Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Quick Hits

How budget cuts are affecting teacher training: Officials with Wisconsin education schools say budget cuts and other changes affecting the teaching profession may prompt modifications in how they prepare teachers. Larger class sizes mean teachers must prepare lessons for as many as 40 students of varying abilities, while many teacher colleges are left with fewer resources to train would-be educators for such tasks. Layoffs also are making potential teachers leery of entering the profession and enrollment in some education programs has dropped. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Group-reading instruction is tested at two Denver schools:
At two Denver middle schools, students are working in groups as part of a new technique in reading instruction called collaborative strategic reading. The students are each assigned a task in the group that addresses different aspects of reading comprehension. The method -- expected to expand to other Denver middle schools -- is seen as particularly beneficial for students who are English-language learners or who have learning disabilities, but it has been shown to be effective with all students. (The Denver Post)

Pennsylvania educators question emphasis on testing: Some educators in Pennsylvania are questioning the increasing emphasis being placed on high-stakes standardized testing at the expense of instruction in subjects such as social studies and art. Even when schools meet federal testing benchmarks, educators say students may not be fully prepared for college or careers. Others say the tests penalize students in impoverished areas, where students do not have access to the same educational opportunities. (The Patriot-News)

Leadership program improves achievement at struggling Boston schools: Student achievement is improving at two struggling Boston schools as a result of a year-old initiative that seeks to recruit and retain top teachers, officials say. The Turnaround Teacher Teams program offers additional pay and leadership opportunities for teachers in low-performing schools, and the teachers work together to improve student achievement and the school community. Officials say the program is providing insights into how teachers contribute to school turnarounds. (Education Week)

Race to the Top sparks innovation at local, state levels: The federal Race to the Top grant program, known for its emphasis on large-scale school reforms, also has led to funding for numerous local and state initiatives that aim to take innovative approaches to school improvement. Efforts include a new method for planning classroom lessons being implemented at a Florida high school, the development in Maryland of a new elementary teaching certificate in science, technology, engineering and math, plus efforts to boost teacher recruitment and support in Georgia. (Education Week)

High-school students want more career guidance, poll shows: Most young adults between ages 18 to 24 give high schools poor marks when it comes to preparing them for college and the workforce, according to a poll by The Associated Press and Viacom. Many students said their schools did not provide enough guidance in helping them choose a career path or college and did not provide enough information on securing financial assistance. (The Associated Press)

How technology helps some universities personalize large classes: As class sizes rise in some universities in Ontario, Canada, professors are finding new ways to personalize lessons, often using technology. One professor says he offers students MP3 files with comments on their assignments. Another posts lectures online with links to videos and animation, while teaching assistants answer questions that are e-mailed throughout the day. (The Toronto Star)

Dispelling myths about math: Some teachers in Canada and England are successfully using a program called Jump Math to improve math learning -- in part by assuming that all students can excel at math. Because students who struggle in math typically have poor memories and difficulty with word problems, teachers walk students through each step -- no matter how small. The developer of the curriculum says students' initial success will increase their math confidence, motivating them to learn more. (The New York Times - The Opinionator blog)

Schools struggle to offer deeper understanding of Civil War history: The Civil War is seen by historians as a defining moment in the history of the U.S., and experts say schools play an important role in helping students understand the the conflict's causes, meaning and impact, which still are the subject of public debate. Educators say most textbooks now do an adequate job of covering the Civil War, which began 150 years ago this month. However, time may be the biggest challenge for teachers as they decide what aspects of the conflict to cover and what to omit. (Education Week)

Massachusetts looks to N.H. on plan to reduce dropouts: Massachusetts officials are considering raising the school-dropout age to 18, a change that helped New Hampshire cut its dropout rate in half last year. "What we've done is set a goal for all students to graduate and it really has been embraced at the local level," New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said. Massachusetts officials are working to find funding and create more programs to support at-risk students and stem the statewide dropout rate of 2.9%. (The Boston Globe)

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