Friday, October 29, 2010

Controversy Surrounds Cards Being Tested For Monitoring Students Activity

The Boston Globe (10/28) reports that "civil libertarians are raising privacy concerns about a plan by Boston public schools to issue cards to students that could be used for a variety of services from riding the bus, to borrowing library books, to accessing meal programs." State ACLU director Carol Rose "says school officials have no right to know where students go, or what they read." But school officials say that the cards, which are being "issued to 530 students in grades 6 through part of a pilot program," could help reduce absenteeism.

Some Connecticut Superintendents Take Raises As Schools Cut Staff

WFSB-TV Hartford (10/29) reports that as Connecticut school districts "have been cutting jobs left and right," some superintendents are taking raises. WFSB contacted school districts statewide and found that "more than two dozen superintendents took raises this school year." In Hartford, for instance, schools have seen a consistent decline in staff, losing about 400 employees since 2007. Meanwhile, the schools superintendent has taken a raise each year.


Superintendent Declines Raise For Second Straight Year. The Hartford (CT) Courant (10/29) reports that Manchester, Connecticut, schools superintendent, Kathleen Ouellette, "will forgo a salary raise for the second year in a row." Ouellette, who makes $155,366 annually, has "declined any raise in the current fiscal year and in fiscal year 2009-10. The board recently approved a contract for Ouellette through June 30, 2013, that includes a boost in vacation days from 25 to 30 and raises the number of sick days paid out at retirement from 60 to 65."

First Lady Says Adults Should Lead By Example To Stop School Bullying

The AP (10/29) reports that First Lady Michelle Obama "says adults can address the problem of bullying if they lead by example." The First Lady's comments on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" came "days after President Barack Obama addressed the topic in a video posted on the White House website. ... Mrs. Obama said young people need to know that they shouldn't let the challenges they face in high school or college 'eat them up.'"

Arizona District Proposes Solution For Curbing Use Of "Synthetic Marijuana" At School

KNXV-TV Phoenix (10/29, Resendez) reports that some students in Arizona's in the Tempe Union High School District are using a substance called spice or K2 to get high. K2 "is a legal synthetic form of marijuana that can be easily purchased from smoke shops, convenience stores and online, as long as you're over 18." Tempe Union spokeswoman Linda Littell said that abuse of the substance is "a big problem" and a school committee "is proposing to the school board that it be listed the same as an illegal drug," she said. "If the school board approves the proposal in November, the punishment for a student possessing Spice or being under the influence of Spice would be the same as an illegal drug," KNXV added.

Four Schools In Providence, Rhode Island Develop Own Turnaround Plans

The Providence (RI) Journal (10/29, Borg) reports that four schools in Providence, Rhode Island, which have been "identified by state Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist as among the worst in the state, have devised" plans "to turn themselves around after years of low student achievement." The efforts are not ordinary, because these plans are "coming from the bottom up. Typically, school reform is developed by the superintendent and staff and imposed on the individual schools." But, with the bottom-up approach, "principals and teachers have decided which reforms will boost student performance." The changes will be observed by a "labor-management partnership...believed to be the first of its kind in the" US. Beginning next September, "all four schools will have" up to 75 minutes added to the school day, teachers will have 10 professional training days added to their contract, and more time will be devoted to helping students struggling with math and reading.

Teaching Peers An Effective Learning Tool For Students, Studies Show

Education Week (10/28, Sparks) reported, "Educators have long held that peer tutoring can help students learn, and emerging research on students working with computer characters points to one possible reason why: Teaching begets learning for the teacher, too. Researchers at Stanford University's AAA Lab and Vanderbilt University's Teachable Agents Group call it the 'protégé effect,' which posits that students will work harder, reason better, and ultimately understand more by learning to teach someone else-even a virtual 'teachable agent'-than they will when learning for themselves." Education Week noted that both "labs are moving to bring the lessons from virtual teaching to flesh-and-blood classrooms."

Shakespeare Program Aimed At Helping ESL Students Learn English Language

The Chicago Sun-Times (10/28, Noulihan) reported on the ESL/Shakespeare program at Gage Park High School in Chicago that began last year. Maria Rivera, the ESL teacher who created the program in which students study Shakespeare's use of language, said it gives students "a new creative avenue into the English language, a new way of learning words and their meanings that they find unique, exciting and fulfilling." The ESL students learn and perform adapted versions of Shakespeare plays onstage at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Motivating a Reluctant Staff of Teachers

Having never been in charge of a school, it is difficult to really understand the challenges a principal faces... Michael Smith runs an excellent blog where he illustrates a variety of issues from the side of administrators. Recently he posted this blog in which he offers some excellent suggestions for creating a cohesive and motivated team out of a reluctant staff.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Green Eggs and Ham Turns 50!

I am sure there will be plenty of celebrations… here are two to get you in the mood

Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham in the Kitchen


Ham It Up and Act It Out!

Voting is now open!

Green Eggs And Ham celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and to celebrate we're giving away $2,000 cash, limited edition Dr. Seuss art prints, a year's supply of ham (you read that right!)--and much more--to Dr. Seuss fans who enter and get the most votes in the HAM It Up video contest!

Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox? Now it's your turn! Act out a scene from Green Eggs And Ham, but don't be afraid to get creative. Perhaps you like your eggs with jam? Perhaps your ham's a Candygram! Once your masterpiece is complete, upload your video to our contest site and get your friends and family voting and sharing. The videos with the most votes after five weeks will be judged by a team at Random House Children's Books and Dr. Seuss to determine the best overall act. So what are we looking for? We want your most dramatic, your most creative, your funniest, and of course your very, very hammiest! The grand prize winner will take home $2,000 cash, a limited edition Dr. Seuss print worth over $3,000, a year's supply of ham from Ham-I-Am, a Flip cam, and the entire Dr. Seuss library!

Click here for all the contest details!

RIF launches Family Reading Celebration initiative

Reading is Fundamental (RIF) has announced that 28 programs will receive a total of $87,500 in grants to participate in the Family Reading Celebration initiative. This is a new program that is designed for parents and communities to help children discover the joy of reading. With funding support coming from Macy's, 21 programs will receive $2,500 and seven programs will receive $5,000 Family Reading Celebration grants.

