OCTAE Connection - Issue 190 - April 3, 2014

OCTAE Newsletter

                                April 3, 2014

EdReady–Reducing the Need for Developmental Education --  Foundation Provides $2.4 Million for Montana Pilot 

According to a recent story in the Missoulian, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation donated $2.4 million to the Montana Digital Academy for a three-year experiment testing the new EdReady remediation system statewide. The foundation made its donation based on a pilot project at the University of Montana, which resulted in 86 percent of participating students improving their remedial mathematics scores so they would qualify for higher-level university courses. EdReady focuses on helping students improve their math and English skills so they are ready for college courses as soon as they enroll. 

University of Montana President Royce Engstrom called the gift “transformative.” “We will be the first state in the nation to offer the EdReady program to all secondary and post-secondary students, while also developing a national model that will guide future implementation across the country,” he said. 

Denise Juneau, state superintendent of public instruction, calls EdReady “a promising tool” for helping students hit the ground running academically in college. 

The Montana Digital Academy, part of the state’s k-12 system, helps school districts expand their core and elective educational offerings, including online college-prep courses.


                                 The New SAT

A revised version of the SAT, widely noted by the education press and of much interest to many students, parents, and academic counsellors, was introduced last month by the College Board. The revision, representing the first major changes to the test since 2005, reverts to the pre-2005, 1,600-point scale (from the current 2,400 point scale) by making optional the essay part of the exam, formerly required since 2005. The revised test, to be administered starting in spring 2016, will have three sections: “Evidence-based reading and writing,” mathematics, and the optional essay. This article focuses on the eight major changes to the SAT, as explained by the College Board. 

The focus of the new test is on requiring students to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the few essentials that matter most for readiness for and success in college. A first major change in the evidence-based reading and writing section is the ability to use relevant words for a given context. 

Second, test takers will be required to interpret, synthesize, and employ evidence to demonstrate their understanding and command of evidence in a variety of sources. In a third significant change, the redesigned essay section will ask students to explain how the author builds the argument in an assigned passage. The test takers will be required to demonstrate close reading and careful analysis of the text, as well as clear writing. 

The fourth change pertains to the mathematics section of the SAT. This section will delve more deeply than does the current SAT into three essential areas of mathematics: (1) Problem solving and data analysis—quantitative literacy for solving problems; (2) the “heart of algebra”—mastery of linear equations and systems; and (3) “passport to advanced mathematics”—knowledge and manipulation of more complex equations. The SAT will sample other mathematical topics, but the focus will be on these three. 

Change five redesigns the SAT to engage test takers with questions “grounded in the real work,” that is, questions that are representative of those encountered in college and in the workplace. 

Asking test takers to apply their skills in reading and writing, and their knowledge of language and mathematics to respond to questions in the domains of science, history, and social studies constitutes the sixth major change. 

Another, seventh, change to the SAT will engage test takers with ideas addressed in the founding documents of the United States or in the “great global conversation”—issues focusing on, “freedom, justice, and human dignity.” The goal with this change is to focus on what is important to know to be a citizen. 

The eighth major change removes the penalty for wrong answers in the new SAT. The current SAT penalizes students for wrong answers. In the new SAT students earn points for correct answers. 

This summary provides an overview of the major changes to the SAT. Interested readers will want to examine these changes and their implications in more detail. The College Board will provide the complete specifications of the new SAT along with sample items for each of the eight sections on its website in mid-April.


                 Broadband in Rural America—

      FCC Workshop on Problems and Solutions

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently held a workshop to examine the broadband needs of rural populations, including the unique challenges of deploying and adopting broadband in rural areas. The event included panel discussions on the “economic, educational, and healthcare benefits that can be realized through broadband deployment and adoption”; “different business models that have been used to deploy broadband in rural areas”; and the “role that states have played, and can continue to play, in meeting the rural broadband challenge.” To learn more about the workshop, including the agenda, and to view a video of the event, please visit the FCC workshop page. We encourage adult education stakeholders to continue to visit the FCC’s website for ongoing information about the full spectrum of broadband issues affecting populations and sectors.


$5M to Improve Nutrition Employment and Training Programs

                 May 22 Application Deadline  

The U. S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service recently announced the availability of up to $5 million in competitive grants that will “lead to greater efficiencies and improved outcomes of employment and training services (E&T) supported by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).” These E&T programs help individuals on SNAP acquire the skills needed to obtain quality jobs that will allow them to transition out of the SNAP program. This round of grants will complement other opportunities that will test innovative approaches to employment and training, coming soon under the 2014 Farm Bill. Programs and entities providing literacy services to adult learners may particularly be interested in exploring this grant opportunity. 

According to the USDA, under this funding opportunity, grant proposals are sought from diverse organizations. Successful projects will “examine office processes and identify and implement efficiencies; and those that use technology to achieve procedural changes … to simplify the enrollment process, improve reporting requirements and improve customer service and avoid administrative burden.” 

The closing date for receipt of applications under this announcement is May 22, 2014. To learn more about this grant opportunity, including eligibility, deadlines, and how to apply, please see the full Grant Announcement. For more information on the SNAP and E&T programs, please visit the Food and Nutrition Service website.