Thursday, April 26, 2012

Detroit Study Highlights Savings Related To Kindergarten Readiness

The Detroit Free Press (4/26, Dawsey) reports that according to Detroit's One-Child School Readiness Dividend study, "for every Detroit child who enters kindergarten ready to learn, Michigan taxpayers save $100,000." The study's "conclusions support prior research which showed evidence that children -- particularly low-income children -- who attend early education programs that prepare them are less likely to depend on taxpayer-funded services." The Free Press reports that the study "estimates costs and benefits for state government systems such as K-12 education, criminal justice, welfare/public assistance, Medicaid, unemployment, child welfare, health care and child care."

ACLU Sues District For Expelling Students After Facebook Threat

The AP (4/26) reports that in a lawsuit filed on their behalf by the ACLU, "three eighth-graders from northwest Indiana who say they were expelled after joking on Facebook about which of their classmates they would like to kill asked a federal judge Wednesday to order the district to allow them to return to school." The lawsuit "says school officials told the girls they had violated school policy against bullying, harassment and intimidation," but the ACLU counters that the district violated the girls' First Amendment rights.


The Chicago Tribune (4/26, Williams-Harris) reports that the district expelled the girls "over a lengthy conversation on Facebook. According to the complaint, the conversation went from the pain of cutting oneself while shaving to the girls' friendship, before shifting to which of their classmates they would kill if given the chance." Though the ACLU calls the activity "teenage banter," the Tribune reports an examiner at an expulsion hearing found that "the girls' behavior violated the school's policy concerning bullying, harassment and intimidation."


The Muncie (IN) Star Press (4/26) reports that a statement from the ACLU of Indiana said that the online comments "were clearly meant to be humorous, as evidenced by their repeated use of emoticons such as ;) and abbreviations such as LOL and LMFAO, and caused no disruption at school."

Parents Of Special-Needs Students Increasingly Using Electronic Surveillance



Nirvi Shah writes at the Education Week (4/26) "On Special Education" blog about the burgeoning trend of parents of students with disabilities "fitting their kids with hidden devices to capture a day in their lives at school. Among the mundane teacher-student interactions are the sounds of slapping, taunting voices, talk about the best recipes for martinis, and selected reading from an article that refers to the inadequate size of a sexual organ." Shah continues to relate the case of Stuart Chaifetz, who "sent his son to school with a wire in February," revealing "staff calling his son a 'bastard' and telling him to shut his mouth."


The AP (4/26, Mulvihill) reports that the parents of a number of special-needs students across the country learned about "verbal abuse the same way -- by planting audio recorders on them before sending them off to school. In cases around the country, suspicious parents have been taking advantage of convenient, inexpensive technology to tell them what children, because of their disabilities, are not able to express on their own." The piece notes that though the practice can reveal abuse, "George Giuliani, executive director of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and director of special education at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., says that while the documented mistreatment of children has been disturbing, secret recordings are a bad idea" because they could violate other students' privacy rights.


The New Jersey Newsroom (4/26, Holt) reports that Chaifetz sent his son to school with a recording device "after receiving reports that his son had become prone to violent outbursts," whereupon the student "came back with 6.5 hours of tape filled with verbal and emotional abuse from his classroom aide and teacher. Stuart Chaifetz documented the tape and published it in a YouTube video." Reuters (4/26, Allen) also covers this story, noting that the district fired at least two of the educators involved in the verbal abuse. The Cherry Hill (NJ) Courier-Post (4/26, Walsh, Mitchell) also covers this story.

Indiana District Experimenting With "Flipped Classroom."

The Pendleton (IN) Herald Bulletin (4/26, Palmer) reports that a number of students at Pendleton Heights High School in Pendleton, Indiana, are learning using a "flipped classroom" model, in which "students watch video lectures, or 'vodcasts,' made by their teachers from home, whether it be on YouTube or the school website. Then, they return to class the next day expected to use the knowledge they've learned to complete assignments, quizzes and labs. 'The real benefit of it is when they're (students) trying to learn content, they have the teacher to help them,' Principal Mark Hall said." The piece notes that educators in Colorado devised the approach, and that it has been spreading across the country.

