Monday, January 31, 2011

Duncan Says NCLB Has Led To "Dumbing Down Of Standards."

The Hill (1/28, Touhey) interviews Education Secretary Duncan about No Child Left Behind renewal and other issues. Duncan said, "I think the law is too punitive, too prescriptive, it's led to a dumbing down of standards, and it's led to a narrowing of curriculum. We need to fix all of those things. We have to reward success, reward excellence, look at growth and gain, not just absolute test scores. We have to be much more flexible."

Drive For Education Reform Has Teacher Unions On The Defensive

The Christian Science Monitor (1/28, Paulson) reported, "It's hard to think of a time in recent decades when teachers unions have been more under attack, not only from those on the right but also from many on the left, including President Obama and Arne Duncan, his Education secretary." The Christian Science Monitor added that the "attacks are unfair or oversimplified, say many education experts and teachers, and the reality is far more complex. For one thing, teachers unions and their attitudes vary drastically from district to district and state to state." Nevertheless, "the attacks have put teachers unions overall in a defensive position, and soul-searching has ensued as they consider how to best shape their vision and priorities going forward."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Study: young kids better with technology than life skills

A survey of 2,200 online mothers of children between two and five years old in the U.S., Canada, the EU5 (U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Spain), Japan, Australia, and New Zealand found that more small children can play a computer game than ride a bike.

While I guess it's great that kids are so tech-savvy, the study points out that they may not be getting the "life skills" they need in other areas of their lives. To learn more about the results of the study, read the full article by Larry Magid in the Technology section of the Cnet News website.

Wikipedia focusing on improving student learning

As Wikipedia hits its 10th year of operation, it is making efforts to involve academics more closely in its process. The latest is a new plan to build an "open educational resource platform" that will gather tools about teaching with Wikipedia in the classroom.

Rodney Dunican, education programs manager for Wikimedia, Wikipedia's parent company, is part of the team working to build the platform, which he said will highlight the ways in which Wikipedia can be used to improve student learning. To learn more about Wikipedia's efforts to improve student learning, read the full article by Tusher Rae in the Technology section of The Chronicle of Higher Education website.

New bill in Florida proposes grading parents

Every year, Florida's students, schools and districts are graded based on their performance. Now, it'sNew bill in Florida proposes grading parents. Time to start rating parents, a state lawmaker says.

State Representative Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, filed a bill last week that would require elementary school teachers to evaluate parents based on the "quality" of their involvement in their children's schools. To learn more about the proposed bill and reactions to it, read the full article by Leslie Postal and Denise-Marie Balona in the Local section at the Orlando Sentinel website.

Obama, Duncan Call For NCLB Overhaul

The International Business Times (1/28, Picard) reports, "The Obama administration believes that one policy area ripe for bipartisan cooperation and accomplishment is the reauthorization, and improvement, of" NCLB. In his State of the Union address "Obama said he wanted to 'replace No Child Left Behind with a law that's more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids.' Secretary of Education Arne Duncan followed the President's lead by holding a press conference Wednesday, accompanied by US Sens. Tom Harkin, D-IA, Mike Enzi, R-WY, Jeff Bingaman, D-NM and Lamar Alexander, R-TN." According to the IBT, "Duncan called NCLB 'far too rigid' to allow states to develop their own policies."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Schools Take Steps To Combat Food Allergies

The Chicago Tribune (1/26, Ahmed-Ullah) reports, "Even as schools across Illinois put the finishing touches on new state-mandated food allergy policies, some health care advocates question whether they go far enough to keep children safe. The debate is especially strong in Chicago, where the death of a seventh-grader who suffered an allergic reaction reportedly to food served at a classroom party last month prompted public schools officials to re-examine their proposed policy even before it was adopted." According to the Tribune, "Even if the board approves the policy Wednesday, Chicago Public Schools officials will continue looking at issues ranging from districtwide peanut bans to whether an epinephrine injection could be given to any student suffering a severe allergic reaction at school, whether or not the potentially lifesaving hormone has been prescribed for that child."

Nevada Governor Suggests School Funding Cuts

The AP (1/26) reports that Nevada "Gov. Brian Sandoval wants to improve Nevada's troubled schools while slashing education spending. His ambitious and conservative plan revealed Monday during his State of the State speech proposes rolling back education spending to 2007 levels, giving unproven educators the boot and eliminating statutory mandates requiring smaller class sizes and other programs." According to the AP, "Education advocates and Democratic leaders call the plan the latest assault on Nevada's underperforming schools. ... The brewing battle over education dollars mirrors a national debate over the role of state funding versus teacher performance in student achievement."

China-sponsored language programs a trend

Teaching Mandarin is a growing trend across schools in the United States, where the number of students enrolling in Chinese language and cultural programs has tripled in recent years.

The program, dubbed the Confucius Classroom program, has China sending teachers and money to U.S. schools to teach their language and culture. To learn more about the program and reactions to it, read the full article by Chris Welch in the Perry's Principles section of

New Jersey Governor Proposing End To Teacher Tenure

Bloomberg News (1/26, Dopp, Deprez) reports, "In New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's perfect world, the worst unionized teachers would forfeit raises or even lose tenure rights they have enjoyed for more than a century. Students in the state's underperforming schools would be offered vouchers to attend private institutions. Failing schools would be taken over by publicly funded charters operated independently of district boards of education." According to Bloomberg, "The plans, which Christie, 48, lays out in town-hall meetings on YouTube, have escalated his war with the teachers' union and helped make him a Republican star. ... Christie's success in winning support for his proposals may determine whether other governors follow his lead."

2011 YASLA book and media lists released

YASLA has just released this year's selected book and media lists, including Amazing Audio books for Young Adults, Best Fiction for Young Adults, Fabulous Films for Young Adults, Great Graphic Novels for Teens, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.

The book and media lists are helpful tools for collection development, readers' advisory, or for any parent/caregiver or teen looking for something to read. To view the book and media lists, visit the YASLA website.

Obama lauds education in speech

In his State of the Union address, President Obama urged Congress to invest in education and technology to help the United States compete in the global marketplace. He referred to the space race a half-century ago, noting that the United States started out behind the Soviets and ultimately triumphed. "This is our generation's Sputnik moment," he said. For further information, read the full article by Mimi Hall in USA Today.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dog may provide insight on acquiring language

Chaser, a border collie who lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with owner John W. Pilley, has the largest vocabulary of any known dog. She knows 1,022 nouns. Her accomplishment displays unexpected depths of the canine mind and may help explain how children acquire language.

