Saturday, May 01, 2010

Quick Hits

Engineering, technology learning is a focus for some Tenn. schools: Schools in the Chattanooga, Tenn., area are stepping up efforts to prepare students for careers in new industries by overhauling and adding courses in engineering and technology. One high school is teaming up with the national group Project Lead the Way to increase the rigor of its engineering program. "The projects they'll do are a lot harder, more math-intensive," a teacher at the school said. "It's a college-level curriculum." (Chattanooga Times Free Press)

There is no preferred path to teacher certification, study finds: There is not enough evidence to support alternative pathways or traditional programs as a better way to prepare teachers, according to a six-year study released by a national panel of scholars. The National Research Council found a wide variation of quality among individual programs and urged the further development of systems to standardize and track data on programs and the teachers they prepare. (Education Week)

Colorado Senate advances controversial teacher reforms: Colorado's state Senate passed a reform bill that would link 50% of principal and teacher evaluations to students' academic growth and change the system for granting teacher tenure. The state's teachers union opposes the bill, which includes a provision that would remove teacher tenure for educators who receive ineffective ratings for two years or more. The bill is headed to the state House, where it is expected to face tougher opposition. (The Denver Post)

Oregon to offer Web-based Google Apps for Education to all schools: Oregon will become the first state to offer the Web-based Google Apps for Education to all of its public K-12 schools. The switch to the free programs is expected to save the state $1.5 million and expand the number and variety of tools available to schools, educators and students. "Our students have a wonderful opportunity to prepare for the workplace by using workplace technology in the classroom," state schools chief Susan Castillo said. (eSchool News)

Lawmakers mull over standards, testing issues in ESEA revision: Lawmakers at a U.S. Senate hearing on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act agreed that the push for national academic standards is on the right track. Other issues discussed included balancing state and local flexibility with the need to ensure academic rigor for students and the development of computer-based exams that can be easily modified to differentiate assessments. (Education Week)

Massachusetts considers pushing back goal for raising achievement: An education task force in Massachusetts is recommending that the state change its achievement goal of having 100% of students scoring as proficient or advanced on state tests by 2014 to 85% by 2020. Members of the task force said the new goal would give educators and policymakers more time to improve underperforming schools and address areas where the "proficiency gap" is widest -- primarily with students from low-income areas and those who are learning English as a second language. (The Boston Globe)

Debate over teacher evaluations is under way in Maryland: A proposal by state education officials that would have student achievement count toward at least 50% of a teacher's evaluation may cause conflict in Maryland. Officials say the changes would demonstrate the state's commitment to reforms for the competitive Race to the Top grants. But some lawmakers and teachers union representatives say the proposal oversteps the limits of legislation that caps at 35% the weight of any one criterion on teacher evaluations. (The Washington Post)

Teachers fired from Rhode Island school are reapplying for positions: Staff members at Rhode Island's Central Falls High School are able to reapply for their jobs after being fired two months ago in an incident that put the school in the national spotlight. Under the turnaround method adopted by the school, no more than 50% of the faculty can be rehired for the 2010-11 school year. However, teachers say reapplying for their jobs has further demoralized them, and they are concerned about the effect on students. (The Providence Journal)

Online learning is becoming part of the daily routine at many schools: Online courses are becoming a part of the daily routine at many schools across the country as a way to expand course offerings for students. One rural Idaho school allows students to take online courses on high-quality computers during the school day and receive face-to-face support from educators in such subjects as foreign languages, criminal justice and digital photography. Some urban schools are using online courses as opportunities for credit recovery, course review or to work around students' scheduling conflicts. (Education Week)

Attendance Court helps address chronic absenteeism in NYC schools: A 2-year-old truancy court in New York City is aiming to address the factors that lead to chronic absenteeism among the city's public-school students. Retired judges staff the experimental problem-solving court and do not mete out punishment but refer students to counseling, tutoring and other services. The city is testing out the courts in three schools and has seen early positive results. (The New York Times)

Final version of anti-bullying bill up for vote in Mass. legislature: A final version of a bill to curb online and face-to-face bullying in Massachusetts schools is expected to be approved today by both houses of the state's legislature. The measure prohibits bullying on school grounds, buses and events as well as on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It also includes requirements that schools provide training for teachers on how to prevent and intervene in cases of bullying, and the bill provides extra protection for students with autism and other special needs. (The Boston Globe)

Wisconsin district is applying rigorous standards in many ways: A national focus in education is on increasing the rigor of school work, and educators in Wisconsin's Green Bay School District say they are working to ensure that the focus does not harm students. A more difficult math curriculum adopted in recent years is accompanied by extra math help for struggling students, and an increased focus on academic rigor for preschool and kindergarten students is tempered by a focus on instruction that is developmentally appropriate. (Green Bay Press-Gazette)

California teacher strikes highlight impact of budget cuts: Teacher strikes in two California districts in about a week's time are highlighting growing tensions between unions and school officials over budget cuts. Teachers in Orange County's Capistrano schools returned to work Tuesday after a three-day walkout ended with teachers agreeing to a 10% pay cut and the district agreeing to repeal the changes if more money becomes available, while teachers in Alameda County's Oakland district are set to strike Thursday over salary concerns. (San Francisco Chronicle) (Los Angeles Times)