"RIF recognizes the importance of children having engaged families and communities motivating them to develop strong reading skills. With the Family Reading Celebration grants, programs have additional resources to help reach more children and families," said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of RIF. To learn more about RIF, visit the organization's website.

Foundations Not Doing Enough To Help Neediest Students, Study Says

The AP (10/28, Blankinship) reports that the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy "is hoping to light a fire under charitable foundations that support education by releasing a report Wednesday that points out how few of them focus enough attention on helping the most needy students." The study "said that only 11 percent of American foundations devoted at least half their grants to programs that benefit vulnerable students" and the reports also found that "only 2 percent met the watchdog group's other main criteria for philanthropic success: spending 25 percent of its grants toward advocating for long-term change, through community building, advocacy and civil engagement."

Some Experts Say Education Department Letter Could Lead To Less Bullying

Inside Higher Ed (10/28, Berrett) reports that school bullying incidents "could grow rarer, say legal experts and student advocates, following the U.S. Department of Education's release Tuesday of anti-discrimination guidelines" in a letter to a wide range of education institutions. According to Inside Higher Ed, "Colleges' responses are mandatory, even if a student does not formally file a complaint, according to the letter. In fact, college and university administrators are on the hook for addressing harassment incidents about which they know or 'reasonably should have known,' wrote" Department of Education Office for Civil Rights chief Russlynn Ali.

Administration To Launch New Sex Education Campaign

The Washington Post (10/28, Stein) reports that "the Obama administration has entered the politically sensitive" debate over "safe-sex vs. abstinence-only sex education programs," with a promise "to put scientific evidence before political ideology. A $110 million campaign will support a range of programs, including those that teach about the risks of specific sexual activities and the benefits of contraception and others that focus primarily on encouraging teens to delay sex." The Post adds, "Although the program is being hailed by many adolescent health experts, it is being denounced by some on both sides of the abstinence debate."

Research Shows Pre-K Counts Helped Boost Achievement In Pennsylvania

The Bucks County (PA) Courier Times (10/28, Canelli) reports that Stephen Bagnato, professor of pediatrics and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh recently "presented results from a study of the Pre-K Counts program in 21 school districts across" Pennsylvania. According to the Courier Times, "The research...looked at more than 10,000 children ages 3 to 6 across the state, including 223 kids in Bucks County. Out of those 223 students, 146 at-risk children exceeded expected competencies in language, reading, math, writing and behavior after transitioning from the program to kindergarten."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Report tracks students' reading habits

Movies based on popular children's books perpetuate the popularity of the titles they are inspired by, heavily influencing what children choose to read, according to What Kids Are Reading: The Book Reading Habits of Students in American Schools, 2011 Edition. For instance, Jeff Kinney's The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief, released as movies earlier this year, have taken the top spots at some grade levels (replacing titles from Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series).

The data contained in this report comes from Accelerated Reader (AR), and is based on AR reading data for more than 6.2 million students in grades 1-12, from nearly 20,000 schools across the United States, who read more than 192 million books during the 2009-2010 school year. The report includes an introduction by teen author Riley Carney, as well as contributions from popular children's authors Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver, Mike Thaler, and Louis Sacher.

For further information and to access the full report, visit this webpage.

Libraries without librarians

From Hugo, Minnesota, to Mesa, Arizona, to Palm Harbor, Florida, libraries are coping with layoffs and budget cuts by replacing "traditional, full-service institutions with devices and approaches that may be redefining what it means to have a library," according to an article by Conor Dougherty in The Wall Street Journal. Outdoor kiosks and glass-front vending machines that dispense DVDs and popular books are just a couple of the innovations in this area. To learn more, read the full article.

Report: State proficiency standards vary by as much as four grade levels

The gap in what students are expected to know in each state varies so greatly that the difference in student expectations between the states with the most rigorous assessments and those with the least stringent is twice the size of the national black-white achievement gap, according to a new report by the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

For comparison, while black students are falling nearly two grade levels behind their white peers in knowledge and achievement, what students are expected to know in one state may be up to four grade levels behind the expectations set in another state.

The report, International Benchmarking: State Education Performance Standards, compared the proficiency standards in each state with international benchmarks used in two international assessments to be able to compare states to each other, using a common standard, and to compare U.S. student performance with that of their peers in other countries. The full report is available at the AIR

Pediatricians urged to promote reading in waiting rooms

Doctors need to follow their own rules when it comes to media use among children and promote reading and educational toys in their waiting rooms--instead of TV and videos.

So says new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which also calls on pediatricians to educate themselves about the risks of too much media exposure in children and ask parents how much of it their children digest daily.

Read the policy statement online and the Kaiser Foundation January 2010 study, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.

Columnist Notes Success Of Some Charters, Says Unions Can Help Improve School Quality

Columnist Julie Mack writes in the Kalamazoo (MI) Gazette (10/26) that "'Waiting for Superman,' the new documentary by David Guggenheim that skewers American schools, has re-energerized the debate over the charter school movement, which the film implies is the silver bullet for school reform." But, Mack says the film "neglects to mention" that "the charters profiled in [the film] are the exception," and their successes are not found in the majority of charter schools, according to a 2009 Stanford University study. Mack also points out that "the three charters in the film that serve high-poverty students are successful because they go far beyond a traditional public school -- and, not so incidentally, they spend much more, too." Finally, Mack addresses unions, saying they can help "improve school quality: By enforcing better pay and benefits, they make it easier for regular public schools to recruit and retain the best instructors."

State-Owned Storage Business Expected To Bring Thousands Into Idaho Schools

The AP (10/27) reports that schools in Boise, Idaho, "stand to benefit more from a storage business that the state bought than when it was under private ownership." The state "paid $2.7 million to buy Affordable Self-Storage in the suburbs of Boise," and according to Idaho's Department of Land, the property "will contribute $20,087 annually to Boise schools -- double the $10,040 in taxes that previously went to schools." In addition, "$208,000 in earnings from the facility will be shared by schools across Idaho."