After retiring in 2004, Pilley read a report about Rico, a border collie that can recognize 200 items. A psychologist who taught for 30 years at Wofford University, Pilley decided to repeat the experiment using a technique he had developed for teaching dogs. To learn more, read the full article by Nicholas Wade in the Science section of the New York Times.

Novelists avoid writing about the Internet

"We spend hours on the web, but you wouldn't know that from reading contemporary fiction," writes Laura Miller in the Culture section of The Guardian Online. "Novelists have gone to great lengths–setting stories in the past or in remote places–to avoid dealing with the internet. Is this finally changing?"

"The internet has altered our lives in ways television never did or could, but mainstream literary novelists–by which I mean writers who specialize in realistic, character-based narratives–have mostly shied away from writing about this, perhaps hoping that, like TV, it could be safely ignored," adds Miller. To learn more, read the full article.

Nevada Governor Proposes Major K-12 Changes

The Nevada News Bureau (1/25) reports, "Nevada's primary education system would change dramatically under the proposals Gov. Brian Sandoval delivered tonight in his State of the State address. He would use student achievement data to evaluate educators, provide merit pay for effective teachers and end extra pay for longevity and advanced degree attainment." Also, the Nevada governor "would also eliminate full-day kindergarten, class size reduction, early childhood education and the gifted program, among other programs. The catch, however, is a proposal to allot school district 'block grants' through which districts could choose the programs they want to fund."

Wyoming Lawmakers Propose Installing Cameras In Classrooms

The Christian Science Monitor (1/25, Khadaroo) reports, "Teachers in Wyoming might someday have to add an extra step to their lesson plans: Smile for the camera. State lawmakers have proposed installing video cameras and taping lessons to help evaluate teachers' performance." According to the Monitor, "the notion of tying recorded lessons to high-stakes evaluations raises a host of thorny issues. Schools would have to consider who would be evaluating the taped lessons, what criteria they'd use, and how student and teacher privacy would be respected."

Monday, January 24, 2011

New KIPP School Model Questioned

Jay Mathews writes in a column for the Washington Post (1/24), "The Knowledge Is Power Program, the nation's and [DC's] most successful charter school network, has a new official name, KIPP, and a new approach to raising achievement for disadvantaged children. In its first decade, the network...focused on creating middle schools that started with fifth-graders two or three years below grade level and got them up to speed by eighth grade. Now it is opening elementary schools, including three here, so that it can start raising achievement in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten." According to Matthews, "The move makes sense and conforms to a movement in many city school systems and charter networks to create K-8 schools that will give urban and rural children the consistent support and high standards found in many suburban schools. But I see a problem. This clean progression from making pre-K the main intake point overlooks the messiness of life in the communities being served."

Los Angeles Judge OKs Settlement Limiting Use Of Seniority In Teacher Layoffs

The Los Angeles Times (1/22, Felch, Song) reported, "In a case that pits the constitutional rights of students against the job protections of teachers, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge approved a groundbreaking settlement Friday that limits the effect of layoffs on the district's most vulnerable students. Up to 45 Los Angeles Unified School District campuses will be shielded from teacher layoffs altogether, Judge William F. Highberger ordered Friday, and layoffs in the district's other 750 schools must be spread more equitably." According to the Times, "The decision comes amid deep education cuts and a debate over teacher tenure rules, which are being challenged across the country."

Illinois District Forms More Multi-Grade Classes Due To Teacher Layoffs

The Elgin (IL) Courier News (1/24, McFarlan) reports, "Multi-grade classrooms aren't new - think one-room schoolhouse - and they aren't all that uncommon in Elgin [IL] School District U46, according to district officials. But there are more multi-grade classrooms this year than in years past, mostly because more than 400 teachers were laid off in last year's budget cuts." According to the Courier News, "This year, U46 elementary schools have 689 single-grade classrooms and 177 multi-grade classrooms, according to Deborah Devine, the district math instructional coach," which is "more than 20 percent of the Elgin school district's elementary classrooms - about a 4 percent jump from the number of multi-grade classrooms (158 of 979 elementary classrooms) in the district last year."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Are laptops helping these students learn?

The mission was clear: give every student in the school district a personal laptop computer, educate teachers on how to improve their instruction, and enable learning to soar.

Two years into the one-to-one laptop program at Lower Merion High School, and three years at Harriton, the Lower Merion School District is already claiming benefits in education, but others are questioning the results.

To learn more about the program and its results, read the article by Nathan Susanj at the Ardmore-Merion-WynnewoodPatch website online.

Trading textbooks for e-readers

When it comes to reading or researching, most kids today turn to a Google search box, not an encyclopedia. Teachers at Hopkins North Junior High in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have taken notice and are trading paperback books for 30 Nook e-readers this month with hopes that they will kindle kids' excitement about reading.

To learn more about the e-readers program and its reception, read Kelly Smith's article in the Local section of the Star Tribune.

Wisconsin schools opt for online textbooks

"The proliferation of mobile technology, which is leading some schools to experiment with one-to-one computing initiatives, combined with the expansion of traditional textbook publishers onto the Internet, means that many students are reading in a whole new way," according to an article by Amy Hetzner in the Education section of Journal Sentinel Online.

"Digital textbooks not only provide the print text that generations of students and teachers have relied on, they also open the possibilities of more audio, visual, and interactive presentations of information," writes Hetzner. To learn more about the switch to online textbooks in Wisconsin schools, read the full article.

Need For Special Education Teachers To Skyrocket

WTOL-TV Toledo, OH (1/20, Gimbel) reported on its Website, "The employment of special education teachers is expected to jump by 17-percent by 2018, which is an increase of almost 82,000 jobs nationwide. Retirements and turnovers are factors, but so is the apparent increase in the number of children with special needs." WTOL added, "Almost 15-percent of students studying education at the University of Toledo are focusing on special education."

Georgia May Allow Districts To Choose How They Will Teach Math

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (1/21, Dodd) reports, "Responding to parental complaints and the governor's concern over graduation rates, [Georgia] state Superintendent John Barge on Thursday introduced a plan that would allow local school districts to choose how they will teach math. Two years ago, the state collectively turned to integrated math, or accelerated classes that were introduced to make more students college ready, rather than traditional algebra, geometry and statistics classes. However, the faster-paced curriculum was largely blamed for the failure last May of 80,000 students on math final exams."

