Friday, April 29, 2011

The Case for Cursive


For centuries, cursive handwriting has been an art. To a growing number of young people, it is a mystery.

The sinuous letters of the cursive alphabet, swirled on countless love letters, credit card slips and banners above elementary school chalk boards are going the way of the quill and inkwell. With computer keyboards and smartphones increasingly occupying young fingers, the gradual death of the fancier ABC's is revealing some unforeseen challenges.

Might people who write only by printing — in block letters, or perhaps with a sloppy, squiggly signature — be more at risk for forgery? Is the development of a fine motor skill thwarted by an aversion to cursive handwriting? And what happens when young people who are not familiar with cursive have to read historical documents like the Constitution?

Jimmy Bryant, director of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Central Arkansas, says that a connection to archival material is lost when students turn away from cursive. While teaching last year, Mr. Bryant, on a whim, asked students to raise their hands if they wrote in cursive as a way to communicate. None did.

***Click here to read this story in its entirety at the NY Times website.


California Regulators To Ease Access To State Seismic Retrofit Funding

The San Jose Mercury News (4/29, Perez, Johnson) reports that regulators in California announced Wednesday that they "will loosen the criteria for schools to access millions in unspent seismic repair funds and make several other changes to the school building inspection process," promising "to speed the process for certifying school projects under the Field Act seismic safety law. Scott Harvey, acting chief of the Department of General Services, said the agency has sent letters to school superintendents alerting them to campus buildings that have been red-flagged with safety defects." The piece notes that a legislative hearing this week "was scheduled in response to a California Watch investigation this month. The series revealed that the Division of the State Architect routinely failed to enforce the Field Act, California's landmark earthquake safety law for public schools."

Michigan Governor Calls For Anti-Bullying Legislation

The Michigan Messenger (4/29, Heywood) reports that as Michigna Gov. Rick Snyder (R) laid out his sweeping plans for education reform Wednesday, he "urged the state legislature to pass anti-bullying legislation, but his office declined to disclose which pieces of legislation currently pending before the legislature he supported. 'We must ensure that Michigan students' opportunities are not diminished because we fail to provide them with a safe and secure learning environment. Forty-five states already have passed laws to address the problem of bullying in schools. It is time for Michigan to join them,' Snyder said." The piece notes that the state legislature "has been struggling to approve an anti-bullying bill for a decade."

Gates Funds Partnership To Create K-12 Curriculum

Education Daily (4/29, Brown) reports, "The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Wednesday it is donating $3 million for research to the Pearson Foundation as they develop a set of digital courses and teacher professional development in English/language arts and math aligned with the Common Core State Standards." Pearson Foundation President Mark Nieker said the courses are "the first designed from the bottom-up to meet the new learning goals established by the Common Core Standards." The piece notes that two English and tow math courses "will be available for free as open educational resources," though the rest will be for sale.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Prepping for iPads in School

A private school in Florida has begun tackling the challenges associated with its impending iPad rollout, one of the first in the state that will place the mobile devices in the hands of every high school student.

Rhode Island Bill Would Allow Districts To Mandate Student Dress Codes

The Boston Globe (4/28, Klepper) reports that legislation in the Rhode Island General Assembly would allow districts to "set stricter student dress codes" and "mandate uniforms." The piece notes that the bill's sponsor "said uniforms could curb classroom distractions and bullying while cutting the time teachers spend disciplining students for inappropriate clothing." However, "Rhode Island's affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union argues that mandated dress codes in public schools are both wrong and ineffective."

More Plea Deals In Massachusetts Suicide Bullying Case

The AP (4/28) reports that according to court documents, a total of five teens will "plead guilty to a minor charge in the bullying of a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who later committed suicide." An unnamed source close to the case said that a judge must approve the deal, the AP adds. "The teens are charged in the bullying of Phoebe Prince, an Irish immigrant who hanged herself in her family's South Hadley apartment last year after what a prosecutor called a 'relentless' campaign of bullying that included yelling 'Irish whore' at her in the school library, posting demeaning comments about her on Facebook and threatening to beat her up."

Nevada Schools Scrimping On Textbooks To Save Teacher Jobs

In an entry in a series on proposed education cuts in Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal (4/28, Haug) reports that officials with the Clark County School District are working to cut costs by reducing spending on textbooks by 50% in order to save jobs.

Cursive Handwriting Instruction Declining

The New York Times (4/28, Zezima, Subscription Publication) reports on the "gradual death" of cursive handwriting, as "computer keyboards and smartphones [are] increasingly occupying young fingers." The piece asks if failing to learn cursive limits students motor skills and blocks access to "historical documents like the Constitution." "Students nationwide are still taught cursive, but many school districts are spending far less time teaching it and handwriting in general than they were years ago, said Steve Graham, a professor of education at Vanderbilt University." However, increased focus on standardized test preparation limits the time available to teach handwriting.

Chicago Program Trains Parents To Help In Classroom Instruction.

The Chicago Tribune (4/28, Schmich) reports on a program in Chicago in which "parents of schoolchildren - typically immigrant women - were being trained by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association to work in the schools. Many teachers had swallowed their doubts and discovered that parents could be helpful in the classroom." Harvard Graduate School of Education researcher Soo Hong "was so impressed that she spent four years traveling regularly from her Boston home to study this unusual program in Chicago. ... What was happening in Logan Square, she saw, went far beyond what schools elsewhere were doing to engage parents."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Integrating Writing and Mathematics

By Brad Wilcox, Eula Ewing Monroe



Writing is a way to think our way into mathematics and make it our own. (Zinsser, 1988, paraphrased)



The 2002 and 2007 reports of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) writing assessment (National Center for Education Statistics, 2008), administered to 8th and 12th graders, show an increase in writing scores. Applebee and Langer's (2006) analysis of NAEP data as well as other sources published during the decade preceding their review revealed that the more frequently students reported writing one or more paragraphs in science and social studies, the higher their writing achievement.


The results, however, were lower in mathematics. "It may be that at the classroom level, the role of writing in mathematics instruction has not been well conceptualized" (Applebee & Langer, 2006, p. 14). Indeed, many teachers find it more natural to integrate writing and science (e.g., Varelas, Pappas, Kokkino, & Ortiz, 2008) or writing and social studies (e.g., Jones & Thomas, 2006). Wolsey (2010) examined the complexity of student writing and vocabulary learning in a cross-disciplinary writing project involving English, science, and social studies. Where was mathematics?


***Click here to download this article or read it in its entirety.

ED Launches "Green Ribbon" Program To Promote School Sustainability Efforts

THE Journal (4/27, Nagel) reports that ED is launching "a new program to recognize schools for their sustainability efforts. The Green Ribbon Schools program--being administered by ED and supported by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality--will be modeled on the Blue Ribbon Schools program (also administered by ED). But instead of focusing on academic achievement, the program will recognize schools for 'energy conservation, creating healthy learning spaces, and teaching environmental literacy,' according to information released by the department Tuesday." The piece quotes a statement from Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying, "Preparing our children to be good environmental citizens is some of the most important work any of us can do."

Blogger Pans Texas For Adopting "Defunct" Math Standards

Jim Stergios writes at the Boston Globe (4/27) "Rock the Schoolhouse" blog that Texas recently "responded to national standards proponents, including the federal government, which are trying to drag it screaming into the mix of states who have adopted the so-called Common Core. The Lone Star state released draft state math standards that are built on the foundation of Massachusetts' now-defunct standards and those in place in Singapore. The goal: To craft standards that are the best in the nation. We'll see how US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will respond now that Texas has the best standards in the land."

Study Points To Sharp Cuts In State Pre-K Spending

A new report detailing an overall drop in state-by-state funding for pre-K education generated widespread national coverage today and last night, with two of three network news broadcasts devoting a total of nearly five minutes to the story. Coverage predictably presented the report as bad news, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan was portrayed as dismayed by the findings. Meanwhile, a plethora of local reports focused on how their state was portrayed in the study. The CBS Evening News (4/26, story 10, 2:35, Couric), in a segment detailing the positive impact of early childhood education, reported that a new Rutgers University study "says states cut nearly $30 million in funding to preschools last year. That left only a quarter of four-year-olds enrolled in pre-K programs." The piece profiles a successful New Jersey pre-K program and cites research touting the benefits of such programs, but notes that "not every state has enough money to pay for what the evidence suggests is worthwhile. Ten states cut pre-K funds this year. Ten more don't have pre-K at all." A text version of this report was published on the CBS News (4/27) website.


