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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Virginia District Adds New Technology To Classrooms

The Newport News (VA) Daily Press (8/31, Shalash) reports that schools in the Newport News, VA, district "have been gradually investing in adding new devices to their lineup of learning tools over the past few years," and this school year there will be new tools like "interactive whiteboards," science lab tools like "electronic sensors that collect data including air pressure, pH levels, sound and light levels," around 300 iPads, 120 Kindle e-readers, and other tools including "digital cameras, student response systems (used for polling and quizzes), video cameras, graphing calculators and 3-D overhead projectors."

Entryways With Locking Vestibule Doors Becoming Common Safety Features

The Holland (MI) Sentinel (8/31) reports, "According to the 2008 Indicators of School Crime and Safety report by the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2005–06 school year, 85 percent of public schools controlled access to school buildings by locking or monitoring doors during school hours, and 41 percent controlled access to school grounds with locked or monitored gates." According to Ben Perdok, project architect for GMB Architecture and Engineering, "having vestibule doors, and ensuring all visitors funnel through the main office, is key to the design seen in many new school buildings." The Sentinel notes that the feature has become popular among area schools. "In the morning when the kids come in, all of those doors are open and, once the kids are in session, the second set can be locked and there's a door going directly into the office area," Perdok said.

New Jersey Educators Increasing Social Media Use In Curriculum

The Asbury Park (NJ) Press (8/31, Boyd) reports that an increasing number of "New Jersey educators say they're not going to beat youths' affinity for social networks, so they might as well join them," and are now "doling out info on Diigo, tailoring assignments to Twitter and getting student feedback from Facebook as part of the curriculum." For example, in "Freehold Regional High School District," the district is on Twitter, the superintendent "blogs on his own webpage," and a few "district teachers use Twitter as a teaching tool and their numbers are expected to rise, officials said."

Districts Across US See Surge In Kindergarten Enrollment

The Minneapolis Star Tribune (8/31, Mitchell) reports that after having seen "with declining enrollment for years," districts in and around Minneapolis have seen a surge in kindergarten enrollment, "forcing them to scramble this spring to find solutions." Describing it as "both a boon and a bane," the article notes that this "could mark just the beginning of an enrollment renaissance in the Minneapolis schools sparked by a rise in birth rates and a downturn in the economy, which has kept more families in the city and forced them to opt for public education over costly private options." Officials in one district say that solutions to the enrollment surge "could include adding on new space at crowded buildings or constructing new schools -- fixes that would require more staff in a district that isn't financially strapped, but not flush with cash either."


 

The Northwest Florida Daily News (8/31, Tammen) reports on a similar trend in some parts of Florida. In Santa Rosa County, West Navarre Primary School Principal Sandi Eubanks "said the school saw a similar spike two years ago and added on four additional classrooms for this year in preparation for high enrollment," but in the end required 16 classes. While the exact cause of the increase could be the result of a number of factors, "according to statistics released by the US Department of Health and Human Services' National Vital Statistics System, a record number of children were born in the US in 2006, the year most of the current kindergartners were born." According to sources, "the spike was due in part not only to a larger US population, but also a decrease in contraceptive use and access to abortions, as well as poor education and poverty." Pennsylvania's Chambersburg Public Opinion (8/31, Hall) reports a similar story.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Duncan Calls Fresno County Superintendent "An Absolute Inspiration."

ABC World News (8/29, story 8, 2:10, Sawyer) reported, "Meet the man teaching children you put your money where your values are." ABC's David Wright interviews Larry Powell, who will "make $31,000 with no benefits for the next three and a half years" through an agreement with his school system that will free up over $800,000. Wright: "By voluntarily reducing his salary he gets to save programs and positions that would otherwise face the chopping block. In fact, the deal is, he gets final say how the money is spent. That $830,000 is enough to hire 20 new teachers, fund 16 preschool classes or pay for 11 art programs for the entire year." Powell: "I want parents and kids to know during tight budget times we're not going to stop delivering on those unique things that kids need."


 

The AP (8/30, Cone) reports that, "after an AP story ran about [Powell's] initial pay sacrifice, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan phoned Powell Monday to thank him for his generosity." Duncan is quoted as saying, "Larry Powell's leadership is an absolute inspiration."

District Changes Teaching Method For Special Education Students

The Hunterdon County (NJ) Democrat (8/30, Mustac) reports that public schools in Clinton Township "will change how many of the students with special educational needs are taught," as the Board of Education "voted to create five full-time special education teaching positions and at the same time replace all of the collaborative model classrooms with co-teaching classrooms." School officials say that "a major advantage...is that a special education teacher can observe a student with special needs in all his or her interactions, not just those in which the student needs extra help."

In Wake Of Retirements, Some Wisconsin Schools Flooded With New Teachers

The Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent (8/30) reports on the many newly hired teachers who are beginning their careers "in the wake of several months of unprecedented turmoil that put Wisconsin's educators and other public employees at the center of the state budget debate." The state saw an unusually high number of retirements last year, something attributed in large part to the new collective bargaining law. "There has also been a lot of movement of experienced certified teaching staff among districts, and within districts during the spring and summer to add to the activity, but a sizable number of the new hires are people new to the profession, and that presents a challenge," in part because new teachers must be mentored, and there are fewer experienced teachers available to do so. However, "many veteran teachers are coming forward to help the new arrivals."