Study: Taking Tests Actually Helps Students Learn

The New York Times (1/21, Belluck) reports, "Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques." According to the Times, "The research, published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods. ... Several cognitive scientists and education experts said the results were striking."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Study Spotlights School Districts' "Educational Productivity."

Education Week (1/19, Samuels) reported, "A report from a progressive think tank measuring the 'educational productivity' of more than 9,000 school districts around the country shows that districts getting the most for their money tend to spend more on teachers and less on administration, partner with their communities to save money, and have school boards willing to make potentially unpopular decisions, like closing underenrolled schools. The study, from the Washington-based Center for American Progress, attempts to measure district productivity nationwide, according to its authors." According to Education Week, "The analysis is intended to encourage a more sophisticated discussion rather than just suggesting district funding should be cut in the name of encouraging efficiency, said Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow at the center and the report's author."

Missouri Governor Proposes $112 Million Increase In K-12 Funding

WDAF-TV Kansas City, MO (1/19) reported on its Website that "Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon [D] proposed flat funding for public schools and cuts to colleges Wednesday while acknowledging during his annual State of the State speech that 'times are tough.'" Under Nixon's proposed budget, K-12 schools would get "an additional $112 million during the current year, thanks to an influx of federal money that must be spent this school year. But it would cut schools by $112 million next year." Based on the state's current funding formula, schools "would be due an increase of about $233 million next year," WDAF notes.

Nebraska State Senator Introduces Bill Allowing Teachers To Carry Guns

The Christian Science Monitor (1/20, Khadaroo) reports that Nebraska State Sen. Mark Christensen "wants teachers to be able to carry concealed guns in school. The proposal follows a recent shooting in which an Omaha high school senior killed an assistant principal and wounded a principal before killing himself." According to the Monitor, the bill introduced by Christensen calls for each school district to "set its own policy, with a two-thirds majority vote of the school board required to allow the weapons."

Push For More Class Time Runs Into Financial, Political Obstacles

The Washington Post (1/20, Anderson) reports, "Many educators in the Washington area and across the nation are pushing for a seemingly simple solution to lagging student performance: Keep students in school longer. Some officials want a longer school day; others, a shorter summer break" and the main "argument is that more time in class would probably result in more teaching, more learning and, eventually, more-skilled graduates better able to cope in an increasingly competitive world." However, "these initiatives - favored by President Obama and floated in recent months by officials in the District, Prince George's County [MD] and Alexandria [VA] - have run into more immediate political realities. Budgets are tight. Rules are restrictive. And some parents have balked at locking more of their children's lives into structured activities."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Online materials replace textbooks

"It's a question that students, and a growing number of their professors, are asking: Why require students to buy expensive textbooks every year, when the Internet is awash in information, much of it free?" writes Martha Ann Overland in the Technology section of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

With a $750,000 matching grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges has started an ambitious program to develop online materials to replace textbooks.

To learn more, read the full article.

School Policies On Cancelling Recess Due To Cold Vary Widely

USA Today (1/19) reports, "When is it too cold for schoolchildren to go outside for recess? The answer varies widely based on where a school is located and what the kids are used to. ... Canceling recess because of the cold is no small issue given that much of the USA is shivering through what may be its coldest winter in a generation, according to AccuWeather. There is no national temperature standard for when to keep kids inside during the winter months, the US Department of Education says." Thus, "policies are all over the map."

Poll: Most Utahns Say They'd Pay Higher Taxes To Help Schools

The Salt Lake Tribune (1/19, Schencker) reports, "A majority of Utahns surveyed in a new poll say they'd be willing to pay more in taxes to raise teacher salaries and reduce class sizes. The survey, conducted by Dan Jones and Associates and presented by the University of Utah's Center for Public Policy & Administration and the Exoro Group, surveyed 500 Utahns about issues that could be addressed in the upcoming legislative session." The Tribune adds, "Utah had the highest student-to-teacher ratio - 27 students per teacher - in the nation in 2008-2009."

Teacher-Led Detroit School Innovates With Student Regrouping

Education Week (1/18, Sawchuk) reported, "Detroit's troubled school system remains in emergency management, its enrollment dwindling and its labor-management relations contentious. Yet in spite of those challenges, a school there is making a bid to innovate with many of the formal structures that have long guided not just teachers' roles, but also how students are organized in classes." According Education Week, "At Palmer Park Preparatory Academy, teachers are gradually assuming administrative duties to become the city's first teacher-led school." Also, "a new, pilot schedule for 7th and 8th graders lets teachers regroup the middle school students in different English/language arts and math classes frequently, based on the students' performance and how quickly they are learning new material."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

School Buses Add Cameras To Catch Drivers Endangering Students

USA Today (1/18, Shephard) reports, "School districts nationwide are trying out video cameras as a way to deter drivers from passing buses that are loading or unloading children. Districts in Dallas County, Texas, Montgomery and Frederick counties in Maryland and Cobb County, Ga., are among the latest to test the cameras on some school buses in their fleets." According to USA Today, "Michael Warner, associate director of fleet maintenance for the Cobb County School District, says an incident there in December 2009 prompted them to install cameras on two of their buses last spring. 'A bus was stopped, unloading students, and a car behind the bus stopped and a second car behind that car swerved, went around the right side of the bus and ran over a kindergarten girl and killed her,' Warner says."

Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver Aims For Nutrition Overhaul Of Los Angeles Schools

The Los Angeles Times (1/17, MacVean) reported, "Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef who is beating the drums for a school lunch revolution, received a warm reception this weekend from hundreds of the people who make and serve food to children every day. It's the Los Angeles Unified School District that isn't so welcoming." According to the Times, "Oliver, who moved to Los Angeles with his family earlier this month, has so far failed to get L.A. Unified to reverse its decision not to let him - and his reality television show - into the country's second-largest school system." However, the "second season of ABC's Emmy-winning 'Food Revolution,' scheduled for spring, will go on with or without the L.A. school district, Oliver said last week."

Miami District Receives Influx Of Well-Off Haitian Immigrants

The New York Times (1/16, Winerip) reports, "Last year after the earthquake in Haiti, Alberto M. Carvalho, superintendent of the Miami-Dade schools - the fourth-biggest district in the nation, with 345,000 students - expected to enroll thousands and thousands of survivors arriving from the devastated country. He was wrong. A year later, his district has 1,403 survivors - the highest number in the nation, but far below what he predicted." Carvalho "expected most to be poor" yet many were of "'a higher social status,'" Carvalho said. "Definitely middle and upper-middle class." According to the Times, "Carline Faustin, who works in Haitian affairs for the Miami-Dade schools, said it made sense that the survivors here were middle or upper class. 'They're the ones who can afford the visas, the paperwork, the flights back and forth to establish US residency,' Ms. Faustin said."