In its coverage of the report, NBC Nightly News (4/26, story 8, 2:15, Williams) reported that "the Secretary of Education warned that cutting spending on early childhood education isn't smart. But a new report from Rutgers in New Jersey says a lot of states are choosing to do just that. And spending on pre-K is getting cut. " NBC adds that the study "suggests that state funding for preschool education is on the decline. Nationwide, state per-student spending for preschoolers averaged $4,028 in 2010, $114 less than 2009 and $700 less than in 2001." Duncan is shown saying, "I simply think we can't win the future by cheating children at the starting line."


The Washington Post (4/26, Sieff) reports that the study comes from the National Institute fof Early Education Research at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education, and found that states' pre-K funding "declined between 2009 and 2010, even as the Obama administration urged states to increase pre-kindergarten programs for 3- and 4-year-olds." The Post notes that Duncan "urged states to cut other programs before removing funding from early-childhood education, but such advice was rejected across the country. Duncan said yesterday that the cuts present 'real challenges to young people who are desperately fighting to enter the mainstream.'" The Post adds that funding inched up in Maryland and Virginia, "but Virginia slipped in the report's rankings, which also consider the quality of state pre-K programs." A brief item in the New York Times (4/27, A17, Dillon, Subscription Publication) attributes the cuts to the recession, noting that the report showed "total spending by states decreasing for the first time since experts began keeping track."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Intentional Spelling: Seven Steps to Eliminate Guessing


Michelle Newlands


As a literacy consultant, I helped many teachers with their language arts programs. One area that consistently generated questions was spelling. Should we teach spelling explicitly? Should we allow students to learn to spell at their own rate? Does spelling really count?

Spelling is not just memory work; it is a process of conceptual development (Templeton, 2002). It does count. Spelling also has a lot to do with how we feel about our writing. A mistake in letter arrangement can not only make you feel foolish, it can also shake your self-esteem. This is true of both adults and children. Students will avoid using words they cannot spell. When this occurs, they lose opportunities to build their vocabulary and reading skills.

***Click here to read or download this article in its entirety.

Extending Readers Theatre: A Powerful and Purposeful Match With Podcasting

Audio recording enhances this popular strategy by giving permanency and a wide audience to student performance.


A group of six third graders huddle around the computer giggling as they determine what kind of introduction they want for their next Readers Theatre podcast. They have practiced this script every day this week and are now ready for Chase (pseudonym) to count them in. Sarah starts the recording program, Chase gives the signal, and they all sing the introductory music they have decided to add into their reading script work.

***Click here to read or download the entire article.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Can a 9-Hour School Day Prevent Students from Dropping Out?

By Tina Barseghian

Despite President Obama's loftiest hopes to extend the number of school days per year, many schools are actually having to decrease them because of severe budget cuts. While the number of school days in other countries exceeds 200, they're being cut further in the U.S. to fewer than 180.

With families that have access to enrichment programs and encourage learning online at home, the discrepancy can be filled. But for low-income kids who don't have those opportunities, fewer school days puts them at an even greater disadvantage.

For these kids, the nonprofit organization Citizen Schools attempts to fill that gap. The organization works with low-income students in low-performing middle schools across the country to, in essence, lengthen the learning day by "bringing in a second shift of educators who work with students," says Stacey Gilbert, the organization's spokesperson.

That means that every student stays an extra three hours per day, four days a week, working on everything from language arts and math to art and P.E. in project-based groups. (Fridays are used for staff development.)

***Click here to read this article in its entirety.


Massachusetts Releases Bullying Survey Results.

The Boston Globe (4/22, Lazar) reports on a federal report which found that "one-fourth of Massachusetts middle-schoolers and 16 percent of high school students report enduring bullying at school," putting "the state at the center of the national discussion over the issue." According to the Globe, "the findings not only define the scope of the problem, but also suggest the cause," while "most notable was the link between violence at home and bullying at school." The piece notes that "Massachusetts is the first state to conduct a bullying survey in this manner."

Cyberbullying Said To Take Emotional Toll On Parents.

MSNBC (4/25, Pappas) describes a cyberbullying incident experienced by Nancy Anderson Dolan's 13-year-old son. "Most research on bullying has focused on its effect on children, for the good reason that children bear the brunt of the suffering. But parent reports suggest that Dolan's emotional reaction isn't unusual."

Leadership Said To Be Most Important In Addressing School Violence.

In the Philadelphia Inquirer (4/25), Jack Wagner, Pennsylvania's auditor general, writes that "nothing is more important than leadership" in addressing violence in the School District of Philadelphia, and "there is a failure of leadership in the district and the state Department of Education, and parents and children are paying a terrific price."

