Kathleen Evans , Assistant Campus Editor, OU Daily

The percentage of A’s given in OU colleges has increased
over the past 10 years, and A’s were the most common grade given in all but one college during the fall 2011 semester.
July 2011, a team of researchers looked at the percentages of A’s on a national level and found the top grade accounted
for 43 percent of all letter grades in 2008, an increase of 28 percent since 1960, according to research published in the Teachers College Record.

The rise in A’s corresponds with a decrease in C’s, D’s and F’s, according to the research.

The Daily received records of the percentages of A’s in each college over the past 10 years, which takes into account the grades of any students receiving grades in classes offered in those colleges, not necessarily just majors. It also excludes people who did not receive a letter grade in classes.

OU colleges match this national trend, showing a 2 percent average increase in the percentages of A’s in the past 10 years, according to the records. In fall 2002, colleges gave 51.22 percent A’s, opposed to 53.87 percent in fall 2011.

Academic provost Nancy Mergler said the percentage of grades in each college is not an accurate representation of the average abilities of students because it does not take into consideration the weight of each grade.

However, the average GPA has increased from 3.06 in fall 2004 to 3.10 in fall 2010, Mergler said. She does not see this as grade inflation but rather an increase in the academic preparedness of students entering OU.

OU does not have an institutional policy on grades or grade inflation in place, Mergler said. Faculty and staff have varying viewpoints about how to gauge students, so OU does not put restrictions in place.

The Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education had the highest offered A’s in courses 82.9 percent of the time, according to records. The next highest were the OU Honors College with 73.76 percent and the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts with 67.41 percent.

The College of Education does not have any policies regarding grade inflation, Communications Director Christine Frank said. The administration credits the high grades to high admission standards within the college.

“We are very concerned about only sending the best and the brightest into Oklahoma classrooms, because of this, our students have to reach high standards to pursue a career in teaching,” said Dr. Teresa DeBacker.

At the lowest end of the scale is the Price College of Business, which gave 31.03 percent A’s in fall 2011 and was the only college to give more B’s that semester, which totaled 43.10 percent.

Even with the lowest percentage of A’s, the college has seen an increase in higher-level grades, according to reports; in fall 2002, As made up 23.74 percent and B’s were 41.90 percent.

The college does not have a policy about grades, but administrators do take grade distributions into consideration when evaluating professors.

“When the faculty are evaluated in the college, vigor, including grading vigor, is among the things looked at when deciding if a faculty member is doing his or her job,” Associate Dean Nim Razook said.

The college also has a culture in which it emphasizes vigor in its courses and training students, Razook said.

However, Razook said he emphasized that this mindset and culture is not only within the business college, but also in
others across campus.

“It’s just a matter of culture, I guess,” Razook said. “In some way I am glad that we’re relatively less lenient in passing out A’s, but I don’t think it’s because of any reason other than culture.”

Minneapolis, MN (PRWEB) February 15, 2012

Free Spirit Publishing brings service learning to the primary curriculum with
Service Learning in the PreK–3 Classroom: The What, Why, and How-To Guide for Every
(Free Spirit Publishing, $39.99), written by early childhood
education experts Vickie E. Lake, Ph.D., and Ithel Jones, Ed.D.

What is service learning? Service learning is an instructional approach that combines thoughtfully organized community service with experiential student learning in a way that changes and improves both the student and the community. It can be a powerful tool in reaching, teaching, and inspiring young children, and this book presents the background knowledge and skills needed to effectively use service learning in preK and primary

Service Learning in the PreK–3 Classroom is based on field trials the authors conducted with over 2,000 students and 215 educators, during a three year grant funding Drs. Lake and Jones to infuse service learning into their early childhood teacher education program at Florida State University. During this time, Lake and Jones realized the need for a resource written to help teachers of preK–grade 3, administrators, and early childhood professionals increase
their understanding of service learning and its role in the early childhood classroom.

“The idea that a kindergartner can be actively involved in service learning
projects—and understand the impact of their actions on others—is one that often surprises people,” says Jones. “But the fact is, young children can make a big difference in their communities.”

Rich in both theory and practice, the book reflects the tenets of the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) developmentally appropriate practices (DAP), combining community service with differentiated curriculum-based learning to meet the academic and social needs of young children in meaningful ways. The sample lesson plans in the book are based on tried and tested classroom projects and correlated to national service
learning, Head Start, and core content standards. An accompanying CD-ROM offers
customizable versions of the book’s dozens of forms and templates for lesson planning, assessment, and more. It also includes a PowerPoint presentation for use in preservice and professional development.