Schools Tested By Budget Cuts Learn New Strategies.

NPR (1/17, Abramson) reported on its Website, "The size of classes in schools around the country is growing" as 50 percent of "districts responding to a recent poll say they are increasing class size because of budget pressures. Many school officials fear this will hurt students." However, "some education reformers say there are ways to boost class size and save money at the same time." The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Marguerite Roza "is pushing for adoption of a number of efficiency measures that would help schools, even when fatter budgets return. One suggestion is to create a rigorous teacher evaluation system so schools know which teachers are most effective."

California Educators Debate Proposed "Parent Trigger" Law.

The Los Angeles Times (1/17) reported, "After months of debate and reams of revisions," California "education officials were expected to vote last week to finalize details laying out how" the parent trigger "law is supposed to work. But that vote was postponed because a newly appointed state Board of Education announced that it needed more time to consider the issues. The law is intended to allow parents to petition for dramatic changes at struggling schools." According to the Times, "Several education groups say the previous board gave short shrift to their concerns, instead rushing to approve rules favorable to the charter-school industry. Gov. Jerry Brown replaced a majority of the board in one of his first official acts, installing some members viewed by critics as having more traditional union sympathies."

In Role Reversal, Students Help Train Teachers

The New York Times (1/14, Hu) reported, "In a role reversal," Syidah O'Bryant "and other teachers at Brick Avon Academy are getting pointers from their students this year as part of an unusual teacher training program at 19 low-performing Newark {NJ] schools. ... The training program, which is supported by a federal grant, is being run by the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, a nonprofit group based in Syosset, N.Y." According to the Times, "The half-dozen students who participated told their teachers that they learned better when they could move around, interact with classmates and use computers and the Internet - prompting Ms. O'Bryant to joke that she should find a way to give tests on Facebook. But afterward, the teachers said they saw ways to incorporate the students' ideas into their teaching methods."

Five Years After Katrina, Teacher Tills Soil Of Lower 9th Ward

The New York Times (1/16, Wilson) reported, "Nat Turner, a former history teacher at the Beacon School in Manhattan," is "the founder of Our School at Blair Grocery, a fledgling educational venture and commercial urban farm in the heart of the Lower Ninth Ward. Operating out of a former black-owned grocery store wrecked by 14 feet of water and on two empty lots, the enterprise is an unusual hybrid of G.E.D. training and farm academy. With its emphasis on experiential learning, the school is also a clear rejection of the test-heavy emphasis of No Child Left Behind."

"Mathemusician" Aims To Make Math Engaging.

The New York Times (1/18, Chang) reports, "Mathematicians over the centuries have thought long and deep about how tightly things, like piles of oranges, can be packed within a given amount of space." According to the Times, Vi Hart, "has an audacious career ambition: She wants to make math cool. ... She calls herself a full-time recreational mathemusician, an off-the-beaten-path choice with seemingly limited prospects. And for most of the two years since she graduated from Stony Brook University, life as a recreational mathemusician has indeed been a meager niche pursuit." According to the Times, "At first glance, Ms. Hart's fascination with mathematics might seem odd and unexpected. ... At second glance, the intertwining of art and math seems to be the family business. Her father, George W. Hart, builds sculptures based on geometric forms."

Miami District Enrolling Students In Virtual Labs Without A Teacher

The New York Times (1/18, Herrera) reports that more than "7,000 students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools" are "enrolled in a program in which core subjects are taken using computers in a classroom with no teacher. ... These virtual classrooms, called e-learning labs, were put in place last August as a result of Florida's Class Size Reduction Amendment, passed in 2002," which "limits the number of students allowed in classrooms, but not in virtual labs." According to the Times, other districts across the nation are implementing similar programs, as in "Chicago Public Schools, high schools have 'credit recovery' programs that let students take online classes they previously failed" and "Omaha [NE] Public Schools also have similar programs that require physical attendance at certain locations."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Libraries cut services in hard times

As Montgomery County, Maryland's politicians and Excel wizards enter the new year focused on unforgiving budget math, the county's readers are learning more about what ongoing library cuts mean for their local branches and daily routines.

For some branches, the cuts have meant shrinking spending by eliminating periodicals, scaling back on efforts to help toddlers get ready for early reading, and earlier closing times

Read the full article by Michael Laris at The Washington Post Online.

NCLD offers Special Education Scorecards for states

Parents of children with learning disabilities need up-to-date information on how their state is serving students with disabilities. To help provide this critical information, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) has just released newly updated Special Education Scorecards for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The scorecards present key information on a variety of special education topics for each state, including: enrollment, federal funding, performance, and ratings

To view the scorecards, visit the NCLD website.

Maryland Elementary School Uses Army Theme To Motivate

The Washington Post (1/14, Leaderman) reports, "Lewisdale Elementary School's faculty has a clear strategy for boosting student assessment scores: they're going to war. For the third year, the Hyattsville-area [MD] school is encouraging students to do well on the Maryland School Assessment test in March by likening the test to a battle. ... The motivation prompted by the army theme has been a key part of students' success on the tests over the past two years, Principal Melissa Glee-Woodard said."

University Of Chicago Researchers Find Writing About Test Anxiety May Improve Grades

The AP (1/14, Blankinship) reports that a new study by University of Chicago researchers found that "a simple writing exercise can relieve students of test anxiety and may help them get better scores than their less anxious classmates." University of Chicago associate professor of psychology Sian L. Beilock and co-author Gerardo Ramirez, a graduate student, "found that students who were prone to test anxiety improved their test grades by nearly one grade point - from a B-minus to a B-plus, for example - if they were given 10 minutes before an exam to write about their feelings." The two "believe worrying competes for computing power in the brain's 'working,' or short-term memory." The idea to test the theory came "from the use of writing to combat depression."

New York Education Officials Overhaul Curriculum Standards

The Buffalo (NY) News (1/13) reported, "Students as young as kindergarteners would be required to learn more math skills under new standards for New York's public schools to be in place by the coming school year. The state Board of Regents on Tuesday approved changes in the statewide curriculum and testing to enforce the requirements, which include the higher standard for math in kindergarten and first grade." The Buffalo News adds that another policy change "will require students to be taught how to better interpret literature from a wide variety of genres and a spectrum of American and world cultures."

