Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Quick Hits

Kentucky schools struggle to keep up with rising NCLB standards: Test scores released by the Kentucky Department of Education show 60% of the state's 1,158 public schools met No Child Left Behind accountability standards this year, marking the third straight year of declining scores in the state. In Jefferson County, where only 28% of schools met their goals, one administrator said, "Each year, the bar is being set higher, and this year, many of our schools could not make that jump." Schools with low scores for two or more years running may be subject to sanctions, including reorganization or state takeover. (Courier-Journal)

Charter transition is being tested as a model for school turnaround: Four schools in New Orleans are attempting a gradual transition from public to charter, and it's an effort supporters hope will improve performance without disrupting students and families as well as become a model for transformation nationwide. The campus of Carver Elementary School also houses Benjamin Mays Prep, a charter that teaches students in pre-kindergarten through second grade and will add a grade each year until Carver is eliminated. Critics worry about possible inattention to older students and the wastefulness of employing two sets of staffers for one building. (The Times-Picayune)

Earning an "A" to become tougher for Florida high schools: A more stringent grading system could mean a reduction in the number of Florida public high schools that receive an "A" grade, state education officials warn. The criteria for school gradings is being broadened beyond Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores to factor in graduation rates, student participation in Advanced Placement courses, college-entrance test scores and the performance of struggling students. Officials say they hope the changes will steer schools to better prepare students. (Florida Today)

Popular students are healthier as adults, study shows: A 50-year Swedish study that tracked the health of 14,000 children born in 1953 found popular and powerful students were healthier as adults. Data showed children who were marginalized at school were nine times more likely to develop heart disease and had twice the risk for mental illness. (Yahoo!)

School invests more effort in instructing students how to write: A Rhode Island high school has responded to poor student performance on a state science test by requiring writing assignments throughout students' coursework. Sophomores at Mount Hope High School now take writing tests in several subjects; educators have learned to assess the writing to ensure students know how to express concepts learned in classes. The program is credited with improving student performance on the science tests -- which include writing -- by 8 percentage points this year. (The Providence Journal)

Swine flu forces schools to put less emphasis on perfect attendance: With the possibility of H1N1 flu outbreaks at schools, some districts are rethinking requirements for attendance awards. One district is considering awards for "outstanding" rather than "perfect" attendance. "We have a lot of ambitious students who strive to receive perfect attendance, and we want to encourage those kids to stay home when sick," said a superintendent in a Kansas school district. "Our goal is to keep everyone -- students and teachers -- healthy at school this year." (The Kansas City Star)

Obama administration wants longer school day, year: President Barack Obama and top education officials say the school calendar in use is outdated, and they would like to see longer school days and years in an effort to boost student achievement. Students in countries such as Japan and Hong Kong, who outperform U.S. students in math and science, have longer school years but fewer instructional hours. Experts say that models with longer school days, such as charter schools, have had some success, and disadvantaged students might benefit from shorter summer breaks. (The New York Times)

Some Nevada teachers shift schools because of fewer students: Schools in Nevada's Clark County have reassigned 168 teachers -- a month into the school year -- in response to enrollment decreases in a number of the district's schools. The teachers were shifted by seniority into openings at other schools in the district. Sixty-four of the teachers were experienced educators who volunteered to transfer in place of a colleague from their school. (Las Vegas Sun)

Volunteers visit dropouts, urge them to re-enroll in school: An Iowa school district's program is attempting to bring dropouts back to high school. Des Moines Public Schools and United Way of Central Iowa have collaborated on a "Reach Out to Dropouts" campaign that organizers say has brought commitments from close to 20% of dropouts to return to school. Modeled on a successful Texas program, the outreach has volunteers visit the homes of dropouts. "It helped a lot to hear it from someone else," said one student who dropped out. "I want to do at least something to get on the right track ... to be able to get a career I like." (The Des Moines Register)

My Back Pages: A Brief History of Differentiated Instruction (1953): Educators have been working to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms even before the education term "differentiated instruction" was coined. An ASCD blog post looks back at the December 1953 issue of Educational Leadership that was devoted to the theme "The Challenge of Individual Difference." In the lead article "Adjusting the Program to the Child," author Carleton Washburne takes the reader through a short history of reform efforts aimed at making education more individualized. (Inservice)

Virtual schools look for ways to provide students with social activities: While virtual schools are growing in popularity, some students are reporting a sense of loneliness that comes with their more isolated learning. To combat that feeling and give students a chance to develop social skills, some educators are launching online clubs that also meet in person. "We need to find ways to have kids spend time together. They are hot-wired to learn from each other," one educator said. (The Wall Street Journal)

Rally urges Michigan to make changes to qualify for Race to the Top: About 2,500 people converged Thursday upon the Michigan state capitol in Lansing, asking that the state allow education reforms that would pave the way for qualifying for competitive federal funds through the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program. Advocates at the rally said Michigan needs to allow people without four-year teaching degrees to go through an alternative teacher-certification program and that the state needs to remove its cap on charter schools to meet funding criteria. (Detroit Free Press)

No comments: