Wednesday, June 30, 2010

California Ranks 23rd In Per Pupil Spending

The Orange County Register (6/30, Martindale) reports that the US Census Bureau released financial data showing "California ranks 23rd among US states in per-pupil spending on public education, below the national average of $10,259." During the data based from the 2007-08 school year, California spent on average $9,863 per pupil. NEA statistics point to lower spending during the same period, though the difference is likely attributed to the use of different data sets. For 2008-09, NEA statistics show California spent $8,322 per student, placing the state in 43rd place. "The Census Bureau's rankings will likely reflect a similar trend when the 2008-09 rankings are released next year."

Study Finds Charter School Students Don't Outperform Those At Public Schools

The Washington Times (6/30, Wetzstein, 77K) reports a study commissioned by the Institution of Education Science's showed "middle school students in charter schools in 15 states ...generally performed no better in math and reading than other public school students." Students "in charter schools in urban areas were exceptions - they did better in math than their public school peers - and charter school students were generally more satisfied with their schools, said the study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. and released Wednesday." John Easton, director of the Institution of Education Services at ED, said, "The study adds to a growing body of evidence on thie important policy issue." But "the sure to disappoint education officials who are seeking new ways to improve student achievement." The Washington Post (6/30, Strauss) also runs the story.

Charter Schools Sometimes Face Same Problems As Public Schools. The Indianapolis Star (6/30, Gammill) reports on the problems faced by parents looking for the best education possible sometimes find charter schools "have abysmal student performance. In short, charter schools are neither inherently better nor worse -- and they are susceptible to the same factors that determine the quality of a traditional public school." University of Indianapolis Researcher David Dresslar said, "There are all kinds of issues that, just like a traditional public school, cause them [Charter Schools] to lag in performance." Furthermore, Dresslar claims charters with strong leadership and teaching prevail.

Study Shows New And Veteran Teachers Use Technology Equally

eSchool News (6/30) reports that a study conducted by Walden University's Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership found "newer teachers aren't any more likely to use technology in their lessons than veteran teachers, and a lack of access to technology does not appear to be the main reason why teachers do not use it."

Monday, June 14, 2010

More School Friends May Equal Better Grades, Study Suggests

USA Today /HealthDay (6/13, Preidt) reported, "School friends may play a major role in your teen's academic success, a new study" conducted by Melissa R. Witkow, an assistant professor of psychology at Willamette University suggests. The study, published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, "included 629 12th-graders in Los Angeles who filled out a questionnaire and then kept a record of activities such as time spent studying and time spent with school friends and out-of-school friends. Students with higher grade-point averages (GPAs) had more school friends than out-of-school friends."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Study Links High School Start Times, Car Wrecks Involving Teens

The San Antonio Express-News (6/11) reports that a new study "presented in San Antonio on Wednesday at the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, found that students who had to be at school by 7:20 a.m. in Virginia Beach, Virginia, were more likely to wreck their cars than those who had an 8:40 a.m. start time in nearby Chesapeake, Virginia." The study was conducted by Dr. Robert Vorona, associate professor of internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, who "is quick to say the study doesn't prove that the earlier bell caused the higher crash rate." Still, Vorona's results are "in keeping with the results of a 2008 study in Kentucky that found when one county pushed back the morning bell by an hour, the teen crash rate dropped by 16.5 percent."

Revised Policy Allows Teachers In Arizona District To Use Force To Tame Unruly Students

The Arizona Republic (6/11, Seligman) reports, "The Gilbert Public Schools governing board unanimously approved modified state recommendations on student behavior management, including when unruly children can be physically restrained or put into seclusion." The new rules allow "teachers and administrators to use force on a student 'to the extent necessary to act in self-defense, defense of students and/or in defense of property.'" Should an employee have to use "force on a student," he or she "must submit a written report to his or her supervisor within 24 hours. The supervisor must then submit a report to the administrator within two working days." District officials also "modified the state recommendation that calls for a functional behavior assessment and a behavior intervention plan if a student has been restrained or secluded three times during a semester." Instead, the plans will be provided upon request by the parent.

Oregon Court Says School Officials Can Search Students For Drugs With Reasonable Suspicion

The AP (6/11) reports, "The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that high school students can be searched for illegal drugs without a warrant if school officials have a reasonable suspicion based on specific facts." The court reasoned that probable cause is not necessary "for a search if officials believe there is an immediate risk of harm from possession of illegal drugs on school grounds." This the court compared "to police who are allowed to search without a warrant when there is an immediate threat to safety." The AP adds, "The ruling upheld a juvenile court judge who applied a US Supreme Court standard on school searches because there were no previous Oregon cases that applied."

Farm Bureau Workshop Gives Teachers Agriculture Lessons To Tie Into Core Curriculum

KFYR-TV Bismarck, North Dakota (6/10, Kaucher) reported that the North Dakota Farm Bureau held a workshop for teachers on Thursday to help them bring agriculture "into the classroom." Teachers were given "lessons to incorporate into subjects like English and Math that help children understand how the land and farming affect their everyday world." Other lessons answered questions of "how bread is produced around the world and how farming ties into different cultural celebrations." Helps Teachers Spot Plagiarism

The Fairfax County (VA) Times (6/10, Hobbs) reported, "With modern technology, students have discovered new academic cheating schemes -- some through cellphone cameras, text messages and calculators -- but teachers in Fairfax County say they are on to them." Teachers say that "plagiarism is the most common form of cheating on major assignments." So, they use websites like to catch plagiarism. "Schools that have the program ask students to submit electronic copies of their work, which is loaded into the program and checked for authenticity." When it comes to punishment for cheating offenses, "teachers say they try to handle" it "on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the severity of the case, students can receive anything from a reduced grade or zero on an assignment to suspension or expulsion from school."

Experts Question Effectiveness Of Some Classroom Technology

The Washington Post (6/11, McCrummen) reports, "Under enormous pressure to reform, the nation's public schools are spending millions of dollars each year on gadgets from text-messaging devices to interactive whiteboards that technology companies promise can raise student performance." However, a growing number of experts are arguing "that the money schools spend on instructional gizmos isn't necessarily making things better, just different. Many academics question industry-backed studies linking improved test scores to their products" while some even "argue that the most ubiquitous device-of-the-future, the whiteboard...locks teachers into a 19th-century lecture style of instruction counter to the more collaborative small-group models that many reformers favor."

Online Summer School To Start In Chicago Public Schools

The Chicago Tribune (6/11, Byrne) reports, "Chicago public high school students will be able to take online courses this summer for classes they failed, in a move Mayor Richard Daley hopes will save money." Students will be able to use the computer labs 30 high schools throughout the city. "Certified teachers will teach the online classes, but schools CEO Ron Huberman said the district will save money by allowing a single teacher to teach a course to students around the city."


The Chicago Sun-Times (6/11, Spielman) reports, "In addition to high school students seeking to wipe out F's, the program will have three other tracks." They are for "7th- and 8th- graders who need remedial work in pre-algebra and composition to prepare them [for] high school; students who want to knock off core courses" before the fall; and "high school juniors interested in doing independent study in partnership with the Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute and Broadway in Chicago."

California Court Limits Who Can Inject Diabetic Students

The San Francisco Chronicle (6/9, Egelko) reported, "A state appeals court struck down California school regulations Tuesday that allowed trained staff members to give insulin shots to disabled children with diabetes, saying state law requires the caregiver to be a nurse. The ruling by the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento overturned a 2007 agreement between the state Department of Education and the American Diabetes Association." According to the Chronicle, "That agreement, which settled a separate lawsuit, required schools to train non-nursing employees to test children's blood sugar, if a child is unable to do so, and to administer insulin whenever licensed nurses are unavailable."

Distance Learning Network Brings Lessons From NASA To Fifth-Graders

The St. Petersburg Times (6/10, Ritchie) reports that recently, students in Juretta Carr's science classes at Moton Elementary School in Brooksville, Florida, "took advantage of special equipment and a distance learning bring Damon Talley, the Digital Learning Network coordinator at NASA, to the classroom." The fifth-graders "talked and interacted with Talley just as if he were right in the room with them." He demonstrated several science experiments for them "for about 45 minutes...asking students what they thought would happen." Talley's "lesson reinforced what the students had learned in class and was so new and interesting that everyone was engaged," the St. Petersburg Times adds.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Learning on the Run

Raquel, a 4th Grade Teacher in Eldridge, Iowa, keeps her students learning and moving all at once.  Read on to find out how she conquers the fidgets.