Private Companies To Take Over Five Poor-Performing Indiana Schools

The AP (8/30, Kusmer) reports, "Private companies will take over five public schools in Gary and Indianapolis that a state official called in 'various stages of dire situations' after the State Board of Education made the recommendation Monday because of poor classroom performance." The Indiana Board of Education "endorsed the Indiana Department of Education's recommendations that New York-based Edison Learning Inc. take over Gary Roosevelt High School; that Indianapolis-based charter school operator EdPower take over Indianapolis Arlington High School; and that Florida-based Charter Schools USA become the 'turnaround school operator' of three other Indianapolis schools, Howe and Manual high schools and Donnan Middle School." The AP notes EdPower operates Tindley Accelerated School, a charter with "a strong academic record with high expectations for its students" that was visited by Secretary Duncan earlier this year.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Delaware District Looks To Increase Number Of Minority Teachers

Maryland's Delmarva Daily Times (8/27, Rothstein) reports that while the Indian River School District has greatly increased the diversity of the students it serves in the last few years, "the teachers have not experienced the same shift in diversity." There are few Hispanic or black teachers, while non-white students now comprise nearly one quarter of the student population in some of the district's schools. IRSD Superintendent Susan Bunting "acknowledges the need to hire more diverse candidates, but said, by law, the district must hire the most qualified candidate regardless of ethnicity." Bunting added, however, that the district has "really set out to be more aggressive with our attempts to increase our number of minority teachers" this year.

Indiana School Voucher Program Benefiting Private Religious Schools

USA Today (8/29, Elliott) reports, "The Indiana school voucher program...has been a boon to" the "more than 240 religious schools, most Catholic, now eligible to receive public funds" in the state. However, the law is now "being contested and sharply criticized by public school officials and the state teachers' union, who contend that vouchers offer a stealth subsidy for religious schools and drain critical funds from already cash-poor public schools." They note that the vast majority of "non-public schools so far approved for the voucher program have religious affiliations," although State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett believes this "simply reflects the fact that the vast majority of Indiana private schools are religious." While the impact on the public schools budget is currently small, some worry it could grow when the cap on vouchers is lifted in 2013.

California Expected To Delay On Standardized Test-Based Teacher Evaluations

The Orange County Register (8/27, Leal) reports the Obama Administration "is widely expected in September to require such data-driven teacher grading systems as a condition of granting a statewide waiver to the much-maligned No Child Left Behind test standards," but "California is likely to shrug off" this new set of requirements. Earlier this year, Obama "won a key endorsement when" the National Education Association said "it would support Obama's efforts as long as tests were 'developmentally appropriate, scientifically valid, and reliable for the purpose of measuring both student learning and a teacher's performance.'" But late last week, California Superintendent Tom Torlakson "asked Duncan on Thursday to consider an unconditional waiver, suggesting the state might not qualify under Duncan's plan and arguing it would be unfair for the federal government to demand overhauls without providing money to implement them," the Register noted.

Some Districts See Success Through Attendance Awards

The Washington Times (8/29, Wolfgang) reports, "To combat truancy, many school districts are offering iPods, laptops and even cars in exchange for perfect attendance." Santa Ana Unified School District spokeswoman Angela Burrell said the California district has seen success with its reward policy. "A lot of people are doing creative things" to fight truancy, she said. "Education specialists see value in such efforts. Skipping school is often the precursor to dropping out, and schools are wise to try and reach students before they give up on the system entirely, said James Appleton, executive director of the National Dropout Prevention Center."

Tailoring Lessons To Different Kinds Of Learners Not Effective, Researchers Say

NPR's Morning Edition (8/29, Neighmond) reports that according to psychologist Dan Willingham of the University of Virginia, "we're on more equal footing than we may think when it comes to how our brains learn," and that "teachers should not tailor instruction to different kinds of learners." Researchers say there is little evidence to suggest educational improvement based on targeting students with visual, auditory, and movement-based styles of learning. Instead, Willingham said, "it might be more useful to figure out similarities in how our brains learn, rather than differences." For example, NPR notes, "recent studies find our brains retain information better when we spread learning over a longer period of time, say months or even a year, versus cramming it into a few days or weeks."

Friday, August 26, 2011

California Schools Chief Seeking Strings-Free NCLB Waiver

The Los Angeles Times (8/26, Blume) reports that California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson "formally aligned with officials in other states" by seeking "immediate relief from federal guidelines that, if unaltered, would label nearly 80% of schools serving large numbers of low-income students as failing." Moreover, "Torlakson wants a freeze on Race to the Top requirements to allow the state to focus on its neediest schools and on developing 'a more robust teacher and principal evaluation system.'" The piece notes that Torlakson has taken the singular step of objecting to having any conditions attached to such a waiver, but Education Secretary Arne Duncan spokesman Justin Hamilton "suggested that Torlakson may be overreaching."


 

The San Jose Mercury News (8/26, Lambert) reports that California education officials report that Torlakson wrote to Duncan asking for a waiver, quoting him, "Relief is needed immediately before more schools suffer for another school year under inappropriate labels and ineffective intervention." The Mercury News notes that Torlakson claims that such requirements as making states "demonstrate they are invoking reform that includes adopting college- and career-ready standards, using and developing teacher data that incorporates student test scores and developing a new accountability system...'present problems for California' and says the state is 'working hard to develop' an accountability system."


 

KPBS-TV San Diego, CA (8/26, Calvert) reports that in his letter, Torlakson said that the restrictions placed on failing schools' use of Federal funding under the current system are "too onerous in California's current economic climate." KHTS-FM El Cajon, CA (8/26), the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (8/26, Benefield), and the Bakersfield Californian (8/26, Mayer) also cover this story.

Data Shows More California Students Passing Exit Exam On First Try

The San Francisco (CA) Examiner (8/26, Schreiber) reports that data released by California education officials Wednesday indicates that more students in the state are passing the high school exit exam on their first try, though the overall number of students passing the test remains steady. "In The City, 95 percent of seniors with enough credits to graduate had passed the test by the time May rolled around. That was on par with the statewide figure, though city students were slightly less likely than their California peers to pass the first time."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Study Suggests 25% Of High Schoolers Bullied

In the "High School Notes" blog in US News and World Report (8/25), Jason Koebler writes that National Center for Education Statistics released a report on Monday showing that "about a quarter of high school students were bullied at least once during the 2008-2009 school year, and about seven percent were bullied online by other students." Additionally, just over four percent of the 12-18 year olds bullied, or about 289,000 students, "reported bringing a gun, knife, or other weapon to school," and the number was higher, at 7.4 percent, for those who were cyber bullied.

