Archive for January, 2011

On Asking the Students

A recent article by The New York Times calls into consideration the insights of public-schoolchildren into the effectiveness of their teachers. Citing an initiative sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the article discusses the recent practice of surveying these schoolchildren on matters like teacher productivity, attention to mistake-correction, and focus on student-preparation for standardized tests.  The survey-questionnaires, developed by Harvard‘s Ronald Ferguson, Ph. D., are then meant to provide bases of correlation with another measure of teacher effectiveness: added value, in terms of change in students’ scores on tests over each year. In this way, the researchers aim toward using the correlate information that students provide, to not only identify the most effective teachers working but likely also to set the stage for high added values wherever possible. As Dr. Ferguson states, “‘Kids know effective teaching when they experience it. [...] As a nation, we’ve wasted what students know about their own classroom experiences instead of using that knowledge to inform school[-]reform efforts.’”

Educational initiatives like this one are particularly to interesting to us at Veritas, because we ourselves are continuously paying attention to the dynamics and the results of our tutor-student interactions via similar surveys of experience. Like Dr. Ferguson, we explore these features of the teacher-student relationship in order to consistently identify and improve great teaching. Yet, unlike Dr. Ferguson, we corroborate the surveying practice with additional, less subjective measures of pedagogical effectiveness.

While attending to students’ knowledge via surveys is important and may cleanly generally promote successes in teaching and education, it seems necessary that advocates of the developing policy also consider the limitations of the surveying methodology and the reciprocal nature of the class-based educative process. Teachers may undeservedly become discredited on the basis of the collected opinions of at most 60 children, who may poorly appreciate their actually valiant efforts, while other teachers may equally undeservedly become credited on parallel bases. Surveying people of any age may be easily confounded by the conscious intentions of the people surveyed, themselves subconsciously influenced by social factors like peer-pressure and observational bias (e. g., the teacher’s presence during survey-completion) as easily as circumstantial factors like incidental context (e. g., the middle of an unusually chaotic day). Moreover, especially in such a large survey, how could one separate out the intentional effects of the teacher from the cooperative effects of his/her students? How would the surveyors know that the value added, attributed to the teacher, would not be more accurately attributed to the diligence and cooperative attention of the students themselves; in other words, how could we know whether a teacher ranked highly for maintenance of classroom order, one of the correlate features of a teacher adding value, might be – not a successful order-maintainer himself/herself – rather a middling maintainer happening to be graced by students whose order is easy to maintain, and vice-versa?

Granted the economically precedent limitations of the survey-study in question, the efforts of these educational scientists are majorly valuable. Yet, the ideal accuracies would, no doubt, derive from getting into the classrooms and actually witnessing the dynamics taking place there on a teacher-by-teacher, class-by-class basis. Aspiring toward these ideal ourselves, we at Veritas constantly appreciate and move toward ways in which to best assess and promote the quality of our tutors. We recognize the difficulties inherent in any attempt to do so, and work to refine our processes drawing on multiple methods (including direct observation, surveys, tutor-coaching, and staff-training sessions).  We are committed to delivering the best tailored approaches to education, tailored approaches that mass-surveys and classrooms unfortunately are insufficiently equipped at this time to make or to measure.

By admin | Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 | No Comments »

Admissions: 9th and 10th Grades

In our fourth installment into our College-Admissions series, Veritas co-founders Andrew M. and Jay B. discuss how to make the most of those former two years of high school, when students really begin composing those narratives that will take them through their college-applicant processes and into colleges themselves.

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By admin | Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 | No Comments »

Admissions: Your Application

Putting themselves into the mindset of a college-admissions officer, Andrew M. and Jay B. explore the various aspects of the college-application and how best you as a college-applicant can excel in each one of them.

“Discover what you love to do and strive to be excellent at it.”

Warmly yours,

The Veritas Team

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By admin | Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 | No Comments »

Admissions: Your Admissions Officer

This week, Veritas co-founders Andrew M. and Jay B. address the daunting task of college-admissions officer, who commonly has to read over 1700 applications each admissions season, and the equally challenging task of the college-applicant, who has to stand out from his or her peers in that deep pool of applicants. “Holy admissions headache!” Luckily, the two speakers are there to help you be ahead of the curve and present a holistic, thoughtful, and dynamic self to the admissions office.

Next week: The Application and Its Details.

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By admin | Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

Admissions: The College-Applicant’s Context

Welcome back, blog-readers! We hope that you all had wonderful breaks and happy New Year’s.

Starting off 2011, the Veritas Blog is proud to inaugurate a new series, seguëïng from the Graduate Record Exam (whose series will return in the future) onto the College Admissions Process! In this first video in the series, Veritas co-founders Andrew M. and Jay B. introduce themselves, their work, and the current college-applicant’s context in one of Veritas’ popular and free local seminars. Speaking under the title “How to Get into (Your) Harvard,” the two emphasize that “there are schools out there for everyone” and that, by “discover[ing] what you love to do and striv[ing] to be excellent at it,” you’ll not only get into a college that’s right for you but also “live a fulfilled and successful life.” In short, Jay and Andrew speak to help you discover the passions that you’d like to cultivate going forward and, in posts still to come, will elaborate on how best you as a high-school student can do so.

Stay tuned, blog-readers! There’s a lot more in store for 2011.

Warmly yours,

The Veritas Team

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By admin | Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 | 4 Comments »
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