Thursday, January 13, 2011


If you are working in Microsoft Word and find yourself using the same nouns and verbs over and over, the program's built-in thesaurus can make your writing less repetitious. The thesaurus is available from the Tools menu, but there is an even quicker way to summon this handy reference tool.

In most versions of Word for Windows, highlight the word you want to change and press the Shift + F7 keys to quickly open the Reference Tools box. On most Mac versions of the program, highlight the word and press the Shift + Option + Command + R keys all at once to see a list of alternatives.

On both systems, you can also right-click (or control-click) in a selected word and choose Synonyms from the menu to see your options.


Quality Counts report focuses on education and the economy

Quality Counts 2011, the 15th edition of this annual report produced through the joint efforts of the Education Week newsroom and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, arrives at a time of continued fiscal anxiety and education policy ferment in the wake of what has been widely described as the "Great Recession" of 2007-09.

Concerns persist about the recovery's pace and stability even as states and school districts seek to rebuild ravaged budgets—and as they cope with an end to massive one-time federal aid to education under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic-stimulus measure passed two years ago.

The report grades the nation and states on various education criteria. For the third year in a row, Maryland is the top-ranked state, earning the nation's highest overall grade, a B-plus. To access the Quality Counts 2011
report, visit the Education Week website.

Ignoring education funding creates uncertain future

Over the long term, the only way the United States is going to raise wages, grow the economy, and improve competitiveness is by investing in our people—especially their educations.

Education is one of the biggest expenses in state budgets. But states can't run deficits, and tax revenues during the prolonged downturn haven't kept up. And Washington is in no mood to help.

Read more of this article by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich in the San Francisco Chronicle

USDA Calls For Overhaul Of School Lunches

USA Today (1/13, Hellmich) reports, "The government is calling for dramatic changes in school meals, including limiting french fries, sodium and calories and offering students more fruits and vegetables. The proposed rule, being released Thursday by the US Department of Agriculture, will raise the nutrition standards for meals for the first time in 15 years." According to the AP, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack "says addressing the childhood obesity problem is critical for kids' health, future medical costs and national security, as so many young adults are too heavy to serve in the military."

Chinese Students' High Scores In International Tests Come At A Cost

The Los Angeles Times (1/13, Stack) reports, "Chinese adolescence is known as a time of scant whimsy: Students rise at dawn, disappear into school until dinnertime and toil into the late night over homework in preparation for university entrance exams that can make or break their future. So it came as little surprise when international education assessors announced last month that students in Shanghai had outperformed the rest of the industrialized world in standardized exams in math, reading and science." However, "even as some parents in the West wrung their hands, fretting over an education gap, Chinese commentators reacted to the results with a bout of soul-searching and even an undertone of embarrassment. ... In a sense, this is the underbelly of a rising China: the fear that schools are churning out generations of unimaginative worker bees who do well on tests."

Court Case On Breast Cancer Bracelets Garners Attention Nationwide

USA Today (1/13, Martin) reports, "School districts nationwide have their eyes on a federal court case in Pennsylvania, which will address whether students should be allowed to wear breast-cancer awareness bracelets that have become a controversy in multiple states. The bracelets - which proclaim 'I (heart symbol) boobies!' - have been banned in some districts." USA Today adds, "The case arose after two middle-school girls were prohibited from wearing the bracelets in the Easton (Pa.) Area School District in October." USA Today adds, "The Easton case is the only one the ACLU has initiated, but" ACLU lawyer Mary Catherine Roper "said she has corresponded with colleagues in Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada and Delaware."

ESEA Reauthorization Faces Numerous Hurdles

Nick Anderson wrote in a blog for the Washington Post (1/12), "Every year since 2007, the education world has wondered whether Congress will revise" NCLB, yet each year, "lawmakers have punted. Will 2011 be any different? There are plenty of reasons for skepticism. First, congressional Republicans have their eyes on other matters, including spending cuts" and if the "Education Department budget takes a hit -- and it's hard to see how it won't be a big, inviting target for the new House GOP majority -- that might not bode well for bipartisan compromise on the school testing and accountability policies at the heart of the 2002 education law."


Obama May Push From ESEA Renewal In State Of The Union Address. Alyson Klein wrote in a blog for Education Week (1/12), "Rumor has it that the president is going to make a big push for renewing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in his State of the Union address to the newly divided Congress, slated for Jan. 25. US Sen. Tom Harkin, the chairman of the Senate, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, is aiming for the panel to consider a bill by Easter, and then bring the measure to the floor in late spring or early summer, according to Justine Sessions, a spokeswoman for the committee."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Maryland District Residents Press For Construction Of New Middle School

The Washington Post (1/12, Johnson) reports, "For more than six years, Prince George's County [MD] real estate agents often have told young families looking to settle in the planned community of Fairwood that an elementary school would be built soon on a 15-acre plot set aside by the developer." However, "late last year, enrollment projections for the area dropped" and in order to "justify the need for the new school, Prince George's County school officials are considering closing one of two aging elementary schools." According to the Post, when state and local funding "was committed to Fairwood, school officials projected that by 2016, the six elementary schools adjacent to Fairwood would have 600 more students than they had seats for. But then the school system redrew its boundaries countywide and moved sixth-graders from several of the elementary schools to a nearby middle school" which ultimately "prompted state officials to announce late last year that a new elementary school was no longer needed."


Parents Push For More Free Play Time For Kindergartners At New York City School

The New York Times (1/12, Otterman) reports, "Some kindergarten parents at Public School 101, a graceful brick castle in Forest Hills, Queens, wanted more free play time for their children; so they decided to do something about it. Gone were the play kitchens, sand and water tables, and dress-up areas; half-days were now full days." Subsequently, there were "whiteboards, and the kindergartners, in classes of up to 27, practiced reading and math on work sheets on desks at P.S. 101, also known as the School in the Gardens." According to the Times, "Time and space for imaginative play in city schools seem to be shrinking as the academic emphasis on reading and math grows, said Clara Hemphill, who researches the city's schools."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Babies process language like adults

Babies, even those too young to talk, can understand many of the words that adults are saying—and their brains process them in a grown-up way.

Combining cutting-edge technologies, scientists at the University of California, San Diego, show that babies just over a year old process words they hear with the same brain structures as adults, and in the same amount of time. In addition, the researchers found that babies were not merely processing the words as sounds, but were capable of grasping their meaning

Learn more on ScienceDaily. The study is being published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

Achievement gaps remain significant

A new report shows that the achievement gap between white students and African American and Latino students in California will take years to narrow—and that boys are falling further behind girls.

