Thursday, September 30, 2010

Another Great Blog

I've recently discovered Mathew Needleman's blog, Creating Lifelong Learners. It is a great resource for teachers of most any content with a particular emphasis on using technology in the classroom.

Click here for the blog's homepage.

I found this post to be really great. Although it was probably intended to be read at the very beginning of the school year, it is definitely worth reading at any time of the year. The blog also provides links to some other great blogs.

Libraries Going High-Tech To Meet Demands Of Tech-Savvy Patrons

The AP (9/30, Nuss) reports, "Libraries are tweeting, texting and launching smart-phone apps as they try to keep up with" increasingly tech savvy patrons and "they seem to be pulling it off. ... The latest national data from the Institute of Museum and Library Services show that library visits and circulation climbed nearly 20 percent from 1999 to 2008. Since then, experts say, technology has continued to drive in-person visits, circulation and usage."'

New Program Allows Principals In Nevada District To Use iPads To Evaluate Teachers

The Reno (NV) Gazette-Journal (9/30, Perea) reports, "If you walk down the hallway or into a classroom of a Lyon County School, you're liable to encounter the principal with an Apple iPad in his hand," which, as a part of a new district program, "allows principals to evaluate teachers and give them immediate feedback on what he observed while visiting their classrooms." According to the Gazette-Journal, "Lyon County School District policy requires principals to spend at least an hour a day in classrooms to observe and evaluate teachers, and according to Scott Lommori, the District's Director of Testing & Educational Technology, the new iPad program allows them to fill out the evaluation form and upload information immediately, giving the teacher immediate feedback into what they are doing right or wrong."

Middle School Students Develop Nutrition, Exercise Curriculum For Elementary Students

The Quay County (NM) Sun (9/30, Anglin) reports eighth grade students in Tucumcari are developing exercise and nutrition curriculum to present to third grade students. The effort is organized through the New Mexico University Cooperate Extension Service's Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition (ICAN) program. ICAN educator Alice "Johnson said she often hears from parents who notice a change in their child's awareness of food" after students complete the program.

Virginia Launches Pilot Replacing Textbooks With iPads

Virginia's Daily Press (9/30, Shalash) reports that students in two classes at Menchville High and An Achievable Dream High schools in Newport News, Virginia, will use "iPads loaded with a digital curriculum created by Pearson," instead of textbooks. The switch is part of a statewide "pilot program launched" on Wednesday called "Beyond Textbooks." With the iPads, "students will be able to customize lesson text by writing in the margins, bookmarking and highlighting in the digital books." In the coming weeks, "teachers will be trained how to use the devices...and students will begin using the content in late October through mid-November." The 40 digital devices worth $499 each "were paid for through a grant from Gov. Bob McDonnell's Productivity Investment Fund," the Daily Press adds.

Oklahoma City Schools Superintendent Seeks To Shorten Summer Break

KFOR-TV Oklahoma City (9/30, Carter) reports that Oklahoma city Superintendent Karl Springer this week said that he wants to see the school year extended. "It makes no sense to me to have 12 weeks off in the summer," said Carter. Instead, he proposed a 6-7 week-long summer break, with "more time off throughout the year." But, according to Dr. Bill Pink, an education expert at the University of Central Oklahoma, "extending the school year could cost the district more money." Pink, who favors a longer school year, also said that "teachers would need more training so the extra time is more productive."

George W. Bush Institute Launches Initiative To Recruit, Train Principals

The AP (9/30) reports that on Wednesday, former first lady Laura Bush announced the George W. Bush Institute's first initiative focused on improving "the performance of school principals." The institute is establishing the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL), which "will consist of school districts, universities and foundations offering educational programs to current and future school leaders," with the goal of certifying "at least half the nation's public school principals by 2020." Already, "organizations in six cities are participating."


 Education Week (9/29, Aarons) reports that the initiative "also looks to broaden the talent pool for the profession by tapping into organizations such as Teach for America and New Leaders for New Schools to recruit a different set of school leaders." Roughly 200 "aspiring principals will take part in the programs" in the first year, "with plans to build up from there, said James W. Guthrie, a senior fellow and director of education policy studies for the institute."


The Dallas Morning News (9/30, Stahl) reports that the Dallas Independent School District is participating in AREL. A "spokesman said that the district is particularly hopeful the Bush initiative will develop job candidates for local secondary schools." The Dallas morning News adds that Bush and Dallas schools Superintendent Michael Hinojosa "stressed that the new effort should not be interpreted as a threat to educators who want to become principals through traditional channels. But they said they will actively search for job candidates with business, military and sports backgrounds."


McClatchy (9/29, Ayala) reported that "the models used in the alliance will vary across the nation but must include certain elements, such as mentoring. Guthrie said school districts also will be encouraged to give more authority to principals so they can truly be leaders."

"Irresistible Forces" Driving Change In Public Schools, Bush Institute Official Says. James W. Guthrie, the director of education policy studies at the George W. Bush Institute, writes in the Christian Science Monitor (9/29), "The recently released documentary, 'Waiting For Superman,' paints a discouraging future for America's schools" and "suggests that only a 'superman' can bring about public-school change." But Guthrie asserts that "superman has already a set of irresistible forces that is driving education reform as never before." He lists the "forces" as "a growing understanding of what works...increasing public pressure, and" the need to make "hard choices in the face of fiscal crisis." Guthrie provides insight into how each of the forces are driving education reform in America and concludes, "I have never seen such a favorable alignment of forces on reform's side. ... The results will be good for students, good for teachers, and very good indeed for America."

"Small is better" rule proven wrong

Brockton High School is made up of 4,100 students and is the largest public high school in Massachusetts. Only about a decade ago the motto of this school was "students have a right to fail if they want." Only a quarter of students passed state exam and one in three students dropped out.

This all changed when Susan Szachowicz and a few other teachers decided to alter the school curriculum. They approached the administration and got permission to launch a new campaign that involved incorporating reading and writing into every class, including gym.

Brockton soon made a huge turnaround and became the exception to the widely accepted idea that smaller schools are better. In 2001, more students passed state tests after failing the year before than any other school in Massachusetts. Brockton also outperformed 90 percent of Massachusetts schools both this year and last year. To read the full article by Sam Dillon, visit The New York Times online.

Survey: Parents worry kids' online reading affects time reading books

In the 2010 Kids and Family Reading Report, a national survey released September 29, researchers found that from age 6 – 17, the time kids spend reading books for fun declines while the time kids spend going online for fun and using a cell phone to text or talk increases. Parents express concern that the use of electronic and digital devices negatively affects the time kids spend reading books (41%), doing physical activities (40%), and engaging with family (33%).

The study was conducted by Scholastic, a publishing, education, and media company, and Harrison Group, a marketing and strategic research consulting firm. A few additional findings from the survey:

  • 28% of kids (ages 9-17) think that looking through postings or comments on social networking sites like Facebook counts as reading; only 15% of parents agree.
  • 25% of kids (ages 6-17) have read a book on a digital device (the majority on a computer or laptop/netbook).
  • 86% of kids feel proud and have a sense of accomplishment when they finish reading a book.
  • Only 50% of kids say reading books for fun is extremely or very important; compared to 89% of parents.
  • 71% of parents wish their child would read more books for fun. 75% of children (ages 9-17) say they know they should read more.

    The full 2010 The Kids & Family Reading Report is available online.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New curriculum resource spotlights series books and their authors, a K-12 online database that infuses multimedia about books and authors into reading, has just launched a new, free online Series Books Curriculum Resource Center about series books and their authors. Visitors can hear audio clips of authors discussing how they came to write their series books, access resources to enrich conversations about series books, and find resources for nonfiction series books as well.

Nearly 50 series are spotlighted, including such favorites as American Girl, Goosebumps, Magic Tree House, Matt Christopher Sports, Time Warp Trio, and Seymour Simon Science. For further information, visit this page on the website.

Print books now include digital enhancements

Tony DiTerlizzi's The Search for WondLa, a fantasy trilogy for kids starring a 12-year-old girl raised by a robot on an alien planet,
includes three symbols that link to digital maps of the girl's quest for other humans. Readers with a webcam can see 3-D interactive maps of the girl's search. Readers without a webcam, but who have access to the Internet can link to a regular map and a video. Other "digitally enhanced" books include Jessica Watson's True Spirit: The True Story of a 16-Year-Old Australian Who Sailed Solo, Nonstop, and Unassisted Around the World. Read the full 
article by Bob Minzesheimer at USA Today online.

Laura Bush Expected To Unveil Public School Reform Program.

The Dallas Morning News (9/29, Stahl) reports, "Former first lady Laura Bush is expected to unveil a public school reform program today that will be the first large-scale policy initiative of the George W. Bush Institute at" Southern Methodist University. According to the Morning News, "The plan involves a new collaboration of educators, nonprofits and businesses aimed at improving the performance of public school students by altering the role of principals. ... The idea is to develop a fast track into schools for experienced or promising leaders who don't necessarily have training as educators – such as retired military personnel."

Students Praise Actor's First Year As Teacher

The AP (9/29, Matheson) reports, "When former sitcom star Tony Danza began teaching English at a Philadelphia high school, no one really knew what to expect. Not even Tony Danza." Danza taught one 90-minute class at Northeast High School last year, where he dealt "with cheating and violence," met "with parents of obstinate students, and" tried "to balance discipline with empathy -- all while teaching 'Of Mice and Men' and other books to teens with varying academic abilities." In addition, he "helped coach Northeast's football team, organized a student variety show, sang the national anthem at a Phillies game, and participated in a citywide clean-up and a poetry slam." Danza's students have "largely praised him, citing everything from his his caring attitude and positive outlook on life," the AP adds.

Obama's Call For Longer School Year Faces Daunting Budget Realities

The AP (9/29, Matthews) reports, "President Barack Obama's call for a longer school day and year for America's kids echoes a similar call he made a year ago to little effect, illustrating just how deeply entrenched the traditional school calendar is and how little power the federal government has to change it. Education reformers have long called for US kids to log more time in the classroom so they can catch up with their peers elsewhere in the world," yet extending the school year "could cost cash-strapped state governments and local school districts billions of dollars, strip teachers of a time-honored perk of their profession, and irk officials in states that already bridle at federal intrusion into their traditional control over education."


The Denver Post (9/28, Meyer) reported, "President Barack Obama on Monday called for longer school years and longer school days, a concept education reformers have pushed for decades only to be rebuffed because of a lack of funding. ... In Colorado, where rural schools are already moving to four-day school weeks to save money, and future big education cuts are a certainty, the notion of paying more for a longer school year or day is a tough sell." According to the Post, Deborah Fallin, spokeswoman for the Colorado Education Association, is quoted saying despite the calls for an extended school day, the question is "are people willing to raise taxes" to implement longer school days.


Strauss: Sidwell Eschews Obama Administration Emphasis On Standardized Tests. Valerie Strauss wrote in a blog for the Washington Post (9/28), "There is some irony behind President Obama's comment that his daughters could not get as fine an academic experience in a D.C. public school as they do at private Sidwell Friends School: His education policies promote some practices that Sidwell wouldn't dream of adopting." According to Strauss, "At Sidwell, a Quaker school, teachers don't spend days drilling kids to pass standardized tests, and they aren't evaluated by student test scores. .. The irony is that Obama's own education policies give standardized testing a central place in public education, though he chose a school for his children that wouldn't see that as a sound way to run an academic program."

District May Ban Negative School-Related Comments By Teachers On Social Media Sites

WFTS-TV Tampa (9/28) reported that the Manatee school board "is considering new rules that would ban teachers from posting negative comments or photos about the district on social networking sites like Facebook." WFTS added that "the issue arose after a middle school teacher posted that he hated his students and job on Facebook."


Florida's Herald Tribune (9/28, O'Donnell) reported that "on Friday, leaders of the Manatee Education Association joined critics warning school officials that the rules are too restrictive." Opponents of the plan say that "limiting teachers' use of social networking websites...could be unconstitutional." Said MEA business official Bruce Proud, "We have concerns about teachers' privacy and rights to free speech. ... The policy language seems to restrict employees' ability to speak publicly."

Some Districts Use Software Instead Of Teachers For Foreign Language Instruction

Meredith Orban wrote in a blog for FOX News (9/28) that Randolph, New Jersey "is one of several districts in the state cutting elementary foreign language teachers due to budget cuts." Though using Rosetta Stone software has allowed the district to save on language instructor personnel costs, not "everyone agrees though that a computer program is a suitable alternative to a living, breathing teacher. Brett Lovejoy, Executive Director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign languages points out that language learning is a 'highly intensive interactive process' and says the presence of a live teacher is very important."

Some Rural Districts Seeking To Hire More Home-Grown Teachers

The AP (9/29, Zagier) reports, "Faced with chronic teacher shortages and unable to compete with the higher salaries and greater social opportunities found in big cities and suburban districts, a growing number of rural school systems are turning to familiar faces to teach their students. They know teachers with rural backgrounds are more likely to stick around and not leave after a year or two." According to the AP, rural districts can count on teachers with rural backgrounds to be "more in touch with their students' home lives, whether their parents are Indiana farmers, Mississippi factory workers or Northern California grape pickers."

Students Report Food Allergy-Related Bullying In Survey

Jeannine Stein wrote in the Los Angeles Times (9/28) "Booster Shots" blog that a new study published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found "that about one-quarter of" the 353 children with food allergies "surveyed said they were bullied because of their food allergies." And, "among those who had been bullied, about 44% said that the food they were allergic to had been waved in their face." Still, "none of the participants reported having an allergic reaction as a result of being bullied." While most of the students said "the bullies were classmates...about 18 participants said a teacher or other school staff member had done the teasing."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Persuasive Writing - For and Against

Persuasive writing is used to consider both pros and the cons. It's a great way to practice your English writing skills and get you ready for writing more extensive essays. This persuasive writing lesson provides an example, tips for persuasive writing, and helpful language and phrases, and exercises to get you started.

**From Ken's blog

Teacher Uses Google Apps To Create Collaborative Classroom

KUSA-TV Denver (9/28, Garcia) reports that Everitt Middle School technology teacher Alison Saylor 'is using Google Apps for Education to create a virtual domain for her students." The platform lets students "use word processors, spread sheets, and graphic tools to create projects which are done entirely online." According to Saylor, one of the best features "is the feedback. Students can go online, view another student's project and offer comments right there on the web page." This, Saylor said, "creates an environment of complete classroom collaboration." Said Saylor, "They do care more about what their peers think than what I think. ... But they need to know to go out and be good workers, how to collaborate with other people. You don't go to work in isolation." KUSA noted that Google Apps for Education "is free and it contains no ads."


Denver Public Schools To Expand Suicide Curriculum To Sixth, Ninth Grades By 2015. KDVR-TV Denver (9/27, Jose) reported that sixth and ninth graders in Denver Public schools "will be required to take the 'Signs of Suicide' curriculum" in 2015. Currently, "the program is offered in 18 Denver public schools," but officials plan "to expand it" to all Denver schools in five years. KDVR notes that the curriculum was launched in response to statistics that show "suicide is the second leading killer of high school students in Colorado."

President Obama Advocates Teacher Training, Longer School Year

The Los Angeles Times (9/28, Nichols) reports that on Monday, President Obama said in an interview on NBC's "Today Show" that "incompetent teachers must be identified and weeded out." Said the President, "We've got to be able to identify teachers who are doing well [and] teachers who are not doing well. We've got to give them the support and the training to do well." He added, "And, ultimately, if some teachers aren't doing a good job, they've got to go." The Times also noted that "Obama's view of unions" is positive, yet "tempered." Obama is quoted as saying, "I'm a strong supporter of the notion that a union can protect its members and help be part of the solution, as opposed to part of the problem." But, he added, "What is also true is that sometimes that means they are resistant to change when things aren't working."


The AP (9/28) reports that President Obama "issued a tough-love message to students and teachers on Monday: Their year in the classroom should be longer, and poorly performing teachers should get out." Currently, most schools throughout the nation offer about "180 instruction days per year." In comparison, nations with the highest student achievement offer "an average of 197 days for lower grades and 196 days for upper grades." Said Obama, "That month makes a difference. ... It means that kids are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer."


Newsweek (9/27, Wingert) reported that Obama acknowledged that "one of the big barriers to extending the school year is money, because it costs more in terms of salaries and overhead, but added that he thought it would be 'money well spent.'" The Wall Street Journal (9/28, Favole) also covers the story.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Book controversy erupts in Missouri

As Banned Books Week (September 25-October 1) begins, the town of Springfield, Missouri, is embroiled in a controversy involving several books including Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. To learn more, read a Voice of the Day column in the Springfield News-Leader by Wesley Scroggins, a professor at Missouri State University, and a response from Anderson. Both columns generated lively online discussions.

Media turn the spotlight on education reform

The state of education in the U.S. will be the subject of intense focus during the next several days beginning on Friday, September 24, with the official opening of the documentary film "Waiting for Superman" in selected cities throughout the country. The movie has generated weeks of buzz, much of it controversial, and publicity from such notables as Oprah Winfrey, who featured the film on her show earlier this week and Time Magazine, which carries it on the cover of the September 20 issue. Read the New York Magazine review of the film that Reading Today Daily ran earlier this month.

The conversation continues Sunday, September 26… A "Teacher Town Hall" will be hosted on Sunday at noon (EDT), a precursor to Education Nation, NBC-TV's two-day education special that will take place early next week. During the Town Hall, educators can log in from across the country and weigh in on the big issues regarding education in America. The event will air on MSNBC and stream at,,, and Find out how to participate and register for the event at the Education Nation website.

Summit addresses education challenges...The two-day Education Nation Summit, which kicks off Monday at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, will bring together policymakers, educators, members of the business community, and engaged citizens for a series of panel sessions on the challenges of America's education system, the success stories, and the solutions. Also on Monday, the Today Show will feature a half-hour, one-on-one interview between host Matt Lauer and President Obama about education issues. Teachers are invited to submit questions to the president here.  

New curriculum resource spotlights series books and their authors, a K-12 online database that infuses multimedia about books and authors into reading, has just launched a new, free online Series Books Curriculum Resource Center about series books and their authors. Visitors can hear audio clips of authors discussing how they came to write their series books, access resources to enrich conversations about series books, and find resources for nonfiction series books as well.

Nearly 50 series are spotlighted, including such favorites as American Girl, Goosebumps, Magic Tree House, Matt Christopher Sports, Time Warp Trio, and Seymour Simon Science. For further information, visit this page on the website.

Obama speaks out on education reform

In an interview with Matt Lauer today on MSNBC, President Barack Obama discusses education issues, including the effect of education on the economy, education reform, money, standards, teachers, Race to the Top and even length of school year. See the entire interview at

New Technology Pushes Evolution In Online Learning

In an article headlined "Online education evolves as advances in techology make major impact," the Washington Post (9/27, Overly) reports that according to Ron Packard, CEO of online education company K12, "the evolution of Web technologies such as streaming video, social networking and interactive gaming have made for a more collaborative and classroom-like experience online." This type of view is spreading. Blackboard, for example, "has begun to explore ways to build upon, and monetize, technology that makes interactions via the Web more human." The company recently "spent $116 million in July to acquire Wimba and Ellmuniate, two companies that apply synchronous learning technologies such as online audio, video and digital whiteboards to distance-learning classes." However, "some experts have questioned whether the technology is mature enough to be effective."

Texas Schools Turning To Bus Ads Amid Budget Shortfalls

The Dallas Morning News (9/27, Weiss) reports, "These days, with every district counting every penny, getting free cash from ads on buses is suddenly popular. Dallas County Schools, the bus agency, has sold eight school districts on the idea." According to the Morning News, "Only 60 of about 1,000 large buses in the Dallas County Schools fleet have ads. But the bus agency hopes that number will grow dramatically over the next couple of years, bringing in $1.1 million that will be split with the participating school districts."

Homeless Students Hit Hard By School Closures, Studies Find

Education Week (9/24, Sparks) reported, "Nationwide, the push to shutter low-performing or financially unsustainable schools is starting to conflict with the even sharper rise in homeless students, some research is beginning to suggest. The latest of those studies, released last week by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness in New York City, zeroes in on New York City" schools, finding that school "closings often disproportionately affected schools attended by homeless students and that those students, arguably among the system's most vulnerable, received little support for making the transition to a new school." Also, according to Education Week, "The report also found homeless students transferring from a school were at greater risk of ending up in another low-performing school."

Television Show Is Inspiration For Baltimore School's Fashion Class

The Baltimore Sun (9/25, Burris) reports that sixth-graders at Severna Park (MD) Middle School are "participating in Project Runway, an interdisciplinary class that borrows its name from the designer fashion series on Lifetime. Most of the students say they've watched the show, and they relish taking part in Anne Arundel County public schools' version, which allows them to learn firsthand about the fashion industry." According to the Sun, "The course is in part a revamped version of traditional sewing programs with an interdisciplinary approach that covers practically every area of the garment industry."

Friday, September 24, 2010

October declared as National Principals Month

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) has declared October 2010 as National Principals Month to recognize the essential role that principals play in preparing today's students for the challenges of tomorrow. NASSP will kick off the month-long celebration with a gala honoring the 2011 MetLife/NASSP National High School and Middle Level Principals of the Year and the 2010 state principals of the year.

In tandem with NASSP's declaration, the U.S. Senate has approved S. Res. 607, a resolution introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-SD) that honors principals for their contributions to student success and marks the month of October 2010 as National Principals Month. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to consider a similar resolution, introduced by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA).

The 2011 MetLife/NASSP National High School and Middle Level Principals of the Year and the 2010 state principals of the year will visit Capitol Hill September 30 to discuss education policy with their federal elected officials. The following night, October 1, NASSP will honor these principals at an annual black-tie gala in Arlington, Virginia.

For ideas to recognize your principal during National Principals Month, visit

Research review supports value of access to print materials

A major new meta-analysis showing the positive effect of access to print materials on education-related outcomes was released on September 21 in Washington, DC. The analysis, prepared by Learning Point Associates (an affiliate of American Institutes for Research) and commissioned by Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), uncovered more than 11,000 related reports. After rigorous screening to determine inclusion in the full meta-analytic review, the final study included 108 reports of the most exacting data and topical relevance.

Meta-analysis of the 44 studies determined to be the most thorough and carefully conducted among the 108 examined in the review found that access to print materials has the following benefits: 1) Improves children's reading performance, 2) Is instrumental in helping children learn the basics of reading, 3) Causes children to read more and for longer periods of time, and 4) Produces improved attitudes toward reading and learning among children.

For further details about this research review, visit the RIF website.

Book controversy erupts in Missouri

As Banned Books Week (September 25-October 1) begins, the town of Springfield, Missouri, is embroiled in a controversy involving several books including Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. To learn more, read a Voice of the Day column in the Springfield News-Leader by Wesley Scroggins, a professor at Missouri State University, and a response from Anderson. Both columns generated lively online discussions.

Report Says Poor Science Education Jeopardizes US Economy

USA Today (9/24, Vergano) reports, "Stagnant scientific education imperils US economic leadership, says a report by leading business and science figures. Released Thursday at a congressional briefing attended by senators and Congress members of both parties, the report," titled "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" is an update of "a 2005 science education report that led to moves to double federal research funding." USA quoted former Lockheed Martin chief Norman Augustine, the head of the panel that produced the report, saying that the report "paints a daunting outlook for America if it were to continue on the perilous path it has been following."


Study Shows Transient Nature Of Foster Care Impairs Learning. USA Today (9/24, King) reports, "Preliminary data from a 10-year study released Thursday, looking at how California foster kids stack up against their at-risk peers, suggests that academic challenges posed by poverty, disability and language barriers are compounded when those children also have to shuffle from school to school because they have no permanent family. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, shows that foster children consistently scored lower in state English and math tests, even when factors such as income, race and learning disabilities were taken into account." According to USA Today, "The data was released at a Capitol Hill news conference by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and Fostering Media Connections, which are hoping to spotlight the issue in Congress."

New Jersey Physical Education Teacher Gets Approval To Teach Skateboarding

ESPN (9/24, Higgins) reports that Bill Ewe, a physical education teacher at Kingsway Middle School in Swedesboro, NJ, has won district approval of a proposal to add skateboarding to the P.E. curriculum. According to ESPN, his skateboarding class "emphasizes balance, agility, coordination, self-esteem and perseverance over trying to become the next pro. ... As some schools wave good-bye to dodgeball, they've welcomed other sports such as rock climbing and skateboarding."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tech. Timesavers #6

"License" Your Class Photographers

Before students can check out and use a camera, invite them to become licensed. Provide a short workshop for one to three students. Keep it small so you can monitor students' behavior and handling of the equipment. Make a camera license, laminate it, and attach it to a string. Students must wear the license when using the camera. Students without licenses may not use the camera.

**From Instructor Back To School 2010

Tech. Timesavers #5

Use Colored Paper and Thick Markers With Your Projector

Glare can be a big problem with projectors. Avoid using white paper under the lens. Light green or blue paper creates fewer glares. Sometimes turning off the lights reduces the glare on documents. Print using a thick felt pen because the projected line is easier to see.

**From Instructor Back To School 2010

Tech. Timesavers #4

Keep PowerPoints Short and Clear

When making PowerPoint presentations, remind students to limit the number to six to ten slides, avoid crowding the slide with too much text, avoid using too fonts, and use transitions between slides. Light type on dark black background or dark type on light background display the best.

**From Instructor Back To School 2010

Tech. Timesavers #3

Record Whiteboard Lessons

The built-in recorder on your interactive whiteboard lets you record audio through a microphone and automatically combines audio and data into one file for playback on any computer.

**From Instructor Back To School 2010

Tech Timesavers #2

Teach Wiki and Blog Etiquette

Students should know some basic rules when it comes to networking with others online: no cursing, slang, or name calling; write in complete sentences, use capitalization and punctuation, and spell correctly; do not write in all caps; keep it brief; give praise when due; argue facts, not personalities; and post small photos (they download more quickly).

**From Instructor Back To School 2010

Tech Timesavers #1

Choose Only Reliable Websites

The last three letters of a URL tell what kind of website it is. Students should typically use these sites for research purposes: .gov sites, hosted by the government; .edu sites, hosted by schools; and .org sites, hosted by organizations, mainly nonprofits.


**From Instructor Back To School 2010

Schools Celebrate International Day of Peace

Maryland Students Craft Pinwheels For Peace.

The Baltimore Sun (9/23, Burris) reports that on Tuesday, students at Forest Ridge Elementary School in Laurel, MD participated in "Pinwheels for Peace, a worldwide project where children craft images and messages about peace then fold their papers into twirly objects and plant them in the ground as part of International Day of Peace. ... According to the project website, Florida-based Pinwheels for Peace was started in 2005 by art instructors" in a Florida school who "urged their students to convey feelings about the world and their own lives." Pinwheels for Peace "coincides with the International Day of Peace, which the United Nations established in 1981 as a global call for cease-fire and nonviolence, according to its website."


Students At California High School Celebrate International Day Of Peace. California's Mercury News (9/22) reported that students at Logan High School in Union City, CA "have been making signs, painting a mural and decorating T-shirts to promote" the International Day of Peace. According to the Mercury News, "During the school's two lunch periods, between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., students will gather on the football field to organize themselves into 'peace messages,'" said district spokesman Rick La Plante. The Mercury News added, "In past years, students held similar gatherings in which they spelled out the word 'peace' during one lunch period and formed a human peace sign during the second."


Students In Florida County "Stand Up for Peace." WFOR-TV Miami (9/23, Loren) reports that on Wednesday, "Stand Up for Peace Across Broward Day was celebrated by students" in Broward County, FL "as part of, 'Choose Peace-Stop Violence Week.' The movement featured peace marches, creating a human peace symbols, and decorating the schools with pinwheels for peace were among the ways students came together to fight youth violence which has plagued Broward county over the last year."

Computer Program Helps Students Overcome Difficulty Reading

Canada's Vancouver Sun (9/21, Steffenhagen) reported, "A computer program designed for children who struggle with language and literacy has had such a profound effect in Surrey [British Columbia] schools that the people involved say they've been moved to tears." According to the Sun, the Fast ForWord program "is not strictly about reading, even though literacy is the goal. Rather, it is designed to change the way students process the smallest units of sound, which are so tiny that they occur within milliseconds and can't be reproduced by the human voice."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Celebrate Give Kids Good Schools week

This year, Give Kids Good Schools week will take place October 10-16.  This campaign's goal is to make sure kids across the United States have quality public education. The campaign uses online resources and national activities to educate individuals on what they can do to improve their public schools.

Give Kids Good Schools encourages individuals to:

  • Learn the facts about public schools
  • Vote to support and promote quality public education in your community and across the country
  • Act by letting public officials and others know that quality public education is a top priority all year long

    For more information, visit the Give Kids Good Schools website.

Teachers incorporate comic books in reading curriculum

"Comic books and their off-shoot cousin, the graphic novel, featuring longer stories and a book spine rather than staples, are steadily gaining respect in schools as a way to teach--and reach--even the most reluctant readers," according to an article by Edward L. Kenney in The News Journal. Kenny's article outlines how comic books and graphic novels are being used in a number of schools throughout Delaware. To learn more, read the full article.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

International Peace Day

Have students write/blog about peace and what it means to them. Have them brainstorm ideas for promoting peace on their school campus, in their classrooms, and within their family.


Idea of bookless libraries becoming more prominent

In discussing the future of academe, the idea of bookless libraries is a recurring theme, according to an article by Steve Kolowich for Inside Higher Ed. More and more academic libraries are removing bound books and storing them in off-campus locations. For example, the main library at the University of California at Merced and the engineering library at Stanford University have greatly reduced the amount of bound books kept in the library and are choosing to focus more on electronic resources. However, completely bookless libraries have been nonexistent until now.

The University of Texas at San Antonio says its Applied Engineering and Technology Library is now the first actual bookless library. Students who utilize the library's vast study spaces are able to log on to the resource network either with laptops or one of the ten public computers.  Students will have access to 425,000 e-books and 18,000 electronic journal articles. Librarians will still be stationed in the library to assist students. To read the full article, visit this website.  

Advocates Weigh Impact Of Common Standards Movement On Special Education

Education Week (9/20, Samuels) reported, "Special education advocates are greeting the burgeoning common academic standards movement with a mixture of optimism and caution." So far, details have not been provided as to "how the new curricula should be taught to a student population with a range of physical and cognitive needs." Some special education advocates see the void in that area as an opportunity to add their voices "in the policy discussions as the standards movement starts to shift from adoption to the more challenging process of implementation." Others, meanwhile, "are more wary. Some special educators see the standards-based movement as a recipe for failure for some students."

California Bill Would Require That Schools Provide Free Fresh Water In Eating Areas

The AP (9/21) reports that California State Sen. Sen. Mark Leno "has proposed Senate Bill 1413," which would require that all public schools in the state offer students free fresh water in "eating areas." The bill has already "passed the Assembly and Senate and is awaiting the governor's signature." According to the California Food Policy Advocates., "more than 40 percent of school districts that responded to an online survey said their students had no access to free drinking water where their meals are served."


KTLA-TV Los Angeles (9/20) reported that "the bill does not provide funding...and most districts say they can't cover the cost." David Binkle, deputy director of food services for Los Angeles Public schools said he thinks fresh water in school cafeterias is "a good idea, but he's worried about the cost -- up to 5 cents for a cup, plus any equipment or testing that might be needed." KTLA notes that "many schools provide vending machines with bottled water. But advocates feel families on a tight budget should not have to pay for water." The Los Angeles Times (9/20) "Daily Dish" blog also covered the story.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Computer use linked to improved reading scores

A University of Maryland researcher has a message for parents who fret about how much time their preteen children spend on computers: Worry not.

In what researchers describe as one of the first long-term looks at the effects of media use during childhood, a study released September 15 linked hours at the computer with achievement test scores and behavior and found little sign of harm for children ages 6 to 12 as they increased their screen time over a six-year period. Moreover, the study found benefits for girls and black boys.

The study, published in the journal Child Development, showed that African American boys' reading scores improved by four points, considered significant, as they increasingly logged more time on the computer. Girls' achievement test scores for reading and math notched upward by a point. Read more about the study in The Washington Post

Article addresses gender equity and literacy

"Gender Equity Begins with Literacy," an article by Dominique Chlup appearing on Ms. Magazine's blog September 15, offers some interesting insights into the importance of literacy as a means of ensuring gender equity for women, both in the United States and worldwide. To learn more, read the full article.

Scholastic invites participation in ClassroomsCare program

Since 2001, Scholastic Book Clubs' ClassroomsCare program, a philanthropy-based literacy campaign, has been encouraging children to read while also giving something back to the community. This year's theme is "United States of Reading," and the challenge is for students to read 10 books per student per classroom.

If this goal is accomplished, then it would lead to one million books being donated to kids in need. In order to distribute these books, ClassroomsCare partners with charities such as Reach Out and Read, Save the Children, and newly added this year, The Pajama Program. Since 2001, more than 10 million books have been donated.  

Any classroom in the United States can take part in this program either through Scholastic Book Clubs or the Scholastic website. To learn more about this initiative, visit the Scholastic website.  

Metro Detroit School Districts Opt For Skilled Teachers Over Savings

The Detroit Free Press (9/19, Walsh-Sarnecki) reported, "Metro Detroit school districts are not expected to save as much money as anticipated when the state offered incentives for experienced teachers to retire early" as "many districts chose to hire based on experience rather than offer jobs to new college graduates, who would be paid at the bottom of the salary scale." According to the Free Press, "When the state convinced 17,000 teachers to take early retirement during the summer, it was widely assumed that those teachers would be replaced by entry-level ones to save money and help ease school financial woes. But only two of the 15 large school districts polled by the Free Press did so."

Some Schools In Central Ohio Base Grades Solely On Students' Understanding Of Material

The Columbus (OH) Dispatch (9/19, Boss) reported, "Grades are supposed to reflect how much a student knows," but according to experts, "today's grades typically" take into account factors that "have nothing to do with whether a student understands the material," such as extra credit assignments, whether the work was submitted on time, or whether a student received extra help. Now, many schools in central Ohio "are re-examining such things as report cards and grading practices." For instance, some elementary schools have "have created standards-based report cards that measure students' performance on academic goals." And, at least one high school in northeastern Ohio issues report cards "based solely on [students'] knowledge of the material," with skills "such as behavior, attitude and effort, are reported separately." Meanwhile, several districts "have adopted a new instructional approach that relies more on students' understanding the material than on earning points to get the A."

Vocabulary Focus on Music and Newspapers

Here are two intermediate to advanced level gap fill quizzes that focus on two of life's most enjoyable free-time pursuits: Listening to Music and Reading Newspapers.

For classes, here are some lesson plans on the same subjects:

Reading and Writing Newspaper Articles
Understanding Newspaper Headlines
Using Music in the Classroom
Talking about Pop Music and Musicians
Using Music for Creative Writing

**From Kenneth's Blog

Graphic Organizers in ESL

Graphic organizers are used to improve students' comprehension of stories, as well as build writing and vocabulary skills. This gallery provides a wide variety of graphic organizers for a variety of English learning tasks. Each graphic organizer includes an empty template, an example graphic organizer with entries and a discussion of appropriate uses in class.

**From Kenneth's Blog

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bad acne linked to suicidal thinking in teens

By Lynne Peeples

Compared to their clear-skinned peers, teens who have bad acne are more than twice as likely to have mental health problems and are at greater risk of having suicidal thoughts, according to a new study of Norwegian youth.

Nearly all teenagers have some pimples, and up to one in five will develop a moderate to severe case of acne.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Full Curriculum Algebra App for the iPad Used in School Trial

We've reported on many schools, colleges and universities implementing iPads into their classrooms and curriculums this fall and with that, textbook publishers and developers are jumping on the education technology bandwagon.  Global education leader Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) announced a year long pilot program of a full-curriculum iPad Algebra app today.

Together with six schools in California, HMH will pilot their Algebra app and launch Fuse, "a new mode of curriculum delivery where where interactive platforms and mobile devices bring learning to life for students."  The iPad's interactive environment will allow students to receive feedback on practice questions, write and save notes, receive guided instruction, access video lessons and more with the simple touch of a finger.  The use of Fuse and the HMH app will also help teachers tailor their curriculum to meet the individual needs of their students while providing student-specific performance feedback.

"The launch of HMH Fuse and this app signal the beginning of a new era in curriculum development, where the goal is not just providing world-class content, but also delivering it in a variety of ways so that students and teachers can individualize the learning experience," said Barry O'Callaghan, CEO of HMH. "We believe this pilot will provide the nation with a glimpse into the future of education."

Research methods will be used to compare students using iPad delivered content to those using traditional textbooks and findings of the pilot will be reported in the fall of 2011 by Silicon Valley based Empirical Education Inc.

With more and more technology, eTextbooks and devices like the iPad making their way into classrooms, it will be interesting to watch the evolution of education in the years to come.


School gives iPads to kids to boost reading

Whoops of glee filled a classroom at Alexander Dawson School in Boulder, Colorado, earlier this week as teachers handed out new iPads to each fifth-grader.

The school is one of the first in the country to give iPads to individual K-12 students. As part of a pilot project, about 90 fifth- and sixth-grade students are getting the 16G Wi-Fi iPads -- which retail for $499 -- to help with reading, studying, researching and experimentation.

"They're pretty cool," said fifth-grader Riley Herbst. "It's cool that Dawson found an educational way to use them. Most kids don't really like reading books; they like computer devices. This is a cool way to read books."

The private K-12 school is leasing the iPads to own after three years, paying $12,000 a year, Johnson said. The money is coming out of the school's Fund for Excellence, made up of revenue from such sources as tuition, facility rental, and camps. The plan to give students iPads came after months of study and discussions with Apple, Columbia University, the University of Colorado and the Educational Records Bureau, all of which are interested in studying the educational benefits of using iPads to teach, headmaster BrianJohnson said. Read more about the project in The Daily Camera

Time examines public education in America

Time Magazine's September 20, 2010, edition is the fourth annual national service issue which, this year, is all about education in America. The issue includes a 16-page spread with articles discussing the problems of public education in the United States. In conjunction with this issue, is launching a new weekly column about education titled School of Thought. For more information about this issue of Time Magazine and its other education activities, read this article by managing editor Richard Stengel.

Middle school uses games theory to engage kids

A middle school in New York City uses games theory to engage its students in learning. Students study video games, create games, and learn through games. The kids love it and research on developing more educational games for mass use in classrooms is under way. See a video article on gaming the school day away at The New York Times Magazine

Coca-Cola Company To Fund New Fitness Centers In Eight California Schools

The Fresno (CA) Business Journal (9/15) reported Dunlap Elementary School in Fresno County, California "was one of eight in [the state] to receive a brand new fitness center thanks to a donation by the Coca-Cola company." The fitness centers "valued at $100,000 each." Schools were chosen for the prize "from among 2,000 that participated in the Governor's Fitness Challenge last year to boost the amount of physical activity that students, parents and teachers engage in."


The Central Valley Business Times (9/15) reported that "three schools in the Central Valley will be getting fitness centers" from "the Coca-Cola Company through the California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports." The Business Times adds that the winning schools "exhibited exceptional effort in rising to the California Governor's Challenge of engaging in physical activity 30-60 minutes a day, at least three days a week for four weeks during the previous school year." KPSP-TV (9/16) also covers the story.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Report: Reading, math achievement on rise

  • A new study of states with five years of comparable test data finds that student achievement in reading and math rose between 2005 and 2009 on state tests as well as on the highly regarded National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). The report, released by the Center on Education Policy, also finds overlapping achievement gains in state test and state-level NAEP scores in most of these states, providing stronger evidence that students are mastering higher levels of knowledge and skills in reading and math.

    The study examines 23 states with comparable data between 2005 and 2009 in grades 4 and 8.  The states studied in the report are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. Read more or visit the Center's website.

Celebrate Literacy Week

September 13–19, 2010 has been declared Adult Education and Family Literacy Week in the United States. Passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and supported by the National Coalition for Literacy, this is a one-time only dedication to raise public awareness of adult education and family literacy, assist adult learners in need of literacy services, and support increased access to adult education and family literacy programs. To learn more, visit this National Coalition for Literacy webpage.

iPads replace traditional textbooks in four California school districts

With the new school year just starting, and under way for other students, the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and new paper fills the air.  Well for most schools this is the case, but students in four schools districts in California are instead smelling the scent of glass and aluminum.  That's right. These four lucky school districts are receiving iPads for their Algebra 1 classes.  Gone are those freshly sharpened pencils and notebooks of paper. is reporting that Kings Canyon and Sequoia Middle school in the Fresno school district, along with schools in Long Beach, San Francisco, and Riverside school districts, will be receiving the iPad in lieu of traditional textbooks.  The purpose behind this is to see if the iPad can improve test scores where traditional teaching methods have failed.  An Algebra 1 app produced by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will be on the iPad and used as a teaching tool.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is also subsidizing the full cost of the iPad and the app.  This makes the barrier of entry non-existent for these schools who would have gone with the netbook route, or in some cases would have stuck with traditional textbooks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Plan now for Teen Read Week

Believe it or not, teens are visiting and using their local library more than ever. Did you know that teen library visits are up nationwide in the United States? As the popularity of young adult literature continues to soar and teen musical artists dominate the airwaves, thousands of teens will participate in Teen Read Week, October 13-17, at their local library.

Teen books now enjoy unprecedented critical success and popularity. In addition, library use has skyrocketed during the recession, with many teens and their families taking advantage of free access to a wide variety of quality reading materials at their libraries. With so many options for entertainment, not to mention the increased amount of schoolwork in the teen years, busy and distracted teens overlook reading for pleasure. Teen Read Week is a time to remind teens that reading is fun, free, and can be done any place, any time, anywhere.

Research shows that teens who read for fun — and not just for school activities — score significantly higher on reading tests, while those who don't lose critical reading skills important for academic and workplace success. Sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), Teen Read Week encourages teens to take time to "read for the fun of it." The 2010 Teen Read Week theme of "Books with Beat @ your library" promotes a variety of books, from books about music to poetry, as a tool for encouraging young adults to read for the fun of it. To learn more, visit the Teen Read Week webpage.

Study: Americans have nose for news

Americans are spending more time reading the news now than they have at any time during the last decade, according to a new study.

The biennial report by the Washington-based Pew Research Center found that 34% of the 3,006 people questioned in the study had used the Internet to check the news the day before. "The value of the study is in the trends it shows. They are reflective of the current environment, and document which changes have occurred over time, and which haven't," said Carroll Doherty, Pew's associate director.

About a third of people listened to the radio for their news, while 39% said they used traditional news sources such as newspapers and television. The researchers were also surprised to learn Americans are augmenting traditional news sources with other technologies, rather than replacing them entirely. If cell phones, email, social networking websites and podcasts are included, 44% of those questioned said they read the news on more than one Internet or mobile source each day. Read more at Reuters news online or the full report at the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press website.

California District Suspends Middle, High School Extracurricular Activities

KNSD-TV San Diego (9/14, Devine) reports that California's Vista Unified School District has suspended all middle and high school extracurricular activities "because the district is no longer paying stipends to the coaches." Under state law, "parents cannot directly pay for students to play, so to speak: They can't pay for uniforms, equipment, coaches or transportation, and can't financially sustain after-school extracurricular activities." Vista Unified's decision "comes in the wake of a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union" which claims that "California's cash-strapped school districts have been charging student fees that violate the state constitutional guarantee to a free public education."

Colorado District Encourages Students To Eat By Providing Free Meals, Breakfast In Class

USA Today (9/14, Moore) reports that even though "the number of hungry children in the US is rising, fewer than half of the kids who could be eating a free or low-cost breakfast at school are getting one." In Pueblo, Colorado, however, "school officials offer free breakfast to all children regardless of income, so no one is embarrassed to be eating it." And in most Pueblo schools, "breakfast is served right in the classrooms." USA Today adds that "76 percent of Pueblo's needy kids eat school breakfast," a rate higher than any state and most large cities. Now other states and advocacy groups are urging lawmakers to implement similar programs nationwide.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Promote Library Card Sign-up Month

A library card is the smartest card of all. That's the key message the American Library Association (ALA) is trying to convey during Library Card Sign-up Month in September. If you'd like information on promoting Library Card Sign-up Month in your school or library, visit this ALA webpage.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tech Timesavers #6: “License” Your Class Photographers

From Instructor magazine

Before students can check out and use a camera, invite them to become licensed. Provide a short workshop for one to three students. Keep it small so you can monitor students' behavior and handling of equipment. Make a camera license, laminate it, and attach it to a string. Students must wear the license when using the camera. Students without licenses may not use the camera.

Teaching No Longer A Recession-Proof Job

CNN Money (9/10, Luhby) reports that "teaching is no longer the stable career it once was" as the faltering economy "and accompanying state fiscal woes...are decimating the industry." According to CNN, "An estimated 135,000 teachers will be out of work this school year" and "a recent $10 billion injection to education from Congress is" not "expected to help that much. ... The hiring of new teachers has slowed dramatically and fewer veteran educators are staying in the field for their entire careers, said Segun Eubanks, director of teacher quality at the National Education Association."

California Districts Face Lawsuit Over School Fees

The New York Times (9/10, Dillon) reports, "Public schools across the nation, many facing budget shortfalls, have been charging students fees to use textbooks or to take required tests or courses. Now," the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California "is suing California over those proliferating fees, arguing that the state has failed to protect the right to a free public education." The suit, "names 35 school districts across California that list on their Web sites the fees their schools charge for courses including art, home economics and music, for Advanced Placement tests and for materials including gym uniforms."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Celebrate Banned Books Week

To Kill a Mockingbird...the Twilight series...Catcher in the Rye...The Color Purple--these are just a sampling of the most frequently challenged books of 2009, according to the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). OIF offers a variety of resources for libraries, schools, and other organizations that want to observe Banned Books Week September 25-October 2. For further details, visit this webpage.

Vocabulary Focus on Music and Newspapers

Here are two intermediate to advanced level gap fill quizzes that focus on two of life's most enjoyable free-time pursuits: Listening to Music and Reading Newspapers.

For classes, here are some lesson plans on the same subjects:

Reading and Writing Newspaper Articles
Understanding Newspaper Headlines
Using Music in the Classroom
Talking about Pop Music and Musicians
Using Music for Creative Writing

**From Kenneth Beare

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

California Schools Pilot iPad Algebra Curriculum

Education publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has launched a new algebra curriculum delivery system for Apple's iPad. Dubbed "Fuse," the system is being piloted for a one-year period in middle schools in four California school districts.