as me, and I feel like a handful of people are just putting off the whole thing. But you can still have a wedding without having the party and it is still fulfilling. It’s nice to bring everyone together in this time when no one can be together.”When classes went online, Harvard lecturer Alicia Harley joined her husband, Sahil Gulati, on the island of St. Croix where he works. Courtesy of Alicia HarleySunsets and a silver liningIn her 10 months of marriage, Alicia Harley ’08, Ph.D. ’18, had barely spent more than 10 days in a row with her husband, Sahil Gulati, who works 50 percent to 75 percent of the time on the island of St. Croix for a company helping the U.S. Virgin Islands government in its efforts to rebuild the water and wastewater infrastructure after Hurricanes Maria and Irma.When the pandemic forced Harley, a lecturer in environmental science and public policy and postdoctoral fellow in the Sustainability Science Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, to begin teaching virtually and leave campus, she felt fortunate to be able to spend more time on the island with Sahil.“While there has been a lot of work, my husband and I are also making sure to enjoy the beautiful weather in the evenings,” she said. “We usually walk on a very empty beach with our dog, Sophie, around 6 p.m. for an hour or so. This certainly makes us both feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to do this, and watching the sunset is soothing for the soul after a day that usually includes a lot of tragic news.”The workload has been significant for Harley, who this spring is teaching “Sustainable Development,” a course with “many moving parts and a lot of close student-faculty mentorship.”“I have been spending a lot of time in front of my computer since arriving in St. Croix March 12, both revamping course material and doing my best to offer even more opportunities for students to connect online in order to try to mitigate some of what they lost out on this semester as learning went virtual,” she said.While grateful for the sunsets, Harley misses family and friends.“Being in the USVI makes me feel very far away from loved ones, and I have to remind myself that even if we were in Cambridge we still would not be able to see and hug one another,” she said. “The first thing I am going to do when this is over is hug my best friend, Larissa de Lima,” who graduated from Harvard a year after her. “I worry about her a lot as she lives in Brooklyn. I’m also very worried about our friends and family in India, where the health care system is very weak. Our two adorable 4-year-old goddaughters live in Kolkata, and I wish I could just scoop them up into my arms and bring them to play with me on the beach.” Related Dispatches from socially distancing students and faculty A remote ‘Doctor of Philosophy Dance Party,’ laughter yoga, crowd-sourced altruism, and tweet to remember The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news.
BYLINE: Shigeho NimoriPresident, International Freight Railway System Co Ltd*CONSIGNMENTS of freight moving to and from Japan will be accelerated thanks to a partnership between China Railway Foreign Service Corp and Japan Railway Freight Co. A formal agreement was signed with JR Freight by CRFSC Vice President Shi Yulin in February in Tokyo. This covered the establishment of a company called International Freight Railway System Co Ltd with an initial capital of ´31m, of which JR Freight holds a stake of 25·8%. For many years Japanese National Railways and Chinese Railways maintained good relations, and this continued after JR Freight was set up as an independent company in 1987. When diplomatic relations between the two countries improved in the early 1990s, opportunities were sought to step up the level of co-operation between the railways. This work finally bore fruit last year when agreement was reached to establish IFRS, culminating in signature of the deal in February.The agreement provides for intermodal freight services to be established to link Japan via fast sea links to China and improved rail services within China and also to Mongolia, Kazakstan, Vietnam and other countries. Trains will convey containers and general cargo. JR Freight will use its expertise in intermodal traffic to help local Chinese companies improve freight transport on international and Chinese domestic routes. Urgent shipments will use the China Railway Express Service network linking 46 principal cities.International intermodal services will be set up with the China Land Bridge organisation to accelerate shipment of containers between Japan and Europe. Japanese companies are hoping that the rail landbridge will offer effective competition against the maritime routes that have long dominated links between the two trading blocks.IFRS is planning to tackle the problem of not being able to book cargo space on CR’s general freight services because of chronic over-demand and lack of capacity. It also hopes to be able to offer lower rates and to be able to keep track of shipments as they move across China. o*Shigeho Nimori is also Senior Managing Director of JR Freight