Pennsylvania Teacher Who Blogged About Classroom Faces Dearth Of Students

The Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer (8/25, Reed) reports that although Pennsylvania Central Bucks High School East teacher Natalie Munroe was reinstated after being "suspended in February for her critical blog posts," 62 of the 90 students in three classes she was set to teach "requested transfers." Requests from other students have come in all summer, totally 212 who "have asked to be kept out of her classes." The district is now considering using substitutes for her planned classes in order to meet class size requirements.

California Test Scores Show Narrowing Achievement Gap

The San Jose Mercury News (8/25, Noguchi) reports that data released this week from high school exit exams in California show that "for the first time," over 90% of the state's "black and Latino students passed both the English and math portions. ... The milestone comes five years after California started requiring students to pass the controversial test -- a breeze for most seniors, a burden for many traditionally left behind -- before they can graduate." The "encouraging" figures show that 94.6% of all students passed the test, and "numbers are steadily climbing among students at the bottom of the academic achievement gap that separates white and Asian students from black and Latino students."

Professors: Math Curriculum Too Abstract

In a New York Times (8/25, Subscription Publication) op-ed, Sol Garfunkel, executive director of the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications, and David Mumford, emeritus professor of mathematics at Brown, write that the public anxiety over the state of math education in the US-particularly as regards math testing under NCLB-is "based on the assumption that there is a single established body of mathematical skills that everyone needs to know to be prepared for 21st-century careers. This assumption is wrong." The writers suggest that the current system, in which students are taught an "abstract curriculum" including several mathematical disciplines is "simply not the best way to prepare a vast majority of high school students for life," because most adults rarely encounter advanced mathematical concepts in daily life.

Ackerman Blames Her Departure on Political Missteps

From Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Arlene Ackerman, who resigned Monday as superintendent of the 155,000-student Philadelphia district, said in an interview with Education Week Wednesday that political miscalculations led to her removal, not issues with job performance.

"There are people who wanted me to stay. Politicians and ministers said, 'I want you to stay,' " Ackerman said. "But if your boss does not want to work with you, and they're willing to pay you a million to step aside—that's how much they don't want to work with you—then what can you do?"

Ackerman received a $905,000 buyout to resign; $500,000 came from the school district, and $405,000 from private anonymous donors, which is raising some eyebrows among advocates for open government.

In February, the city's School Reform Commission, which oversees the district, reviewed Ackerman's job performance. At that time, the commission was pleased enough with her job performance to extend her five-year contract, which had two years remaining on it, for an additional year. In a statement, the commission noted academic improvements in the district and said it wanted stability while reform efforts were underway.

(For about 10 years the district has been run not by an elected board, but by a five-member commission; three appointees are selected by the governor, and two are selected by the mayor. Clarification: Many thanks to reader @arieswym who let me know that the SRC replaced what had been an appointed school board in the district. Philadelphia has never had an elected school board.)

NOTE – Please click on the link above to read the story in its entirety. There are lots of interesting reader's comments and links, including a link to a YouTube channel created by Ms. Ackerman.


 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Critics Pan Philadelphia "Democratic Machine" For Arranging Superintendent Buyout.

The Washington Times (8/24, Boyer) reports that a day after the announcement that Philadelphia's "unpopular school superintendent" Arlene Ackerman had agreed to resign "in exchange for a $905,000 buyout," $405,000 of which came from affluent private donors, the city's "Democratic machine is under fire" for orchestrating the plan. The Times notes that "neither Mayor Michael A. Nutter nor Robert Archie Jr., chairman of the city-state panel that oversees the district, will identify the donors." The piece notes that a state legislator and a watchdog group are calling for a state investigation and transparency regarding the donors' identity on the grounds that they could expect a quid pro quo.


 

***Note: I don't really know anything much about this woman or this situation. However, I find it really telling that just a few days ago it seemed like all parties were vehemently denying any rumors of her departure.

California Earthquake Safety Regulations May Restrict School Access To Funds

The Huffington Post (8/24, Johnson) reports that California's new regulations restricting "school districts' access to nearly $200 million in seismic retrofit money" have been lifted, but now "board members approved new rules that may make it too costly for some districts to apply for the funds." Schools will now have funding access "if they could prove catastrophic risk from ground shaking, earthquake faults, liquefaction or landslides," but proof of some of these criteria require upfront payment "for a structural engineer's examination, a geologist's field study and a review from the state geologist's office."

Study Suggests Black, Latino Students Affected Most By Bullying

FOX News (8/24) reports that a study of 9,590 students in 580 schools has found that "bullying has implications for achievement regardless of racial and ethnic background, but seems to be especially detrimental for subsets of certain racial and ethnic groups," namely Latino and African American students. The study compared student GPAs before and after bullying occurred, and "found that black students who had obtained a GPA of 3.5 in 9th grade and were bullied in the 10th had a GPA 0.3 points lower in the 12th grade."

Georgia Teacher Says Soft Skills Less Teachable In Current Education Climate

In the "Get Schooled" blog in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (8/24), Maureen Downey writes that her column last week about Georgia's "push to teach soft skills in high school" elicited reader responses, including one from recently retired high school teacher Pat Pepper, who said, "I saw a great need to not only teach the hard skills of good communication but the soft (or 'life' as I called them) skills as well." However, that was the 70s, before "high-stakes testing, merit pay, and the scramble for both state and federal funds," all of which mean teachers today "are losing the battle" because soft skills "don't show up on CRCT's, EOCT's, SAT's, ACT's, AP's, ad nauseum."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

September 11th Ideas from Teaching Tolerance

Need Help With Tough 9/11 Questions?
As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, educators must be prepared to anticipate student questions and to lead sensitive class discussions. Most importantly, they need to be mindful of who is in the room and how those students may have been impacted. Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello offers tips for handling this challenging topic. "For many children this anniversary will be the first time they've really talked about 9/11 in school," Costello says. "... Plan ahead by meeting with other teachers to brainstorm likely questions and to decide what's age-appropriate."