"School districts are working diligently and collaboratively to narrow the gap by working with parents, by adding professional development for teachers and through student intervention," said Ronda Adams, associate superintendent for education services for the Yolo County Office of Education.

Read the full article by Diana Lambert in the Education section of The Sacramento Bee.

Study Calls For Better Identification Of ELLs For Federal Funding

Sarah D. Sparks wrote in a blog for Education Week (1/10), "Federal support of programs for English-language learners depends on a formula based on the number of ELL students in each state and district, but a long-awaited national study suggests officials need a more comprehensive way to identify the students who need help. The final report, developed by Washington-based National Research Council for the US Department of Education, calls for federal policymakers to change the funding formula for ELL grants to incorporate state-level counts of students with limited English proficiency in addition to the Census Bureau data now used to identify them."

Duncan Discusses Education Reform On NPR

NPR (1/10, Martin) broadcast an interview with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on its "Tell Me More" program during which he discussed the potential for bipartisan collaboration on education policy issues. Duncan is quoted saying that education "is the civil rights issue of our generation. The dividing line in my mind today is much less around race and class than it is around educational opportunity. It's also a national security issue. So whichever lens you look at it, you know, it's a civil rights issue, as one of an economic comparative or one of national security, we have to drive a huge amount of change and reform and help lead the country where we need to go and we cannot afford to wait."

Education Department Backs English-Proficiency Tests For Common Standards

Education Week (1/11, Zehr) reports, "The federal government plans to pay for states to work together to create English-language-proficiency tests for the Common Core State Standards Initiative, according to a notice for proposed grant priorities published in the Federal Register on Friday. The plan calls for a minimum of 15 states to join together in each consortium that applies to create an English-proficiency test, prompting some observers to speculate that federal officials favor the idea of having a very limited number of such tests, if not one national test." According to Education Week, "Currently, states can choose from a wide variety of English-proficiency tests that were developed by state consortia or commercial publishers for accountability purposes under the federal No Child Left Behind Act."

Judge Rules New York City Can Disclose Names In Teacher Rankings

The New York Times (1/11, Otterman) reports, "A Manhattan judge ruled Monday that the city may release performance rankings of thousands of teachers to the public, denying a request by the teachers union to keep the teachers' names confidential. But the public is unlikely to see the rankings soon" and the United Federation of Teachers "said Monday that it would appeal the ruling, and lawyers for the city said the rankings would be withheld pending the outcome." According to the Times, "In her decision, the Manhattan judge, Cynthia S. Kern of State Supreme Court, wrote that the union had failed to prove that the city's decision to release the names was 'arbitrary and capricious,' the high bar for preventing their release under state disclosure laws." The Los Angeles Times (1/11, Felch, Song) also covers this story.

New York City School Experiments With Large, Open Classroom Format

The New York Times (1/11, Otterman) reports on its front page on "the early stages of an audacious public education experiment taking place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, one that its founder hopes will revolutionize both how students learn and how teachers are trained. Instead of assigning one teacher to roughly 25 children, the New American Academy began the school year with four teachers in large, open classrooms of 60 students." According to the Times, "The school stresses student independence over teacher-led lessons, scientific inquiry over rote memorization and freedom and self-expression over strict structure and discipline. ... At its heart is the idea that the teachers, not to mention the students, will collaborate and learn from one another, rather than being isolated in separate classrooms."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Two Blog Posts…

…by National Writing Project Fellow Tamara Anderson.

Click on the link at the end of either post to read the piece in its entirety.

Death of Innovation

Imagine sitting in elementary school. You are in 3rd grade and you will have no exposure to art, music, or science experiments. Imagine that you have your curiosity, your questions, and imaginary friends, but no one to share it with. There is not one person who is interested in the story that you made up with your mother the night before. Soon you realize that in order to fit in, you must learn quickly how to answer the questions correctly, and stop making up stories. If you like to sing, there is no place for that either. You have an interest in seeing how things work, and you like to take things apart. Unfortunately, those topics are taught with worksheets and definitions. The beauty and reward of thinking outside of the box is lost in manufactured 21st century skills. They are lost in traditional reading, math, and writing classes. They are lost right at the moment that a young mind is eager to discover. Innovation and creativity just silently died, and no one bothered to write an obituary or notify the owners that it was ever lost or at risk.

Tale of a High School Drop Out

New classes of ninth grade students enter a Philadelphia comprehensive high school in the fall. They are excited about being freshmen, and many of them have no idea what to expect. As they nervously find their way to class, and sit anxiously waiting for the teacher to begin class. Ms. Awesome Public School Teacher explains the class rules, expectations, and passes out the books for the class. The bell rings, and they are quickly off to their next class. They are a little scared, but happily chatting with their new friends in the hall. They believe they will conquer the world, and have dreams and aspirations. Next year, close to half of the freshman class will not be promoted to 10thgrade, and a little more than half will graduate with their high school diplomas in 4 years. Only 1 out of 10 of them will persist and successfully complete a postsecondary degree.



Importance of reading, writing, and tests

It's the best of times and the worst of times for English teachers as they find themselves more accountable than ever for the academic success of their students, while balancing new technologies that change time-honored practices of reading and writing.

Many English teachers say testing drives how and what they teach and that in higher grade levels, students' reading levels vary dramatically. Teachers also say technology can help with research, but using it too much can hurt students, and that computers can be more of a distraction if there aren't enough available. Read the full article by Sally Holland in the CNN Subject Matters series.

Working to bridge the "digital divide"

An increasingly digital world has pushed school districts to incorporate more technology into the learning process. Students tap the Internet to do everything from researching assignments to collaborating with classmates on projects.

But while the "digital divide" is narrowing, it hasn't closed in urban and rural communities. One-third of U.S. households has no Internet access. Those families look to public libraries and school media centers as resources for their children. School districts try to accommodate students by opening libraries and computer labs before and after the school day and at lunch.

Read more in this article by Monica Scott of The Grand Rapids Press.

New website aims to help school leaders use data

The Center for Public Education has launched a new website designed to help school leaders use data and research to improve student learning and school effectiveness.

"School board members and others need solid evidence and facts in order to make tough decisions," said Patte Barth, the Center's Director. "The Data First website provides education data, research and tools to help school leaders make sure their policies will result in higher student achievement."

The Data First website features interactive polls, videos, and discussions on key education issues, including student achievement, teacher effectiveness, college and workforce readiness, school funding and more. Check out the new website.

California Education Chief Declares Fiscal Emergency For State's Schools

Bloomberg News (1/7, Marois) reported that California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said that "California's public schools are mired in a fiscal crisis" and cautioned "that renewed cuts might push some districts further toward insolvency after three consecutive years of deficits." He added that 174 California districts "are in financial jeopardy and may require state oversight. He called on Governor Jerry Brown to resist making more cuts to elementary and high-school education."


KGO-TV San Francisco (1/7, Anthony) added on its website that Torlakson also said, "The law won't let me call out the National Guard. Your schools need your help. And they need it now. Continuing some of the current taxes that are in place, that the taxpayers got used to paying, that were put in place to protect schools and education, we need to do that."


The San Jose Mercury News (1/7, Gonzales) observed that in addition to Torlakson's declaration, he also identified ways that his office hopes to save districts money ahead of the Governor's budget announcement. Specifically, "Torlakson's ideas of giving districts additional financial flexibility and streamlining the school construction process pleased local education leaders." Howard Blume also covered this story in a blog for the Los Angeles Times (1/7).

Class Sizes Rise Amid California Budget Crisis

The San Jose Mercury News (1/10, Noguchi) reports, "As California crams more kids into classrooms, students are sitting in aisles and on windowsills. Fewer are paying attention and more are certain to be left behind. Teachers are spending more time lecturing and less time leading experiments and devising creative lessons." According to the Mercury News, "Caught in a budget meltdown, the state is forcing schools to abandon one of the most popular education reforms -- smaller class sizes. ... While standardized test scores have yet to measure the result of larger class sizes, teachers and students are reporting the day-to-day struggles, from more unruly classes to more students being neglected."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Florida Officials Propose $43 Million In Penalties For Districts In Violation Of Class-Size Rules

The AP (1/7, Kaczor) reports, "Florida education officials have proposed reducing state funding to school districts and laboratory and charter schools by about $43 million as penalties for violating class size limits." Still, that total "is far less than the $131 million the department had predicted before the school year began." Of the 35 districts in violation of class-size regulations, 25 have appealed so far. "Also, all three laboratory schools and 38 of 44 charter schools found in violation are appealing. The State Board of Education will consider the appeals when it meets Jan. 18 in Pensacola. The fines then must be approved by the Legislative Budget Commission, probably in February."

Elementary Immersion Program Delivers 90 Percent Of Curriculum In Mandarin

California's Mercury News (1/7, Barry) reports that "a class of kindergarteners at Joseph Azevada Elementary School is learning the same core instruction of reading, writing and arithmetic" with 90 percent of the curriculum "taught in Mandarin Chinese" and 10 percent in English. Students in the Mandarin Immersion Program are able to pick up Mandarin quickly, according to Azevada Principal Carole Diamond. "What I've seen in their language oral abilities, the students themselves are now using Mandarin casually and academically," she said. Currently, there is only one class of students in the program "there is approval to have two classrooms at both the kindergarten and first-grade level next school year. Based on registration that has just begun, Diamond said there will be one kindergarten and one first-grade class for sure next year."

California Governor Announces Plan Not To Appoint Education Secretary

In a front-page report, the San Francisco Chronicle (1/7, Lagos) reports that California Gov. Brown (D) plans to eliminate the office of Secretary of Education, even though his predecessors "have appointed secretaries of education for decades." The move is seen as part of Brown's "desire to flatten bureaucracies." Education policy experts even viewed the office as redundant, given that the electorate chooses a State Superintendant, while the Governor chooses a Board of Education, leaving the Secretary of Education with little power. The Chronicle adds that California Teachers Association President David Sanchez applauded the move.


The Los Angeles Times (1/7, York) adds that an announcement about the position could have been made as early as yesterday. Gubernatorial spokesperson Evan Westrup, however, would not confirm nor deny speculation about the future of the position or the office. The "11 employees in the education secretary's office were already packing boxes and have been notified that their office has been targeted for elimination." The article also provides some background on Brown's intentions with the office and noted that during his campaign, he targeted it for removal and cited it "as an example of bureaucratic redundancy."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

More Americans Say Education Matters Most For "Getting Ahead In Life."

USA Today (1/6, Marklein) reports that "when it comes to getting ahead in life today, Americans are most likely to say a good education matters most," flowed by hard work, according to a new USA Today/Gallup Poll of "more than 1,000 adults." Thirty-six percent of respondents of all ages, genders, races, and income levels "chose either a good education (36%) or hard work (28%)" as "what matters most for getting ahead in life today." USA Today adds that while only 2 percent of respondents "said luck matters most...two recent documentaries both critical of urban public school districts" show "the frustration of low-income families whose hopes rest on a [school] lottery system." Lottery director Madeleine Sackler told USA Today, "Low-income parents absolutely understand that their children need to get through school to have choices in life. ... When everyone is working together for high expectations, that's when you start seeing extraordinary results."

Movement To Increase Children's Playtime Expanding To Address "Parental Attitudes."

The New York Times (1/6, Stout) reports that "for several years, studies and statistics have been mounting that suggest the culture of play in the United States is vanishing." Meanwhile, some "scientists, psychologists, educators and others...are part of the play movement say that most of the social and intellectual skills one needs to succeed in life and work are first developed through childhood play." These playtime advocates argue that children learn skills like self-control, problem-solving, negotiating, and creativity through play. While most "of the movement has focused on" restoring "recess and unstructured playtime to early childhood and elementary school curriculums," some "advocates are now starting to reach out to parents, recognizing that for the movement to succeed, parental attitudes must evolve as well."

Two Of Massachusetts' Smallest Districts Struggle To Develop Anti-Bullying Plans

WBUR-FM Boston (1/6, Logan) reports that "while 390 out of 393 public school districts and charter schools have complied with the deadline set by a new state law aimed at curbing bullying in schools, two public school districts...are finding it hard to...come up with an anti-bullying plan that meets their needs." The four-student Cuttyhunk school district, "the least-populated town in the state," and the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science in Worcester are both "scrambling to pull together an anti-bullying plan after missing the Dec. 31 deadline." Cuttyhunk Director Robert Salvatelli "said it is challenging to design a plan for a school in its own district with no school committee." WBUR notes that "both school districts said they will submit a plan to the state within the next few days."