First half goals from Jordan Marada and Jamie Fink complemented a dominant defensive effort at McAlister Field on Thursday afternoon, where the USC women’s soccer team defeated the Florida Atlantic Owls 2-0 to record its first shutout of the season.Brick wall · Junior goalkeeper Caroline Stanley (25 saves, 0.75 goals allowed average, .806, save percentage) only had to register one save in her first clean sheet of the season against Florida Atlantic on Thursday. – Nick Entin | Daily TrojanThe Women of Troy (5-2-1) were on the offensive from the opening kick, but struggled to convert opportunities into goals in the game’s first minutes. It appeared that USC would strike first at the 13-minute mark, when Marada found fellow senior Autumn Altamirano streaking down the side of the pitch. Instead, Florida Atlantic goalkeeper Courtney Zwetsch made an athletic save to keep USC off the board.Two minutes later, however, the Women of Troy would finally cash in. A beautiful, long-distance loft pass from Marada found sophomore Jamie Fink in the box, who deftly redirected the ball into the net.“[Sophomore forward] Katie [Johnson] and I were both making runs, and she drew the defense off of me a little,” Fink said. “Then Jordan Marada sent in a cross with the perfect curve.”The Fink and Marada show was not over. With 13 minutes remaining in the first half, an Alex Quincey throw-in was deflected into the middle of the field, where Marada found the ball and delivered it into the side of the net. It was the midfielder’s second goal of the year to go with her four assists.After halftime, it was a tale of strong defense and missed opportunities for the Women of Troy, who outshot the Owls 14 to 5 in the contest. With two minutes gone in the second half, freshman Kayla Mills found a seam down the middle of the field, but could not push a point blank shot past the FAU keeper. At the 55-minute mark, sophomore midfielder Megan Borman could not convert a penalty kick after Fink was fouled in the box. Later, with 13 minutes to play, Marada barely pushed a free kick wide of the Owls’ net.Even with these close calls, USC never seemed at risk of a loss because of their dominant backline. Goalkeeper Caroline Stanley, who directed traffic expertly all game long, was only forced into action once. The ball simply never seemed to get that far.Altimirano appeared to be flying all over the field, stealing possession with ease and setting up the USC offense on numerous occasions. Sophomores Natalie Donaldson and Erin Owen were also forces of nature on defense.Even though Thursday marked the first shutout of the 2013 campaign for the Women of Troy, the backline has been consistent all season, having allowed more than one goal just once this year.“Our backline is getting better and better every game,” USC head coach Ali Khosroshahin said. “The best part is, I can put eight or nine players out there [on defense] every game and expect the same results.”“We are so impressed with our defense,” Marada said. “This shutout was so key, and it puts us in great position for the rest of the season.”The Women of Troy’s offensive difficulties were not a complete mystery. The squad played without star senior midfielder Elizabeth Eddy, who sat out with an injury. Eddy leads the team with five goals and brings invaluable experience and leadership to the table.Khosroshahin knew playing without his star midfielder would be difficult, but was careful to not place too much importance on one player.“We weren’t as sharp as we normally are up the middle, that’s for sure,” the seventh-year coach said. “But I can’t say if that’s because of one player.”Marada applauded her teammate’s unselfishness on the bench.“Elizabeth still made her presence known,” Marada said. “She brought a lot of positive energy off the bench. She is still a leader off the field and gave out a lot of good advice.”USC soccer returns to McAlister Field Sunday, where the Women of Troy will host Cal State Fullerton at 3 p.m. The Titans bring a 3-2-2 record to the contest, and boast five players who have scored at least one goal apiece. Last season, the Women of Troy defeated CSUF in a tight 3-2 contest. Sunday’s game will mark the final nonconference game for USC, who will then move into Pac-12 play.Follow us on Twitter @dailytrojan