Here's a game for when students need a break from sitting still and you still have content to cover. I start by telling my students to stand behind their chairs and jog in place. Then, when I call out one student's name, everyone must stop and that one student I called on must answer a question related to the content we are working on. For example, I might throw out a math problem or a reading comprehension question. Anything goes.

The student has only seven seconds to answer the question. If he or she answers correctly, that student gets to sit down. If he or she answers incorrectly, everyone must run in place, do jumping jacks, hand circles, or any other physical activity I name. The student that missed the question must remain standing for the next round. This activity is an energizer that encourages students to learn and focus.

From: Really Good Stuff

This Organizational Idea is Nothing to Sneeze At!

Classroom storage is always a hot topic.  Elizabeth, a 1st Grade Teacher in Culpepper, Virginia, has come up with a great solution that is nothing to sneeze at!

"At our school, we request that students each donate a few boxes of tissues for classroom use. Each year, when the tissue boxes began arriving, storage was a problem. But, here's how we solved this problem.

Using hot glue, we stick the tissue boxes to the walls around our classrooms. We place the boxes all around the room and at heights that make it easy for the children to reach. When a box is empty, we pull it off the wall and replace it with a fresh one. Any glue residue that remains behind can be easily removed at year's end."

Great Recession will take toll on schools, report says

More children will live in poverty this year. More will have two parents who are unemployed. Fewer children will enroll in prekindergarten programs, and fewer teenagers will find jobs. More children are likely to commit suicide, be overweight, and be victimized by crime. This is all according to a report released Tuesday by the Foundation for Child Development that measures the impact of the recession on the current generation.

These are the children of the Great Recession, a cohort that will experience a decline in fortunes that erases 30 years of social progress, the report contends. Known as the Child and Youth Well-Being Index, the report predicts that in the next few years, the economy may recover and the unemployment rate may drop, but the generation growing up now could feel the harsh impact of the recession for years to come."These are the lasting impacts of extreme recessions," said Kenneth Land, a professor of sociology and demography at Duke University and the author of the report.

Schools will be hit particularly hard by the aftershocks, Land said. As more families enter the ranks of the poor, more children will arrive at school behind their wealthier peers, yet fewer will have the benefit of high-quality early education to help them catch up. The children who miss out on prekindergarten now will likely have lower reading and math scores in five years, when they enter fourtth grade, the report says. In another decade, they'll be more likely to drop out of high school. Read the free premium access article in Education Week

More US High Schools Opting For Environmentally Friendly Commencement Robes

The Los Angeles Times (6/8, Gordon) reports that "a number of high schools and colleges around California and the nation" are "adopting environmentally friendly graduation garb made from either renewable wood fibers or recycled plastic bottles. The eco-robes being worn at" Animo Venice Charter High School (Venice, CA), "for example, are designed to decompose quickly if graduates decide to discard them. ... Call it social responsibility or savvy marketing, graduation eco-chic was launched this year by several companies and taken up by such California schools as Mills College in Oakland, the University of San Diego, UC Berkeley and Humboldt State."

Pearson To Pay Maryland District $2.25 Million To Develop Elementary Curriculum

The Washington Post (6/9, Birnbaum) reports that the Montgomery County, Maryland public "school system will be paid $2.25 million to develop an elementary school curriculum that an education company will augment and sell around the world. ... Under the terms" of the deal, "Pearson...will acquire the expertise of one of the nation's top school systems and the right to use its name and its top employees as sales tools." The Post notes that according to school officials," money from the deal will allow them to double the dozen people who have been working on the curriculum, speeding its completion and saving money on implementation."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lots of time in the Land of Nod may help kids' literacy skills

Researchers have found that children who had a regular bedtime performed better at languages, reading and math than those who went to bed at different times. Scientists at SRI International, an independent American research institute based in California, found the earlier a child went to bed, the better they performed at school.