The Boston Herald (1/6, Bragg) reports that "the state's least populated town, Gosnold, earned a second unique distinction at year's end: It is one of two public school districts statewide that didn't submit a plan to prevent bullying in schools by Dec. 31 as required by" state law. Gosnold has just seven students, and "didn't seem to need a plan to help reduce bullying in classrooms and on the Internet," according to school officials, who "attributed the lapse in completing the plan to procrastination and possibly not realizing that state law required it." Gets Gates Foundation Grant To Create Teacher Professional Development System

T.H.E. Journal (1/6, Schaffhauser) reports that, "a company that provides online tutoring services has received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create an on-demand professional development system specifically to train middle school and high school math teachers." The money will go toward a program for researching "the effects of connecting math teachers to an online teaching coach for private help in a Web-based classroom whenever they need additional support. A third-party evaluator will then design and complete a study to measure the effectiveness of the project." The research is slated for publication "at the end of 2012."

Real-Time Classroom Simulations Used To Train Teacher Candidates

Education Week (1/6) reports on "the TeachME initiative at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando," which uses computer-generated "students" to help prepare teacher candidates for classroom experience. Supporters say that with "real-time classroom simulations like TeachME," future teachers can get "hands-on practice with urban students, or practice a discrete skill such as classroom management. Most of all, such simulations give teachers in training the ability to experiment-and make mistakes-without the worry of doing harm to an actual child's learning." Education Week notes that "the idea of classroom simulations could receive more attention in coming years, especially with the student-teaching aspect of teacher preparation now receiving scrutiny."

"ManUp" Mentoring Program Aims To Improve Performance Of Black Male Students

The Dallas Morning News (1/5, Unmuth) reported on a mentoring program in the Dallas school district called "ManUp," aimed at improving "the performance of young black male students." Boys in the program are "required to dress up on meeting days" and are encouraged to set annual goals. During the meetings, "there's frank talk about the presence of guns in the home and the importance of using birth control. The tone is conversational, with students often talking about challenges in their homes." In addition to formal meetings, "the students often meet for hours after school and volunteer with groups such as a homeless shelter on weekends" and "they work part-time jobs through the program."

New Jersey Test Results Show Persistent Economic, Race-Based Achievement Gaps

New Jersey's Star-Ledger (1/6, Rundquist) reports, "The 'achievement gap' between rich and poor students, and among those of different races, persists in New Jersey schools, according to statewide test score data released yesterday by the state Board of Education." Results from tests taken last spring show that "about 60 percent of black or African-American third-graders failed to achieve proficient scores" on language arts tests, "compared to 21.4 percent for Asian students and 31 percent for whites." A gap also existed based on "economic circumstances matter, too. On the same third-grade test, only 40.2 percent of economically disadvantaged children were considered proficient, compared to 70.5 percent of their more well-off classmates."


The New Jersey Newsroom (1/6, Hester) reports, however, that "the results also indicated there was no gender gap in the areas of math and science." The test score data are from "language and math skills test given to New Jersey students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 in 2008 or 2009." New Jersey's Courier-Post (1/6, Cooney)

New blog targets young adult literature

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) has announced the launch of YALSA's newest blog, The Hub. The Hub is a blog about not just what teens are reading, but how they read and how they talk about what they read. The Hub offers a peek into what the online world is saying about YA books, featuring original writing about what teens are reading, book reviews, introductions to other YA literature blogs, podcasts, videos, and more. To learn more, visit The Hub.

3-D technology in the classroom

3-D technology could have a real future in education, breathing new life into an aging curriculum and offering a glimpse of what 21st-century education should be.

"We aren't far away from the next stage where children can hold and manipulate 3D images in their hands. This could be combined with online learning. It could be a phenomenally successful educational model that is truly visionary," said Katheryn MacAulay, deputy head at the Abbey School in Reading.

Images can be projected on a whiteboard, making it easy to switch between 3D and 2D teaching. 3D-ready projectors are no more expensive than normal ones but a class set of glasses currently costs about £1,500. Despite the issues, schools are already building up an impressive library of 3D resources in a wide array of subjects from math to geography and history. Read the full article by Jane Wakefield at BBC News.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New version of "Huck Finn" elminates the "N" word

Mark Twain scholar Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books will release a version of Huckleberry Finn, in a single volume with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, that does away with the "n" word, reports Marc Schultz in Publishers Weekly. Concerned that the book is often not read in schools because of a single offensive word, Gribben determined to create a more politically correct edition.

Not surprisingly, the project has stirred controversy. "I'm hoping that people will welcome this new option, but I suspect that textual purists will be horrified," he said. To access the full article, along with reader comments by author R.L. Stine and others, visit the Publishers Weekly website.

Deep reading--a thing of the past?

There is some concern in literary circles that, even though electronic readers grow increasingly popular and book sales are still strong, many people are finding it difficult to sit alone with one book and simply read to comprehend.

"Deep reading," or slow reading, is a sophisticated process in which people can critically think, reflect and understand the words they are looking at. With most, that means slowing down -- even stopping and rereading a page or paragraph if it doesn't sink in -- to really capture what the author is trying to say. Experts warn that without reading and really understanding what's being said, it is impossible to be an educated citizen of the world, a knowledgeable voter or even an imaginative thinker.

For more, read the article by Laura Casey of the Contra Costa Times at

New Jersey Governor Seeks To Relax Rules On Who Can Lead Schools

The New York Times (1/5, Hu) reports that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) "is pressing for regulations that would allow some New Jersey school districts to hire superintendents without traditional academic backgrounds or experience, in an effort to change confining state rules like those that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had to surmount to win approval for Cathleen P. Black, his choice for New York City schools chancellor. Mr. Christie is proposing that requirements for superintendents be eased in low-performing districts, where at least half the children are failing state tests, saying he wants to open the door to more candidates with strong management and leadership skills." Christie's "proposals would lower the minimum academic standard for a superintendent from a master's to a bachelor's degree, and waive additional requirements, including a 150-hour graduate internship in educational leadership and passing a superintendent's assessment."

Florida Districts Facing Fines For Breaking Class Size Law

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel (1/5, Fitzpatrick) reports, "More than half of Florida's school districts, including Broward and Palm Beach counties, face hefty fines for breaking the state's class-size law – but it's not clear yet how much state officials will force them to pay. Palm Beach County, the state's worst offender, was officially notified late last week it faces a $16.6 million fine. Broward, which came in fifth behind Miami-Dade, Duval and Collier counties, faces a $3 million penalty." According to the Sun-Sentinel, "the Florida School Boards Association, with at least 20 school districts backing it, has threatened to sue the state over the penalties."