Virginia Governor Orders Full Review Of Textbook Adoption Process

The Washington Post (10/27, Helderman, Sieff) reports, "Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said Tuesday that he has ordered a full review of the state's textbook adoption process in the wake of a Washington Post report that a three-teacher state panel approved a fourth-grade history book that claims thousands of African Americans fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Professional historians have disputed the claim, which the author of 'Our Virginia: Past and Present' said she found using Internet resources written largely by the Sons of Confederate Veterans." The Post notes that the "Virginia Department of Education said last week that it would begin a comprehensive review of the textbook adoption process, focusing on committees that are charged with reviewing materials that deal with 'sensitive periods in American history,' said Charles Pyle, a department spokesman."

New Jersey District Votes To Reverse Kindergarten Age Cutoff Decision

New Jersey's Daily Record (10/26, Roman) reported, "The Mount Olive [NJ] Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to return a revised July 1 kindergarten cutoff date to the original Oct. 1 policy, following months of complaints from parents angry about the fiscally motivated policy change." According to the Daily Record, the original policy "was expected to affect about 60 children and save the district about $780,000 over the course of several years."

Schools' Failure To Properly Deal With Harassment Could Lead To Cut In Funding

CNN (10/27, Cohen) reports that schools that "fail to properly deal with harassment" among students that is "based on gender, race or other issues, they risk being cited for contributing to a pattern of civil rights violations that could, in extreme cases, lead to a cut in federal funding, according to top officials." The issue was a dressed in a letter from US education officials "sent Tuesday to thousands of schools, colleges, universities and school districts around the country that included examples of bullying and harassment cases that constituted violations of federal civil rights laws."


Christina A. Samuels wrote in the Education Week (10/26) "Politics K-12" blog that "harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered students may be a form of gender stereotyping and therefore a federal offense," according to the Department of Education. "Federal civil rights law also protects against harassment of religious groups 'based on shared ethnic characteristics.'" Russlyn H. Ali, the Education Department's assistant secretary for civil rights, noted that "the guidance from the department is a reiteration of guidance that had come from the Bush administration in 2001 and 2006."


Maureen Downey wrote in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (10/26), "While I agree that bullying is a problem, do we need the White House to put it on its agenda?" According to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the guidance aims "to both help education institutions build on their bullying prevention programs and to wake up 'the schools that have their heads in the sand.'" He also explained, "If the federal government has to step in, it means that the problem was ignored for far too long."


Survey Shows Half Of High School Students Admit To Bullying Peers. California's Contra Costa Times (10/27, Butler) reports that a survey released Tuesday by the Josephson Institute of Ethics found that "nearly half of high school students report that they have been bullied," and "exactly half of respondents admitted they had bullied, teased or taunted someone in the past year." The survey, "billed as the largest bullying survey of high school students," included "43,321 high school students" in the US and "had a margin of error of less than 1 percentage point."

Arbitrator Says Minneapolis School District Unjustly Denied Raises To Teachers, Staff

The Minneapolis Star Tribune (10/27, Mitchell) reports that "the Minneapolis School District will have to pay out almost $17 million to teachers and support staff after a state arbitrator ruled that the employees were unjustly denied raises and merit pay for two years." The district did not "pay salary schedule raises and merit pay to teachers" during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years due to "budget problems." But the arbitrator "found that the decision was made without sufficient reason." The Star Tribune adds that "In a separate ruling," a different arbitrator "found that the district failed to provide raises to support staff after their contract expired in summer 2009." The support staff members are due about "$2.8 million in back pay."

Videoconferencing Technology Brings Shark Experts Into The Classroom

Pennsylvania's Delco News Network (10/26) reported, "Technology brought live sharks into Jennifer Iavarone's class of sixth-graders at the Garnet Valley Middle School when they used video conferencing equipment to speak directly to an apprentice trainer at Mote Marina Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla. for a program titled, Sharks!: Devouring the Myth." The event was part of a larger initiative called SeaTrek, which "has a goal of bringing the ocean world to students through imaginative delivery of interactive science education programs and to foster understanding of marine life." The article notes, "Use of video conference equipment is just one of the ways the Garnet Valley School District is increasing its involvement in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) initiatives while still complimenting a solid foundation of reading, research, and critical thinking."

Thinking Way Outside of the Box?

Maine District Working To Attract High School Students From China.

The New York Times (10/27, A1, Goodnough) reports that the Kenneth Smith, superintendent of the Millinocket, Maine, school district, is in China this week "pitching Stearns High to school officials, parents and students in Beijing, Shanghai and two other cities." Smith is trying to attract Chinese students to his district and "has hired a consultant to help him make connections in China, lobbied Millinocket's elected officials and business owners to embrace the plan and even directed the school's cafeteria workers to add Chinese food to the menu." The Chinese students would pay "$27,000 a year in tuition, room and board." The one set back to Millinocket's plan, the Times adds, is that "foreign students can attend public high school in the United States for only a year." Smith is urging "Maine's Congressional delegation to seek a change, but in the meantime, he intends to recruit a handful of Chinese students to attend Stearns next year."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Celebrate National American Indian Heritage Month

November is National American Indian Heritage Month, which honors the original explorers and settlers of the Western Hemisphere. This Teaching Tolerance quiz about American Indian influences in U.S. culture and history will open students' eyes.

School Loop Mobile

School Loop Enables Mobile Access

School Loop has unveiled a new version of its portal and student data management tools that can be accessed with an iPhone, Android, Palm Pre, BlackBerry Torch, and other smart phones.

***Is your school or district using School Loop? What are your thoughts about School Loop?

California Whooping Cough Epidemic

California and Blackboard Notify Parents About Whooping Cough Epidemic

The California Department of Public Health is using Blackboard Connect to make available a broadcast message about the pertussis epidemic and the need for vaccination in the state.

Study: Mother's reading skill greatest determinant of academic success

Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded that programs to boost the academic achievement of children from low-income neighborhoods might be more successful if they also provided adult literacy education to parents. The researchers based this conclusion on their finding that a mother's reading skill is the greatest determinant of her children's future academic success, outweighing other factors, such as neighborhood and family income.