Pizza—And a Tutor—Bring Higher Grades
A cross-cultural tutoring program created for American Indian students has helped both the university students doing the tutoring and their K-12 charges. About every other Monday night, the university tutors share a light supper, usually pizza and soda, with the younger students. Then everyone gets down to work. Professor Alan L. Neville created the program in South Dakota to provide practical experience for his education students. But both groups of students showed improvement, Neville says, and setting up a tutoring partnership is simple.

Are Your Students Ready to Change the World?
The fourth edition of Planning to Change the World: A Plan Book for Social Justice Teachers, 2011-2012 is available for educators. This calendar and planner offers daily reminders of important events, tools for social justice, lessons, classroom activities and resources.

What's Ahead: New Teaching Tolerance Lessons
Prepare for the next four weeks:

"Embattled" Philadelphia Superintendent Accepts $900,000 Buyout

The AP (8/23, Matheson) reports that Philadelphia's "embattled schools superintendent" Arlene Ackerman "abruptly left the district Monday with a promised $900,000 buyout, capping a tumultuous tenure that saw increased test scores but also clashes with community members, the teachers union and elected leaders." The piece notes that Ackerman's "tenure collapsed over the past few months as the district faced a colossal budget hole, a dispute with the teachers union and criticism of everything from her salary to her management style."


 

Kristen A. Graham writes at the Philadelphia Inquirer (8/23) "School Files" blog that Ackerman's "departure has been confirmed by the Philadelphia School District. She will be paid $905,000 to walk away - $405,000 of that coming from anonymous private donations." Meanwhile, "Former CEO Paul Vallas, who left Philadelphia in 2007, said that 'in this climate of fiscal distress with huge layoffs of teachers and administrators, to offer anyone $900,000 not to work is unconscionable. I think the people who agreed to this deal ought to have their heads examined.'"

Florida Students Registering For Mandatory Online Classes

In a "StateImpact" piece, NPR (8/23, O'Connor) reports briefly on Florida students' signing up to satisfy the state's "new graduation requirement for an online course," noting that some 150,000 students in the state will take a virtual class this year. "Advocates note the state can educate students for 23 percent less than in traditional brick-and-mortar schools. State officials say they conduct random exam and phone checks to protect against cheating and ensure students are learning." However, some caution that such classes "do not work for every student," particularly ESL students, special needs students, or students without access to computers or internet service.

Education Advocates Call For Expanded Classroom Learning Time

In an op-ed in the New York Times (8/23, Subscription Publication) Ford Foundation president Luis A. UbiƱas and Chris Gabrieli, chairman of the National Center on Time and Learning, write about the impact that state and Federal budget cuts are likely to have on education in the coming school year, noting that many districts across the country are cutting the amount of time students spend in the classroom. "For all the talk about balancing the budget for the sake of our children, keeping classrooms closed is a perverse way of giving them a brighter future." The writers argue that the traditional school year is based on an agrarian culture, adding that underprivileged families are unable to augment schools' curriculum with tutoring or other supplemental education services. They conclude by calling for "a more comprehensive national effort to make expanded learning time the norm in American education, especially for our neediest students."

Monday, August 22, 2011

How to Improve your English via the Internet

From Kenneth Beare's blog:

Here are some tips to improving English both in how your learn and via the internet.

Related Articles

“Bridge” Is a Delightful Short Animation to Use In Class – Link to Larry Ferlazzo’s Blog

"Bridge" is a short and delightful animation that is perfect to show English Language Learners (in fact, to any students) and then have them write and discuss it. It's a great opportunity for them to literally describe what they see, plus incorporating the messages of the film.

Click here to link to Larry's site where he's embedded the actual video.

Joplin Superintendent's Next Goal: Full Reconstruction In Three Years

The Joplin (MO) Globe (8/22, Ryan) reports that Joplin, Missouri, Superintendent CJ Huff, whose success in getting "several Joplin schools up and running in temporary locations around the city this summer" after they were destroyed by a tornado three months ago has generated significant media coverage, "has set another ambitious target. 'My goal is to have everything rebuilt in the next three years,' he said Friday. But before construction can begin, there are many preliminary steps: debris removal, demolition, bidding for plans, selecting architects, bidding for contractors and, of course, funding it all."

Florida Districts Increasingly Using Online Classes

The Daytona Beach News-Journal (8/22, Trimble) reports on an increasing number of options for Florida students, including AP courses. Moreover, "students can take online classes as early as kindergarten and must take some in high school. They can earn college credit or hone career skills while still in high school. They can take advantage of taxpayer-funded scholarships to attend private schools or qualify for transfers from one public school to another based on the schools' state or federal performance ratings."

ED Pulls California Charter Funding

The Sacramento Bee (8/19, Lambert) reports that ED has cancelled some $11.5 million in charter school funding for California, quoting a California Department of Education official who noted that ED several months ago "warned that the state did not meet requirements of the Charter Schools Program, which funds two- and three-year grants for new charter schools." ED "said state rules don't emphasize student achievement enough in determining whether to revoke or renew charters," the official said. California "is supposed to" receive some $50 million per year from the program, but ED notified the state on August 11 that "the grant for 2011-12 would be only $40.1 million." The piece notes that further grant reductions could be forthcoming.

