Monday, January 17, 2011

Quick Hits

Teaching King's legacy: Going beyond the "I Have a Dream" speech: Some educators say schools need to do more to place the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in historical context and effectively teach about his legacy and the overall civil rights movement. "Dr. King was a peacemaker but the vast majority of people in this country, black and white, viewed him as a troublemaker because he told this country, 'Let's live up to what's in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.' I hope that students and teachers go beyond those four words and realize that he lived after the 'I Have a Dream' speech," one researcher said. (The Sun)

Would an all-digital classroom benefit students?: A laptop initiative in a Wisconsin school district is among the experiments that has educators encouraged about using digital media to replace traditional textbooks in the classroom. Some educators say the change allows for more flexibility in the curriculum and helps schools cut costs, but others are concerned about how an all-digital classroom will affect student learning. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

How will Calif. schools implement "parent trigger" law?: California officials are struggling to determine how to implement the state's new "parent trigger" law, which allows parents to force changes at failing schools. New members of the state's school board say they need more time to consider proposed regulations, which were set to be approved last week. Key concerns include whether parents outside a school could trigger a transformation and whether parents should be able to choose a charter operator without first gathering community input. Parents at a Compton school already have moved to turn over management to a charter. (Los Angeles Times)

Duncan criticizes busing change in Wake County schools: Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a letter to several media outlets, criticized North Carolina's Wake County schools for ending a busing policy designed to promote a socio-economic balance in schools and urged other school boards nationwide not to make similar changes. The policy change, intended to allow students to attend schools closer to home, is being reviewed by the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights after a complaint was filed by the NAACP and other groups. (NPR)

N.Y. adopts adjustments to common academic standards: The New York State Board of Regents this week approved new academic standards for students in preschool through 12th grade. The move adjusts the national common standards New York approved in July -- states are allowed to supplement the national standards -- and will significantly change the way math is taught to the youngest students. The changes include more emphasis on math skills, such as number knowledge for kindergarten students, and standards for preschoolers. (The Buffalo News)

How student feedback can improve teaching and learning: English teacher and author Larry Ferlazzo allowed his students to take part in a professional-development session in which his videotaped lessons were observed and critiqued by an instructional consultant familiar with his school. Ferlazzo gained valuable insight by allowing students to offer comments about his teaching; students gained a new perspective on their responsibility for learning by observing their participation in classroom work. (Teacher Magazine)

Program offers 2 years of classroom experience for teacher candidates: A pilot program through Washington state's Heritage University and a local school district offers two years of hands-on classroom experience for those training to become teachers. Teacher candidates are placed as student teachers in local classrooms and given feedback on instructional strategies and practices. "You go from just theory to being fully immersed. That makes a huge difference," said an associate dean at the university and a co-director of the program. (Yakima Herald-Republic)

Could Congress move to revise ESEA this year?: A push to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is expected as part of President Barack Obama's Jan. 25 State of the Union speech, says Education Week reporter Alyson Klein. Advocates say involvement by the president and Education Secretary Arne Duncan -- along with support from Republican policymakers -- could make it possible for a revised law to be considered by Congress before the run-up to the 2012 presidential elections, Klein writes. (Politics K-12)

Louisiana governor proposes business-charter partnership law: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing a new law that would create partnerships between businesses and charter schools to "help feed the pipeline of qualified workers." Jindal's proposal is based on similar laws in 14 other states and would allow businesses to provide land or facilities in exchange for seats on the charter's governing board. Schools also would partner with the companies in career counseling and mentoring and reserve up to half of classroom seats for employees' children. (The Times-Picayune)

Teachers' YouTube rap videos help Ohio students learn algebra: Math teachers at an Ohio high school are creating rap videos and posting them on YouTube to teach students about algebra and trigonometry. The teachers use popular rap songs and replace the lyrics with directions for math concepts, including one called "Gettin' Triggy Wit It." Teachers say the videos have helped students learn and they have noticed students are more attentive in class. (WCMH-TV)

The challenges math teachers face: Today's math educators encounter many challenges in teaching the subject, including convincing their students they will need math skills throughout their lives. Other challenges for math teachers entail providing a strong foundation in math, making sure students learn the standards covered by state tests and teaching concepts that meet students' various learning styles. "The challenge of teaching in such a way that all students approach mathematical understanding is enormous," one fourth-grade teacher said. (CNN)

"Remote school" allows snowbound students to keep up with classes: A prep school in Gainesville, Ga., allowed students to work from home this week on school-issued laptops as part of its "remote school" program used when classes are canceled for bad weather. Some teachers are providing real-time lessons to students online, while others have set up reading assignments, blogging exercises and other lessons using such programs as Moodle and DyKnow. (The Times)

Connecticut school district to send home "Fitnessgrams": The New Canaan, Conn., school district wants to get parents involved in student wellness efforts by sending home "Fitnessgrams" for children in grades four, six, eight and 10. The report cards measure a child's fitness in the areas of aerobic capacity, flexibility, muscular strength and muscular endurance. (

Education Department offers guidance on Race to the Top amendments: Education Department officials are specifying what types of changes states can make to their Race to the Top plans without jeopardizing grant funding. Any amendments must be "consistent with the underlying principles" of the original proposals, including adherence to academic targets and continuance of teacher-union support, the guidelines state. "The bar is set as high as it was when the competition began," a department spokeswoman said. (Education Week)

How are larger class sizes affecting students in Calif. schools?: Budget woes are leading to larger class sizes in California schools. In San Jose schools, budget cuts forced a 50% increase in class sizes for the youngest students last year, and the change that has led to difficulties for students and teachers. Educators say they are forced to spend additional time planning and reviewing lessons, as well as grading work, and that there is less time for projects and individualized instruction. "There's a greater chance more kids are going to fall through the cracks," one teacher said. (San Jose Mercury News)

Los Angeles names former Gates official as new schools chief: Longtime educator John Deasy was appointed incoming Los Angeles schools chief Tuesday, succeeding outgoing Superintendent Ramon Cortines. Deasy, a former official with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is known for promoting education reform, including tying teacher evaluations to student test scores. Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised the appointment, but teachers union officials said their input was not sought during the selection process. (The Wall Street Journal) (Los Angeles Times)

Schools cope with the continuing effects of the recession: States and districts are continuing to struggle with the effects of the recession, and officials are being challenged to address urgent financial issues without derailing long-term academic and policy goals. Unprecedented federal stimulus funding helped push back some of the initial financial duress. But with that money spent, many states and districts are now dealing with a "funding cliff." Some say the financial constraints could be good for reform, forcing states and districts to rethink their priorities and eliminate ineffective policies. (Education Week)

Can 60 first-graders learn together in one classroom?: The New American Academy in Brooklyn, N.Y., features open classrooms with 60 kindergartners or first-graders being taught by a master teacher and multiple novices. The strategy -- based on that of an elite New Hampshire boarding school -- is designed to promote independence, self-expression and scientific inquiry rather than teacher-led lessons and rote learning. It's also intended to offer a new method for teacher training. The new public school is facing many challenges, but its founder says the method allows for intense teacher collaboration. (The New York Times)

Judge OKs release of NYC teacher data, but appeal is planned: A New York State Supreme Court justice ruled Monday that New York City officials can publicly release teachers' performance evaluations and ratings. The United Federation of Teachers sought to block the release of the value-added data -- which was requested by the media -- and argued that the data is inaccurate. The justice wrote in her opinion that the accuracy of the data was not the issue before her. The union plans to appeal the ruling, and city officials say they will wait to release the data until after the appeal is heard. (Bloomberg) (The Wall Street Journal)

Rhee's reform plan draws criticism from teacher unions: The country's two largest teachers unions criticized former Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee plan for improving schools released Monday through her new education-advocacy group, StudentsFirst. National Education Association Executive Director John Wilson says Rhee's plans lack proven strategies and focus more on punishing teachers. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said the plan "presents a false choice: support students or support teachers." (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) (The Wall Street Journal)

How are schools using hybrid learning models?: More schools are combining online learning with face-to-face instruction, but the curriculum of such programs varies widely and educators are experimenting to find a formula that works best. One California charter elementary-school network splits the day between a computer lab and a traditional classroom, while Omaha, Neb., schools tailor their hybrid courses to meet course requirements and the needs of students. (Education Week)

Virginia revises charter-school approval process: Virginia is changing the way it approves charter schools to spell out what is required of applicants. The new rules will require applicants to submit proposals to the state before consideration by local school boards, which make the final decisions about approval. Virginia has four charter schools. Charter-advocacy groups say the state already has restrictive charter laws and is will only further bureaucratic hurdles. (The Virginian-Pilot)

No comments:

Post a Comment