Friday, February 26, 2010

Alternatives to Textbooks

An excerpt of an article about Elizabeth Birr Moje:

Alternatives to Textbooks

Moje's solution: Put the textbook on the back burner. Textbooks, she believes, are a primary culprit in what Theodore Sizer has described as the "pedagogy of telling," providing content area teachers with a vehicle for covering vast amounts of information in short periods of time at the expense of the understanding that makes for true engagement.

Moje would replace dependence on a single text with the tools that workers in a scholarly field actually use. Students of history, for instance, would have at their disposal a variety of source documents that would help them construct their own narrative and understandings.

(Note: Click on the link at the end of the excerpt to read Art Peterson's article in its entirety)

March is Women’s History Month

A few links:

A Women's History Month Timeline

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Interesting Factoid

25 percent of Los Angeles high school students say they could obtain a handgun for less than $50.  [PBS]

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Information overload" worries date back thousands of years

  • A respected Swiss scientist, Conrad Gessner, might have been the first to raise the alarm about the effects of information overload. In a landmark book, he described how the modern world overwhelmed people with data and that this overabundance was both "confusing and harmful" to the mind. The media now echo his concerns with reports on the unprecedented risks of living in an "always on" digital environment. It's worth noting that Gessner died in 1565. His warnings referred to the seemingly unmanageable flood of information unleashed by the printing press.

    Worries about information overload are as old as information itself, with each generation reimagining the dangerous impacts of technology on mind and brain. From a historical perspective, what strikes home is not the evolution of these social concerns, but their similarity from one century to the nextl.

    These concerns stretch back to the birth of literacy itself. In parallel with modern concerns about children's overuse of technology, Socrates famously warned against writing because it would "create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories." He also advised that children can't distinguish fantasy from reality, so parents should only allow them to hear wholesome allegories and not "improper" tales, lest their development go astray. Read more of Don't Touch That Dial! A history of media technology scares, from the printing press to Facebook by Vaughan Bell at

Survey: Will the Internet enhance or detract from reading, writing?

  • A survey of nearly 900 Internet stakeholders reveals fascinating new perspectives on the way the Internet is affecting human intelligence and the ways that information is being shared and rendered. The web-based survey gathered opinions from prominent scientists, business leaders, consultants, writers and technology developers.

    It is the fourth in a series of Internet expert studies conducted by the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University and the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. One of the questions considered: Will the Internet enhance or detract from reading, writing, and rendering of knowledge?

    "Three out of four experts said our use of the Internet enhances and augments human intelligence, and two-thirds said use of the Internet has improved reading, writing and rendering of knowledge," said Janna Anderson, study co-author and director of the Imagining the Internet Center. "There are still many people, however, who are critics of the impact of Google, Wikipedia and other online tools." See the report at Pew Internet online.

Attacks targeting teachers and students worldwide on the rise

The number of politically and ideologically motivated attacks on teachers, students and school buildings is rising, says the report Education Under Attack 2010, launched by UNESCO in February. These attacks are perpetrated by non-state armed groups and state actors alike. Education Under Attack 2010 is the second report on the subject; the first was published in 2007. 

This report is launched together with a second UNESCO publication entitled Protecting Education from Attack: A State-of-the-Art Review, in which several experts take critical stock of knowledge on prevention and response, with respect to both international law and interventions on the ground. The review also shares the recommendations generated by a seminar on the subject held in Paris in 2009.

The 2010 report reveals that education was attacked in at least 32 countries between January 2007 and July 2009.

The report is accessible at:                       

Protecting Education from Attack: A State-of-the-Art Review:


Study: Home literacy environment predicts initial English literacy skills

Poring over the works of Dr. Seuss, the adventures of the Bernstain Bears or exploring the worlds of Hans Christian Andersen with a child has always been a great parent-child bonding exercise.

But, according to George Georgiou, a University of Alberta professor in educational psychology, it is instrumental for English-speaking children if they are to acquire the language skills, particularly comprehension, essential to their future reading ability.