Virginia Paper Calls For End To Law Banning Early School Year

An editorial in the Fairfax (VA) Times (8/22) criticizes a 25 year old Virginia law known informally as the "King's Dominion law," which "prohibits public schools from opening prior to Labor Day" without a state waiver, which is only granted when a district has had substantial weather-related closures the previous year. The piece pans the current school calendar as being outdated and criticizes the state legislature for sacrificing "the education of Virginia's young people to appease some generous campaign donors." The Times describes a report from the Virginia Public Access Project which notes that the "owners of theme parks in Virginia have donated generously to state politicians."

Missouri Teachers Association Sues To Block Social Media Ban

Reuters (8/22, Murphy) reports that the Missouri State Teachers Association filed a lawsuit Friday saying that Missouri's new law banning students and teachers from interacting on social media is in violation of free speech and is too vague.


 

WPost: In An Online World, State Laws Impede Teacher-Student Communication. In an editorial, the Washington Post (8/20) writes that teachers across the US are using social media to better communicate with students and facilitate learning. Yet "new laws and proposed measures are impeding teacher communication with students outside of school-sanctioned email systems" in states like Missouri. The Post concludes that schools "are right to be concerned" about school bullies and sexual predators online, but that "in a media universe where young people are often most engaged and motivated online, these laws only handicap learning and innovation."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Broward County Teachers To Get $500 Bonus, No Furlough Days

The Miami Herald (8/19, Figueroa) reports, "Broward County public school teachers can expect a $500 bonus and no furlough days this school year, as part of deal reached Thursday between the Broward Teachers Union and the School District. Hailed as a 'milestone' by both sides, the new contract marks the first time in three years that the district and union have been able to come to a contract agreement ... By reaching an agreement, the school district positions itself to receive $30 million in federal funding, from the Race to the Top program."

Philadelphia Superintendent Speaks To Principals, Denies Buyout Rumors

The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/19, Graham) reports that Philadelphia superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman met with Philadelphia's school principals this week, speaking about the challenges she has faced, and asking, "Is it a crime to stand up for children instead of stooping down into the political sandbox and selling our children for a politician's victory?" However, the article continues, "it has been widely rumored that Ackerman is on her way out as superintendent." Ackerman is denying rumors that she is in negotiations to buy out her contract.

Oklahoma University Graduates First Urban Teaching Academy Class

The Oklahoman (8/19, Rolland) reports that the University of Central Oklahoma's Urban Teacher Preparation Academy, which gives students real-world training by having them work as student teachers at area high schools, graduated its first class this year."

In Debate With Rhee, Ravitch Says Teachers Being Demoralized

The Washington Post (8/19, Layton) reports, "Michelle A. Rhee, the former D.C. schools chancellor whose take-no-prisoners stance shook up the city and transformed her into a leader of the school reform movement, parried with Diane Ravitch, an education historian whose criticisms of charter schools and high stakes testing has made her a hero to teachers' unions and many defenders of traditional public education. The Martha's Vineyard encounter was the pair's first faceoff in person." Ravitch, "a former assistant education secretary under President George H.W. Bush, maintained that teachers are being scapegoated. 'I have been seeing profound demoralization among teachers in America today,' Ravitch said. 'It is almost hard to convey. Teachers feel they are being held accountable for social conditions beyond their control.'"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

National Punctuation Day

National Punctuation Day is September 24th. This site is very cool. They're sponsoring a pretty challenging contest:

Here are the rules for contestants competing for a box of punctuation goodies: Write one paragraph, maximum of three sentences, using these 13 punctuation marks: apostrophe, brackets, colon, comma, dash, ellipsis, exclamation point, hyphen, parentheses, period, question mark, quotation mark and semicolon.

From: Teaching Tolerance

Seize the Teachable Moment
It might seem that discussions of race are outside your curriculum area. But when the opportunity to open a conversation appears, seize it, says blogger Pamela Cytrynbaum. "In many cases, for many reasons, we miss this teachable moment by ignoring it," Cytrynbaum writes. Talking about race may feel uncomfortable initially, she says, but it can get better. "For those of us who are comfortable tackling the topic, let's work harder to share strategies."

Looking Forward to a Record-Breaking Mix It Up Day
Teaching Tolerance's National Mix It Up at Lunch Day is Oct. 18. This will be the 10th year for Mix. As you head back to school this fall, plan to join us by speaking with your principal and getting the date on the school calendar. This day was developed to break down social barriers among students and help K-12 teachers create an inclusive school environment.

MLK National Memorial Dedication on Aug. 28
The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial will be dedicated on Sunday, Aug. 28 in Washington, D.C. A week of activities is planned around the dedication, including public viewings, concerts, a youth event, a musical tribute, interfaith prayers and a gala. The memorial, featuring a symbolic stone of hope and an inscription wall, was envisioned as a quiet—yet powerful and emotionally evocative—space on four acres. The memorial will become an important site for students learning about Dr. King's work on behalf of civil rights.

What's Ahead: New Teaching Tolerance Lessons
Prepare for the next four weeks:

Illinois School Nurses Now Allowed To Administer EpiPens

The Chicago Tribune (8/17, Garcia) reports that Illinois governor signed a law Monday that gives school officials authority to administer "an epinephrine shot to any student suffering a severe allergic reaction." The measure follows the December death of a Chicago student who had an allergic reaction at a school function. Now, "a nurse could use an EpiPen or other device to administer the medication to any student believed to be having a life-threatening reaction, even if the child is not diagnosed with an allergy, without fear of legal recourse."

Philadelphia Schools Resume Layoff Plan

The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/17, Graham) reports that the Philadelphia School District has withdrawn attempts to exempt teachers at its turnaround schools, Promise Academies, from some of the 1,500 district layoffs. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers protested that these exemptions violated their union contract, "which calls for layoffs based only on seniority."

Alabama Enrollment Apparently Unaffected By Immigration Reform

The Associated Press (8/17) reports that despite tougher immigration laws, Hispanic students are still enrolling in Alabama schools. So far "officials say it appears the school year is beginning with about the same number of Hispanic children who were in class at the end of the last academic year," before the governor signed new immigration legislation. Last year roughly 4.5 % of Alabama's 741,043 K-12 students were Hispanic.

Pennsylvania Testing Irregularity Probe Continues

The Huffington Post (8/17, Resmovits) reports on the continuing investigation into irregularities on Pennsylvania standardized tests in 2009, noting that "On Monday, the state reported that it had received 83 percent of districts' internal probes into schools suspected of cheating. The Pennsylvania Department of Education is now conducting its own analysis of the data and earlier forensic reviews to assess which schools had teachers who were cheating." The piece notes that the state mandated the district-level investigations after "the release of a report that flagged 90 Pennsylvania schools for testing irregularities -- whether by statistically suspicious score gains or a high number of answers erased from wrong to right -- on 2009 exams." The piece notes that Education Secretary Arne Duncan has taken an interest in investigating such cheating cases.

Garret Keizer’s essay, “Getting Schooled: The Re-Education of an American Teacher”

I am sure this essay, published in the September 2011 edition of Harper's Magazine, will be making the rounds at staff meetings and the like as we begin another school year.

Keizer, a popular writer, had been a high school English teacher during the 1980s and 1990s. After fourteen years away from the classroom he decided to head back. After spending a year in the same rural school where he had originally taught, he reflects on the profession as well as the differences that have cropped up during his time away.

Click here to read Keizer's essay, "Getting Schooled: The Re-Education of an American Teacher"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Great ELL Items from Kenneth Beare

The Art of Teaching English One to One

Teaching English well requires knowledge of many different factors including an understanding of multiple intelligences, the difference between teaching absolute and false beginners, how to teach English for varied learning objectives and more. If you are teaching classes, classroom management will be key to making sure things go smoothly.

Getting the Conversation Going: Asking Questions

You'll need to ask questions to get a conversation started. Here are 50 basic English questions to get things going. You can also check appropriate responses to these basic questions with this question and response quiz.

See More About: useful english phrases
asking questions

Do some Review

Don't forget to review basic grammar before you begin your new course. It will help you understand what you know and don't know. Here are review quizzes by level: beginner review, intermediate review, advanced review

See More About: english grammar
grammar quizzes
advanced level english

Learning English for the Advanced Level - ESL EFL Advanced English

Learning English for advanced level learners includes everything you or your student needs to continue refining English skills including grammar explanations, vocabulary building exercises, TOEFL and Cambridge Exam practice, writing materials, listening and reading comprehension, as well as other reference materials and free lesson plans.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Virginia, Other States Mandating Financial Literacy Courses

USA Today (8/15, McDermott) reports that in Virginia, high school freshmen this year will have to "take a one-credit course outlining the ABCs of economics and personal finance." Virginia and "a handful" of other states are mandating such courses, as "part of a nationwide push to keep Generation Y from making money mistakes that could haunt them long after they graduate from college." The piece notes that many teachers report feeling unqualified to teach the material, and details efforts to bring teachers up to speed.

Experts: Cutting Recess To Focus On Academics Counterproductive.

MSNBC (8/15, Pappas) reports on the difficulties that children-especially younger ones-face in spending the entire school day in class with little opportunity to engage in active play. "With schools under pressure to meet standardized testing goals, recess has been cut back and even eliminated in some school districts. The irony, experts say, is that schools may be shooting themselves in the foot by taking away playtime that's crucial to a child's growth."

Wisconsin Switching From Contracts To New Teacher "Handbooks."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (8/15, Richards) reports that some two thirds of Wisconsin districts, in the wake of the abolition of collective bargaining rights in the state, "are rushing to finalize employee handbooks" that reflect administrators' new-gained "ability to make sweeping changes to teachers' pay scales, hours and working conditions without having to negotiate them with unions. Some sacred cows are disappearing, such as teacher tenure, layoffs based on seniority and the guarantee of 10 years' worth of post-retirement health insurance." New pay scales and merit-pay plans are also on the table. The article notes that many teachers "are concerned about the changes being made unilaterally by management, said Christina Brey, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state's largest teachers union."


 

Wisconsin District Mulls Merit-Pay Plan.The La Crosse (WI) Tribune (8/15, Colson) reports that district officials in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, are "considering a merit-based pay system" for teachers "in light of the new state law changing contracts and benefits for public workers. ... The possible merit-based pay system comes amid districts across the state formulating new teacher and staff handbooks that will take the place of previous contracts."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Classroom Library Genre Stickers

Jessica, over at "Stories Told in Stick Figures" has posted another great teacher resource. She's created genre labels/stickers that can be downloaded in Word , printed, and then used in your classroom library.

Click here to link to her post. Her blog is always a great one, so bookmark it and check it out!

Study Suggests Bullying Atmosphere May Hurt Test Scores

The Los Angeles Times (8/12, Stein) reports that a study recently presented at the American Psychological Association's annual conference found that "a school's bullying climate may be linked with lower overall test scores." The survey of "7,304 ninth-grade students and 2,918 teachers who were randomly chosen from 284 high schools in Virginia" found that schools with greater bullying had "passing rates on standardized tests in such subjects as algebra, Earth science and world history [that] were 3% to 6% lower."Facilities

Editorial: Build California Teacher Database, Even Without Federal Funds

In an Editorial, the Los Angeles Times (8/12) writes that while "California can hardly afford to give up $6 million," the US Department of Education is demanding that amount "back because the state failed to use the funds to build a database on public school teachers, as it had promised." Plans to build the database were vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who "said school districts could build databases on their own employees." The Times argues that "killing a statewide data system is counterproductive. It could have provided a wealth of useful information."

