Saturday, October 31, 2009

Quick Hits

Federal data shows a third of states lowered achievement standards: Many states lowered their standards on state math or reading tests from 2005 to 2007, according to data compiled by the Department of Education. While a number of states adopted stricter standards during the same time period, "overall, standards were more likely to be lower than higher," a department official said. No Child Left Behind requires states to show by 2014 that 100% of their students are proficient on state math and reading tests or face sanctions. "Clearly what a lot of states are doing is changing the bar so that a lot more students will become proficient," a researcher said. (The New York Times), (Education Week)

Research: Many top-tier students opt out of STEM studies: The number of students studying science, technology, engineering and math remains strong among all groups except for a growing percentage of top performers, according to a new study financed by a philanthropy. The study results call into question the belief that students are not choosing STEM careers because they are underprepared or short on talent. Researchers theorized that top-tier students might be lured away from STEM careers by other higher-paying jobs or by jobs in fields such as information technology that require STEM skills but are not classified as STEM fields. (Education Week)

Co-founder of Google advocates for technology in schools: Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who dropped out of high school before helping form the successful company, says today's schools should be equipped with the most modern digital technology and that high-school curricula should better reflect real-world issues. At a conference on learning and technology, Brin also advocated for a switch to digital textbooks and for students to serve as teachers of technology -- to younger students and in the community -- to better help them learn. (Los Angeles Times/Technology blog)

Hundreds of schools close nationwide over H1N1 virus: About 600 schools nationwide have closed at some point this year -- more than 350 across 19 states last week alone -- because of the H1N1 flu virus. While the federal government has urged school closings to be a last resort, many school officials have expressed concerns over the tendency of the virus to spread so quickly in the school setting. They have said shutting the schools during outbreaks prevents further illness from students coming to school when they are sick. (Google)

More schools are looking at departmentalizing at elementary level: The pressure for schools to post higher scores on standardized subject tests is resulting in a growing push to departmentalize -- or platoon -- instruction for students as young as 6 years old. While the practice of having students change classes to receive instruction from subject specialists is typical in middle school and high school, students in elementary school are typically taught by generalists under the assumption that they benefit more from the stability of staying in one classroom. (Harvard Education Letter)

Denver schools are under fire over turnaround strategies: As it considers adopting strict turnaround strategies recommended under federal reform guidelines, the Denver school district is increasingly under fire from parents, board members and the community. Although it has not presented its final recommendations, district officials have said they are looking at the possibility of removing staff and principals at three schools, scrutinizing three low-performing charter schools as well as closing some programs, including a popular middle-school International Baccalaureate program. (The Denver Post)

Religious signs at football games are subject of debate in Ga. town: At high-school football games in one Georgia town, members of the community are testing the district's boundaries when it comes to the separation between church and state. The local school district recently banned cheerleaders on the field from displaying signs containing religious phrases at football games. Townspeople who disagree with the decision have turned out in full force with religious signs of their own. (The New York Times)

Grant provides boost to art, music efforts in Boston schools: District officials in Boston say they are closer to having weekly arts and music instruction in all elementary and middle schools by 2012, thanks in part to a $750,000 grant from the Wallace Foundation, which supports expanding art and music programs in schools nationwide. The district launched a major fundraising effort this year after reports that budget cuts had led to many schools not meeting standards for music and art instruction. (The Boston Globe)

Des Moines schools may offer alternative diploma to lower dropout rate: District officials in Des Moines, Iowa, are considering a proposal to offer an alternative high-school diploma that requires fewer credits earned for students to graduate -- part of an effort to reduce the district's rising dropout rates. Many school districts nationwide have raised the number of credits needed for graduation and have also adopted similar strategies to help stem dropout rates, including modifying graduation requirements, offering alternative diplomas and providing online courses and extra support for students who fall behind in credits. (The Des Moines Register)

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