Georgiou and his colleagues recently published a study in Learning and Instruction examining the cognitive and noncognitive factors that may predict future reading ability in English and Greek. Since the study was published, Georgiou has expanded his research to Finland and China, with the same outcomes.

He says the home literacy environment--what parents do at home in terms of literacy--and motivation predict children's various initial literacy skills, such as letter knowledge and vocabulary, differently across languages. These skills, in turn, ultimately predict future reading ability. Read more about the study in Science Daily

(From: )

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Life Skills? At School? In 2010?

I really like this article by Jay Matthews. You can read the beginning here and then click at the end if you'd like to read it in its entirety.

Family: Eight essential life skills that schools can teach our kids

I learned at an early age from my mother that there was more to school than reading, writing, arithmetic and lunch. She was a teacher. I was an eager student of the academic sort. That didn't impress her. She told me later it was clear I was ready to read when I was 4, but she refused to teach me because I needed more work on my social skills.

She will turn 93 at the end of this month. I am tempted to call and ask her to evaluate how I turned out, but I fear the answer. My life has been a lot of reading and writing, with some arithmetic. Even as a parent I rarely considered how well my children's schools were teaching life skills that went beyond what is assessed under No Child Left Behind.

The habits of the heart are probably learned almost as much at school as at home. But which ones can we reasonably expect teachers to address? What should we look for to make certain these immeasurable but invaluable traits are being reinforced?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Has the ELL Pendulum Now Gone Too Far in the Opposite Direction?

Study Explores How Best to Identify ELLs with Disabilities

by Mary Ann Zehr

School district officials think teachers tend to be too quick to refer English-language learners to special education, while teachers think school district officials tend to wait too long to make a referral, according to a federal study of special education referral practices in three New York suburban school districts.

How to determine if an ELL has a disability has been a hot topic in education for at least half a decade, and this difficult challenge is not going away. An article I wrote this year about how the Chula Vista Elementary School District in California applies "response to intervention," or RTI, to English-learners attracted more readers online than I recall any other article I've written about ELLs ever receiving. RTI is an approach to providing interventions to students in an effort to reduce referrals to special education.

The study of three school districts names five components of identification that are important in ensuring that ELLs aren't mistakenly identified as having disabilities. They are adequate professional knowledge, effective instruction, valid assessments and interventions, collaboration between departments in a district, and clear policies. The study also spells out eight challenges that the three New York districts faced in making determinations on whether students had a language problem or disability. Among those challenges are differing views among educators about the timing for referral of ELLs.

I've visited school districts where teachers confessed to me that it seemed nearly impossible to convince school district administrators that an ELL needed special education because the administrators were so worried about making a mistake. Historically, many ELLs were overrepresented in special education, and no one wants to repeat that part of history. But at the same time, school districts need to ensure that English-language learners are not hindered from getting special education services when they need them.

Through the case studies of three districts, the study presents a lot of questions that other districts can use to take an audit of their own practices. The study was prepared for the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences by the Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands. That particular laboratory is administered by the Education Development Center, Inc.

Friday, February 12, 2010

This is cool news!

California students among the most successful on AP tests

Report finds 21% of high school seniors had passed at least one Advanced Placement exam by 2009. The passing rate among Latinos and African Americans in the state also slightly increased.

February 10, 2010|By Nicole Santa Cruz

California boasts one of the nation's highest percentages of public school students passing AP tests, but educators are concerned about a dramatic slowdown in the rate of students taking those college-level courses, according to an annual report released Wednesday.

In 2009, about 21% of California's senior class earned a score of 3 or higher on one or more Advanced Placement exams. The national rate was 16%. The tests are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with scores of 3 and above accepted for college credit at many colleges and universities.

