Saturday, March 26, 2011

Quick Hits

Chicago charter aims to curb student absenteeism: A Chicago charter school is working to combat a growing trend of student absenteeism. The Chicago Talent Development Charter High School uses student attendance-tracking software, as well as several other in-school initiatives, to keep students in class. However, the problem is complicated by factors related to poverty, such as low access to adequate health care, neighborhood violence and safe passage to school. (The New York Times)

Tennessee House advances measure to create stricter tenure rules: Legislators in the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill requiring that teachers work five years instead of three to be eligible for tenure. The measure also would allow tenure protections to be revoked if teachers do not meet certain performance standards. A bill already has cleared the state Senate, and Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to sign a final proposal when it is completed. (Reuters)

How should learning be assessed in project-based lessons?: Education writer Suzie Boss considers the importance of effective assessments and how they can be used to measure student learning on project-based lessons. A new classroom guide developed by Edutopia offers tips and resources for assessing learning at each stage of a project-based lesson, from project planning to a culminating event when students present their conclusions. (Edutopia)

Delaware high school replaces textbooks with iPads: A Delaware high school plans to replace textbooks with iPads this fall to help expose students to the technology they likely are to use in their future careers. School officials say the iPad was a good choice for the school because of its mobility, simplicity and educational applications. (The Daily Times)

Oregon considers move to full-day kindergarten: With overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans, the Oregon Senate approved a bill Thursday requiring school districts to offer free full-day kindergarten by fall 2015. Sen. Mark Hass, one of the most vocal proponents of the bill, said it is time for Oregon to make full-day kindergarten part of state policy and end what he called an "embarrassing practice" of only mandating half-day services. (The Oregonian)

Are Google Chrome Notebooks a game changer for the classroom?: Six schools nationwide are testing the academic benefits of supplying every student with a Google Chrome Notebook computer, which is not yet available to the public. The principal at an Oregon high school that was chosen for the pilot calls the cloud-based computers a "game changer" for education. "It encourages students to become participants in learning, and it allows teachers to reach the students they weren't reaching before," Larry Lockett said. (The Oregonian)

System compares quality of online college programs: Author and online-education researcher Kaye Shelton has enlisted the help of nonprofit Sloan Consortium, as well as a group of experienced online-school administrators, to develop a system for comparing online college programs. The group's "quality scorecard" rates programs according to 70 metrics building on benchmarks published in 2000 by the Institute of Higher Education. (InsideHigherEd)

The national curriculum: How detailed should it be?: Determining how national education standards will influence classroom lessons is drawing opinions from all sides, with some debating how to define "curriculum." Some say a curriculum is a set of larger ideas that guide instruction, while others say it is the actual lesson plan. At issue is whether states and districts want their individual lessons dictated to them, with some saying they are concerned about a lack of local input in those decisions. (Education Week)

Michigan considers fines, sanctions for teacher strikes: Michigan legislators have introduced a proposal that would create stricter penalties for teachers who participate in illegal strikes. Under the bill, teachers could have their certifications suspended or revoked if they participate in such a strike. An additional bill would levy $5,000 fines per day against labor organizations for each teacher participating in strikes. "This, in our thinking, is another attack on teachers and the middle class," state teachers union spokeswoman Rosemary Carey said. (Livingston County Daily Press & Argus)

Fear of cuts push teachers, public workers to retire: More teachers and other public employees are retiring, saying they're worried that if they don't lock in now, their benefits will be eroded under government budget cuts. The rush to retire could mean strapped governments will not have to resort to layoffs, and can replace older, higher-paid workers with newcomers who earn less. However, officials fear that losing too many veteran workers, and their knowledge and skills, could harm services. (The Wall Street Journal)

Google hits roadblock in bid to publish digital library: Google's plan to create the world's largest digital library hit a roadblock Tuesday when a federal judge rejected the company's $125 million agreement with a coalition of author and publisher groups on the grounds that it would give the search giant a "de facto monopoly" over the printed word. Google has been trying for years to initiate its Books project, which proposes digitized public distribution for every book ever published. (The New York Times) (The Guardian) (Reuters) (Bloomberg)