Professional Development Academy Offers Teachers Up-To-Date Training

The Urbana/Champaign (IL) News-Gazette (4/25) reports on Danville School District's first professional development academy. "Teachers who attend earn small stipends that are funded through federal stimulus or Title 1 money, as well as continuing education credits. More importantly, they receive up-to-date, research-based training in literacy, math, technology, using data to inform instruction, which oftentimes is tailored to the district."

Los Angles Dual-Language Program Profiled

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times (4/25), author and Loyola Marymount professor Rubén Martinez writes about his desire for his daughters to be fluent in both English and Spanish, noting that after moving to "Mount Washington, a neighborhood with a top-ranked elementary school at the top of the hill," he "heard that Aldama Elementary School in neighboring Highland Park had recently inaugurated a dual-language immersion program." Martinez describes the program, and the "time and political effort" required to establish it. "It is a grand social experiment. And of course it hasn't yet resolved the contradictions of gentrification or even breached the borders that come with new demographics."

Chicago Online Learning Proves Popular, Controversial

The Chicago Tribune (4/25, Keilman) reports in the impact of virtual learning in Illinois schools, profiling one student who has "studied the stars, the human body and other subjects in virtual classrooms where teachers were present only through instant messaging, email or occasional video links." The piece notes that some observers think online classes "will transform K-12 learning," adding that they "are popping up with increasing frequency in Chicago-area high schools - and even middle schools - promising to help high-fliers and stragglers alike get the most from their education." However, "Critics say the trend is more about saving money than improving education, and that the effectiveness of online courses remains unproven."


States Gearing Up For Unified "Common Core" Curriculum

A front-page story in the New York Times (4/25, Santos, Subscription Publication) reports on an experimental program at 100 schools in New York in which students are taught "new curriculum standards known as the common core. Forty-two states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have signed on to the new standards, an ambitious set of goals that go beyond reading lists and math formulas to try to raise the bar not only on what students in every grade are expected to learn, but also on how teachers are expected to teach." The Times adds that the prior "hodgepodge of state guidelines" the common core is replacing are considered to be the weakness in NCLB, noting that many states "lowered standards in a push to meet the law's requirement that all students reach grade level."

Friday, April 15, 2011

California Legislative Panel Passes Anti-Bullying "Seth's Law."

The Bakersfield Californian (4/15, Barrientos) reports that Seth's Law, a California measure to establish "an anti-bullying system at all California schools," passed out of the California Assembly's Education Committee Wednesday. "The bill pays homage to Seth Walsh, who hanged himself in his backyard in September, partly blaming his school. His mother, Wendy Walsh, and the bill sponsors claimed Tehachapi Unified School District officials ignored complaints of bullying against Seth, and the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights stepped in to investigate the district's handling of bullying claims connected with Seth's death. That investigation is ongoing."

California Senate Approves Measure Requiring Gay History Curriculum

The AP (4/15, Leff) reports that a bill to "require California's public schools to include gay history in social studies lessons" has passed the state's Senate. "Supporters say the move is needed to counter anti-gay stereotypes and beliefs that make gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children vulnerable to bullying and suicide. Opponents said it would burden an already crowded curriculum and expose students to a subject that some parents find objectionable." The measure leaves details of curriculum and grading up to individual districts. A separate AP (4/15) article reports that "gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people would be added to the lengthy list of social and ethnic groups that public schools must include in social studies lessons under a landmark bill passed Thursday by the California Senate." It would be the first such law in the country.


Noting that the Senate passed the measure 23-14, the Pasadena Star-News (4/15, Luciano-Adams) reports that the bill "addresses high bullying rates of LGBT youth and the absence of LGBT Americans from official accounts of history in school curricula." The measure would add LGBT Americans, Pacific Islanders, and the disabled to the list of "culturally and racially diverse groups" that state law mandates receive accurate portrayals in social studies curricula. "Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who authored the bill, described Thursday the need to incorporate, with a sense of pride, the contributions of important LGBT figures Like Harvey Milk -- the first openly gay man elected to public office in California -- into the pages of history." KRCR-TV Redding, CA (4/15) adds, "The State Senate passed the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act that will change California's Education Code to include contributions from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Parents Of Bullied Suicide Victim Sue Florida District

The St. Petersburg (FL) Times (4/13, Meacham) reports that the parents of Hope Witsell, a 13-year-old "who died by suicide in 2009 have filed a federal lawsuit against the Hillsborough School Board, claiming school officials failed to take proper steps after learning their daughter showed signs of being suicidal. ... Prior to her death, the teen had" texted a partially nude photo of herself to a classmate, which "spread throughout the school community. Witsell was picked on and bullied for months afterward. The day before she died, Witsell met with a social worker at Beth Shields Middle School who had her sign a contract promising not to end her life, the lawsuit states. School officials never notified Witsell's parents, Donna and Charles Witsell, that the teen was suicidal, the suit states."