The study, appearing in Demography, was supported by NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

"The findings indicate that programs to improve maternal literacy skills may provide an effective means to overcome the disparity in academic achievement between children in poor and affluent neighborhoods," said Rebecca Clark, chief of the Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NIH institute that funded the study. After mother's reading level, neighborhood income level was the largest determinant of children's academic achievement.

For more information, visit the Institute's website.

Blogger Calls Advertisements On School Materials Act Of "Desperation."

Jennifer Neff writes at (10/26) about the "controversial" practice of "adding advertisements to school slips and even lockers" in Minnesota in order to bolster lagging school budgets, painting this as a sign of "desperation among school officials. It'd seem that fundraisers that normally work well would suffer more so due to the state of the economy leaving the schools with budgets that cannot be met." She notes that "schools in several states already" have taken similar measures, but asks, "Is this normal or even in good taste? The answer here is likely a resounding no, but what's a school to do? There's money needed and no place for them to get it from. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and selling school property to ads seems about as desperate as things can get."

Ohio District To Experiment With Online Learning During Snow Days

The AP (10/25) reported, "When bad weather hits this winter, students in a rural western Ohio school district will hit their home computers as part of an experiment. With the Ohio Department of Education looking on, the Mississinawa Valley Schools in Darke County will try to replace days off for snow and other inclement weather with online learning." According to the AP, "Mississinawa Superintendent Lisa Wendel tells The Columbus Dispatch the experience in online education will help students in college, where those classes are more common."

Teacher-Recruitment Town Hall Features Duncan, Danza

The AP (10/26, Matheson) reports, "US Education Secretary Arne Duncan took his national teacher-recruitment campaign to a town hall meeting in Philadelphia on Monday with actor-turned-teacher Tony Danza, hoping to inspire a new generation of educators. Addressing hundreds of high school and college students at Temple University, Duncan stressed the need to replace an estimated 1 million teachers expected to retire in the next few years." Duncan "also emphasized the need to diversify the nation's teaching ranks, noting that about 45 percent of American students are nonwhite while only 14 percent of teachers are in that demographic."

Obama Administration Launches Campaign To Combat School Bullying


The Washington Post (10/26, Anderson) reports, "The Obama administration is launching a campaign to prevent anti-gay bullying and other harassment at school, advising educators that federal law protects students from many forms of discrimination." According to the Post, Administration officials say a new advisory from the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights is "the federal government's most comprehensive guidance to date on how civil rights law applies to the sort of campus situations that in some cases have led persecuted students to commit suicide. President Obama is expected to help promote the initiative."


According to the New York Times (10/26, Dillon), Administration officials said the move "took on new urgency in recent weeks because of a string of high-profile cases in which students have committed suicide after enduring bullying by classmates. .. 'I am writing to remind you that some student misconduct that falls under a school's anti-bullying policy also may trigger responsibilities under one or more of the federal anti-discrimination laws,' says the letter, signed by Russlynn H. Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights." The Times adds that data collected by ED researchers last year indicated that "one-third of all students ages 12 to 18 felt that they were being bullied or harassed at school, Ms. Ali said in an interview."


The AP (10/26, Armario) adds that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan "sought to assure" bullying victims "that action will be taken." Said Duncan, "To every student who feels threatened or harassed, for whatever reason, please know that you are not alone. Please know that there are people who love you. And please know that we will protect you.'"


Bloomberg News (10/26, Young) adds, "The White House will convene a conference on bullying and harassment in schools early next year, [ED] said in a news release. In addition, [ED] will hold a series of workshops for school administrators around the country on antibullying measures."


Duncan To Hold National Press Call On Bullying. The Bay City (MI) Times (10/26, Dodson) reports, "US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will hold a national press conference Tuesday announcing guidance to schools on handling bullying and discriminatory harassment. Joining Duncan will be White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali." Said Duncan, "This is a moment where every one of us - parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience -needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms."

Monday, October 25, 2010

CNN – Student News

CNN Student News is a great resource that you may or may not already know about. I've found that the video podcast is great way to fold current events into my classroom in real, meaningful, age-appropriate manner. I access the free podcast through iTunes, but I believe it can also be found at CNN's site.

Virginia District Removes Textbooks Over Claim About Black Confederate Soldiers

The Washington Post (10/24, Sieff) reports that Loudoun County, VA "school officials have decided to pull 'Our Virginia' from its fourth-grade classrooms because of its dubious claim about thousands of black soldiers fighting for the South during the Civil War." According to the Post, "The publisher has said it will provide a sticker to cover the disputed sentence in 'Our Virginia.' The state Board of Education, which approved the book, said this week that the claim about African Americans fighting for the Confederacy falls outside 'mainstream Civil War scholarship.'"

New Jersey Governor's Inflammatory Rhetoric Viewed As Impediment To Education Reform

Brent Staples writes in a column for the New York Times (10/25) that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) "has been bludgeoning the state's teachers and their unions since he took office earlier this year" which "has raised his profile nationally" yet "has also made rational conversation on school reform nearly impossible." Staples recounts former New Jersey Education Commissioner Bret Schundler's view that Christie "sabotaged" New Jersey's Race to the Top grant application, adding that when it comes to education reform, Christie "raises the right subjects - merit pay, tenure, evaluation - but nearly always in an inflammatory fashion." Staples adds that even "if the school reform effort succeeds" in Newark, NJ, "the Christie style will have made it that much harder to pull off."

Lesson from Kenneth’s Blog

Are you learning English? - Yes, I am / No, I'm not

This is an example of a Yes No question. Yes No questions check information, check facts, etc. and do not use question words such as 'where', 'when', 'how', etc. Yes No questions are also usually answered with a form of the auxiliary verb used in the matching tense. This guide to Yes No questions will help you review this common question form.