This might be really great for kids who have LONG rides to/from school…

Wi-Fi Turns Rowdy Bus Into Rolling Study Hall


Published: February 11, 2010

VAIL, Ariz. — Students endure hundreds of hours on yellow buses each year getting to and from school in this desert exurb of Tucson, and stir-crazy teenagers break the monotony by teasing, texting, flirting, shouting, climbing (over seats) and sometimes punching (seats or seatmates).

But on this chilly morning, as bus No. 92 rolls down a mountain highway just before dawn, high school students are quiet, typing on laptops.

Morning routines have been like this since the fall, when school officials mounted a mobile Internet router to bus No. 92's sheet-metal frame, enabling students to surf the Web. The students call it the Internet Bus, and what began as a high-tech experiment has had an old-fashioned — and unexpected — result. Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared.

"It's made a big difference," said J. J. Johnson, the bus's driver. "Boys aren't hitting each other, girls are busy, and there's not so much jumping around."

On this morning, John O'Connell, a junior at Empire High School here, is pecking feverishly at his MacBook, touching up an essay on World War I for his American history class. Across the aisle, 16-year-old Jennifer Renner e-mails her friend Patrick to meet her at the bus park in half an hour. Kyle Letarte, a sophomore, peers at his screen, awaiting acknowledgment from a teacher that he has just turned in his biology homework, electronically.

"Got it, thanks," comes the reply from Michael Frank, Kyle's teacher.

Internet buses may soon be hauling children to school in many other districts, particularly those with long bus routes. The company marketing the router, Autonet Mobile, says it has sold them to schools or districts in Florida, Missouri and Washington, D.C.

Karen Cator, director of education technologyat the federal Department of Education, said the buses were part of a wider effort to use technology to extend learning beyond classroom walls and the six-hour school day. The Vail District, with 18 schools and 10,000 students, is sprawled across 425 square miles of subdivision, mesquite and mountain ridges southeast of Tucson. Many parents work at local Raytheon and I.B.M. plants. Others are ranchers.

The district has taken technological initiatives before. In 2005, it inaugurated Empire High as a digital school, with the district issuing students laptops instead of textbooks, and more than 100 built-in wireless access points offering a powerful Internet signal in every classroom and even on the football field.

"We have enough wireless to make your fillings hurt," says Matt Federoff, the district's chief information officer.

District officials got the idea for wiring the bus during occasional drives on school business to Phoenix, two hours each way, when they realized that if they doubled up, one person could drive and the other could work using a laptop and a wireless card. They wondered if Internet access on a school bus would increase students' academic productivity, too.

But the idea for the Internet Bus really took shape in the fall, when Mr. Federoff was at home, baby on his lap, and saw an advertisement in an electronics catalog offering a "Wi-Fi hotspot in your car."

"I thought, what if you could put that in a bus?" he said. The router cost $200, and came with a $60 a month Internet service contract. An early test came in December, when bus No. 92 carried the boys' varsity soccer team to a tournament nearly four hours away. The ride began at 4 a.m., so many players and coaches slept en route. But between games, with the bus in a parking lot adjacent to the soccer field, players and coaches sat with laptops, fielding e-mail messages and doing homework — basically turning the bus into a Wi-Fi cafe, said Cody Bingham, the bus driver for the trip.

Mariah Nunes, a sophomore who is a team manager, said she researched an essay on bicycle safety.

"I used my laptop for pretty much the whole ride," Mariah said. "It was quieter than it normally would have been. Everybody was pumped about the games, and there were some rowdy boys. But the coach said, 'Let's all be quiet and do some homework.' And it wasn't too different from study hall."

Ms. Bingham recalled, "That was the quietest ride I've ever had with high schoolers."

Since then, district officials have been delighted to see the amount of homework getting done, morning and evening, as Mr. Johnson picks up and drops off students along the highway that climbs from Vail through the Santa Rita mountains to Sonoita. The drive takes about 70 minutes each way.

One recent afternoon, with a wintry rain pelting the bus, 18-year-old Jeanette Roelke used her laptop to finish and send in an assignment on tax policy for her American government class.