Opinion: E-textbooks Should Be Cautiously Considered

In the "Chapter and Verse" blog in the Christian Science Monitor (8/12), Husna Haq writes that schools "want to do away with dead-tree textbooks and replace them with digital editions." However, in an article in the Dallas Morning News, Nicholas Carr writes, "'In theory, the benefits of electronic textbooks seem clear and compelling.'" But in practice, Carr cautions, "schools may want to pause before jumping on the e-book bandwagon.'" Haq concurs, adding, "I wonder, like Carr, whether schools have done their research before jumping on the bandwagon." She then cites studies that indicate that "concentration and focus is reduced with e-textbooks."

Colorado Adopts Computerized Testing To Eliminate Cheating

In the "Lookout" blog in Yahoo! (8/12) Liz Goodwin writes that while Education Secretary Arne Duncan "says the national focus on test scores doesn't encourage cheating, but rather is the only way to make sure schools are adequately educating kids," Colorado is the latest state where schools "are moving to standardized tests that are administered by computers, rather than pencils and paper, to ensure teachers aren't helping students cheat." The tests will be phased in over the course of the next two years. However, "computer testing wouldn't stop teachers from helping students who have questions during the test, which is also considered cheating." The Denver Post (8/12, Robles) also covers this story.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Charlotte District Invests Construction Surplus In iPads

WBTV-TV Charlotte, NC (8/11, Ohnesorge) reports that after officials in Watauga and Avery Counties in North Carolina found that construction on a new elementary school with "state of the art heating and cooling systems, smart boards in every classroom as well as skylights to add to the lighting" came in under budget, they decided to invest in "a Mac-book and iPad for every teacher and an iPad will be assigned to every student. 161 children are enrolled at the school. The school system's technology team was busy Wednesday setting up each individual tablet and then passing them out classroom by classroom."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

California Education Chief Unveils School Reform Plan

The San Jose Mercury News (8/10, Jones) reports, "California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on Tuesday rolled out a plan for overhauling the state's public school system, ranked among the nation's lowest in academic achievement." The Mercury News describes the thrust of Torlakson's "Blueprint for Great Schools," noting that it focuses on technology, educator evaluation and professional development, and students' general well being. KXJZ-FM Sacramento (CA) (8/10, Adler) also covers this story.

Tennessee Group Releases Rural Education White Paper

The Tennessean (8/10, Sisk) reports a report from SCORE, an education policy group started by former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, details "34 ideas that it believes will improve rural education. Among them are have teacher trainees train in rural districts (in the hope of enticing some of them to stay), expand the use of virtual schools and convince philanthropists to put more money into rural districts."

States Express Strong Interest In NCLB Waiver Plan

Coverage of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's announcement that ED will grant waivers to states struggling with No Child Left Behind continued today, focusing largely on the rush to take him up on the offer, and on the wait-and-see tone that other states are voicing. The Washington Times (8/10, Wolfgang) reports that "within hours" of the Monday announcement, "several states announced that they would apply for relief" while others "expressed interest." The piece notes that Tennessee had already applied, adding that the "mad dash to escape high-stakes testing and gain more flexibility represents 'a sense of desperation' among states, said Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators."


 

Noting that the law is widely unpopular with state education officials, the Christian Science Monitor (8/10, Khadaroo) reports that NCLB's requirement for rising academic standards has led states to balk at the mandate. "State superintendents in Montana, Idaho, and South Dakota have flat-out said they aren't going to raise the bar" in letters to Duncan. Monday's announcement relieves pressure on officials in states that, "rather than openly defying the law," have been hoping for the waivers.


 

Not All States Lining Up To Seek Waivers. The Omaha World-Herald (8/10, Dejka) reports that amid the general enthusiasm about the waiver announcement, "Nebraska and Iowa education leaders want to know the fine print" before seeking waivers, noting that Duncan says details will be announced in September. "Nebraska officials said they're not convinced the state would qualify for the waiver because Nebraska has not adopted 'common core' standards" or "implemented a state accountability system," both of which could be a part of any waiver deal.

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Hampshire District Reexamining Middle School "Leveling."

The Nashua (NH) Telegraph (8/8, Brindley) reports that Nashua, New Hampshire, Superintendent Mark Conrad says he has no intention of ending the "controversial" practice of leveling, or homogenous grouping, in the city's middle schools. However, the issue "is one of the topics on the agenda for a three-day summer workshop starting today. ... The focus of this week's institute is to re-examine the way education is delivered in the city's three middle schools. Approximately 50 teachers and administrators are taking part." The piece notes that studies have indicated that leveling "puts disproportionate numbers of low-income, minority, special education and English Language Learner students into the lowest-level classes." The Telegraph notes parenthetically that the NEA opposes this type of grouping.

Debate Continues Over Effectiveness Of Smaller Class Size

Salon (8/8, Tyre) writes on the ongoing debate about how important class size is to student learning. Right now, 32 states have either voluntary or mandatory class size reduction measures. While teachers unions have endorsed smaller class sizes, others in the field disagree. Recently, Michelle Rhee suggested that "with the right preparation, bigger classes, not smaller ones, would be an effective way to raise test scores and save money". The article goes on to examine two studies from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten class of 1998–99. While one study concluded "small class size had no effect on student learning in reading or mathematics", the other "found that kindergarten and first-grade children who attended classes that were seventeen kids and one teacher or less learned about three weeks more than kindergartners and first graders who learned in large groups -- greater than twenty-five students."

Ohio Adopts Common Core, Drops Cursive

The Springfield (OH) News Sun (8/8, Kissell) reports that Ohio, following the guidelines of the Common Core Curriculum, is no longer requiring districts to teach students to write in cursive, with the "more modern keyboarding" taking its place. The piece quotes a state DOE spokesperson "acknowledging the issue has generated a bit of controversy because many adults still view handwriting as an important skill that should be taught." The piece continues to detail the plans of individual districts.

Rising Back-To-School Prices Stymie Cincinnati Parents

The Cincinnati Enquirer (8/8, Amos) reports that parents in the Cincinnati area are complaining about rising back-to-school costs, noting that "Classroom supply costs and school fees in Ohio, Kentucky and four surrounding states have climbed by up to 25 percent over last year, the highest jump on record, according to Huntington Bank's annual 'backpack index.'" The "index" is compiled by analyzing the requirements of school districts and the corresponding prices on retail websites. "In general, parents are paying more for a free public education than ever, says Huntington Bank's panel of experts."

Duncan To "Unilaterally Override" NCLB Proficiency Standards

Education Secretary Arne Duncan's announcement Monday of a plan to offer NCLB waivers to states that have implemented their own accountability metrics generated significant national media coverage today, mainly positively disposed toward ED. The New York Times (8/8, Dillon, Subscription Publication) reports that Duncan "announced that he will unilaterally override" proficiency standards under No Child Left Behind, which mandate that "100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014." Duncan "told reporters that he was acting because Congress had failed to rewrite the Bush-era law, which he called a 'slow-motion train wreck.'" The Times characterizes the move as "the most sweeping use of executive authority to rewrite federal education law since Washington expanded its involvement in education in the 1960s." Though some conservatives complained of increased Federal involvement in education, "Duncan and White House officials described their plan as offering crucial relief to state and local educators."

The AP (8/8, Blankinship) reports that Congress has not reauthorized the law despite the "begging" of states and localities, adding that Duncan "says he will announce a new waiver system Monday to give schools a break." Duncan will waive NCLB requirements to any state that meets "other school reform requirements." The AP notes that Duncan said that President Obama called for the move, adding that NCLB's yearly standards increases have "caused heartburn in states and most school districts, because more and more schools are labeled as failures as too few of their students meet testing goals." Duncan stated that rather than undermining Congress, ED's flexibility could serve as a catalyst for needed reform. Nevertheless, House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline expressed reservations.


 

Contextualizing the Administration's move by noting that states are "rebelling" against NCLB, the Washington Post (8/8, Layton) reports that Duncan will "grant waivers to liberate states from a law that [ED] considers dysfunctional" due to "'universal clamoring' from officials in nearly every state." Duncan and White House domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes promised more details about the plan in September.


 

Politico (8/8, Phillip) notes that President Obama had called on Congress to craft an overhaul to NCLB by September, but "the House and Senate have moved on separate paths at a pace the White House says is not nearly fast enough. Meanwhile, states and local administrators are clamoring to the Department of Education for relief from federal mandates - and the sanctions that threaten to punish schools for not meeting the law's requirements." Meanwhile, Duncan "emphasized that the plan is intended to serve as a 'bridge' or a 'transition' to Congressional action, not a challenge to" it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Colorado Legislature Reexamining Post-Columbine Discipline Policies

The AP (7/29) reports on a hearing of a Colorado legislative panel in Denver exploring the state's "strict disciplinary policies, many of which were implemented in the wake of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings and other high-profile cases of youth violence." One legislator on the panel "said zero-tolerance policies have led to the 'over-criminalization' of students and that law enforcement sometimes feels shackled because they're left with little discretion on how to deal with problem students," and the AP notes that other states and districts across the country are also considering the value of such draconian policies.

California Legislature Mulls Bills Pressuring Charter Schools To Boost Test Scores

The Fresno Bee (7/27, Gibbons) reports that the California legislature is considering a pair of bills to "put more pressure on charter schools to scrap their alternative curriculums and improve standardized test scores. The proposals also would shift some of the power to shut down failing charters from school districts to the state." The Bee notes that in the past, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) had vetoed bills to tighten regulation of charter schools, but "With Jerry Brown in office, regulation proposals are re-emerging."

Massachusetts School Participates In Tablet Literacy Pilot

The Daily Hampshire (MA) Gazette (7/29) reports, "Students at Center/Pepin elementary school will be piloting new reading technology this fall," noting that Amherst-based Pioneer Valley Books, which "provides books for children learning to read," is developing a book app for iPads, and "will be delivering six iPads to the school preloaded with the 'Who Can Read?' book reader application. Each book is illustrated and features audio so that a student can choose to hear it read aloud or turn the audio off as they develop their own reading skills. The book reader, which came out in May, also features a trademark animated owl that helps students follow instructions."

Colorado Program Uses Comic Books To Promote Literacy

The Denver Post (7/29, Moore) reports on a literacy program that uses comic books and graphic novels to promote reading in Denver, Colorado. The piece profiles Comic Book Classroom founder Charlie LaGreca, noting that his teams go to schools and use comic books to teach vocabulary, narrative structure, character, and other literary concepts.

Arizona Passes "Move On When Reading" Third Grade Promotion Law

The East Valley Tribune (7/29, Reese) reports that beginning in spring 2013, Arizona third graders will not be promoted further until they "show they can read," noting that "lawmakers passed legislation - dubbed 'move on when reading' - in 2010 that requires them to demonstrate proficiency on the reading portion of Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards in spring 2013." The piece notes that students will be classified in four ranges, the lowest of which will be held back.

Chicago Announces Thousands Of Added Full-Day Kindergarten Seats

The Chicago (IL) News Cooperative (7/29, Vevea) reports that Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard announced this week that the district "plans to add thousands of full-day kindergarten slots along with more seats at magnet and charter schools for the upcoming school year." Noting that the 6,000 kindergarten slots will be added to schools with large at-risk student concentrations at a cost of $15 million, the article explains, "all CPS schools have an all-day kindergarten option. In some areas, principals use discretionary funding or parents cobble together the money themselves to pay for the program."


 

WFLD-TV Chicago, IL (7/29) also covers this story, noting that Brizard announced that "$5 million will go to expanding magnet schools, and $15 million is being earmarked to double the number of students in all-day kindergarten. The money comes from cuts that have been made to the central office."