Here are some other features that focus on asking questions:

Asking and Answer Questions - Quiz
Question Forms in Various Tenses - Quiz
Asking Questions Lesson Plan

How playtime is connected to learning

At Indianapolis Public School 61 kindergarteners participate in traditional forms of learning such as hearing stories and practicing with letters and numbers. However, they also get time to play, and this is where teachers also see essential learning taking place.

Outside of recess, teacher Carolyn Kendall makes time for her students to play several times a day. When she looks at a boy simply stacking blocks, she also sees that child's hand muscles getting a workout. When she looks at a little girl sorting colored animals into lines, she sees a child learning early math concepts. When she looks at her students playing during recess and they are dividing up into teams and creating rules, she sees them forming relationships and learning to get along.

Indiana University early education professor Mary Benson McMullen says that while teacher-directed play is important, the importance of free play shouldn't be underestimated. Read the full article by Robert King from The Indianapolis Star online.  

Movie shines positive light on public education

Stating that Waiting for Superman "paints a flattering but false picture of charter schools," noted education journalist John Merrow uses his Taking Note blog to recommend August to June, a new documentary movie that tells the story of an "open classroom" school in northern California, focusing on one classroom and its teacher, Amy Valens.

Read Merrow's article here; learn more about August to June

Friday, October 22, 2010

Personal Narrative Think Sheet

This is one of the 'recipes' from a great book I've been using: RTI in the Classroom: Guidelines and Recipes for Success . The book was written by Rachel Brown-Chidsey, Louise Bronaugh, and Kelly McGraw. I love books like this because they're practical and offer ideas that can be implemented immediately.

The directions to the activity:

1. Model how to use the Personal Narrative Think Sheet as a whole group.

2. Explicitly teach how to complete each section of the think sheet.

3. Allow students time to work alone or with a partner in planning a story.

4. Hold brief check-in meetings to see how students have used the think sheet.

5. Monitor progress with story starter probes and a writing rubric.

Click here to download a Microsoft Word copy of the Think Sheet.

Personal Narrative Think Sheet



1. Search all memories:

    The time when…

    The time when…

    The time when…


2. Chose one story to tell.


3. Play it in your mind (like a video).


4. Where did it happen?                    8. What happened?


5. Who was there?                    9. What were my feelings?


6. What did I see?                    10. How did it end?


7. What did I hear?                    11. Why do I remember this? Why is it important?

Dead Sea Scrolls will be available online

In a project that mixes 21st century technology with one of the world's ancient treasures, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Google have announced a plan to digitize the Dead Sea Scrolls and make the entire collection available to the public online, according to an article by Kevin Flower on Comprising 30,000 fragments from 900 manuscripts, the Dead Sea Scrolls are among the most important archaeological finds ever made.

To learn more, read the full article at and view the accompanying video.

Help students use social media effectively

"In this world of instant communication our students have the opportunity to engage and share with a global audience," writes Andrew Marcinek in an article for Edutopia. "As educators, we cannot let this chance slip by."

Marcinek urges educators to emphasize the same high standards for writing and grammar for Twitter messages and blog posts as for more formal writing outlets. He argues that errors in writing dilute the message regardless of the medium. "As we reflect on how best to refine our students' 21st century skills we must not lose sight of the timeless skill of effective communication," Marcinek concludes. "Remind students of the power of digital media and how much their words can impact the lives of others."

For further information, read the full article.

"Manifesto" Criticized For Unfairly Blaming Teachers For Education Failures

Steven J. Klees, professor of international education policy at the University of Maryland, College Park, writes in an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun (10/22), "A group of 16 school superintendents, including Baltimore schools CEO Andres Alonso, recently published a 'manifesto' on 'How to Fix Our Schools.'" Klees criticizes the manifesto for placing unfair blame on teachers for education failures, adding that teachers "need to be treated as professionals, with commensurate pay and considerable say over the means by which they are evaluated. ... And we need superintendents with a much broader vision of education than offered in the 'manifesto.'"

Teachers' Curriculum Choices Not Protected Under First Amendment, Court Rules

Mark Walsh wrote in the Education Week (10/21) "School Law" blog that the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, ruled on Thursday that "teachers have no First Amendment free-speech protection for curricular decisions they make in the classroom." The ruling "came in the case of an Ohio teacher whose contract was not renewed in 2002 after community controversy over reading selections she assigned to her high school English classes." The court said in its opinion that the school board is ultimately responsible "for what goes on in the classroom, legitimately giving it a say over what teachers may (or may not) teach in the classroom."

Cooking Class Teaches Problem Solving, Teamwork

The Joplin (MO) Globe (10/22, Pound) reports on students in Family and Consumer Science teacher Kim Hoover's cooking class at Carthage Junior High School, many of whom "come into her classroom for the first time with little or no kitchen knowledge." Hoover "has noticed a troubling trend" over the years that "fewer and fewer families...actually sit down to homemade family dinners." In addition to learning their way around the kitchen, Hoover noted that students "learn to follow directions. They learn problem solving. They learn, when cooking in a group, to work as a team. They learn to use math skills, and they learn how to follow a budget. And, as they did one day last week, they learned how to make tacos using homemade tortillas." The article includes the recipes the students have recently learned.

Character Education Programs Ineffective, ED Study Finds

Education Week (10/21, Sparks) reported, "Character education has grown in popularity among educators and parents alike, but the largest federal study of schoolwide programs to date has found that, for the most part, they don't produce any improvements in student behavior or academic performance. The Institute of Education Sciences, [ED]'s research arm, gauged the effects of seven typical schoolwide programs from across the country" and "found that the schools taking part in the intervention significantly increased their use of character-development instruction and activities." Education Week added, "However, the programs did not improve the use of schoolwide social-development strategies or teachers' attitudes and their individual practices related to character building, such as modeling polite behavior or enlisting students in decision-making."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Website harnesses power of National Archives resources, a new website from the U.S. National Archives, helps teachers bring history to life for their students through a set of tools they can use to create rich, interactive online learning activities by using selected original documents from the National Archives' vast collection. With, educators can engage their students in using primary sources in a new, interactive way.

To learn more, read this article by Stephanie Greenhut and Suzanne Isaacs of the National Archives staff or dive right in by visiting

Will physical books be gone sooner than expected?