Students were not just doing homework, of course. Even though Dylan Powell, a freshman, had vowed to devote the ride home to an algebra assignment, he instead called up a digital keyboard using GarageBand, a music-making program, and spent the next half-hour with earphones on, pretending to be a rock star, banging on the keys of his laptop and swaying back and forth in his seat.

Two seats to the rear, Jerod Reyes, another freshman, was playing SAS, an online shooting game in which players fire a machine gun at attacking zombies.

Vail's superintendent, Calvin Baker, says he knew from the start that some students would play computer games.

"That's a whole lot better than having them bugging each other," Mr. Baker said.

A ride through mountains on a drizzly afternoon can be unpredictable, even on the Internet Bus. Through the windows on the left, inky clouds suddenly parted above a ridge, revealing an arc of incandescent color.

"Dude, there's a rainbow!" shouted Morghan Sonderer, a ninth grader.

A dozen students looked up from their laptops and cellphones, abandoning technology to stare in wonder at the eastern sky.

"It's following us!" Morghan exclaimed.

"We're being stalked by a rainbow!" Jerod said.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Is Anyone Shocked?

'Algebra-for-All' Push Found to Yield Poor Results

By Debra Viadero


Spurred by a succession of reports pointing to the importance of algebra as a gateway to college, educators and policymakers embraced "algebra for all" policies in the 1990s and began working to ensure that students take the subject by 9th grade or earlier.

A trickle of studies suggests that in practice, though, getting all students past the algebra hump has proved difficult and has failed, some of the time, to yield the kinds of payoffs educators seek.

Among the newer findings:

• An analysis using longitudinal statewide data on students in Arkansas and Texas found that, for the lowest-scoring 8th graders, even making it one course past Algebra 2 might not be enough to help them become "college and career ready" by the end of high school.

• An evaluation of the Chicago public schools' efforts to boost algebra coursetaking found that, although more students completed the course by 9th grade as a result of the policy, failure rates increased, grades dropped slightly, test scores did not improve, and students were no more likely to attend college when they left the system.

• A 2008 paper by the Brookings Institution suggested that as many as 120,000 students nationwide were "misplaced" in algebra programs, meaning they had test scores on national exams that put them about seven grades below their peers in algebra classes. Further, it said, states with a high proportion of students taking algebra in 8th grade didn't necessarily outperform other states on national math assessments.

"Simply sticking students in courses without preparing them ahead of time for the class does not seem to work as an intervention," said Chrys Dougherty, the author of the Arkansas and Texas analysis, published last month by the National Center for Educational Achievement, in Austin, which is owned by the test publisher ACT Inc. "It seems to work with adequately prepared students, but not for the most challenged students."

The research news has not been completely bad, however.

Michigan State University researcher William H. Schmidt, in a not-yet-published study, analyzes data on 7,000 7th and 8th graders across the United States who took part in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study in 1995. He compared the performance of 8th graders with that of "feeder classes" of 7th graders from the same school to calculate how much students gained in mathematics over the course of that pivotal 8th grade school year.

Greatest Gains

An 8th grade algebra class, in other words, might be matched with a 7th grade prealgebra class, or a 7th grade general-math class paired with an 8th grade prealgebra or general-math class in which students had similar achievement levels.

What Mr. Schmidt found was that the learning gains were greatest for students who moved from either a general math class or a prealgebra class into a full-blown algebra class.

His findings are in keeping with a larger body of studies from the 1990s and early 2000s that suggested algebra was, for many students, the primary gateway to advanced-level mathematics and college. The problem was that too many students—particularly those who were poor or members of disadvantaged minority groups—were turned away at the gate, screened out by ability-grouping practices at their schools.

"There's no question that taking advanced courses boosts student achievement," said Adam Gamoran, a professor of education policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His 2000 study on algebra and tracking helped catalyze the interest in expanding access for all students to algebra courses.

"Where the area of disagreement comes," Mr. Gamoran added, "is what should we do with students who performed poorly previously. In my judgment, the reason studies like mine show that students even with low levels of achievement do better in advanced classes is because the low-level classes are practically worthless."