Educators Face Rising Number Of Homeless Students

The Christian Science Monitor (4/13) profiles Sarita Fuentes, the "co-principal and CEO of Monarch School, a San Diego-based, public K-12 institution that exclusively serves homeless students." Monarch is "one of a small number of schools across the country that serve students affected by unstable housing conditions. These schools, along with other schools nationwide, are seeing a growing number of students who are homeless." The Monitor points to the impact that the recession has had on homelessness, and cites statistics from San Diego indicating "there were 13,204 homeless students countywide during the 2009-2010 academic year. Joel Garcia, co-principal at Monarch School says the school has seen about a 74 percent increase in enrollment in the past three years."

Writer Calls For Research-Based NCLB Reform

Elizabeth Demarest writes at Education Week (4/12) that there is a dearth of evidence that the "combination of top-down accountability and market competition" that is intended to improve student achievement under NCLB is working. "Test scores in the United States have not significantly improved in recent years, the achievement gap has not closed, and other developed nations have continued to build their educational capacity and surpass US performance on international assessments. Political rhetoric exhorts Americans to catch up, but the national policies that are driving education reform do not provide the means." Demarest calls for fundamental reform "solidly grounded in knowledge about education. Recent advances in knowledge about learning, teaching, and educational contexts that foster learning can potentially serve as a foundation for reform."

Controversy Surrounds Issuing iPads To Kindergartners

The AP (4/13) reports on the increasing use of iPads and other tablets in kindergartens, noting that "nearly 300 kindergartners in the central Maine city of Auburn will become the latest batch of youngsters around the country to get iPad2 touchpad tablets to learn the basics about ABCs, 1-2-3s, drawing and even music." Noting that supporters of such devices call them "a powerful education tool with hundreds of teaching applications," the AP reports that "the $200,000 that Superintendent Tom Morrill is proposing to spend on iPads - which retail for around $500 - might be better spent on some other school program, said Sue Millard of Auburn, who has children in the fourth grade and high school. She also questions whether kindergartners are old enough to appreciate the effort."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Report Calls California Schools' Earthquake Preparedness Into Question

PBS Newshour (4/12, Knapp) reports on its website that California investigative journalism group California Watch has released a report stating "that hundreds of California's public schools do not meet the legal construction codes for earthquake safety. In the On Shaky Ground multimedia series, investigative reporter Corey Johnson and the California Watch team lay out systematic failures in the construction and inspection of public schools. The three-part series shows that lax oversight of school construction, poor judgment in hiring building inspectors and inability for schools to access renovation funds have all contributed to the tens of thousands of public schools that fail to comply with the Field Act, which laid out building safety codes after 70 schools collapsed in a 1933 earthquake."


The San Francisco Chronicle (4/12, Johnson) publishes a California Watch article which reports that California "has made it virtually impossible for school districts to access a pot of money set aside for urgent seismic repairs on more than 7,500 school buildings that have been listed for nearly a decade as potentially unsafe." Noting that over the past five years, California has set aside billions of dollars for seismic repairs, the article adds that "As the Schwarzenegger administration decided how to dole out a limited amount of money, it worried about a rush on the funding" and therefore "set a high bar for schools to qualify. Instead of thousands of schools vying for the money, about three dozen buildings - at school districts in Alameda, San Benito, Humboldt, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and Los Angeles counties - met the requirements."

Illinois District Set To Adopt "Freshman Academies."

The Springfield (IL) State Journal Register (4/12, Saunders) reports that the high schools in Springfield, Illinois, are set to create "freshman academies," "with expectations that the change will improve student achievement. Beginning in the fall, freshmen will spend their first year of high school in a separate academy led by teachers and an assistant principal who will stay with the students through all four high school years. As the students move up with their classes each year, the idea is that they also will form tight bonds with teachers and administrators, who will have a better idea of what each student needs." The piece notes that the district is seeking school improvement grants to use to create the academies.