In an interview with CNN's Howard Kurtz on "Reliable Sources," author Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child, said the physical book's days are numbered.


"It will be in five years," said Negroponte. "The physical medium cannot be distributed to enough people. When you go to Africa, half a million people want books ... you can't send the physical thing."


Negroponte emphasized the efficiency of being able to put hundreds of books on the laptops his organization sends to villages. "We put 100 books on a laptop, but we also send 100 laptops. That village now has 10,000 books," he said.


Read the full article by Cody Combs and watch the interview at CNN's website.

Survey: School districts are anxious to assess 21st century skills

A new survey from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) shows educators believe the federal government should support the development of new assessment models that effectively measure 21st century skills. These skills are increasingly being incorporated into instructional strategies across the United States. The survey reveals that more than 35 percent of respondents believe "assessing 21st century skills" should be the top education technology priority for Congress and the Obama Administration.   

The survey also reveals that schools are taking cyberbullying seriously, as 57 percent of respondents say their districts have created specific policies to prevent online threats and harassment. Also, 24 percent of respondents believe that textbooks could be eliminated since students find them boring and prefer electronic resources. Read the full article at the NSBA website or see the full survey results here.

Students At High School In Connecticut Earn $12,800 For Passing AP Exams

Connecticut's Courant (10/21, Drury) reports that "75 checks totaling $12,800 was handed out Wednesday to Windsor High School students who had scored a passing grade on an advanced placement exam last spring." The rewards came as part of "the school's first year of participation in Project Opening Doors." Students received $100 for each passing AP test score. Of the Windsor students who took the tests in May, 71 percent passed. In addition to "the high percentage of passing scores, the high school AP program had a dramatic increase in the participation and success of minority students, with 68 percent" passing the May tests. "School administrators say last spring's success was built upon a foundation laid four years ago, when a committee of AP teachers was formed to find ways to improve student test scores and broaden participation."

Students Apply Science Lessons By Studying Waste Management

WQOW-TV Eau Claire, WI (10/20) reported that a group of Eau Claire middle school students are working to answer "a complicated question: Where will our garbage go in the future?" As part of the "three-month-long project," the students have visited a wastewater treatment plant and investigated potential locations for a new county landfill. "Working together, they'll look at how much our population's growing, how much trash everyone will produce in the future and possible places to put it." Dean Schultz, the "group leader and retired environmental engineer," said the goal of the project is "helping them relate to the real world." Schultz said, "The math and the science that they learn in school sometimes, as maybe you experienced, it's a little bit on the theoretical side. You kind of wonder, 'What good is this going to be to me?'"

Negative Ramifications Of Education Reform Outlined

UCLA Graduate School of Education faculty member Mike Rose wrote in a blog for the Washington Post (10/20), "I see characteristics of the current reform movement, as powerful as it is, that could lead to unintended and undesirable consequences." According to Rose, "Reformers have been masterful at characterizing anyone who differs from their approach as 'traditionalists' who want to maintain the status quo, putting their own retrograde professional interests ahead of the good of children." However, many of the targets of reform "have spent a lifetime working for the same goals voiced by the reformers, and the reformers need their expertise."

Food From Chicago Schools' Gardens Barred From Lunchrooms

The Chicago Tribune (10/20, Eng) reported that food from Chicago Public Schools' gardens never makes "its way into CPS lunchrooms. Instead, because of rules set by the district and its meal provider, the food is sold or given away." According to the Tribune, "The policies are in place despite the high obesity rate among Illinois children and experts' concerns that young people are eating few fresh vegetables" yet "studies suggest children eat and accept vegetables much more readily when they have helped grow them."


The Los Angeles Times (10/20, Forgione) also covers this story adding that garden-based "learning, studies show, helps kids become more interested in vegetables and inspires them to try different ones. Less than 10 percent of high school students eat the daily recommended servings of fruit (at least two) and vegetables (at least three), according to the CDC's 'State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2009.'"

New York City Schools To Release Teacher Ratings On Friday

The Los Angeles Times (10/21, Song, Felch) reports that "the New York City school system announced Wednesday that it will release ratings for nearly 12,000 teachers based on student test scores" on Friday, a move that "the city's teachers union said it would fight." Following "series of Los Angeles Times stories in August that analyzed 6,000 elementary school teachers' effectiveness in raising" student test scores, New York City education officials had initially said "that they intended to keep [such] sensitive information private." But, they later said that "they could not find an exemption to state records laws that would preclude disclosure." Experts say that releasing teacher scores in New York City will raise the likelihood of similar action nationwide.


The New York Times (10/21, Otterman) reports that "the reports include the names of teachers and their schools." The Times adds that last year, school principals "were instructed to use" value-added reports "in teacher evaluations and tenure decisions. But" in the past, education officials had "refused to make the reports public because of an agreement with the teachers' union and because of concerns that their release could compromise student privacy."


The New York Daily News (10/21, Kolodner, Monahan) reports that teachers union "officials will go to court as early as Thursday to block the city Education Department from releasing the teachers' names and ratings." The Daily News notes that "Education experts have criticized the plan to release the rankings, citing flaws in the tests and in the reports' methodology."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Group Urges Salt Lake School District To Add Gender Identity To Anti-Discrimination Policy

The Salt Lake Tribune (10/20, Winters) reports that "on Tuesday, the Salt Lake Chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) called on the" Salt Lake City School District "Board of Education to include gender identity and gender expression in the district's anti-discrimination policy." Board members have recently "considered adding gender identity" to the policy, "but an attorney advised against it and research indicated that sexual orientation is more commonly covered." Kathy Godwin, president of the PFLAG chapter, said that "including gender identity and expression would protect students who aren't gay or aren't comfortable coming out as gay, but who are harassed for expressing their gender in ways outside social norms."