Service Learning in the PreK–3 Classroom provides service learning opportunities that support high academic standards and, at the same time, foster children’s social development by teaching them to be good citizens.

About the authors

Vickie E. Lake, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of early childhood education the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at The University of Oklahoma. She holds a master’s degree in education from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in philosophy from The University of Texas at Austin. She has written for the Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education and Childhood Education, among other publications, and presents at professional conferences. A former teacher, staff developer, and early childhood district coordinator, Vickie has a passion
for character education and high-quality education for young children. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Ithel Jones, Ed.D., is an associate professor of early childhood education at Florida State University. He earned his M.S. from the University of Wisconsin at Stout and his doctor of education at the University of Georgia. Ithel was a teacher and primary school principal in his native Wales, and he has been a teacher educator at three universities in the United States. He currently teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in early childhood education and has
published more than 30 articles and book chapters. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.

About Free Spirit

Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Free Spirit is the leading publisher of learning tools that support young people’s social-emotional health and their educational needs. Free Spirit’s mission is to help children and teens think for themselves, succeed in life, and make a difference in the world. For more information, visit http://www.freespirit.com.

$39.99 / Softcover / 224 pp. / 8½” x 11″ / For teachers of PreK–grade 3, administrators, and early childhood professionals

Service Learning in the PreK–3 Classroom (Book with CD-ROM): The What, Why, and How-To Guide for Every Teacher ISBN 978-1-57542-367-8

Advance praise for Service Learning in the PreK-3 Classroom:

“A wonderfully useful guide [that] belongs on the shelf of every preK–3
teacher interested in bringing learning to life through service.”—Joe Follman,
founding director, Florida Learn & Serve

“Wonderfully comprehensive . . . incredibly practical . . . rich and
innovative . . . includes everything teachers will need to implement projects.”

—Judy Jablon, educational consultant and author of Powerful Interactions:
How to Connect with Children to Extend Their Learning (NAEYC)

“A great resource for educators to embrace their critical role in shaping the
mindset of young students.”—Clifton L. Taulbert, K–12 education consultant and
author of Eight Habits of the Heart for Educators

“Comprehensive . . . remarkably clear . . . a required resource for anyone
who wants to link experiential learning with the development of social
responsibility.”—Elizabeth A. Ethridge, Ed.D., associate professor of early
childhood education, University of Oklahoma

“A helpful guide for educators who want to ensure that our youngest
participants have opportunities to contribute to society.”—Cathryn Berger Kaye,
M.A., author of The Complete Guide to Service Learning


By Jerri CulpepperThe Moore AmericanWed Jan 25, 2012, 07:08 AM CST

MOORE — Imagine living in a family, a neighborhood, where no one you know has ever gone to college, or even aspired to it. Imagine knowing from an early age that, more than likely, after graduating from high school, if you made it that far, you are destined to work in the same factory, fast food restaurant or other blue-collar job as your parents, siblings, friends and neighbors.

Then, imagine this. In middle school, you are approached and told that, while it will require you to work hard now and in the coming years, you have a choice. College is a possibility, if you desire it. So is a career. You can aspire to become a journalist, teacher, architect, engineer, lawyer, doctor — the possibilities are endless.

That scenario will become reality for more than 4,500 sixth- and seventh-graders in 10 low-income urban schools within the Oklahoma City Public School district, thanks to a recent seven-year, $26 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to the University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City Public Schools.

The GEAR UP for PROMISE (Promotion of Readiness through Opportunities that Motivate and Increase Student Expectations) project seeks to better prepare urban students for college by increasing the ability of students to meet established performance levels in math, science, literacy and technology. The program also aims to provide students and their families with a better understanding of how to prepare and pay for college.

Gregg Garn, interim dean of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education and director of the K20 Center for Educational and Community Renewal — a statewide education research and development center based in the college that promotes innovative learning through school-university-community collaboration — and Scott Wilson, associate director of the K20 Center, say that the implications go far beyond helping the students directly served through this grant. If successful, the model can be used to launch similar efforts in other impoverished areas across the state.

Any practice that has a significant chance of breaking the cycle of poverty is worth close investigation, not only, of course, for the alleviation of human suffering, but because of the tremendous costs associated with welfare programs.