Author Suggests Standardized Testing Only Benefits Testing Companies

Author Todd Farley writes at the Washington Post (4/12) "Answer Sheet" blog about the fallibility of the data that is gleaned from standardized testing, suggesting that it can "be manipulated to tell any story. We know that a school administration-by making test questions easier or lowering cut scores-can portray improvement in its classrooms even when such improvement doesn't really exist, as happened most recently in 2009 in the New York City schools." He also alludes to the actions of "rogue" school staff changing data, adding that "testing companies fudge numbers all the time," and suggests that the US education system is simply falling for their sales pitch.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Minnesota teachers embrace blogs by students

The writings of Lisa Christen's third-grade class have inspired a late-night hankering for ice cream in Ohio, sparked a rave review from Nottingham, England, and drawn underwater greetings from the depths of a coral reef off the Australian coast. It's all thanks to the classroom blogs the students at Marion W. Savage Elementary in Savage launched this year.

Teachers across Minnesota are embracing blogs and other online forums for self-expression to help students grasp the power of words. Last year, a student blogging site started in 2007 by an Eden Prairie teacher saw its popularity explode, drawing more than half a million young writers worldwide. To learn more about the student blogs, read the full article by Mila Koumpilova at The Twin Cities Pioneer Press website.

Arizona school starts Nook Club

An elementary school librarian and principal in Gilbert, Arizona, have discovered a way to motivate students to read, while downloading new books and series instantaneously and cheaply through the use of an e-reader.

The pilot Nook Club at Sonoma Ranch Elementary School is a new type of book club that gives six sixth graders a school-bought Nook electronic reader and allows them to use the device and read on it for two weeks. The club aims to encourage reading by using the new technology. Long term, the goal is to give all sixth graders a chance to use the e-reader and read at least one electronic book by the end of the school year. To learn more about the Nook Club, read the full article by Hayley Ringle in the Local section of The Arizona Republic.

Home Schools Under-Regulated, Some Critics Say

The Thibodaux (LA) Daily Comet (4/10, McBride) reported that a "common element among parents who opt for home schooling is a desire for flexibility" yet "that flexibility makes home schooling difficult to analyze...and critics say the field is under-regulated." The Daily Comet adds that 14 states "and Washington, D.C., require only that parents notify the state of their intent to home school, according to" the Home School Legal Defense Association, and "10 states, including Louisiana's neighbor Texas, don't require parents to do anything. That's why some organizations, such as the National Education Association, a nationwide teacher's union and education lobbying group, have pushed for tighter restrictions on home schooling."

ED's Efforts Bullying Of Gay Students Noted.

The Miami Herald (4/11, Hotakainen) reports on the support that gay students are finding from prominent sources in pushing back against bullying. "In the White House, they've won backing from President Barack Obama, and on Capitol Hill, they have support from at least 23 Democratic senators who are promoting anti-bullying legislation. Perhaps most important, they've found help from the US Department of Education, which now regards school bullying as a civil rights issue. As a result, schools have been warned that if they don't take bullying seriously and work harder to protect students, they could lose their federal aid and face prosecution."

Ohio Anti-bullying Law Detailed.

The Chillicothe Gazette (4/11, Schmidt) reports on the increased public scrutiny that is being applied to school bullying in recent years, relating the details of a case in which an Ohio couple sued the Mentor Exempted Village School District Board in Mentor, Ohio, alleging "their son committed suicide after excessive school bullying. They allege the school knew about the bullying and did nothing to stop it." The Gazette adds, "Ohio has a law to help students who are victims of bullying. More specifically, the law at Revised Code Section 3313.666 requires public schools to establish policies to prevent and address bullying." The article devotes several paragraphs to describing the law.

NAACP report to link incarceration to poorly performing schools

The NAACP has announced an upcoming report that examines escalating levels of prison spending and its impact on state budgets and children in the United States. "Misplaced Priorities: Under Educate, Over Incarcerate" uncovers a connection between high incarceration rates and poorly performing schools. The effort is part of the NAACP's "Smart and Safe Campaign," an initiative designed to reform the nation's criminal justice system.

The press conference on April 7 to release the report will feature representatives of law enforcement and a growing bipartisan coalition calling on state lawmakers to rethink decades-old criminal justice policies that have undermined funding for education. To learn more about NAACP's criminal justice program, view their website.