Decision time for teachers at struggling Boston schools: Monday was the deadline for more than 350 teachers and staff at seven of Boston's lowest-performing schools to reapply for their jobs under the district's turnaround plan. Officials were expecting some teachers to file letters of intent to stay but acknowledge that many will seek a job at the district's 128 other schools. "I don't think you have a fair chance of improving a school by brooming out more than half the people and starting over," the president of Boston's teachers union said. "I find it insulting and counterproductive." (The Boston Globe)

Thousands of N.J. high school students leave class, protest funding cuts: Thousands of high school students across New Jersey walked out of classes [this week] to protest education cuts proposed by Gov. Chris Christie. The students, galvanized by the Facebook page where the protest was first organized, flooded school football fields, parking lots and bordering streets, wielding "Protect Educations" signs and chanting slogans defending their teachers. According to the site, more than 16,000 students planned to leave school. (

Virtual Ed. Enrollment Caps Face Greater Scrutiny: Online education enrollment is growing quickly in K-12—about 30 percent a year. So some states have tempered that growth with caps on student enrollment, a legislative move that is now facing increasing scrutiny, educators and experts in the field say. The two most-cited examples for enrollment caps are in Wisconsin and Oregon, which limited student enrollment in recent years. Both states placed temporary caps on full-time state virtual charter schools to limit fast growth. But they are now studying the programs to determine if caps are still the right approach from both a fiscal and an educational perspective. (Education Week)

NC Charter schools allege state bias: Leaders of charter schools enrolling mostly black students say they have filed a federal discrimination complaint against the state, claiming a new policy targets such schools for closure. The State Board of Education policy adopted in December says that a charter school's students must absorb at least a year's worth of material each year and that 60 percent or more must pass standardized tests. The state board is supposed to yank charters from schools that fail to meet these standards two out of three straight years. The state Association of African American Charter School Administrators said the policy is discriminatory. Some principals suspect that mostly black charters are being squeezed out to make way for white charters. (News-Observer)

Arts program helps at-risk students improve scores in Louisiana: Some at-risk students in Louisiana's Jefferson Parish school district are making academic gains because of a program that links arts education with academic subjects, say educators. At one alternative middle school for students who have had disciplinary problems, the Cultural Crossroads program helped students improve their reading scores and their behavior. "If they can be shown a different approach, they're poised for achievement," said the director of the program, which is expected to expand to more schools. (The Times-Picayune)

NYC to give principals more authority over instruction: New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein has dissolved the division within the Education Department that oversees school curriculum and teacher training -- a change designed to give principals more control over school instruction. "The more authority you share, the more influential you become, so that what ends up happening now is that schools seek out our opinion," Eric Nadelstern, who employed the strategy at several top schools and will become the deputy chancellor for school support and instruction. (The New York Times)

Text messaging is used to help students learn poetry: Students in a New York state middle school who used cell phones and text messaging to learn about poetry outperformed their peers who learned through traditional methods. Students used the phones to text the main idea of poetry stanzas. Those who did got 80% of poetry questions correct on state exams, while those who were taught in traditional methods of using reading, reciting and discussing answered 40% of the questions correctly. (The Times Herald-Record)

Students at Brooklyn school have top scores despite disadvantages: Public School 172 in New York City's Brooklyn borough has hired numerous specialists and offers after-school tutoring and Saturday school to ensure that its students -- many of whom come from low-income households, qualify for special education or do not speak English at home -- consistently have top scores on standardized tests. Educators at the school this year have been focusing on test preparation since February and, beginning today, students will take new state tests designed to be more comprehensive and less predictable. The school's motto, the principal says, is "teach, assess, teach, assess." (The New York Times)


Lauren Thompson said...

In the blog, "Online learning is becoming part of the daily routine at many schools", it talks about a high school in a rural section of Idaho where students do not get a lot of variety in the classes they take. Online classes allow students to take many different types of courses they normally would never be exposed to. I am all for the idea of high school students taking online courses. Students in rural areas where a scarce amount of teachers are available don't always get the proper education needed. Online courses are a brilliant way to incorporate the use of technology and a good variety of classes that interest a large amount of students. I really would like to see more being done with online classes in high schools.

Samantha Riffle said...

In the blog, "Text messaging is used to help students learn poetry," truly shocked me a bit. I am all for classrooms implementing technology and using different technology devices such as computers but I have yet heard about any schools allowing texting as a way of learning. I believe that a possible reason for this difference in test scores may be because of the way students' brains "function" today. Children are used to playing video games, watching TV, and texting on cell phones. While it may be a different subject than what students’ text to their friends about, texting is what children are used to today. Unfortunately, students don’t sit and read a book as often as some used to when this type of technology was not around. Therefore, this may be the new way to get children actively involved in learning in a way that they are more accustomed to and even like better than sitting and reading a book. I personally believe that learning about poetry is a harder subject (the different kinds, how many stanzas there are, etc.) therefore learning in a new way that would keep me involved is something I am all for. I believe it is key to keep classrooms up to date with technology and this may be the new way. However, I do believe that teachers need to make sure that while students are using their phones to send answers in class, they are also paying full attention and not doing something else on their phone.

Adria Kersey said...

In the article, "Online learning is becoming part of the daily routine at many schools", I find it very interesing that high schools are jumping on the online class bandwagon. I wish I was able to take the range of classes that are available to these students in rural Idaho are given the opportunity to take. The principal, Benjamin M. Merrill definitely has the best in mind for his students. I like that he incorporates the online classes into their everyday schedule. For those students that do not have computers or high speed internet, these classes are even helping them develop better skills in a world that is so dependent on computers.