The study of 8,000 children who were aged four concluded those who had less than the recommended 11 hours of sleep each night fell behind in their studies. The institute's research, the largest of its kind, is due to be presented on Monday at a sleep conference hosted by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

"Getting parents to set bedtime routines can be an important way to make a significant impact on children's emergent literacy and language skills," said Dr Erika Gaylor, an early childhood policy researcher who led the study. Read more about this in The Telegraph

Supreme Court denies challenge to NCLB

The Supreme Court on Monday turned away a challenge by school districts and teacher unions to the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

The court said without comment that it will not step into a lawsuit that questioned whether public schools have to comply with requirements of the law if the federal government doesn't pay for them.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit and a federal appeals court split 8 to 8, leaving the judge's ruling in place. Read more at

Youngest learners fall behind due to chronic absences

One in ten students in grades K-1 misses a month of school a year, according to Attendance Counts, a new organization formed to combat chronic absences. Absences are often excused for the youngest children, so no one notices until it's too late and the student has fallen behind. Chronic absences can be particularly problematic for low-income students, who are already at risk in school. Attendance Counts founder and director Hedy Chang offers some suggestions for how districts can deal with this problem in an interview with The Hechinger Report's
Sarah Garland. Read the interview and hear Chang's remarks at
The Report's website. 

Elementary Principal To Hold Assemblies Via Skype While Deployed With Navy Reserves

The Oklahoman (6/7, Painter) reports that Carol Perry, "principal at Stonegate Elementary School in northwest Oklahoma City," has been deployed with the Navy reserve twice between 2002 and 2007. Those deployments took her to Kuwait, Iraq, and the UAE. Last October, "Perry learned she would be back in active service, going first to training and then Afghanistan in a joint mission with the Army." Although she won't be at the school next year, "the school district will use Skype video to allow Perry to speak to her students during assemblies on Fridays." Said Perry of her reserve duties. "I've had many experiences other people haven't. ... I can share these with my students. It gives me a sense of pride in my country, and I want my kids to have that sense of pride."

Note: Shouldn't ALL schools be doing stuff like this?

Districts With Four-Day Schedules See Improvements, Drawbacks

The AP (6/6) reported that in "more than 120 school districts across the country...students attend school just four days a week, a cost-saving tactic gaining popularity among cash-strapped districts struggling to make ends meet." Some of these districts "say they've seen students who are less tired and more focused, which has helped raise test scores and attendance." Meanwhile, "others say that not only did they not save a substantial amount of money by being off an extra day, they also saw students struggle because they weren't in class enough and didn't have enough contact with teachers."

Online Curriculum System Helps Enhance Collaboration Among Teachers

The Bakersfield Californian (6/5, Barrientos) reports on the "new Bakersfield City School District (BCSD) online curriculum system called Learning Village." The system, launched this year in BCSD, will cost the district "$500,000 for three years," and "is the first of its kind implemented districtwide in California." It "holds digitized textbooks" and allows educators to "create lesson plans online, from anywhere, and share them with others." In addition, it "allows teachers to connect their lesson plans to SMART boards." The Bakersfield Californian explains how teachers throughout BCSD are utilizing the new system to enhance collaboration among peers and classroom instruction.

Hands On Activities Help Students Learn, Hone Handwriting Skills

The Arizona Republic (6/7, Javier) reports that some Arizona schools "are getting their students to develop proper handwriting skills early using unique techniques to help them succeed later in school." Some techniques include "using Play-Doh to shape letters and learning to form a letter always starting from the top." They "are part of the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum, designed for students in kindergarten through fifth grade." Handwriting Without Tears "incorporates songs and hands-on activities to help children learn how to form and identify letters and to remember the correct way to write them." For instance, students use "straight and curved wood pieces" to "form letters."

Note: I found this really fascinating. In my opinion, cursive isn't as important as it once was. However, learning to correctly print and form letters seems SO paramount. I've noticed that the majority of my students print in a way contrary to how I was taught (they almost never start to form the letter from the top) with varying degrees of success.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Does Testing Hurt Disadvantaged Kids?

Renee Moore thinks so; check out her discussion of "basic skills" and testing and its
impact on students.

Florida school goes high-tech with textbooks

Are textbooks becoming a thing of the past? It appears to be so at one Florida high school, which will be the first in the nation to replace traditional textbooks with e-readers for all 2,100 students. A story by Rebecca Catalanello in the June 2 St. Petersburg Times reports that while schools elsewhere have used e-readers on a per-class basis, Clearwater is the first to attempt a shift of this magnitude.

