Saturday, October 24, 2009

Quick Hits

Wisconsin teachers find success with responsive classrooms: Some Wisconsin elementary-school teachers are learning that how they teach is just as important as what they teach through a new curriculum that emphasizes social, emotional and academic growth in teaching core classes. Teachers are being trained in responsive classrooms, where lessons will include a focus on student cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy and self-control. Such classrooms give students more autonomy over their learning -- focusing on 10 key practices, including rule creation, positive teacher language and academic choice. (New Richmond News)

Opinion - Time is now to make teacher quality a top priority: Adopting policies and practices to identify, develop and retain the best teachers is the biggest challenge in effecting local and national education reform, writes Daniel Weisberg, a vice president of the New Teacher Project. Weisberg argues in this column that the time is now for states and districts to embrace the challenge and make radical, transformative changes -- however uncomfortable -- "to ensure that a great teacher stands at the front of every classroom." (The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Enrollment in online school exceeds expectations in Florida district: Enrollment in online classes in one Florida school district has surpassed expectations, said the program's administrator, resulting in the hiring of nine teachers in addition to the 28 that came on at the program's inception in August. More than 100 students are enrolled in full-time programs across all grade levels, and nearly 1,000 students are taking advantage of individual course offerings, said district officials. (The Tampa Tribune)

Nashville officials look at linking teacher pay to student achievement: Officials in Nashville, Tenn., are examining the possibility of tying teacher compensation and job security to student achievement as a way to improve education in the state. While a recent report by Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education says making the connection is an important step toward strengthening the state's teachers, members of the state teachers union say they would support using student test scores to evaluate teachers only if other criteria are considered as well. (The Tennessean (Nashville)

What should state tests look like under common standards?: The Department of Education will seek input from testing experts and members of the public as it decides what state testing will look like under common standards and how tests might best include English-language learners and students in special education. Officials will travel to Boston, Atlanta and Denver to gather advice as they design guidelines for the Obama administration's next competition for education stimulus funds, which will help pay for developing the tests. (Education Week)

NCLB allows neglect of gifted students: Gifted students lack protection under No Child Left Behind, which forces teachers to spend a majority of their time helping struggling students while gifted students remain unchallenged, writes Stephen J. Schroeder-Davis, a curriculum specialist for a Minnesota school district. Schroeder-Davis argues that "the chasm between what gifted students could learn and what they are actually learning" is creating an achievement gap separate from those of race and economics. (Star Tribune)

School leaders should not be handcuffed by the status quo: School leaders should break through what are often perceived obstacles to school reform by trying new things and seeing opportunities for change even within existing rules and statutes, writes education expert Frederick M. Hess. He offers five strategies for administrators hoping to move beyond the status quo: look beyond the usual boundaries of what is allowed; promote transparency; make laws a tool of reform; encourage nontraditional leadership; and honor change while accepting that some ideas could fail. (Educational Leadership)

Research shows trial and error helps students learn: Students learn more effectively through trial and error in answering questions about challenging material, according to researchers who found that getting answers wrong actually helps learning. Their research revealed that students perform better if they try to answer questions about a textbook passage before reading it. For example, students should try to answer questions before reading a textbook chapter, then read the chapter and answer them again during and after reading. (

Proposal would create charter high school for prospective teachers: The executive director of the Clark County teachers' union in Nevada is proposing the creation of a charter school designed for students who want to become teachers. John Jasonek says the school would provide students with scholarships to local colleges in exchange for a promise to teach in local schools for four years after graduation. If approved by the state board of education, the school could open in August. (Las Vegas Sun)

Research - Oral-language practice helps English-language learners: Researchers and educators who specialize in teaching English-language learners say that spending more classroom time practicing oral-language skills will help these students find their "voice" in their new language. Researchers suggest that English-language learners and other at-risk students benefit from working in small groups or pairs, building an academic vocabulary and improving "deep reading" skills through structured academic conversations and teacher-guided debate. (Education Week)

White House: Stimulus preserved 250,000 jobs in education: About 250,000 education jobs have been created or spared through federal economic stimulus money -- but it remains unclear how many jobs have been lost or are in jeopardy as the country recovers from an economic recession, according to a report released by the Obama administration. Officials across the country said many states and districts are still facing bleak budgets and predictions of cuts. (The Washington Post)

New mathematics guidelines focus on critical thinking and reasoning: The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is urging high-school teachers to focus on "reasoning" and "sense-making" in classroom lessons and engage students in open-ended conversations about math whenever possible. The council released new teaching guidelines this month and says it hopes that reintroducing critical thinking -- which has become a victim of standardized testing -- will lead more students to careers in math-related fields. (The Washington Post)

Educators are held to "higher standard" on social-networking sites: Administrators in Florida's Brevard County are advising teachers to be cautious when using online social-networking. "When you take this job, whether you agree with it or not, teachers are held to a higher standard," said a principal. An associate education professor at the University of Central Florida, who incorporates guidelines for social networking into teacher-training classes, says educators should be wary when posting personal information but should use technology in a positive way, such as using Twitter as a way for students to follow current events. (Florida Today)

"Value-added" evaluation system gains support despite concerns: Educators nationwide are talking about "value-added" teacher-evaluation systems that measure individual student progress on standardized tests from year to year instead of comparing raw test results to other students and schools. The system -- praised by the Obama administration -- also has been used as a gauge of effective teaching. However, teachers unions have resisted "value-added" evaluation systems, saying that student progress and teacher effectiveness cannot be measured by standardized tests. (Los Angeles Times and Again)

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