Monday, November 02, 2015

EDUCATION - American Students and in Afghanistan

"What will Obama’s new testing plan mean for American students?" PBS NewsHour 10/25/2015


SUMMARY:  President Obama on Saturday called on states to cut back on standardized testing for U.S. school kids, who, on average, take eight of them every year, from pre-K through 12th grade every year.  The Obama administration also released a testing action plan with new guidelines.  Kate Zernike of The New York Times joins William Brangham to discuss.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  President Obama and the federal Department of Education are calling on states to cut back on standardized tests in schools.  U.S. school kids from pre-K through 12th grade, on average, take eight standardized tests every year.  That’s almost one test a month during the school year.

In a Facebook video yesterday, the President said teachers have told him the pressure to teach to those tests — quote — “takes the joy out of teaching and learning.”

His administration has now released a testing action plan with new guidelines.

For more insight on that, I’m joined by Kate Zernike of The New York Times.


KATE ZERNIKE, National Correspondent, The New York Times:  Thank you.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  So, this is a pretty big statement from the president on this very contentious issue.  Why — why is he coming out now?

KATE ZERNIKE:  Well, I think they wanted to get past the spring testing push last year, or this — or this year.

But I think, also, there was a report coming out from the Council of the Great City Schools, which is a coalition of about 70 urban school districts.  And they have generally been pro-testing.  But their superintendent set out to find out how many tests the kids are taking.

And what they found, the report also came out yesterday — or Saturday — was that there are just are — that, as you said, there are, you know, eight tests a year.  There’s just so many — so many people are calling for so many different tests, that a lot of these tests are — they’re not only onerous, but they’re sort of pointless and purposeless.  They’re not really tied to what we want them to be tied to, to learning in the classroom.

"Afghanistan’s first women and gender studies program now in session" PBS NewsHour 10/25/2015

MEGAN THOMPSON (NewsHour):  Twenty-eight students at Kabul University filed for a first-of-its-kind class for Afghanistan.

It’s the introductory course in a new master’s degree program in gender and women’s studies in a county that has long struggled to provide equal rights to women.

When the Taliban seized power in 1996, the hard-line Islamist regime banned women and girls from going to school, having jobs outside the home, or even stepping out in public without being covered head to toe in a burqa.

After the U.S.-led invasion after 9/11 toppled the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan’s new constitution guaranteed women’s rights.

There’s been progress, but many Afghan women remain marginalized, and violence against women has been on the rise.

For example, earlier this year, an angry mob beat a 27-year-old female law student to death in the center of Kabul, the nation’s capital.

Protesters renewed calls for the government to do more to protect women.

Still, millions of Afghan girls and women have gone back to school, their access to higher education remains limited.

One Islamic studies (knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, IMHO) professor at Kabul University disapproves of the new women’s studies program there, because, he said, women are not, in fact, equal to men.

Students in the two-year program hope to change those beliefs.

ZHEELA RAFHAT, STUDENT:  This gender program is really needed in Afghanistan, because many women do not know about their rights, so through this program, we can make women aware of their rights, which enables them to work and study in this society, and we also want to tell women that you are not only made for housework.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  The university expects these empowered graduate students to spread that message beyond these classroom walls.

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