California District Set To Lay Off 1,000 Staff

U-T San Diego (4/26, Magee) reports that as part of a "massive personnel reduction" necessitated by state budget cuts, the "San Diego school board voted to eliminate nearly 1,000 nonteaching positions Tuesday night over the familiar protests of parents, teachers and others who have grown frustrated with budget cuts they say will give students a substandard education in an unsafe environment." The piece notes that over 1,000 teachers are also set to be laid off next year. "Hundreds of employees, parents and students staged a rally outside the district's University Heights headquarters to protest the cuts."


KNSD-TV San Diego (4/26, Tevrizian) reports on its website that the board took the action over "protests from teachers, parents and counselors," noting that 150 pre-K teachers are also slated for layoffs. "It means class size could go up to 40, maybe even more students in some classes. Grades 4 through 8 and pre-Kindergarten education may be gutted altogether."


KSWB-TV San Diego (4/26) reports on its website, "Parents and teachers rallied Tuesday to save the preschool program within the San Diego Unified School District after 150 teachers received pink slips," noting that the "layoff notices that could end preschool programs in the district."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Illinois BOE Mulls Pay-To-Ride School Bus System

MSNBC (4/25, Omer) reports that under a plan being considered by the Illinois Board of Education, students in the state, "like others in cash-strapped school districts nationwide, may have to pay for their bus trip to school." The plan would offer "districts in the state the options of eliminating buses altogether or having parents pay the transportation cost. ... Nationwide, school districts struggling with massive budget shortfalls have started charging families for what had been a free service, with even more districts, including Palm Beach County in Florida, considering the idea of a pay-to-ride bus system. Attempts by to contact a spokesperson with the Illinois State Board of Education or US Department of Education was unsuccessful on Tuesday."

Spring Presents Challenges, Opportunities For Teachers

The Chicago Tribune (4/25, Cullotta, 463K) reports Rob Monson, president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, "and other experts said that with summer vacation on the horizon, teachers and parents should remain vigilant that rules and consequences are still enforced, and that children understand that boundaries and expectations remain firmly in
place." Monson urges teachers "to take advantage of the annual bouts of spring fever" by taking classes outside, whether it's a walking club organized by physical education teachers, outdoor lessons for science, or "teaching a geometry lesson...that involves students measuring the angles of objects in the school courtyard."

Research: Middle School Algebra Exposure May Hinder Academic Progress

Education Week (4/25, Sparks) reports that notwithstanding the perception that algebra is fundamental to higher math, "new studies question whether low-performing students benefit from exposure to the subject in middle school. Separate studies of urban middle schoolers in California and in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., schools suggest that placing struggling math students in algebra class does not improve their test performance on state math tests, and significantly hurts their grade point averages and the likelihood of their taking and passing higher math courses in high school." The piece describes the research and the policies in California and North Carolina.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Philadelphia District Officials Announce Sweeping Restructuring Plans

The Philadelphia Inquirer (4/24, Graham) reports that Philadelphia School District Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen announced on Monday that the district "will massively restructure itself in the coming months, fundamentally altering the way it is organized and run - and possibly closing 40 low-performing, underused schools next year and shifting many more students to charters. The district faces a $218 million shortfall for the coming school year, more than previously stated and subject to rise if Mayor Nutter's proposed city tax plan does not materialize or if a recent charter school ruling is not altered." Knudsen cited "academic and safety problems 'and the fact that, financially, we cannot continue in the present form of organization and operations that we have right now.'"

Chicago Push For Longer School Day Meets Resistance

NPR's "Morning Edition" (4/24) reports on the controversy surrounding the push in Chicago to extend the school day, noting that since taking office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel "has been pushing to lengthen the day to 7 1/2 hours in every school" from its current level of 5 hours and 45 minutes. "At some city schools, parents, teachers and principals have agreed to a longer day." However, "Emanuel's plan to lengthen the school day has run into resistance. Teachers balked: The Chicago Teachers Union says that while it doesn't oppose a longer day, teachers should be paid more for the extra time, they need more classroom resources, and more teachers and staff need to be hired." Audio of this story can be heard here.

Maryland District Set To Implement Longer School Day

The Washington Post (4/24, Wiggins) reports that the school district in Prince George's County, Maryland, is implementing an extended learning time push, noting that "starting in August, many middle school students will receive up to 40 additional minutes of help in science, math or reading. Others, who don't need remedial instruction, will get an equal amount of enrichment time in subjects such as music or foreign language." Noting that such extended learning time is part of DC Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson's plans for the district, the Post adds, "Experts say that a longer school day is no guarantee of better academic results and that educators must think hard about how to use the additional minutes." The Post continues to relate officials' assurances that the extra time won't just be used for the same curriculum.

Common Core Could Suffer During Implementation

Education Week (4/24, Gewertz) reports that though most states have pledged to adopt the Common Core State Standards, they now "face what experts say is their biggest challenge yet: faithful translation from expectations on paper to instruction in classrooms. The implementation stage brims with possibilities both promising and threatening, depending on one's perspective." The article describes some common criticisms of the Common Core, and quotes Thomas B. Fordham Institute President Chester E. Finn Jr. calling poor implementation "the biggest potential pothole" facing the standards. Deep in the article, Education Week discusses concerns about states' loss of curricular control, but notes that "officials who favor them, including US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, have repeatedly said that states are free to choose whether to embrace or reject common standards and tests."

California Coalition Pushing For Restoration Of Arts Curriculum


USA Today (4/24) reports that a coalition of California politicians, business leaders, and educators are "making a big push to restore the arts to California public schools," noting that "a realization by business that creativity is a valuable asset in the workplace" is part of the impetus for the move. "Public funding for the arts dried up in most California classroom after 1978, when voters approved the Proposition 13 property tax cap. A new statewide initiative, called Create CA, is backed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and many lawmakers and involves legislation, more funding for the arts and increased public awareness, the newspaper says."

Administration Dispatching Celebrities To Push Arts Curriculum

Coverage of the Administration's having chosen eight School Improvement Grant schools to receive a special boost to their arts curriculum continues today. The Washington Times (4/24, Wolfgang) reports, "Carrie Bradshaw might not be a role model at the elementary school, but the Obama administration hopes Sarah Jessica Parker can be. As part of its Turnaround Arts initiative announced Monday, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities will dispatch Miss Parker and such other stars as Forest Whitaker and Kerry Washington to eight elementary and middle schools across the nation, where they will advocate for more theater, dance and other arts courses." The Times quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying, "Arts and music education are absolutely critical to providing all students with a world-class, well-rounded education, and nowhere are they more essential than in low-performing schools." The Times explains that a number of private-sector partners, such as Crayola and the Aspen Institute, will contribute to the effort.


Erik Robelen writes at the Education Week (4/24) "Curriculum Matters" blog that the "academically troubled" schools "will get a big dose of arts education support to help them turn around-not to mention access to a little star power from the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and Sarah Jessica Parker-under a new public-private partnership announced today by a White House advisory panel. The effort aims not only to assist the struggling schools but also to serve as a test bed for the idea that high-quality, integrated arts education can play a valuable role in motivating students, improving school climate, and improving academic achievement across disciplines."


Robin Pogrebin writes at the New York Times (4/24) "ArtsBeat" blog that the program, dubbed Turnaround Arts, "aims to improve academic performance and increase student engagement through the arts. It was developed by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in cooperation with the Education Department and the White House Domestic Policy Council."

California Middle School English Teacher Named Teacher Of The Year

The Los Angeles Times (4/24) reports, "a middle-school teacher from Burbank Unified School District was named 2012 national teacher of the year on Monday. Rebecca Mieliwocki, a seventh-grade English teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School, will be recognized by President Barack Obama on Tuesday during a ceremony at the White House."


The LAist (4/24, Lloyd) reports that Rebecca Mieliwocki, a middle school English teacher with the Burbank Unified School District, has been "named the 2012 National Teacher of the Year, the nation's oldest and most prestigious teaching honor." Mieliwocki "will be recognized by President Barack Obama Tuesday at a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House and will serve as a national education spokeswoman for one year. ... 'Rebecca Mieliwocki is an inspiration to her students, to me, and to every California teacher,' said California state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, according to City News Service. 'She's the perfect choice for this tremendous honor...'"


Texas Teacher Of The Year To Visit White House. The Dallas Morning News (4/24, Walsh) reports, "Texas' Teacher of the Year, Karen Ann Morman of McKinney , will join President Barack Obama and her best-of-state peers from around the country at the White House on Tuesday." The piece notes that Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden "will also attend the event, which honors the national Teacher of the Year, Rebecca Mieliwocki of Burbank, Calif. Morman is a reading specialist at J.W. Webb Elementary School of the McKinney Independent School District."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Duncan Lays Out Rural Education Priorities At Virginia Summit

Diette Courrege writes in the Education Week (4/19) "Rural Education" blog that Education Secretary Arne Duncan, speaking Tuesday in Arlington, Virginia, at the second Summit on the Role of Education in Economic Development in Rural America, said that his "rural education agenda centers on four priorities: teachers, capacity, technology and college access. ... 'As the rural community goes, so goes our nation,' said Duncan, according to the Governing View blog. The strengths of rural communities include hard work, commitment to community, and quick response to problems, and their top challenges include poverty, teacher recruitment and internet access, Duncan said." Duncan added that the "the teaching profession needs to be elevated through higher salaries and incentives for those taking jobs in hard-to-staff areas, such as rural schools," and touted the Administration's RESPECT grant program.

Poll: 80% Favor Better Nutrition In Schools

Nirvi Shah writes at the Education Week (4/20, 37K) "Politics K-12" blog that according to a new poll from the Pew Charitable Trusts' Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project, "Americans overwhelmingly want better nutrition standards for the food and drinks sold in schools." The poll found that "80 percent of American voters are in favor of national standards that would limit calories, fat, and sodium in snack and à la carte foods sold in schools and encourage the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy items." Shah notes that respondents may have been influenced y "fights last fall over rules about what's in students' school meals sold through the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program."

Pennsylvania Teachers Balk At Plans To "Merge" Social Studies, English

The Allentown (PA) Morning Call (4/20, Esack, 95K) reports that teachers in Allentown, Pennsylvania, are expressing concerns about "the administration's plan to drop social studies as a free-standing course to create more time for mathematics," and to "merge social studies with English language arts" for sixth graders. Noting that the school board is scheduled to take up the issue, the Morning Call reports that "under the plan, the 45-minute classes of social studies and English would be rolled into one 45-minute class where 'students will learn social studies content through reading and writing.' That would increase math from 45 minutes to 90 minutes to try to raise math test scores, which fall far after fifth grade."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

School Districts Debate Facebook Friending Among Teachers, Students

The AP (4/19) reports that nationwide, school districts are questioning whether students and teachers should be Facebook friends "as they seek to balance the risks of inappropriate contact with the academic benefits of social networking." For example, "At least 40 school districts nationwide have approved social media policies," while "schools in New York City and Florida have disciplined teachers for Facebook activity, and Missouri legislators recently acquiesced to teachers' objections to a strict statewide policy." The AP notes that some teachers argue that "social media - in particular Facebook - can be a vital educational resource if used appropriately, especially because it's a primary means of communication for today's youngsters."

WPost Praises Virginia District For Seeking Later High School Start Times

An editorial in the Washington Post (4/19) notes that school officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, are revisiting pushing back high school start times "two years after the defeat of a hotly debated proposal" to do so, arguing that the "reason the idea won't go away is that it makes too much sense. Every bit of scientific research and experience shows that teenagers have different sleep patterns and that later start times are beneficial to students, schools and the community." The Post concedes that there will be logistical difficulties for the large district, but states that the school board "is right to persist in trying to bring about sensible reform as to when high school students begin classes."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

California Study: Black Students, Students With Disabilities More Likely To Be Suspended

The San Jose Mercury News (4/11, Murphy) reports that according to researchers with UCLA's Civil Rights Project, disabled students in the state "were twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension as their non-disabled peers," while "African-American students were three times as likely as white students to be suspended. ... In the 2009-10 school year alone, 7 percent of California's public schoolchildren and 18 percent of black students were suspended at least once, according to the report." The piece notes that researchers studied "information reported by school districts to the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights" to reach their conclusions.

Kansas District Launches Common Core Digital Literacy Program

T.H.E. Journal (4/11, Sohn) reports that Kansas' El Dorado Public Schools has "deployed a digital literacy program for its middle and high school students as it gears up for the implementation of Common Core State Standards. For the past eight years, all students in El Dorado Public Schools have been using electronic course materials." Now, "the district decided last spring to implement Pearson's Prentice Hall Literature Common Core Edition in preparation for Common Core State Standards testing, which will begin in the 2014-2015 school year."

West Virginia DOE Website Uses Video Games To Transcend Learning Styles

The AP (4/11) reports that the West Virginia Department of Education has launched a website called Learn21 intended to channel students' love of computer games into education. "The site offers all kinds of games that help students in every grade level brush up on their studies." Launched two years ago, "the website offers online games that go along with the curriculum. Teachers can use the games in class and students can access the website from home if they want to practice some more."


**Note – Their site is a great resource. Try it out!

Report Shows Improvements In Rural Education

Diette Courrege writes at the Education Week (4/11) "Rural Education" blog that according to a new analysis from the Daily Yonder and the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University, "rural Americans have improved their educational attainment during the past 40 years, but the gap between rural and urban areas for residents with college degrees is growing, according to new analysis by rural advocates. Additionally, rural areas are seeing an increasing percentage of residents who only have a high school diploma, while the rest of the country is seeing a decrease in that percentage." The researchers found that over the past four decades, "rural areas have made progress according to many measures," but there are "a couple of areas where statistics aren't in rural communities' favor, specifically the widening gap between rural and urban areas for the percentage of adults with college degrees."

Teacher-Prep Rule Negotiations Deadlock

The "Teacher Beat" blog of Education Week (4/13, Sawchuk) reports, "Following a three-hour telephone call with negotiators during which consensus seemed frustratingly out of reach on new teacher preparation accountability rules," with student-achievement outcomes being "the final wedge issue," the Department of Education "declined to extend the rulemaking process any further, meaning it will craft the rules on its own." Previously, "during the second rulemaking session, the negotiators appeared to have reached a compromise on the matter," but it came up again. While some "negotiators pushed for a five-year pilot to test out the new student-outcomes criteria...that didn't sit well with everyone." The National Education Association's Segun Eubanks said, "There's not much of a research base at all about how to effectively measure the impact of teacher preparation, and I don't know that waiting five years to figure that out is the right way to go."


Insider Higher Education (4/13, Nelson) reports, "The gaps between some negotiators -- and between negotiators and the Education Department -- remained too wide on too many issues." While "Education Department representatives pushed strongly to include 'value added scores,' which attempt to evaluate students' academic progress by excluding other factors -- like demographics and poverty -- that are known to have an effect on test scores," critics "argued that they have little scientific basis." Segun Eubanks, director of the Teacher Quality Department at the National Education Association, said, "It's sad for us to end without consensus, but I understand the basis for it," adding, "I think as a result we still may pull out some very good language and some very good policy, which I think is in the best interest of everybody."

Minnesota School District Considering Shorter School Year, Four-Day Weeks

The Minneapolis Star Tribune (4/13, Estrada, Smith) reports that Burnsville, Minnesota, School District "might give students every other Monday off or even send students home for the summer before Memorial Day," in an effort to save $5 million. By extending the school day by about 36 minutes, "the actual number of instructional hours for children will remain the same, as mandated by state law." The savings come from lower transportation costs, "reduced food service expenses as well as lower utility bills, fewer custodial costs and not as many teacher aides or substitution teachers used." Ron Hill, chairman of the Burnsville school board, "said that the effect on child care would be one of the most important issues that the district will consider before deciding to make any changes."


The Huffington Post (4/13, Berman) reports, "Burnsville isn't the only school district looking for creative ways to prevent a budget crisis, according to the Associated Press." Nationwide "the recession has cut into education localities run out of the federal stimulus dollars that have staved off widespread job cuts over the past two years."

San Jose School Program Involves Entire Families For Whom English Is A Second Language

The San Jose Mercury News (4/13, Rosen) reports Union School District's Noddin School in San Jose, California, sponsored a pilot program, the Latino Family Literacy Project, which seeks to get Latino families for whom English is a second language "more deeply involved in the school community." For 10 90-minute sessions "the school committed to the entire family: parents, students and even younger siblings who stayed with baby-sitters." Dinner was included. While parents worked with teachers to build English language skills, students received tutoring.

