Student surveillance and online proctoring

To combat cheating during online exams, many schools have utilized services that try to detect unusual behavior through webcam video. As with most automated surveillance systems, there are some issues. For The Washington Post, Drew Harwell looks into the social implications of student surveillance:

Fear of setting off the systems’ alarms has led students to contort themselves in unsettling ways. Students with dark skin have shined bright lights at their face, worrying the systems wouldn’t recognize them. Other students have resorted to throwing up in trash cans.

Some law students who took New York’s first online bar exam last month, a 90-minute test proctored by the company ExamSoft, said they had urinated in their chairs because they weren’t allowed to leave their computers, according to a survey by two New York state lawmakers pushing to change the rules for licensing new attorneys during the pandemic.


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Where schools are ready to reopen

For NYT Opinion, Yaryna Serkez and Stuart A. Thompson estimated where we’re ready:

Our analysis considers two main things: the rate of new infections in a county and the county’s testing capabilities. We used guidelines from the Harvard Global Health Institute, which proposed a variety of ways to open schools as long as the county has fewer than 25 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people. We also used the World Health Organization’s proposal to open only if fewer than 5 percent of all those who are tested for the virus over a two-week period actually have it.

The second part matters because if a higher proportion of people are testing positive, it could mean that not enough tests are being conducted to adequately measure the spread.

As you might expect, based on these guidelines, reopening in some places and not others poses disparities when you start breaking down demographics.

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Teaching R to 7th graders

Joshua Rosenberg describes his one-day experience teaching R to 7th graders:

[T]he activity worked albeit, as a very gradual introduction to using R. In combination with starting with modest goals, having the right tools (R Studio Cloud, R Markdown, and a suitable data set), I think, helped to make this work. 7th-graders can (start to) use R. The goal that Alex and I have is for students to be able to analyze data that they collect (and already-collected scientific data).

Lucky kids. All I got was a scientific calculator.

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Posted by in Coding, education, R

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Education disparities

There are many racial disparities in education. ProPublica shows estimates for the gaps:

Based on civil rights data released by the U.S. Department of Education, ProPublica has built an interactive database to examine racial disparities in educational opportunities and school discipline. Look up more than 96,000 individual public and charter schools and 17,000 districts to see how they compare with their counterparts.

Using white students as the baseline, compare opportunity, discipline, segregation, and achievement for black and Hispanic students.

Be sure to click through to a school district or state of interest to see more detailed breakdowns of the measures.

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Searching for education deserts

The Chronicle of Higher Education looked for education deserts — places where people aren’t within driving range of a college or university — with a combination of Census data, school locations, and driving times. They found that about 3.5 percent of the adult population (11.2 million) lived in education deserts.

There are a lot of caveats to consider, such as not all adults go to or want to go to college and many students move away from home for school. So it’s hard to say how useful the 3.5 percent figure is. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting view of what isn’t there and the scrollytelling format lends well to working through the analysis steps.

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Check if your school district or college was investigated for civil rights violations

The U.S. Department of Education constantly investigates school districts and colleges for civil rights violations. Lena Groeger and Annie Waldman for ProPublica made the data more accessible, providing the status of past, present, and pending investigations. Search for the place of interest, and you get a calendar and list view of all the cases on record.

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Where students learn the most

Emily Badger and Kevin Quealy, reporting for the Upshot, highlights research from Sean Reardon, a professor of poverty and inequality in education. Reardon’s research suggests that the relationships between income and standardized test scores should be reevaluated.

This new data shows that many do overcome them. It also suggests that states that rate schools and select which ones to reward or shutter based on average test scores are using the wrong metric, Mr. Reardon argues. And so are parents who rely on publicly available test scores to identify what they believe are the best school districts — and so the best places to live.

“Most people think there’s some signal in that,” Mr. Reardon said of average test scores. “But it’s a pretty bad signal.”

The interactive charts in the article let you peek at how school districts in your area compare to each other and nationally.

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Looking for more affordable homes and better schools in the suburbs

Families often move out of the city to the suburbs for more affordable housing (or more space) and better schools for the kids. Quoctrung Bui and Conor Dougherty for The Upshot plot these two things, average price per square foot and school district performance, to compare against the respective city.

In addition, there are two more encoded variables in each bubble. Size represents population, and color represents an average commute time of less than (green) or greater than 30 minutes (pink). On top of that, connecting lines focus comparison for suburbs against the main city school district.

So there’s a lot going on. My initial thought was that the charts showed one variable too much, but the more I stared, the more I liked what I saw.

You expect pink dots to venture bottom right, with average commute time as sort of a proxy for distance from the city. As the charts show it’s more complicated than that (as usual).

But the most surprising thing for me when I scrolled down, as someone living in a suburb of the Bay Area, was the big jump down from much lower housing prices in Chicago and Minneapolis. You’re looking kind of good Wayzata, Minnesota.

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Diversity percentages for US schools


Based on 2014 estimates from the U.S. Department of Education, the Chronicle of Higher Education compiled a straightforward searchable and sortable table that shows the race percentages for more than 4,600 institutions.

FYI: The search function is basic, and you have to enter a school’s name to match as it is entered in the system. For example, a search for “Berkeley” only shows the schools that start with that but not University of California at Berkeley. And a search for “University of California” pulls up zero results, because it’s listed as “U. of California.”

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Out of state, public education

Out of state education

Nick Strayer for the New York Times shows the flow of college freshman to other states for public education:

Students have long traveled across state lines to go to selective private colleges. But at public colleges, which have historically served local residents, the number of out-of-state freshmen has nearly doubled since 1986, according to data from the Department of Education.

See the full piece for in- and out-of-state numbers for your own state.

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