Educators Suing Arizona Superintendent, BOE Over Ban On Mexican-American Studies

CNN (10/20, Martinez, Gutierrez) reports that "eleven Tucson, Arizona, educators sued the state board of education and superintendent this week for what the teachers consider an "anti-Hispanic" ban looming on Mexican-American studies." State Superintendent of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne defended the new law, which "authorizes the superintendent to stop any ethnic studies classes that 'promote the overthrow of the United States government ... promote resentment toward a race or class of people ... (or) advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treatment of pupils as individuals.'" Horne seeks to ban Mexican-American studies from schools in the state. In the lawsuit, "The 11 educators in Tucson's Mexican-American Studies Department are asking a federal judge to stay the new schools law," saying "it violates free speech, equal protection and due process."

Schools In Virginia, Maine To Receive Funding For Teacher Recruitment, Development

The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch (10/19, Jones) reported that public schools in Richmond, Virginia, "will receive $6 million to $7 million through a five-year federal grant to recruit and develop exceptional teachers and principals for schools that are difficult to staff." Through the grant provided by the US Department of Education Teacher Incentive Fund, "teachers are expected to be eligible for as much as $7,500 per year in additional compensation if they go through a rigorous training and certification process." The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards was awarded the $27 million grant "for eight schools in Richmond and 15 in rural Maine."

Website harnesses power of National Archives resources, a new website from the U.S. National Archives, helps teachers bring history to life for their students through a set of tools they can use to create rich, interactive online learning activities by using selected original documents from the National Archives' vast collection. With, educators can engage their students in using primary sources in a new, interactive way.

To learn more, read this article by Stephanie Greenhut and Suzanne Isaacs of the National Archives staff or dive right in by visiting


Today is National Day of Writing!

Link to ideas:

Textbook Claims "Thousands" Of Black Americans Fought For South In Civil War

The Washington Post (10/20, Sieff) reports that "a textbook distributed to Virginia fourth-graders says that thousands of African Americans fought for the South during the Civil War -- a claim rejected by most historians but often made by groups seeking to play down slavery's role as a cause of the conflict." Joy Masoff, author of the textbook, "Our Virginia: Past and Present," has said that "she found the information about black Confederate soldiers primarily through Internet research, which turned up work by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans." But, the overwhelming majority of scholars call "these accounts of black Confederate soldiers a misrepresentation of history." Education officials in Virginia said that "they will contact school districts across the state to caution them against teaching the passage."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some Minnesota Districts Sell Ads On Lockers

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune (10/19, Draper) reports that the Centennial School Board will decide on Nov. 1 "whether it will on up to 10 percent of the available surfaces in all of the district's seven schools. That includes lockers, walls, and floors." The ads could bring nearly $200,000 in additional revenue for the district. "Centennial -- with $3.6 million in cuts this year and more likely on the way next year -- is just the latest school district looking at the ads as an alternative way to generate some cash." Already, St. Francis schools have approved such ads, which "will start going up on lockers there this week." Through an agreement with the company School Media, St. Francis schools could earn up to $200,000 a year. The Star-Tribune adds that "some school officials say they have found either support or a lack of concern among their parents," while "others say such advertising crosses the boundaries of what schools should allow."

Congress Adjourns Without Passing Child Nutrition Bill

Education Week (10/18, Samuels) reported, "Congress adjourned for the November elections without reauthorizing the federal law that controls the nation's school meals program" yet "school nutrition and anti-hunger advocates say that delay could be a blessing in disguise." According to Education Week, "Two competing versions of the Child Nutrition Act were introduced in the US Senate and the House of Representatives, but the Senate version is further along." However, some advocates "don't want to pass the Senate measure unchanged because the 10-year bill would offset its proposed spending increases in part by cutting $2.2 billion from food stamps."

Middle School Principals In Des Moines Creating Expectations For Grade Promotion.

The AP (10/19) reports that "middle school principals in Des Moines are developing a proposal that would create a list of expectations middle school students need to meet so they can advance to the next grade." Currently, students are advanced "to the next grade no matter their academic performance." The proposed expectations are aimed at reducing dropouts and increasing graduation rates. Des Moines Education Association President Melissa Spencer said that "the effort to enact a policy started about two years when teachers noticed more ninth-graders were struggling with high school because they weren't prepared." The proposed policy includes expectations for "standardized test scores, class grades, attendance and class progress." If a student does not meet the requirements, "a grade placement committee...will determine if [he or she] can be promoted."

DC Schools' Early Dinner Program Aims To Fight Childhood Hunger

The Washington Post (10/19, Turque) reports, "D.C. public schools have started serving an early dinner to an estimated 10,000 students, many of whom are now receiving three meals a day from the system as it expand efforts to curb childhood hunger and poor nutrition. ... Officials describe the dinner initiative as having three goals: hedging against childhood hunger, reducing alarming rates of obesity and drawing more students to after-school programs, where extra academic help is available." According to the Post, the early dinner program "is also part of a broader effort, mandated by recent D.C. Council legislation, to upgrade the quality and nutritional value of school food with fresh, locally grown ingredients."

Georgia Bureau Of Investigation Probes Atlanta Public Schools For Cheating

The Atlanta Journal Constitution (10/19, Rankin) reports that agents from Georgia's Bureau of Investigation (GBI) "began paying visits to Atlanta public schools and questioning teachers Monday afternoon as part of an ongoing state investigation into allegations of test tampering." GBI spokesman John Bankhead said that teachers at least 15 schools being investigated "are not targets for criminal charges as long as they are truthful with agents." However, "if anyone is found to have lied to state agents or investigators, that could lead to criminal charges. Under state law, lying to investigators is a felony that can be punished with a $1,000 fine and up to five years in prison," The Journal Constitution adds.


WXIA-TV Atlanta (10/19, King) reports that the GBI probe comes two months after Atlanta Public Schools' own investigation into the matter. "Perdue essentially accused the system of whitewashing its own investigation," which "many staffers refused to cooperate with." GPB-TV Atlanta (10/19, Capelouto) reports that Gov. Sonny Perdue (D) signed an executive order last week to get GBI agents on the ground.," according to Bankhead.

Monday, October 18, 2010

10 Ways to Promote Writing for an Authentic Audience



We began our daily Student Opinion feature last October, when we moved to the blog format, to create a "safe space" on — and on the Internet over all — for students 13 and older to voice their views on the news.