"And there's no simple solution to this problem," he added, "because we also know that when tracking is eliminated, students at high levels don't gain as much as they do in high-level or [Advanced Placement] classes."

That's some of what Chicago found when it made a concerted effort to expand enrollment in college-preparatory classes, including algebra, according to the study on that district's initiative. The Consortium on Chicago School Research published the evaluation late last year.

"For the high-achieving kids, there was a big change in the classroom composition, so that changes the quality of classes," said study co-author Elaine M. Allensworth, the interim co-executive director at the consortium, an independent research group based at the University of Chicago. "That means you have to have teachers who can teach to all classes, and it also means you don't have an elite group of students who may be getting better advising in smaller classes."

"Meanwhile, the kids who weren't taking advanced classes before are taking them now," she said, "but they're not very engaged in them. They have high absence rates and low levels of learning."

As the trends became evident, the school system in 2003 began requiring 9th graders who scored below the national median on standardized math tests in 8th grade to take an algebra "support" class in addition to a regular algebra class. Students who scored higher continued to take a single period of algebra.

For the Chicago consortium's study, the researchers compared outcomes for students just above and below the cutoff for the "double dose" classes.

Worried about the potential for reintroducing tracking, the district also provided professional-development workshops and other resources to the teachers of the support classes, according to Ms. Allensworth.

"Because teachers had more time and resources, the instructional quality in those classes improved quite a bit," she said. "But the classes ended up concentrating more students with attendance and behavioral problems."

In the end, the study found, failure rates increased for both the targeted students and for their peers in single-period algebra classes. On the other hand, algebra test scores rose substantially for the students in the double-dose classes.

"The district thought [the double-dose initiative] was a failure because it did not improve pass rates, but our analysis showed that test scores improved a lot," Ms. Allensworth said.

Catching Up

Part of the problem, the Chicago researcher said, is that schools have little guidance on how to structure algebra programs to serve all students.

"Even though everyone's using double algebra periods these days, there's not a ton of research on this," Ms. Allensworth said. One exception, she noted, is studies of the Talent Development model developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, which incorporates double-dose classes as part of a broader set of reforms.

The 48,000-student Garden Grove Unified School District in Orange County, Calif., turned to a multipronged approach to increase algebra success rates in the highly diverse district.

According to Gariela Mafi, the associate superintendent for secondary education, students who are likely to struggle in a regular, single-period algebra class are directed to take either an additional "companion" algebra class or "algebra readiness," with the expectation that students in the latter course will take regular algebra the following year.

The most advanced students take either geometry or a single period of algebra. While there hasn't been a scientific evaluation of the district's algebra efforts, Ms. Mafi said, passing rates for algebra and other advanced-math courses have gone up over the past four years.

"I think the issue is that it's not one-size-fits-all," she said.

The Garden Grove district in 2004 won the Broad Prize for Urban Education, bestowed by the Los Angeles-based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, for its efforts at improving achievement among all student population groups.

'Basic Arithmetic'

Tom Loveless, the author of the report from the Washington-based Brookings Institution on "misplaced" math students in algebra, said the issue is even more complex.

"No one has figured out how to teach algebra to kids who are seven or eight years behind before they get to algebra, and teach it all in one year," said Mr. Loveless, who favors interventions for struggling students at even earlier ages.

Nationwide, research findings may diverge because testing content varies—the TIMSS test has more algebra content than many state exams taken by 8th graders—and because course content varies from classroom to classroom.

"If you take what's called algebra class, and you look at the actual distribution of allocated time, you find that many of those teachers spend a very large portion of that year on basic arithmetic," said Mr. Schmidt, who is a distinguished university professor of education at Michigan State's East Lansing campus. His research on U.S. classrooms has found, in fact, that nearly a third of students studying algebra are using arithmetic books in their classes.

