Friday, May 15, 2009

Quick Hits

Detroit education reforms may draw federal support: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is promising federal support for the struggling Detroit school system if leaders implement needed reforms; he urges officials to learn from cities such as Chicago that have improved through education reform. "I think Detroit is ground zero" for U.S. school reforms, Duncan said. "Detroit is New Orleans two years ago without Hurricane Katrina, and I feel a tremendous sense of both urgency and outrage." (Google - AP)

N.C. district to hire Teach for America grads while laying off own staff: Schools in the Charlotte, N.C., area are sending layoff notices to more than 400 veteran teachers based mostly on their job performance, and plan to hire 100 Teach for America educators for the next school year. "I think it is a slap in the faces of the ones who are going to be losing their jobs. It's more or less telling them, 'We don't give a flip about you,' " said Mary McCray, president of the district's teachers union. (The Charlotte Observer)

Does passion plus knowledge equal learning?: While rote learning quickly fades from students' memories, students who are excited about a subject may learn lessons that will stay with them for a lifetime, members of the Teacher Leaders Network said in a recent discussion. Teachers also must be passionate about student learning and the subjects they teach to be positive role models for students, others said. (Teacher Magazine)

Duncan: Schools will be rewarded for innovation: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's $5 billion in discretionary funds, to be granted in fall 2009 and summer 2010, are meant to help encourage education reform and innovation. The $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund is for grants to states making the most progress. "States that are simply investing in the status quo will put themselves at a tremendous competitive disadvantage for getting those additional funds," Duncan said. "I can't emphasize strongly enough how important it is for states and districts to think very creatively." (The Washington Post)

Indiana enacts law protecting teachers from lawsuits: Indiana teachers were granted qualified immunity from lawsuits stemming from how they discipline students, under a law signed Monday by Gov. Mitch Daniels. Teachers who act reasonably to discipline students or break up fights need no longer fear legal retribution, Daniels said of the law, which also sets requirements for more extensive criminal background checks for teachers and other school employees. (The Indianapolis Star)

Congressional hearings may display geographic, racial split on vouchers: Young black and urban lawmakers increasingly are moving away from teachers unions that object to vouchers, saying private schools can offer an important alternative to disadvantaged children in troubled school systems. Such Democratic legislators "see that what's happening to our kids in these schools just is unacceptable -- we need to look at all options," says former Washington, D.C., Councilman Kevin Chavous, who supports vouchers. (USA TODAY)

More adults seeking GEDs after layoffs: Many laid-off adults who dropped out of high school decades ago are heading to GED classes and basic literacy programs to improve their job prospects. A Knoxville, Tenn., literacy program received more inquiries in March than it had in almost all of 2007 and 2008. (National Public Radio)

Novice teacher, 68, finds teaching more challenging than expected: Former engineer Norval Broome, who adopted teaching as his third career a few years ago, says his biggest challenge is getting his students in Suffolk, Va., to care about math lessons. However, Broome sees small victories when his high-school students perform well on tests or understand the concepts he teaches. (The Virginian-Pilot)

Exit exams may keep thousands of Florida students from graduating: Nearly 5,600 Florida students who have not passed state reading and math tests may not graduate from high school this year. Last year's cuts to the state education budget eliminated test retake dates that typically are scheduled in the summer. (The Miami Herald)

California teacher defends controversial classroom methods: High-school history teacher James Corbett -- a 36-year classroom veteran who a California judge recently said violated the First Amendment for calling creationism "religious, superstitious nonsense" -- says he didn't do anything wrong and won't change his provocative teaching methods, which he says encourage students to think critically. The 2007 lawsuit filed by a former student triggered death threats, he says, but also an outpouring of support from hundreds of former students. "As a teacher, you get toward the end of your career and you never know if you've really made a difference," Corbett says. "I learned what most teachers will never know -- I made a difference to an enormous number of people." (The Orange County Register)

Report: Incidents of violence decreasing at U.S. schools: The amount of school violence has been decreasing for several years, although bullying and gangs continue to be a problem, according to a federal report on crime in schools. "A lot of attention has been given to programs against bullying, taking a whole-school approach to this, and when they work well, they change the attitude that kids have toward their school," said Lynn Addington, an American University associate professor of public affairs and an expert on school violence. (The Washington Post)

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