School officials are currently negotiating with Amazon for the Kindle, a 10-oz. e-reader that can store electronic textbooks, newspapers, magazines, and books in text and audio formats.The device also allows users to get word definitions, bookmark pages, highlight text, type notes they might otherwise scribble in the margins of a hard-bound book, and have limited Internet access. One hundred teachers have already received their Kindles. Read more at

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


The teaching profession is usually thought of a recession-proof, but with many state and local governments in severe financial distress, teachers are facing their worst job market since the Depression. More than 150,000 teachers are expected to lose their jobs over the next year. –The New York Times

IRA responds to release of Common Core standards

Professional development is key to making the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts a success, says the International Reading Association (IRA). Clearly, the standards, which were produced by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA), will have a major impact on language arts instruction at all levels across the United States. However, it is how they are implemented by teachers that will make all the difference. Here are some key points that IRA would like to see focused upon as the implementation process for the standards moves forward.

Professional development: Teachers will need significant professional development in order to put into practice the ideas set forth in the standards. What are the critical elements of this professional development, and how will it be funded?

Assessment: Assessment should reflect the needs of instruction and provide data that will inform instruction in a meaningful way.

Reaching all students: The standards should be implemented in a way that reflects the needs of students representing diverse cultures and backgrounds. "For instance, how will the standards reflect the needs of English-language learners?" asks IRA President Patricia A. Edwards of Michigan State University. "How will the standards position racially, ethnically, and economically diverse students? Will the standards support them or put them at a disadvantage?"

Text complexity: This area needs further discussion and development. Scholars have been conducting research in this area for decades. This is an issue especially important for the states that have already incorporated this body of work into their own standards.

Motivation: Although difficult to measure, student motivation to read is a critical factor that should be further considered as the standards are used to guide the development of instruction to close the achievement gap.

Comprehension: Comprehension instruction needs to be part of the instructional program from the earliest grades. The goal for students in beginning reading instruction and through all grades is to develop a wide array (or comprehensive set) of skills and strategies for word identification, vocabulary learning, and reading comprehension. 

"IRA hopes that the release of the final draft of these standards marks the beginning of an organic process whereby there is an ongoing review and refinement as the standards are put into practice," says Edwards.

To access the standards, visit the Common Core website.

Middle School In Ohio Receives State Honor For Teaching Lifelong Fitness, Overall Health

Newark (OH) Advocate (6/1) reports that Granville Middle School "has won the Buckeye Best Healthy School Award for the 2009-2010 school year from the Ohio Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, part of the Ohio Department of Health." The school's physical education program focuses mainly on fitness "and teaching kids how to stay healthy for a lifetime," said physical education teacher Sue Borchers. For example, students participate in circuit training and weight training, and they learn exercises they can continue to do throughout their lives. The Newark Advocate points out that the Healthy School Award does not come with any prize "other than bragging rights and the knowledge the students are well cared for."

Texas District To Start "Double-Block" Classes For High Schoolers Failing State Math, Science Tests

The Abilene (TX) Reporter-News (6/1, Peters) reports that "As part of a new initiative to close the achievement gap, underclassmen" at "in Abilene and Cooper High schools" who failed to pass state standardized tests in math and science this year "will be getting new schedules this summer placing them in two-hour blocks of one or both of those subjects." The "double block" classes "will be smaller and taught by teachers specially picked -- and paid as much as $20,000 extra -- for their intervention strategies." In order to take these classes, students may "have to give up some electives." The Reporter-News notes that in 2008-09, the Abilene school system's "two high schools were on the verge of earning the state's lowest academic rating," a fewer "than 60 percent of minority students passed math or science." And while official reports of this year's test scores "won't be released until July," school "administrators say improvement already is evident."

Florida High School Plans To Replace Textbooks With E-Readers Next Year

The St. Petersburg Times (6/2, Catalanello) reports that next year, Clearwater High School in Pinellas county, Florida, "will replace traditional textbooks with e-readers." Currently, "school officials are negotiating with Amazon Kindle to try to equip all 2,100 students with the 10-ounce devices this fall." Teachers have already been issued e-readers. "Principal Keith Mastorides said he was inspired to make the switch earlier this school year after campus surveys revealed a desire to integrate more technology with classroom instruction." While some schools nationwide "have used e-readers," most have done so "on a per class basis." According the school district's assistant superintendent for management information systems, John Just, "Kindle officials told the district that no other high school had embarked on" an effort like Clearwater's.