Likewise, Mr. Loveless' study found that "misplaced" students tended to attend large urban schools where their teachers were more likely to have less than five years of experience, less likely to hold a regular teaching certificate, and less likely to have majored in math than teachers of typical 8th grade algebra students.

"It may well have more to do with whether students have been given adequate opportunities to learn this stuff," Mr. Schmidt said of the disappointing findings that have emerged from some studies.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Standard Literature?

The Case for Literature

By Nancie Atwell


A few weeks ago, I received an urgent e-mail: The National Council of Teachers of English is looking for volunteers for an ad hoc task force whose charge is to gather evidence about why literature should continue to be taught in the 21st century.

Apparently, the worth of book reading had become an issue among the work groups that, behind closed doors, were writing the K-12 "common-core standards" that promise to shape curriculum in U.S. classrooms. Given that the Common Core State Standards Initiative is dominated by test-makers and politicians—representatives from the College Board, ACT, Achieve, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Governors Association—I was dismayed, but not surprised, that the NCTE was finding it necessary to lobby on behalf of literature.

Drafts of the various standards reportedly have been undergoing significant revisions, and release of a version for public comment may be imminent. But regardless of the stage of the project, giving corporate interests a role in setting education policy is like letting foxes supervise the henhouse. These foxes are not vested in children's reading books. They are interested in profitmaking—in selling prefab curricula, standards, and the diagnostic, formative, and summative tests that measure them.

The irony—and tragedy—is that book reading, which profits a reader, an author, and a democratic society, is also the single activity that consistently relates to proficiency in reading, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

In 2007, fully 70 percent of U.S. 8th graders read below the proficient level on the NAEP exam. Our 13-year-olds aren't reading well because they're not reading enough: The National Endowment for the Arts has reported that only 30 percent of students in this age group read every day. And that's where literature comes in— or should.

Each year, my 7th and 8th graders choose and read between 30 and 100 titles. They devour books because the classroom library is packed with intriguing stories by serious writers, because they have daily time to read in school, because I expect them to read at home every night, and because 35 years of experience has taught me that it's my job to read, embrace, and recommend worthwhile young-adult literature to the young adults I teach.

My students range from dyslexics to speed readers to sophisticated young literary critics. The common denominator is that they like books. They find their interests, needs, struggles, and dreams spoken for in the crafted stories that fill their library. More importantly, they get to experience the interests, needs, struggles, and dreams of young people unlike themselves. At a critical juncture, they learn about a diversity of human experiences and begin to consider both what they care about and who they might dare to become.

But most importantly, from my perspective as the teacher responsible for their literacy, my students become strong readers. They build fluency, stamina, vocabulary, confidence, critical abilities, habits, tastes, and comprehension. No instructional shortcut, packaged curriculum, new technology, regimen of tests, or other variety of magical thinking can achieve this end.

It is frequent, voluminous book reading that makes readers. Knowledgeable English teachers have learned to fill their classrooms with well-crafted writing that appeals to and satisfies adolescents, provides rich, accessible examples of literary technique for students to notice and appreciate, and invites every student to want to enter a story and become lost there.

This wasn't the case in the 1960s, when I was an adolescent and books for teenagers asked one of two questions: Will the mystery be solved before it's too late? And, will she get to go to the prom? Readers of my generation will recall Trixie Belden, Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Seventeenth Summer.

Today, young readers with access to books and opportunities to read them can live vicariously, alongside three-dimensional characters close to their own age who inhabit compelling stories about growing up in every time, place, and circumstance, with themes that resonate in the real lives of adolescents: identity, conscience, peer pressure, social divisions, political strife, loneliness, friendship, change.