Colorado Teacher Combines Physical Education, History Of The Titanic

The Denver Post (4/13, Simpson) reports that teacher Laurie Gaudreault at Adams 12's McElwain Elementary in Welby, Colorado, built a physical education class around the Titanic. Her week-long program involves the entire gym and almost all of its equipment, as well as reading, props, and costumes. After learning about the history of the ship, the kids go through an obstacle course then don period clothing associated with specific characters and read about the character.

Competition For NYC Middle Schools Births Tutoring Industry

The New York Times (4/16, A14, Phillips, Subscription Publication) reports that as "competition for top middle schools" in New York City "has intensified as more families choose to remain in the city and others find themselves unable to afford private schools," with "performance on fourth- and fifth-grade standardized tests is crucial to getting into one of those schools," many parents are paying "hundreds and even thousands of dollars for tutors and for courses" to prepare their children for the tests, "on top of test preparation that almost all elementary schools now provide in class." Meanwhile, the city's Education Department "is switching to a new type of gifted test" for 4- and 5-year-olds, "partly in response to concerns that tutoring and test preparation are influencing the results."

New York City School Seeks To Apply Cognitive Neuroscience To Classrooms

The New York Times (4/14, MB1, Anderson, Subscription Publication) reports on the Blue School in Manhattan, "a kind of national laboratory for integrating cognitive neuroscience and cutting-edge educational theory into curriculum, professional development and school design." The Times notes that "strategies for regulating emotions are getting more emphasis in progressive schools across the country," but experts say they don't yet know if applying brain science "will lead to improved academic outcomes." Furthermore, some researchers "prefer a more traditional approach to pedagogy."

Standardized Tests Crowd 1992 Riots From Los Angeles History Classes

The Los Angeles Times (4/16, Watanabe) reports, "Two decades after the" 1992 Los Angeles "riots sparked massive violence that would leave dozens dead and thousands injured, lessons about them appear to be limited in Southern California classrooms." The riots aren't part of the Los Angeles Unified School District's "curriculum because it is not part of the California social studies standards," and, "for many teachers, the pressure to teach content that will be tested in state standardized tests and Advanced Placement exams next month has crowded out time for the riots, however crucial they are to city history and the nation's larger civil rights struggle."

Los Angeles School Sees Jump In Test Scores After Creating Garden

The Los Angeles Times (4/16, Sahagun) reports Leo Politi Elementary School in Los Angeles replaced "5,000 square feet of concrete and Bermuda grass three years ago" with native flora. Insects and birds came, and "students...fascinated by the nature unfolding before them, learned so much that their test scores in science rose sixfold." The garden was created with $18,000 from a "schoolyard habitat" and partner's grants from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Lourdes Ortiz, a director of instruction for the Los Angeles Unified School District, cited Leo Politi's experience as a "reason administrators are encouraging schools across the district to develop projects unique to their needs."

In Flipped Model, Kids Learn At Home, Do Homework In Class

The Washington Post (4/16, Strauss) reports former high school chemistry teacher Jonathan Bergmann "helps teachers around the world 'flip' their classrooms." The Post publishes excerpts of an interview with Bergmann who says that in such a classroom, "the direct instruction piece, the lecture, is done now at home with videos," while the teacher in the classroom helps "students as they do what they would normally do at home." This allows the teacher "to help with the instruction piece, the learning, while the lecture is done at home." The model started with hard sciences and math, and it words for foreign languages. Bergmann said, "we've got some amazing teachers speaking at our conference who are English teachers," adding that while "I haven't seen a whole lot of social studies and history...there is a movement amongst them."

Chicago Principals Preparing For Longer School Day

The Chicago Tribune (4/18, Ahmed-Ullah) reports on the "challenge" that Chicago principals are facing in preparing for the increased length of the school day next year, noting that budget constraints and an impasse with the teachers union are exacerbating the issue. "CPS principals have not yet been told by the district how much money they'll be getting for their schools in the coming year. At one time, school administrators received tentative budget allocations for the following school year in March. But principals said that hasn't been the case for about four years, with some blaming turnover at the top (CPS has had four chiefs in as many years)."

Some Schools Use iPads To Teach Communication Skills To Kids With Autism

The AP (4/16, Hardy) reported that some schools are using iPads to teach children with autism "appropriate play behavior, communication and social skills." However, "even before iPads, many teachers with autistic students kept hundreds of small photos to help with choices and transition time. That same idea is now being replicated on iPads." The piece quoted Blythe Corbett, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, who said, "It's taking some systems that have already been in place and now advancing them and making them even more accessible for our children with autism."

Idaho Accepting Bids For Student, Teacher Laptops

The AP (4/17, Bonner) reports, "Idaho has started accepting bids for a contract to provide every high school student and teacher with a laptop, or similar device. ... Idaho is phasing in the laptops while also becoming the first state in the nation to require high school students to take at least two credits online to graduate."

Study Highlights Benefits Of Structure During Recess

Education Week (4/18, Shah) reports that according to a new study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, having "more, and well trained, staff on the playground" during elementary school recess can prevent "discipline-related problems" during recess. "The study examines an approach to creating more-structured recess time that is provided by Playworks, based in Oakland, Calif. It finds that the nonprofit organization's program can smooth the transition between recess and class time-giving teachers more time to spend on instruction-and can cut back on bullying in the schoolyard."

Los Angeles Board Mulls Curriculum Change To Promote College Readiness

The Los Angeles Daily Breeze (4/18, Jones) reports that the Los Angeles Unified School District is considering a "sweeping change in curriculum" under which high school students "would have to take advanced courses such as algebra, physics and a foreign language and earn at least a C to graduate." The piece notes that the proposal "is part of an effort to make every LAUSD graduate meet the minimum standards for admission to the University of California and California State University systems. ... To help students meet those tough new standards, the district would shrink the graduation requirement from 230 to 170 units, making it optional to take any electives, such as health or technology classes."

Philadelphia High-Achieving Schools To Increase Enrollment

The Philadelphia Inquirer (4/18, Graham) reports that nineteen of Philadelphia's highest-achieving schools will offer enrollment to some 2,300 more students next year, adding, "The expansion 'lets the city of Philadelphia know that the School District of Philadelphia is investing in the growth of high-quality, high-performing school options,' Penny Nixon, the district's chief academic officer, said at a news conference Tuesday at Girls High. ... The high schools are all citywide or magnet schools that already require an application for admittance; elementary schools will be open to students who qualify for a transfer under No Child Left Behind guidelines, and then for any student who applies for a voluntary transfer."

Report Finds Poor, Minority Students Have Fewer Educational Opportunities

Beth Fertig writes at the New York Times (4/18, Subscription Publication) "SchoolBook" blog about a new report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education which "looked at the educational opportunities available to poor and minority students and found the choices lacking." The report "found that poor and minority students have fewer opportunities to attend the city's best public schools largely because of where they live." Fertig describes the study's methodology, and notes that it "found that wealthier neighborhoods have more access to better schools."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Special Needs Students Using Tablet Computers To Facilitate Learning, Communication

An article in the Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News (4/10, Malawskey) narrates a visit with a six-year-old child with Down syndrome who is able to communicate with an Apple iPad, but "cannot say more than one word at a time." The piece describes the boy's school, Early Childhood Center in Derry Township, where he attends first grade. "The portability, accessibility and adaptability of tablet computers were not missed by the special-needs community, which very early grasped the possibilities they presented. But technology alone is no panacea for the challenges of education, said Kirsten Yurich, chief clinical officer at the Vista School in Derry Twp."

North Carolina Teachers Using Technology To Prepare For Common Core Math Standards

In commentary for T.H.E. Journal (4/10), Cindy H. Moss, director of PreK-12 STEM education at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, writes that as states prepare to transition to the Common Core State Standards, "many current teaching practices simply will not provide students with the necessary skills to be productive 21st century citizens, and most educators recognize that fact." Moss touches on the difficulties of changing teacher practices and school policies, noting that in her district, "a number of students and teachers are bringing in sweeping change as they move toward full implementation of the Common Core's Standards for Mathematical Practice. They are reimagining the way math teachers are trained and students are taught, using an approach that makes use of technology and focuses on professional development."