Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quick Hits

Dual-enrollment programs help students to reduce college costs: Many high schools are offering dual-enrollment programs, where they team up with colleges and universities to teach college-level classes to high-school students. Although credits don't always transfer, students earning high-school and college credit at the same time often save substantially on college tuition and can better define their academic interests. One high-school student graduated with more than 20 college credits and saved more than $7,200 in tuition at Iowa State University before he entered his first year there. (Omaha World-Herald)

Catholic schools dwindle: U.S. Catholic schools -- one of the nation's largest alternative education systems -- are struggling with declining enrollment. "We either reinvent ourselves or I don't see how we don't ultimately disappear from America's inner cities," says the Rev. Timothy Scully, founder of the University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education. "The model upon which we were founded was so different, both from a cost and supply side." (TIME)

Podcast project at elementary school showcases use of technology: The Race to 500 program has challenged all students at Kentucky's Brandeis Elementary School -- as well as their parents and members of the community -- to record a short explanation of a favorite book on an audio podcast that is then posted on the school's Web site. The award-winning program was started last year by a group of fifth-graders and their teachers. The goal is to provide a searchable database of 500 book recommendations; so far, the total stands at more than 460. (Courier-Journal)

Opinion: No Child Left Behind is due for overhaul: In concert with President Barack Obama's promising Race to the Top grant program, reforms need to be made to the Bush era's No Child Left Behind Act, writes the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times. The writers argue that NCLB is out of touch and uses overly rigid rules to evaluate school performance. Those rules can encourage states to lower the bar on student achievement, the editorial board writes. (Los Angeles Times)

High school allows social networking for educational uses: A North Dakota high school has lifted its ban on social media at school, allowing teachers to use YouTube and Facebook, and giving Twitter access to students and educators. The decision, say teachers and school officials at Century High School in Bismarck, was prompted by the pervasiveness of the media and its usefulness in some classroom applications. "I think we have to adapt to technology," one teacher said. "People are able to connect to it." (The Bismarck Tribune)

Delaware board allows child with camping utensil to return to school: A Delaware school board amended its zero-tolerance policy in its discipline of a first-grader who came to school with a camping utensil containing a knife, fork and spoon, allowing 6-year-old Zachary Christie to return to school. The boy had been ordered to attend an alternative school for 45 days after the recent incident. The board changed its policy to allow flexibility for disciplining younger students who bring dangerous items to school. (The News Journal)

District seeks better test results by targeting students to help: Public schools in St. Paul, Minn., have set a goal of improving the state test scores of every student group by 10 percentage points. Student data can pinpoint children at risk of missing the goal and help educators target which students get extra help. Although some teachers and experts are concerned the approach won't offer long-term gains or address the needs of all children, school officials say the data make it easier to determine where attention should be focused at various levels. (Star Tribune)

The mission is college for San Francisco charter-school students: Envision Academy charter schools in the San Francisco Bay Area are moving toward success in their mission to send 100% of their graduates to college, and many will be the first in their families to enroll. For the 1,200 students who attend the four Envision Academy charter schools in the area, a rigorous academic program is enhanced with real-world experience such as internships for juniors and seniors. "When you go to school here, your mind changes," said one student. "We're all trying to get into college." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Education experts: New curriculum standards are the starting point: New national curriculum standards are just a starting point in reaching the Obama administration's goal of educating students who are better prepared for work and life, write Susan H. Fuhrman, Lauren Resnick, & Lorrie Shepard in this opinion article. They argue that standards can only be effective if curricula, lesson plans, tests and textbooks are revised along with on-the-job training for teachers. Forty-eight states are joining in the development of the new national "common-core" standards, but none is required to adopt them. (Education Week)

Program aims to improve literacy, set world record in reading: Students from a number of elementary schools in Maryland's Baltimore County attempted to set a world record Thursday for the largest shared reading experience. The students, who were reading "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," by Eric Carle, took part in the nationwide Read for the Record campaign, which began in 2006 to promote early childhood education. Last year, 700,000 people participated; this year, the goal was to reach 1 million. Some teachers have used the book to teach science lessons. "It really does tie in all the curriculum areas," one teacher said. (The Sun)

Protesters, unions rally against layoffs in D.C. schools: Thousands of protesters rallied Thursday night against the dismissal of 388 Washington, D.C., school employees, including 229 classroom teachers. Dismissed employees and their supporters -- including the Washington Teachers' Union, which filed a lawsuit on their behalf -- said the district is using the cuts to fire a disproportionate number of veteran teachers, saying that the district this past spring hired a higher-than-usual number of new teachers. School officials have said the layoffs were needed to cover a $43.9 million budget shortfall and did not target specific employees. (The Washington Post)

Rhode Island sets higher bar for teacher candidates: Prospective teachers will soon have to achieve higher test scores to be admitted to teacher-training programs in Rhode Island. "Teacher quality is the single most important factor for student success in school,"said Deborah A. Gist,the state's new education commissioner. "This is a first step in raising our expectations across the board for our educators and our system." Rhode Island's "cut score" had been among the lowest nationwide but will now be the highest. Some fear teacher candidates may not be able to meet the standard and had hoped for incremental increases. (The Providence Journal)

Ohio high school tests no-zero policy: An Ohio high school is experimenting with a policy that prevents teachers from giving students a zero. Instead, the lowest possible grade will be a 50 -- making it easier for students' grades to recover from a few bad results. However, one teacher said the policy sends the wrong message to students, who could receive a 50 for doing no work. (Chillicothe Gazette)

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