Participating in an online discussion on events and issues in the news not only gives students a forum, but it also helps them build critical thinking, writing and news literacy skills and provides an opportunity to write for an authentic audience.

In a piece for the National Writing Project, Anne Rodier argues that students "have to believe that what they have to say is important enough to bother writing. They have to experience writing for real audiences before they will know that writing can bring them power."

Below are 10 ideas for using Student Opinion to enable your students to experience the power of their words and ideas.

But first, a few notes and tips:

  • Make sure to read and share with students the commenting guidelines for The Learning Network and all of
  • All student comments must be signed with a first name (and only a first name), but we cannot post the full name and location of your school, because of privacy concerns. You might give students a code, like your classroom number or section (for example, Rachel221 or Simon3B), so your students, and you, can tell which posts are written by class members.
  • You can easily find any weekday's Student Opinion question by visiting the blog, or you can scroll through past posts by clicking on the Student Opinion category. There are three other ways to stay on top of the latest posts: follow us on Twitter, sign up to receive our daily e-mail or get an RSS feed of our posts.
  • If you have computer access in school, students might participate in Student Opinion in one of several ways: regularly (once a week, say), as major issues of concern arise or when our posts contain curriculum-related questions. It could also be assigned as a meaningful activity whenever a substitute is covering your class.
  • If you lack computer access in school, responding to Student Opinion questions can be assigned as homework, or it can be done on paper in class. One way to do this: Read together printed copies of the related article from the Student Opinion post of your choice. Then circulate sheets of paper with the related question written at the top. Students respond to the question on paper, then pass it to the next person, who can respond to the initial question or to classmates' responses.
  • Bear in mind that we periodically close these posts to new comments, generally after a few weeks, to keep comments timely and current. If comments are closed on a post you are interested in, you might simulate the experience by having students respond to the post, and each other, in a class blog, wiki space, or on paper or posterboard.
  • In addition to serving as writing prompts, Student Opinion posts can serve as critical reading material. Students can also read past comments for comprehension, synthesis and analysis.
  • Parents, by the way, might find the questions we post in Student Opinion useful as conversation starters with their children, especially given that they are grounded in news items and thus provide an authentic way to broach topics with kids. You might also suggest to your children that they post their thoughts in addition to discussing them with you.
  • We would love to hear from you — and your students — about how you use Student Opinion posts, as well as your feedback and suggestions. What questions and topics would you like to see us address?


And now for those 10 ways to use the feature across the curriculum:

Debating Controversies — We often pose provocative questions, and responding to them can be a good warm-up activity before organizing and holding a classroom debate on a relevant, current topic. Examples include Where Do You Stand on Unconcealed Handguns?, Should the Military End 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'? and Is Tackle Football Too Dangerous for Kids to Play? After reading the related article and responding to a controversial question, students choose sides and then research and craft their arguments.

Practicing Internet Etiquette — Develop computer savvy. Start with our lesson plan Care to Comment? Considering Internet Protocol, then practice good Internet citizenship on Student Opinion, where all comments are moderated. They might enter a discussion about digital life, like What Can Strangers Learn About You Online?, or simply join any Student Opinion conversation and then reflect on the experience and the related issues of Internet safety, privacy and etiquette and Web citizenship, particularly in the area of user comments.

Developing Surveys — Students browse Student Opinion posts to select a topic that would make a good survey to administer in school. Questions that lend themselves to surveys include Should Kids Head to College Early?, Do You Get Enough Sleep? and What Are the Attitudes Toward 'Cheating' and Plagiarism Among Your Peers?. If students choose an "open" Student Opinion page entry on which to base a survey, they can use other commenters' posts for survey questions, and later share their findings with a wider audience.

Generating Creative and Personal Writing — Students write short stories, poetry or other creative pieces inspired by Student Opinion questions, like What's the Most Amazing Thing You've Ever Seen in the Natural World?, What Are Your Favorite Keepsakes From Childhood? and Can You Write a Tweet Story? And we offer many personal writing prompts, including What Do You Know About Teen Depression?, How Has the Recession Affected You?, Have You Had 'Helper's High'? and How Polite Are You? Students can even share short pieces in the commenting area of the related post.

Supporting Reluctant Readers and Writers — Posting comments on serious issues might seem daunting to students who struggle with reading and writing. But many will feel comfortable responding to accessible questions on topics they can relate to, like What Are Your Beliefs About Marriage?, Do You Spend Too Much Time on Facebook?, What Are the Hot Fashion Trends in Your School Right Now? and How Involved Are Your Parents in Your Life?

Reviewing Arts and Entertainment –Young culture vultures can use an entertainment, arts or lifestyle question to craft and share their own reviews, perhaps modeled on Times book, movie or other reviews. Sample past questions in this vein include What Are Your Favorite Books and Authors?, Are You Watching 'American Idol' This Season? and What Are Your Favorite Video Games?

Reflecting on Education — In advisory or homeroom, in preparation for applying to college or just simply as a reflective exercise, students consider their experience in school. Generative questions about education include How Would You Grade Your School?, Class Time + Substitute = Waste?, What Do Good Teachers Need to Know? and How Would You Sell Your School to Potential Students? Encourage students to analyze their textbooks in the context of the recent change to curriculum in Texas by considering the question What Values are Apparent in Your School Textbooks?

Setting Goals and Making Plans — Student Opinion questions can help students focus their thinking about the future. Examples include What Do You Want to Do With Your Life?, What's Your Personal Learning Plan? and How Can You Best Present Yourself on College Applications?

Thinking Deeply — How often do your students have intellectually satisfying "deep discussions"? In Student Opinion, they can reflect on and converse about philosophical questions like How Important Is Your Spiritual Life?, Are You Happy?, What Could You Live Without? and When Is Looting Morally O.K.?

Letting Imaginations Run Wild — How often do students get to just … dream? Pose questions like Where Would You Most Like to Go in the World?, What Would You Create if You Had Funding? or What Can Our Dreams Tell Us?, and dream they will.