Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reality Television Series Aims To Boost Understanding Among High School Students

The AP (7/27, Rancilio) reported that "If You Really Knew me," a new reality series on MTV, "attempts to help students look past school stereotypes." The show features a different school in each episode and follows students who "go through a program called Challenge Day. They share their experiences with each other in exercises designed to cut down on bullying and gossiping." Student Leiken Poppino said that after Challenge Day, her school "had a 'miraculous change' for about a week."

Employees At Florida School Propose Plan For Teaching Six Out Of Six Periods

Jeff Solochek wrote in the St. Petersburg Times (7/27) "Gradebook" blog that Pasco County, Florida, schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino has "proposed requiring all secondary-level teachers [to] teach six periods of six." School employees this week "put forth an offer to seek volunteer middle and high school teachers to teach all six periods of the day." The offer would give "those who teach an extra period of a course they already teach would get 15 percent of their salary. Those who have to prepare a new course would make 20 percent more." Pasco schools' director of employee relations, Kevin Shibley, said that he "would likely make a counter proposal."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Workshop Teaches How To Make Lessons Interactive

WBIR-TV Knoxville, Tennessee (7/27) reports that teachers in West Knox County, Tennessee this week are attending a series of "grade specific" workshops that are "part of Knox County Schools strategic plan to give teachers the tools for highly effective instruction." At the workshops teachers are learning "ways to incorporate interactive learning into their own lesson plans." One experiment showed "teachers how to use the oil spill to create a hands-on learning opportunity for their students." It began "with a demonstration: oil, water, and a bonding agent. Let it settle for a few minutes then just peel the oil off the top." Presenter Andrea Allen said that students will automatically wonder why the same technique is not applied to the Gulf oil spill. She explained how teachers could guild the students to think through the kinds of problems the technique could cause in the real-life situation.

Monday, July 26, 2010

School Districts Work To Balance Use Of Computers For Testing, Instruction

The Oregonian (7/24, Owen) reported that "mandatory computerized state testing" and federal requirement that "students to be 'technologically literate' by the end of eighth grade" has created a dilemma "for schools as educators try to teach" technology "but find computer labs consumed for days or weeks at a time throughout the year for state testing." Carla Wade of the Oregon Department of Education said that "ten years ago, Oregon received about $6 million in federal funding for technology, but it has declined every year since." Some districts "are trying out smaller, less expensive laptops" and asking students to bring their own laptops to school to use. Others concerned about "the liability issue of broken or lost equipment" will consider whether "computer use for assessment tests should continue to trump technology education."

Friday, July 23, 2010

President Obama Responds To Fifth-Grader's Letter Detailing Bullying

KGO-TV San Francisco (7/20) reported on its Website, "A Philadelphia fifth-grader took her fight against bullying all the way to the White House and President Obama listened. In January, 11-year-old Ziainey Stokes wrote a letter to the president explaining how she had been getting bullied at her former school nearly every day." President Obama responded to Stokes via a letter which arrived in March, thanking Stokes "for sharing her story" and encouraging "her to speak with her teachers about being bullied."


WTFX-TV Philadelphia (7/20) reported on its Web site that Stokes "says she started being bulled in the third-grade, when she was called names by classmates at the Belmont Academy Charter School." Stokes "later transferred schools" and Stokes is now "on a mission to end bullying and wants an organization to help others find voice and urge adults to pay attention."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Report Says Common Core Alone Not Likely To Improve Quality Of Education

The Grand Rapids Press (7/22, Murray) reports that a new report from the Michigan Education Association's research arm, the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice , "pokes holes in the theory that national standards will...boost academic achievement." William Mathis, "managing director of the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder," wrote in the report that if "both the in-school and out-of-school influences on test scores" are addressed, "common core standards are not likely to improve the quality and equity of America's public schools." While he "recommends that work in the standards continues," he suggests that they be used "only as a low-stakes advisory and assistance tool for states and local districts for the purposes of curriculum improvement, articulation and professional development."


Valerie Strauss wrote in a blog for the Washington Post (7/21) regarding whether "the proposed national math and English-language standards are 'clearly superior' to those standards in most of the states." The report authored by William J. Mathis, "released on the same day as the Fordham assessment of state standards, gives this answer: Not really." Strauss pointed out, however, that the "Obama administration clearly wants states to adopt common standards" and any "state wanting Race money would be silly not to join" the common standards initiative, "and so most of them are -- whether they have any impact or not."

Fordham Institute Releases Comparison Of Common Core, State Education Standards

CNN (7/22, Holland) reports that "so far 26 states have signed on to the national Common Core Standards." Mike Petrilli, Vice President of the Fordham Institute, a think tank, said that the Common Core standards "have avoided the debate about the federal government pushing standards on the rest of the country" because they "are part of a state-led effort." On Wednesday, the Forham Institute "released results of its study comparing the standards-of-learning of all 50 states and the District of Columbia with the Common Core Standards that have been proposed for the whole country." California, DC, and Indiana "received the highest marks in English language arts with more stringent standards than the national recommendations," but "in mathematics, there were no states that had standards that were clearly better than the Common Core Standards." The Dallas Morning News "Education Front" blog (7/21) and the San Francisco Chronicle (7/21, Tucker) also covered the story.


Virginia BOE President Says Virginia Is "Wise" Not To Adopt Common Core. In a letter to the Editor of the Washington Post (7/21), Eleanor Saslaw, president of the Virginia Board of Education, wrote, "regarding Kristen Amundson's July 11 Local Opinions piece, 'National education standards: The right answer for Virginia,'" that "in taking Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and the Virginia Board of Education to task for not adopting the Common Core national education standards, Ms. Amundson ignored recent actions to strengthen Virginia's Standards of Learning (SOL)." Saslaw notes the merits of the system. "Given the uncertainties surrounding the Common Core," she concludes, "Virginia is wisely moving forward with an accountability program that has made the commonwealth's public schools among the highest-achieving in the nation."

Report Says Spending In California Classrooms Dropped As Overall K-12 Funding Rose

The AP (7/22, Thompson) reports that a report released Wednesday by Pepperdine University shows that "spending in California classrooms declined as a percentage of total education spending over a recent five-year period, even as total school funding increased." Overall "K-12 spending increased...from $45.6 billion to $55.6 billion statewide" in the five-year period ending June 30, 2009. This was "before budget cuts led to nearly 16,000 teachers losing their jobs for the 2009-10 school year." The study found that school "administrators, clerks and technical staff" received "more of the funding increase," while less of the money went toward teachers, aides, and classroom materials.

Massachusetts Restricts Virtual School Enrollment

The AP (7/22) reports that the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education "voted Wednesday to cap enrollment for online schools at 500 students and require that 25 percent of those students live in the district operating the school."


Tom Vander Ark of writes in The Huffington Post (7/22) that the nation is facing "two very difficult challenges simultaneously--high standards and a fiscal crisis." Noting the decision made by Massachusetts education officials restricting virtual school enrollment, he asserts that "protecting old ways of doing business is exactly the wrong thing to do." Instead, "States should be encouraging innovation and investment particularly in areas likely to reach disengaged students." According to Vander Ark, "anyone can learn anything, anytime, anywhere -- except where bureaucrats get in the way." Nevertheless, he says, online learning, "whether at school or at home, is an unstoppable force."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

California School Funding System Unconstitutional, Lawsuit Alleges

The Oakland (CA) Tribune (7/13, Murphy) reports, "California's substandard school system is depriving students of the opportunity to receive a meaningful education and to meet the standards the state has set for them, a coalition of parents, students and civil rights advocacy groups argued in a lawsuit filed Monday in Alameda Superior Court against the state and the governor. The plaintiffs argue that education is a fundamental right under California's constitution, and far too many students are failing to read and write at grade level or graduate from high school." The Tribune adds, "To remedy the problem, the coalition is demanding equal access to preschools, increased school funding, better data systems and an efficient, coherent school finance system that provides more resources to children with greater need."


The AP (7/13, Chea) reports, "Groups representing low-income families sued the state of California Monday in the second major legal action alleging the government is failing to adequately fund public education. ... The plaintiffs, including the Campaign for Quality Education and Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment, asked the court to declare the current school finance system unconstitutional and force Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [R] and the Legislature to create a new system that adequately funds public schools." Schwarzenegger "said he hopes he can work with the plaintiffs to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that puts the needs of students first." Lesli Maxwell also covered the story in a blog for Education Week (7/12).

Federal Food Service Program Underutilized

McClatchy (7/18, Pugh) reported, "Educators have long cautioned that students can lose much of what they learn in school during the three-month summer vacation" yet the "summer months can also mean an unhealthy vacation from good nutrition." According to McClatchy, "The Summer Food Service Program of the US Department of Agriculture was launched in 1968 to address these problems by providing healthy meals from June to August so students in low-income areas are ready to learn when school begins in the fall. However, the program, which reimburses sponsors for providing breakfast, lunch and snacks in impoverished neighborhoods, isn't reaching nearly as many youngsters as it could" as "only one in six eligible students...participated in a summer meal program in July 2009, according to the Food Research and Action Center."

Training Program Brings California Teachers To East Coast To Tour Historical Sites

California's Imperial Valley Press (7/18, Flores) reported that a group of teachers from Imperial County, California recently toured historic landmarks on the East Coast "on the Imperial Teaching American History (ITAH) Civil War Battlefields Tour 2010 this month. The weeklong trip, which was paid for by federal funds from a bill sponsored by late Sen. Robert Byrd (D) of West Virginia, was sponsored by the Imperial County Office of Education as professional development." The tour culminated "a year of intensive study and other development training" that included "a six-day summer institute, three days of Saturday technology training, and three afternoons of book seminars." In addition, the "teachers read important Civil War literature, designed curriculum and wrote lesson plans," said Michele Soria, the history-social science school support coordinator for ITAH.

Teachers In Virginia Take On Internships Increase Classroom Skills

The Washington Post (7/19, Gibson) reports on teachers who are working in different jobs this summer "as part of the George Washington University Teachers in Industry Project -- a program that has paired 16 middle and high school teachers from Loudoun public schools with seven prominent local businesses for three-week, full-time internships this summer." Their goal is to back up their teaching skills in STEM classes with "real-world experience." The teachers are working in "emergency medicine, airport management" as well as a vineyard. The Post notes, "The idea emerged from a group of 40 Loudoun business and education leaders who were convened by the Loudoun Economic Development Commission in 2008 to address the issue of impending workforce shortages resulting from the retirement of baby boomers, and how best to prepare students for the 21st-century workforce."

Illinois Cancels Most Writing Tests

The Chicago Tribune (7/18, Rado) reports, "For the second time in less than a decade, Illinois is eliminating the state writing exam for elementary and junior high students, provoking concerns that writing instruction will taper off and fewer students will master the critical skill." Officials say that "canceling the writing test this year will save $3.5 million at a time when cuts are being forced in a variety of education programs." The Tribune noted that "a writing exam is not required under federal education law that focuses on testing students in reading and math." Illinois will keep "the 11th grade writing test...because some universities require a writing exam of applicants."

Some California Districts Shortening School Year To Cut Back On Spending

The San Francisco Chronicle (7/19, Freedburg) reported that "many California districts are...shortening their school year amid a sustained and draining budget crisis." A survey by California Watch shows that 16 "of the state's 30 largest school districts...are reducing the number of days in the academic year" by up to five days. In addition to furlough days, "many districts also will eliminate" teacher work days reserved for "class preparation, staff training, or parent conferences." School districts expect large savings with the reductions. For instance, "in Los Angeles...cutting the year to 175 days will save $145 million." And, in the smaller Freemont district, officials "will save $5.8 million by reducing the school year by three days."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Silly Stunts" Help Motivate Students, Educators Say

The AP (7/13) reported that each year, "school administrators...make local headlines for silly stunts intended to motivate students." They "do everything from spending the day on the roof to kissing pigs to taking pies in the face to reward students for a job well done." Diane Cargile, president of the NAESP, "The antics really help 'motivate and encourage'" students. Barbara Sistrunk, "an assistant principal who jumped out of a plane when the Parent Teacher Association at Greenland Pines Elementary School in Jacksonville, Florida, met their parent participation goals," such "over-the-top acts underscore a principal's commitment to the school" and they "grab students' attention." For instance, "after Sistrunk's sky dive," a student at Greenland Pines "decided to do her science project on what type of fabric makes the best parachute."

Drug Testing Reduces Students' Drug Use, Federal Study Finds.

Education Week (7/13, Samuels) reported, "Students involved in extracurricular activities and subject to in-school random drug testing reported less substance use than their peers in high schools that didn't have drug-testing programs, according a federal evaluation of 4,700 students spread across seven states. The study was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, a branch of" the Education Department, "and conducted by RMC Research Corporation in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. and the Princeton, New Jersey-based Mathematica Policy Research." Education Week added that according to the report 16 percent "of students subject to drug testing in the study reported using substances covered by their district's testing program in the past 30 days, compared to 22 percent of comparable students in schools without the program."

Many Eligible Students Do Not Participate In Federal School Meal Summer Program

Miami Herald (7/13, Pugh) reported that "for the 19 million students" nationwide "who get free and reduced-cost government-subsidized meals at school, the summer months can also mean an unhealthy vacation from good nutrition." In 1968, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Summer Food Service Program "was launched in 1968 to address these problems by providing healthy meals from June to August so students in low-income areas are ready to learn when school begins in the fall." But today, that program "isn't reaching nearly as many youngsters as it could." According to data from the Food Research and Action Center, "only one in six eligible students...participated in a summer meal program in July 2009," about a 21 percent drop from 2001.

US Expected To Fall Short In Computer Science Education

Education Week (7/14, Robelen) reports, "National statistics indicate that computing will be one of the fastest-growing areas for employment in coming years, but experts say the US educational pipeline is expected to fall far short in producing college graduates in the field." Also, "representation of female and minority students among those studying computer science in high school and college is seen as especially low." Experts say the confusion of computer science with computer literacy is "a major hurdle." In order "to help address the apparent disconnect between supply and demand, efforts are building to increase access at the pre-collegiate level to high-quality instruction in computer science, a cross-cutting subject that includes elements of math, science, and other disciplines." Among these efforts are "a new AP course in computer science that is intended to appeal to a broader and more diverse audience than the existing course," and initiatives from companies such as Google and Microsoft.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Research Links Bullying With Lack Of Problem-Solving Skills

USA Today (7/9, Jayson) reports, "Children and teens who have poor problem-solving skills are more at risk of becoming bullies, victims or both than peers who don't have such difficulties, according to a new review of studies conducted over the past 30 years. And those with academic problems are even more likely to become bullies, says the research, in the June issue of the journal School Psychology Quarterly." According to USA Today, "Researchers from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and the University of California at Riverside looked at 153 studies," finding that one "who both bullies and is bullied also has negative attitudes and beliefs, trouble with social interaction and poor problem-solving skills and academic performance."

House Bill Proposes Overhaul Of Federal School Lunch Program

Education Week (7/8, Samuels) reported, "More children would be enrolled in the federal free school lunch program and schools would be reimbursed a higher amount for those lunches" under the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act of 2010. The legislation introduced in the US House last month "would allow schools in high-poverty areas a new option called 'community eligibility,' which permits free meals to all students without collecting paper applications." It also "would, for the first time, establish mandatory national nutrition standards for foods sold outside of the cafeteria, such as in vending machines, and would expand direct certification for school meals for foster children and children who are eligible for Medicaid." The Bay City (MI) Times (7/9, Dodson) adds that "currently, free lunch programs are currently receive $2.68 per meal," an amount that "is adjusted yearly for inflation." But, "under the proposed bill, that rate would increase by 6-cents."

New Hampshire To Require Teacher Training On How To Handle Bullying

WMUR-TV Manchester, New Hampshire (7/9) reports that a new state law will require that teachers in New Hampshire receive training on "how to spot bullying situations." In addition, all school districts "must now write a policy on how to deal with bullying and how teachers and the school can protect accusers." According to Kathleen Murphy, "who helped write parts of the bullying law," it "contains better definitions of what constitutes bullying and added cyber-bullying." For instance, "unlike before, just a single incident, instead of a series of events, can now be considered bullying." The law also "covers some home activities, such as online activity or texting," and can "include what happens at a bus stop."