Which Web tools are educators using?: More educators are using online tools to improve classroom management, enhance and reinforce lessons and provide students with multiple ways to express what they are learning. Web-based tools such as Weebly, Edmodo and Wikispaces allow teachers to create classroom websites for posting announcements, assignments and student work. Other tools such as Chatzy allow students to communicate in real time, while applications such as Vocaroo allow students to record voice messages and post them online. (Harvard Education Letter)

Judge: Education cuts in New Jersey may be unconstitutional: A judge reporting to New Jersey's State Supreme Court Tuesday advised that Gov. Chris Christie's cuts to state funding for education have been especially harmful for poor districts and may be in violation of the state Constitution. "Despite the state's best efforts, the reductions fell more heavily upon our high-risk districts and the children educated within those districts," Judge Peter E. Doyne wrote in his report, which could lead the court to direct the state to send more aid to poor schools. (The New York Times)

Report - Fewer U.S. high schools are "dropout factories": The number of U.S. high schools considered to be "dropout factories" -- where 60% or fewer students graduate -- has fallen from a high of more than 2,000 in 2002 to more than 1,600 in 2009, according to a report. The annual "Building a Grad Nation" report attributes the improvements to concerted attempts to curb the dropout rate and highlights districts where particular progress has been made, including those that promote community partnerships. (The Christian Science Monitor)

Mass. to require four years of math for college enrollment: Massachusetts officials voted to require students seeking entrance to the state's four-year public university to take four years of math in high school. The new requirement is meant to better prepare students -- particularly those from low-income communities -- for the demands of college, and help increase the college-completion rate. Currently, 10 states require four years of high-school math for admission to public colleges and more are expected to do so. (The Boston Globe)

Duncan speaks out on NCLB, teacher evaluations in Los Angeles: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a speech at an education summit in Los Angeles, called for a revised No Child Left Behind law that measures how much students improve on standardized test scores, rather than raw test data. He also called on teachers and district officials in Los Angeles to focus on improved teacher evaluations as they work to negotiate a new contract. "L.A. faces a perfect opportunity, not a perfect storm," he said. (Los Angeles Times)

The key to good classroom management: The key to effectively managing a classroom is having a positive relationship with students based on trust, says New York Times columnist and author David Brooks. Maurice Elias, director of the Social-Emotional Learning Lab at Rutgers University, writes in this blog post about Brooks' belief that students will feel freer to learn, explore and ask questions in an environment where they are trusted and are treated as co-managers of the classroom. A teacher-student relationship based on fear, however, can lead to frustration and harm learning. (Edutopia)

Gates on teaching, education spending: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is focusing his latest philanthropic efforts on teacher effectiveness as a strategy for improving schools. In this Wall Street Journal interview, Gates shares some of his views on why education spending should not be cut and how teachers should be evaluated and paid. (The Wall Street Journal)

Detroit seeks charter operators to run struggling schools: Detroit is the latest in a series of large urban school districts that are seeking to turn over struggling schools to outside operators by next fall. However, some experts are skeptical about whether the strategy to turn over a third of Detroit's schools will work, in part because the cash-strapped district may not be able to garner adequate funding to attract top charter groups. The plan still must be approved by the school board. (Education Week)

Well-off districts feel the pinch of financial crunch: Even affluent school districts in the Chicago area are experiencing the effects of reduced property taxes and delayed state aid to schools, and some are preparing for unfamiliar classroom cuts and teacher layoffs. In one district, officials will lay off teachers, raise class sizes and cut electives if voters turn down a tax-rate increase. A neighboring district plans to eliminate several jobs of teachers, classroom assistants and an assistant principal. (Chicago Tribune)

Why do U.S. students struggle with science?: Lagging science performance by U.S. students is attributable to numerous complex factors, from inadequate teacher training to poverty and attitudes about learning, experts say. Students in affluent school districts often outperform their peers in poor areas, resulting in a race-based disparity in test scores and lower scores in large urban school districts. Experts say a common misconception that students' innate ability -- rather than hard work -- determines science performance also contributes to the problem. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

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