Critics from the canon-obsessed camp of Diane Ravitch and E.D. Hirsch Jr. are either unaware or dismissive of the glories of contemporary literature written for children and teenagers, but I can draw a straight line from particular authors of excellent young-adult fiction to particular authors of excellent fiction for adults. Students haunted by Copper Sun, Sharon Draper's novel of slavery, are apt to move on to Toni Morrison. Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, is a bridge to Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, which in turn is a bridge to Jack London. The narrative voice of E. Lockhart is a warm-up for Lorrie Moore. Adolescents who appreciate the dystopian worlds of Nancy Farmer, Michael Grant, and Patrick Ness look for Aldous Huxley,William Golding, and Margaret Atwood; and those who enjoy young-adult novels by Nick Hornby and Michael Chabon can anticipate adulthoods filled with books by Hornby and Chabon.

Frequent, voluminous reading of young-adult literature also provides the background and experience that enable some of my students to read classics—Pride and Prejudice, The Odyssey, All Quiet on the Western Front, Jane Eyre—with understanding and pleasure. But every student I teach learns to tell the difference between literary fiction and popular novels, something many adults never do.

The American Library Association recommends that each U.S. classroom have its own library, and that school libraries contain at least 20 age-appropriate titles per student. This is a standard worth adopting under the federal Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation, or LEARN, Act now pending in Congress. So is regular, sustained time in school for students to choose, read, and fall in love with books.

The right books are out there. The supporting research is out there: Bernice E. Cullinan's study, "Independent Reading and School Achievement," funded by the U.S. Department of Education and available on the American Association of School Librarians' Web site, marshals the evidence. And the will is there. Many teachers who recognize the power of stories to create readers are doing all they can to squeeze time for independent reading into mandated, proven-ineffective programs of instruction that perversely substitute activities, drills, textbooks, quizzes, and tests for engagement and experience.

Concerned parents, teachers, and professional organizations need to lobby legislators and other policymakers to put children's and young-adult literature at the center of standards for the teaching of reading. The opportunity for every student to sit quietly and become immersed in an actual book may not be high-tech, instantly quantifiable, or lucrative for the College Board. It just happens to be the only way that anyone ever became a reader.

Nancie Atwell, the author of The Reading Zone and In the Middle, teaches at the Center for Teaching and Learning, in Edgecomb, Maine.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Study Finds Teen Pregnancies on the Rise

"U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity" and "Diploma Attainment Among Teen Mothers"

After declining or leveling off for 15 years, the pregnancy rate among U.S. teenagers rose again in 2006, a report published last week by the Guttmacher Institute says.

The New York City-based think tank, which specializes in reproductive issues, found that the pregnancy rate among 15- to 19-year-olds increased by 3 percent from 2005 to 2006, the most recent year for which national data are available. At the same time, abortion rates among girls in that age group increased by 1 percent, the study found.

After spiking in 1990, the teenage-pregnancy rate declined sharply throughout the rest of that decade and then hit a plateau in the early 2000s, the institute says. The researchers say the increase from 2005 to 2006 occurred among all demographic groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic whites.

The researchers note that progress in curbing the pregnancy rate began to stall at the same time that sex education programs began to focus on teaching abstinence as the only means of birth control and that teenagers' use of contraceptives began to decline.

A second report published last month by Child Trends, a Washington-based research group, gives one reason why the re-escalation is a concern. Based on an analysis of national survey data, it found that only half of young women who became mothers as teenagers went on to receive a high school diploma by age 22. In comparison, 89 percent of non-mothers had earned a diploma by that age.

By Debra Viadero


Recess Improves Student Learning, Principals Say

By Erik Robelen on February 4, 2010

We all know that children—most of them—anyway, love recess. It was probably my favorite "subject" in elementary school, and my heart raced when I heard the bell go off and we were free to hit the playground. But what's being billed as the "first ever" national poll of elementary school principals on the subject finds that most of them believe recess helps children learn.

Four out of five principals report that recess has a positive impact on academic achievement, with two-thirds saying students listen better after recess and are more focused in class. Virtually all of the nearly 2,000 administrators surveyed (which also included some assistant or vice principals) believe that recess has a positive effect on children's social development.

Read the full piece

Friday, February 5, 2010

Black History Month

Here is another link full of resources that can be used in almost any classroom: