Monday, January 10, 2011

Quick Hits

Rhee set to announce agenda for national education-reform group: Former Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is expected Monday to announce an agenda for her new education-reform organization, Students First. Rhee already has set a goal of raising $1 billion and mobilizing 1 million members to help improve public education by making changes in the teaching profession, increasing choices for families and developing more accountability in schools. (The Associated Press)

Revisions planned for Advanced Placement courses, exams: The College Board will announce an overhaul of many Advanced Placement courses next month. Standardized curricula will be created for the courses and synchronized with new exams to eliminate much of the uncertainty about AP exams. It also will allow teachers to spend more class time helping students develop critical-thinking skills. The changes will first affect German and French, followed by biology and U.S. History courses in 2012-13. Changes to other AP subjects will be introduced in 2014 or beyond. (The New York Times)

Tennessee test scores show effect of new, tougher standards: Students' scores on 2010 Tennessee state tests suffered less than expected under new tougher standards, results released Friday showed. The state aligned their 2010 tests with higher-performing states and began implementing more difficult curricula during the 2009-10 school year. Additional education reforms were implemented last year as part of the state's winning Race to the Top bid. "We've been going 100 miles an hour ever since," the state's education chief said. "We still have a long way to go because we have upped the ante." (The Tennessean)

Common core standards could lead to collaboration for online learning: Common national education standards now have been adopted by most states and some say a common framework for online education programs may not be far behind, allowing states to align their e-learning curricula and materials. "The bad news is nobody has materials that are aligned to common-core standards, therefore somebody is going to have to invest significantly in developing suitable materials and lessons and online assessments ..." one expert said. (Education Week)

Can turnaround schools sustain progress when leaders exit early?: Low-performing schools across the country are going through turnaround processes under the leadership of newly hired "hero principals." The principal at one Boston school resigned before the process was complete, raising questions about whether the school will be able to sustain the progress it has made. "Anytime you lose a valuable member of the team there is an impact, but we will move onward and upward," one district official said. (The Boston Globe)

How planning can prevent charter schools from becoming a fad: Kenneth Lopour, the dean of a charter in Los Angeles, writes in this piece that the rapid growth in the number of charter schools nationwide may lead to future problems without proper planning. Lopour argues that charters should not be seen as a quick fix for problems in education, but they can be productive solutions when created based on community need. He stresses that charters should be established with a clear vision, workable plan, sufficient financial backing and support from the community. (Education Week)

Disputed history text dropped in Fairfax, Va., schools: Schools in Fairfax County, Va., will discontinue using a fourth-grade history textbook found to have numerous errors, including a claim that many black soldiers fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Supplemental materials will be used until an improved edition of the book is available and schools still may use portions of the book that are factually correct, the district's superintendent said Thursday. A neighboring county already has suspended use of the text, "Our Virginia: Past and Present." (FortHuntPatch)

10 educational apps for the classroom: A list of 10 notable educational apps available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod has been assembled by eSchool News. Recommended apps include the free app Molecules, which allows students to view and manipulate 3-D molecule models. Another free app allows students and teachers access to Blackboard from Apple devices, while the $5.99 Essay Grader helps teachers speed up their essay grading process. The free Today in History app lists historical events that took place that day, and Math Ref Free offers 600 formulas, figures and math tips. (eSchool News)

NY governor announces plans for competitive school grants: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York proposed during his State of the State speech two new competitive, statewide grants -- worth $250 million each -- in programs similar to the federal Race to the Top competition. The first grant program would reward districts that increase academic achievement, while the second would support cost-cutting measures in schools. "Competition works," Cuomo said. (GothamSchools)

Will edited Twain classics be used in classrooms?: A Mark Twain scholar has teamed with a book publisher to release a more politically correct version of Twain classics "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," saying he was sought by school teachers who wanted a less-offensive version for students to read. "In the new classroom, it's really not acceptable," said Alan Gribben, who is releasing the new version with NewSouth Books. (Publishers Weekly)

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