In Oklahoma, as in many parts of the nation, poverty rates are, tragically, rising. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, which recently released new state-level data from the American Community Survey on poverty in 2010, some 616,610 Oklahomans — one out of every six — lived in poverty in 2010. The state’s poverty rate rose from 16.2 percent in 2009 to 16.9 percent in 2010. Oklahoma’s poverty rate remains 1.6 percentage points above the nation’s and was 14th highest among the states. The statistics are worse for children. The poverty rate for children, at 24.5 percent, is higher than that of working-age adults (15.5 percent) or seniors (9.3 percent). And the poverty rate for children rose 2.2 percentage points in 2010.

Poverty is closely correlated with education. An individual with only a high school degree is four times as likely to be poor as a college graduate. And persons without a GED or high school diploma are almost seven times likelier to be poor than college graduates. About a quarter of poor Oklahomans over age 25 did not graduate from high school.

Wilson, who also serves the K20 Center as director of Innovative Technology Partnerships, said the grant will fund the recruitment and employment of 21 professionals, ranging from master teachers, who will mentor cohort teachers on the use of research-based instructional strategies, to a veteran school teacher with knowledge of the schools’ specific needs. In all, he explains, the grant will allow the hiring of 10 professionals with work experience within schools and/or with students from areas with high poverty; five technical staff who will author Digital Game-Based Learning environments that target specific project goals and objectives; and six research, evaluation and support professionals who will help implement project services.

The project will utilize a four-phase model developed by the K20 Center.

In the first phase, Wilson said, each of the schools will send leaders — including teachers, counselors and parents — to a leadership seminar, where they will form teams. These teams will develop an action plan that ties technology integration and school goals and build a community that supports authentic learning that aligns with core standards established by the state. Phase one also includes a “Counselor Academy,” where counselors gain insight from urban-based research and learn best practices to increase students’ and families’ knowledge of and access to college financial aid.

In phase two, school administrators and teachers learn how to involve students in critical thinking through real-world learning scenarios that lead to self-directed student learning. Wilson explains that experience has shown that, as students develop critical-thinking skills, they also gain the confidence to take and succeed in rigorous courses, which increase the likelihood of their graduating from high school.

In the third phase of the project, the teachers will participate in the K20 Center’s Authentic Teaching Experiences summer intervention program, where they will learn how to implement interactive lessons that will engage their students. K20 staff will provide ongoing support through mentoring, debriefing, regional meetings and institutes after they return to their classrooms.

In the fourth phase of the project, the middle school students in the program will be taken to visit several colleges and universities in the state, where they will be exposed to campus life and learn about the different degree paths and/or careers that are available to them. During this visit, the students will have a chance to visit with college representatives and to receive specific information on such issues of concern as entrance requirements, cost, scholarships and other financial aid options.

Students and their parents also will be invited to participate in a two-day college forum, where they will be invited to explore different majors and visit the learning spaces, labs and facilities used by students currently following the major or career path in which they are interested.

Noting that all of the schools selected for the GEAR UP project regularly score very low on the College Readiness Benchmarks — a measurement that predicts success in freshman-level college courses — Wilson said their overall goal will be to move this cohort of students’ performance in mathematics, science reasoning, literacy and technology to the state average. Also in the process, they aspire to a number of other incremental improvements, including an increase in daily attendance and a greater percentage of students who are promoted on time to successive grade levels.

One of the ways they hope to accomplish this is by exposing the teachers to new ways of teaching that have proven to be more effective than relying solely on traditional methods, including lectures and memorization.

“While teachers are not entertainers,” Wilson said, “they should be able to provide the connections from what students are asked to learn to an application in the real world. This type of learning, known as authentic learning, has been shown to improve student achievement for all students and is particularly effective with students of low socioeconomic status.

“When instructional tasks are interesting and require creativity by students, student engagement and achievement are positively impacted,” he added.

The K20 staff also hopes that by providing more guidance on the courses college-bound students need to take and by exposing them to campus life at several colleges, these students will be better armed with the prerequisite skills and strategies to succeed in their studies, both now and when they head off to college.

“This seven-year partnership helps students and their families explore opportunities and develop plans which can unlock doors to future career options we cannot imagine today,” Garn said.  “It’s good for individual students and their families, their schools and our state.”

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