Saturday, February 06, 2010

Quick Hits

Paraniod Georgia legislation a sign of the times?: There is no threat. But just in case, the Georgia State Senate passed legislation (SB 235) yesterday by a vote of 47 to 2 to prevent Georgians from being forced to have a microchip implanted against their will. Sen. Chip Pearson, who sponsored the bill, says it's a proactive measure aimed at anticipating technological advances that may infringe on people's rights. Sen. Vincent Fort, one of the two senators who opposed the bill, says it's a "solution in search of a problem" and a waste of time during the state's budget crisis. ( Possible future laws include: Prohibitions against teleporting individuals into the state of Georgia against their will.

More schools take on service projects to enhance curriculum: More schools in and around Washington, D.C., are integrating community service projects that address global issues such as the recent earthquake in Haiti as well as local concerns into their curriculum. One suburban Virginia school is aiming to combine service projects with subjects such as art, science and technology, and Virginia's Fairfax County will add a community service requirement for sixth-graders next school year to help students "be respectful and contributing participants in their school, community, country and world," according to the school board. (The Washington Post)

Review ordered of Seattle math curriculum: A Superior Court judge called the Seattle school district's decision to use the Discovering Series to teach math this school year "capricious" and "arbitrary" and ordered the district to review its choice. Parents sued the district over the use of the inquiry-based curriculum in high schools, complaining that it is inferior and discriminates against English-language learners because it is based heavily on verbal instruction. District officials are reviewing the ruling. (The Seattle Times)

Retired educator lists top 10 qualities of effective teachers: Six Colorado school districts are embarking on a two-year, $45 million teacher-effectiveness study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but retired Colorado teacher James D. Starkey argues that he can save them the trouble. Starkey contends that great teaching cannot be taught, but that it happens when knowledgeable and interested educators direct and interact with students. No matter their strategy or methodology, Starkey argues, great teachers need 10 important qualities, with No. 1 being a sense of humor. (Education Week)

Washington state to pilot online standardized tests: Some Washington state schools will soon administer standardized tests online, and the goal is to transition to testing all middle-school students online in reading, writing and math by 2012. Teachers and students already are preparing for the change by studying sample tests and viewing online tutorials. (The Olympian)

Proposed change to education-technology funding prompts concern: Education-technology groups are concerned about changes in the federal budget proposed by President Barack Obama that discontinue a dedicated source of funding for school technology. Under Obama's budget plan, the Enhancing Education Through Technology program would lose all funding, with money for school technology integrated into the overall education budget. While the Obama administration has pledged its support for continued progress in education technology, the groups are calling for a "tangible" commitment. (T.H.E. Journal)

Is the E-rate program behind the times in education technology?: The federal E-rate program, created in 1996 to help fund technology in schools, covers few services schools now use to provide technology to students, some experts and educators say. The program is credited with helping schools move into the age of the Internet, but confusing rules often keep many schools from seeking funding for innovative technology. "The scope of technology is expanding, but the E-rate is not there yet," one state's E-rate coordinator said. (Education Week)

Research: School choice an "illusion" for many Philadelphia students: Expanded school choice for Philadelphia high-school students has not kept most from attending large, struggling neighborhood schools, a study by the nonprofit Research for Action shows. A lack of information disseminated to disadvantaged students combined with a difficult selection process and a small number of seats at magnet and lottery schools have contributed to the problem. The head author of the study concluded that "high-school choice is an illusion" for most Philadelphia students. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Opinion - Revised No Child Left Behind should keep schools accountable: The Obama administration should preserve and strengthen provisions of No Child Left Behind that hold schools accountable for employing effective teachers and narrowing the achievement gap between disadvantaged and well-off students, the editorial board of the New York Times writes. Despite its flaws, No Child Left Behind has helped direct attention to student achievement, and revamping the law should include financial rewards for schools making progress, the board writes. Not doing so would mark a return to a system with vague goals that produced few results, the board argues. (The New York Times)

Award-winning math educator is tutor, mentor to students: A Florida math teacher and athletics coach helps his students succeed by providing on-the-spot tutoring after class wherever he can squeeze it in. Ed LaRose, who was recently honored as Hernando County Teacher of the Year, says he tries to connect with students in and out of the classroom to let them know he cares. "I think that's the key is making sure your students know you don't just want them to pass, you want them to succeed in life," he said. (Hernando Today)

Super Bowl lesson plans are a big win for New Orleans students: New Orleans teachers are capitalizing on the success of the New Orleans Saints -- who will compete in their first Super Bowl on Sunday -- by including the team in classroom lessons and creating excitement among students and teachers. One group of third-graders learned how $4,000 might be spent attending the Super Bowl, and another group is using statistics to determine which NFL team is the best -- a project the students began before the playoffs. Teachers have infused football and the Saints into other lessons as well, including writing, poetry and history. (The Times-Picayune)

Union resistance to reforms comes at a cost for some Mass. districts: A number of Massachusetts school districts chose to opt out of the bid for federal Race to the Top money because the unions representing their teachers did not support having teachers' jobs linked to student test scores. The districts that did not support the state's bid are ineligible to receive funding the state may win during a time when many are short on funds for new teachers, professional development and other programs, and some officials are lamenting the loss of potential assistance. (The Boston Globe)

Documentary film is being used to enhance black-history curriculum: Educators across Florida are supplementing their black-history curriculum with a film that details some lesser-known examples of positive contributions by black people during the Civil War era as engineers, artisans and inventors. "Kids think that with the exception of a few well-known blacks, everyone was in the field picking cotton, they were enslaved, they were beaten, they were treated wrongly. That is a fact, but we were still doing some wonderful things," the director of the film said.(Orlando Sentinel)

Pennsylvania exit exams come under fire from Pittsburgh officials: School board members in Pittsburgh are questioning the state's plan to adopt new high-school exit exams, which they say may create additional roadblocks for disadvantaged and minority students and could conflict with proposed changes to federal education law. "If students don't graduate on time now, how's a test going to make them graduate on time?" one board member asked. The state plans to introduce the Keystone exams through 2017. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Profile examines Duncan as centrist, influential leader: Education Secretary Arne Duncan -- the former CEO of Chicago's public schools -- has been given extraordinary political leverage with more than $70 billion in federal stimulus money for states to spend on education and a long history and close relationship with President Barack Obama. This New Yorker profile on Duncan -- an abstract of which is available -- provides an overview of his background and rise as a centrist political figure as well as the challenges he faces as he creates a legacy that may make him one the most influential education secretaries the country has seen. (The New Yorker)

Boston charters launch drive to recruit English-language learners: Efforts are under way by parents, educators and advocates to recruit more immigrant students who are English-language learners to Boston charter schools. The push is a bid to comply with a law that requires enrollment at charter schools to reflect the demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods. The recruitment drive will include television, radio and newspaper advertisements as well as canvassing with fliers printed in Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole and Chinese in neighborhoods known to have large immigrant populations. (The Boston Globe)

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