Monday, November 29, 2010

Quick Hits

Students in project-based gifted program study bridge design: Students who are gifted at a Georgia elementary school with a project-based curriculum participated in the school's Bridge Day, where they experimented with models of their own creation. The students researched bridge history and design to prepare for the project, and also participated in a quiz bowl and other events to test their knowledge. (Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Support erodes for NYC schools appointee: The appointment of publishing executive Cathleen Black as the schools chancellor of New York City may be in jeopardy, as New York state officials consider whether to grant a waiver that would allow her to take the helm of the state's largest school district. A panel expressed doubts Tuesday about Black's credentials, as did state schools chief David M. Steiner, who said he may be willing to grant the waiver if Black works alongside an educator to help her run the school system. (The New York Times)

Some districts return Race to the Top funds: Some school districts that won funding under the federal Race to the Top program are declining to accept the money because the cost of implementing the required reforms is too high or because they disagree with the grant's requirements, education blogger Valerie Strauss writes in this post. Strauss writes about a Georgia superintendent who is giving the money back rather than adopt value-added teacher evaluations, which he says are an unreliable way to assess performance. (The Answer Sheet blog)

Minn. school leaders seek expanded campaign against bullying: The Minnesota School Board Association wants schools to expand the groups of students protected under anti-bullying rules to include protections against harassment based on "race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, familial status, and status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation or disability." The group is also asking districts to use "disciplinary action" against school staffers that do not intervene in and report bullying incidents. (Star Tribune)

How netbooks are changing teaching and learning: Every student at a Chicago-area middle school is given a netbook computer to use during the school day -- a one-to-one model that has become popular nationwide. The miniature laptops have changed teaching and learning at the school, where students now access online textbooks, complete homework and collaborate with students and teachers using the netbooks. "The students are more engaged in the activities that we're doing," a teacher at the school said. "They feel like they have some control over things now. It's not just us lecturing to them." (Chicago Tribune)

Calif. district moves toward college-prep path for all students: A California school district is adopting a college-preparatory curriculum for all of its high schools to ensure that students are graduating ready to attend state universities. The A-to-G curriculum will be the standard beginning with next year's freshman class, although it will not be required for graduation and some students in career-academy programs will be able to opt out. (San Jose Mercury News)

Proposal for all-boys charter school struggles to win support: A proposal to open a charter school in Madison, Wis., for male minority students -- who would likely be predominantly black -- is facing opposition from those who say educating the students separately does not prepare them for the real world and would negatively affect diversity at other schools. However, Urban League President Kaleem Caire, who hopes to open the Madison Preparatory Academy, says the approach is needed to improve lagging achievement among minority boys in the district's public schools. (Wisconsin State Journal)

Q&A: Duncan discusses strategies for improving education: Education Secretary Arne Duncan says in this interview that he wants to make No Child Left Behind less punitive, and reward the best teachers and principals. He also discusses more rigorous common standards and other plans to improve the country's education system, including new assessments and improving teacher quality. "We're putting a huge amount of resources into figuring out how to systematically get the hardest-working, the most committed teachers and principals into underserved communities," Duncan said. (The Wall Street Journal)

Are cyber charter schools providing a quality education?: Educators have mixed views about the effectiveness of online charter schools, which make up 217 of the 5,000 charters across the country. Critics say the schools drain funding from traditional schools and are unable to offer a quality education with a one-size-fits-all approach that lacks opportunities for student socialization. However, supporters say they serve a population of students whose needs are not being met in traditional schools and that more cyber charters now offer field trips and other face-to-face activities. (The Atlanta Post)

Should states fund charters with ties to religious groups?: The emergence of more charter schools with ties to religious groups is raising questions about whether the schools should be allowed to access public funding. In Texas, more than 20% of charters are associated with religious groups, including six of seven schools approved this year. "The church-state line is beginning to blur," a Fordham University education professor said. "We may be coming to a midpoint between the best of what is private and the best of what is public." (The Dallas Morning News)

Opinion - Improving the U.S. education system requires more of all: New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman considers education a matter of national security and writes that the U.S. is failing to provide students with the problem-solving and critical-thinking skills needed to compete globally. He argues in support of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's push to demand more from teachers and elevate the profession, but he also suggests that more should be asked from parents and students in order to ensure the education system is improved. (The New York Times)

Charter-school founder is recognized for successful leadership: The founder and superintendent of a science-focused K-8 charter school in Arizona was named the Arizona Charter Schools Association's Charter Leader of the Year for creating a successful experience for students. "Science engages the child," Edu-Prize School leader Lynn Robershotte said. "It allows for higher-order thinking skills. Science, to me, is the natural springboard for education." (The Arizona Republic)

Decline is seen in number of students diagnosed with learning disabilities: The number of students classified as having learning disabilities is continuing to drop and was 2.5 million in the fall of 2008, according to the IDEA Data Accountability Center. Education Week blogger Christina A. Samuels cites early identification and the use of response to intervention as possible reasons for the trend. However, she also questions whether educators are responding to pressure to reduce the number of students they refer to special education and whether the students are getting needed help. (On Special Education blog)

What is the mission of charter schools?: Education officials in Rhode Island are working to clarify the purpose of charter schools as the state plans a significant expansion as part of its $75 million Race to the Top grant. State laws and some charter groups say the alternative public schools are meant to be laboratories for innovation, while the state's schools chief Deborah Gist is promoting new guidelines to ensure that charters be held higher standards than traditional schools. (The Providence Journal)

Ore. may seek federal waiver as special-education funding is cut: Statewide budget cuts have reduced funding for special education in Oregon's schools by $19 million from last school year, officials said, and the state is considering joining at least five other states in seeking waivers from the federal government to avoid penalties. States are required to maintain or increase special-education funding from year to year. "A sanction at the state level would put an additional hardship on our school districts that are already struggling," a state education official said. (The Oregonian)


Tiffany Roundtree said...

Race to the Top

I Think it's wonderful that Superintendent Bill Mathews is standing up for what he believes in. It must be hard to turn down extra money. I think he deserves a pat on the back for putting his teachers, students, and beliefs about education before extra cash.

Candice Jarvis said...

"Teach Your Children... Better" in The Wall Street Journal caught my attention with Blumenstein's statement that education is broken in the U.S. While there is truth in that statement in the aspect that there are many things which can be improved on, I think it is important that we acknowledge the successes of our education system. Our system is built upon the foundational idea that education should be made available to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic backgrounds, perceived intelligence, or race. Through our education the poor are fed and clothed. There are federally funded programs which enable those who could have never dreamed of starting college in years past to earn a degree and even continue on to Graduate school. I was, however, shocked that the U.S. is now No. 9 in the world for college graduation rates. I was happy to read that there is a desire to put $1 billion behind "well-rounded" education. I believe that "electives" such as dance, drama, art, and music are so important. In elementary school I loved music, but in middle and high school the funding had been cut, and I was unable to develop my interest in music any further. I am excited to see some of the changes Mr. Duncan mentioned become reality.