Teacher designs T-shirts to support public education

An Indiana elementary school physical education teacher is putting her background in graphic design to use to support public education. Andrea Bornino has designed a T-shirt in support of public educators, many of whom, Bornino said, feel demonized by an increasingly divisive and politicized education climate.

Depicting a heart symbol outlining the silhouette of a student's raised hand, the shirts read in part, "Raise your hand if you are proud to be a public educator." To learn more about the T-shirts and Bornino, read the full article by Mikel Livingston at The Journal and Courier online.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chicago Teachers Turn To Website For Help Paying For Classroom Basics

The Chicago Tribune (4/6, Pevtzow) reports, " is a window into Chicagoland classrooms still squeezed by the economy" featuring postings by teachers telling "of school libraries stocked with torn and outdated books and kindergarten classes with too many pupils to fit on the rug at once for circle time. ... Started in 2001 by a Bronx high school teacher, is open to every public school in the United States, and about one out of every three schools has a teacher who has posted a request," for a donation, "representatives at the website said. There are 15,000 to 20,000 projects seeking funding at any one time, said Abigail Feuer, spokeswoman for"

Excessive Test Focus Hurts Love Of Learning, South Korean Official Says

Education Week (4/6, Cavanagh) reports, "A former top education official in academically high-flying South Korea has warned the United States against copying his nation's approach, which he says has grown too test-centered and often detracts from students' love of learning. Byong Man Ahn, the former minister of education, science, and technology in South Korea, said officials in his country are attempting to scale back the heavy test emphasis and nurture broader student skills, a step some of the United States' other foreign competitors also have taken." Education Week adds, "President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have pointed to the Asian nation's strong performance as evidence of how far US students have to go to compete in the global economy."

Achievement Gap Widening Between Asian Americans, Other Ethnic Groups

The Washington Post (4/6, Sieff) reports, "As policymakers over the past decade focused on closing the achievement gap between white students and underrepresented minorities, another rift was widening: the gap between Asian American students and everyone else. A new study from the Center on Education Policy underscores how significantly Asian American students outpace their peers, particularly in Maryland and Virginia." Across the nation, "the percentage of Asian American students scoring in the upper echelons on math exams was 17 points higher than the percentage of white students," the report finds.

More Students Learning Online, Amid Education Quality Questions

The New York Times (4/6, Gabriel, Subscription Publication) reports on the "expanding ranks of students in kindergarten through grade 12 - more than one million in the United States, by one estimate - taking online courses. Advocates of such courses say they allow schools to offer not only makeup courses, the fastest growing area, but also a richer menu of electives and Advanced Placement classes when there are not enough students to fill a classroom." However, "critics say online education is really driven by a desire to spend less on teachers and buildings, especially as state and local budget crises force deep cuts to education."

Monday, April 4, 2011

More Students Reluctant To Obtain Education Degrees

The Los Angeles Times (4/4, Gordon) reports, "Teacher layoffs and other education spending cuts are thinning more than the current ranks of California's classroom instructors. The number of people training to be teachers also is plummeting, and that trend is likely to continue." According to the Times, "Education experts are warning of a shortage of new teachers in a few years as large numbers of baby boomers start to retire from teaching jobs and larger numbers of youngsters enter elementary school."

Students In Los Angeles District Teaching Retirees Computer Skills

The Los Angeles Times (4/4, Rojas) reports that Daphne Bradford, a "digital media instructor at Crenshaw High School recruited nine of her students to venture once a week to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Cal State Dominguez Hills and teach all that they have learned about Mac computers to a class of half a dozen or so retirees wanting to learn the same. ... The class came about as a way for the institute to put to good use its lab of Apple desktops that still glimmer with that new computer sheen." The class "also fulfills a goal of Bradford's to start a program that would bridge the older generation with a younger one - an ambition that stemmed from an encounter with civil rights activist Rosa Parks before she died."

Study Finds Flaws In AYP Growth Models.

Education Week (4/1, Sparks) reported, "Amid battles over teacher quality and school restructuring, there's one thing everyone seems to want in the next version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: an accountability system that measures student growth. Yet the results of the U.S. Department of Education's growth-model pilot program, whose final evaluation was released earlier this year, suggest lawmakers may have to do some heavy lifting to include growth in accountability." According to Education Week, "Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told House education committee members at a hearing last month: '[W]e mean a system of accountability based on individual student growth-one that recognizes and rewards success and holds us all accountable for the quality of education we provide to every single student in America.'"