Thursday, June 23, 2011

Quick Hits

Tips for using interactive whiteboards in lessons:  Teachers must develop interactive components to fully utilize interactive whiteboards and make lessons more engaging for students, suggests Alyssa Porter of DYMO/Mimio. Such content includes objectives that require student participation and opportunities for students to practice new skills, Porter offers. K-12 technology resources instructor Tracy Tishion also suggests that teachers need not create all-new lessons but build interactive components into existing lesson plans. (eSchool News)

Report - Technology improves schools, but implementation needs work:  Most teachers and school administrators say technology has a positive impact on education, but many differ in their satisfaction of how technology is implemented in their schools, according to a new report by the Computing Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA. The report is based on a survey of 500 educators and administrators, who cited financial concerns as the biggest barriers to technology in education. (Digital Education blog)

Should teachers teach to the test?:  Teaching to the test has been unfairly dismissed, suggests schools consultant Ben Johnson, who writes in this blog post that teachers should tell students what information they will be tested on and the purpose of the tests. Ideally, Johnson writes, teachers and students will work together to meet rigorous standards set forth by standardized tests. He compares not teaching to the test to giving soccer players basic skills, such as kicking, but not telling them the rules of the game. (Edutopia)

Md. officials approve evaluation system for teachers, principals:  A new model for evaluating teachers and principals was approved Tuesday by officials in Maryland. The new system, which ties 50% of ratings to test scores and other measures of student achievement, will be piloted in seven school systems this fall. Input from the pilot will be used to refine the system before it's rolled out statewide in the 2012-13 school year. The system will be used to make decisions about tenure and layoffs beginning with the 2013-14 school year. (The Washington Post)

Ravitch - My reasons for joining the Save Our Schools march:  Education expert and blogger Diane Ravitch lists in this blog post her motivations for joining the upcoming Save Our Schools coalition march planned for July 30 in Washington, D.C. Among other things, Ravitch wants to protest federal policies that promote high-stakes testing, closing struggling schools and the privatization of public education. She also is participating to support the nation's educators, hoping the march will send a message to policymakers about the real successes of the country's public schools. (Bridging Differences blog)

Spending plans for $100M schools gift draw skepticism in Newark, N.J.:  Plans for spending a $100 million gift from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to Newark, N.J., public schools remain in development as residents question how the donation will be used to benefit students. "Folks are having an issue with the transparency, and they're having an issue with trust," parent and PTA member Lucious Jones said. Issues of concern include proposals to privatize low-performing schools and questions about whether the money will be used to fund charter schools, a suggestion refuted by Mayor Cory Booker. (NPR)

Newsweek uses new methodology to determine top high schools:  Two Dallas magnet schools took the top two spots in Newsweek magazine's annual rankings of the country's public high schools, which were revamped this year to include additional measures beyond the number of AP tests that graduates had taken. To determine this year's list, Newsweek consulted education experts to develop six factors for rating schools, including graduation rates, college matriculation rates and average SAT/ACT scores. (U.S. News & World Report)

Teacher-tenure ceremonies in N.Y. state are marred by layoffs:  The awarding of teacher tenure for educators with two to three years of experience across New York state is coinciding with the layoffs of 11,000 teachers because of cuts in state funding. Many of those being granted tenure are also those facing layoffs because of seniority rules. "Nearly all of these will be highly-educated, dedicated young people who have devoted their schooling and careers to their students and now see themselves tossed to the unemployment line," state teachers union spokesman Carl Korn said. (The Buffalo News)

Statewide district proposed to run Detroit's lowest-performing schools:  Michigan leaders -- joined by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan -- proposed on Monday the creation of a new school district comprised of low-performing schools that will be operated by teachers and principals. The Education Achievement System will include 34 struggling Detroit schools at first, but eventually include schools from across the state, officials said. Schools also must remain with the new authority for at least five years. The reforms, announced Monday, would be implemented in 2012 if aspects of the plan are approved by the state legislature. (Detroit Free Press), (and here) (The Wall Street Journal)

Duncan eyes waivers on NCLB rules:  If Arne Duncan wants it done, he may have to do it himself. The education secretary told reporters on Monday he’s working on a “Plan B” to free states from the heavy-handed mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act if Congress can’t pass an overhaul bill by the administration’s August deadline. The proposal, the details of which are still being hashed out, would give states waivers from NCLB regulations if they demonstrate significant reforms. Mr. Duncan said new legislation is still the preferred method, but, with more than 80 percent of schools projected to “fail” this year under NCLB, he said the law is “creating a slow-motion train wreck for children, parents and teachers.” Plan A is to have Congress move … if they don’t, we will,” he said. (Washington Times)

Appeals court rules MySpace parodies protected by First Amendment:  The Third Circuit Court of Appeals today held that two Pennsylvania students who created MySpace profiles making fun of their school principals were protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, and could not be punished by their school districts. ... In each case, the students had created the fake online profiles outside of school, one on her parents' computer and the other on his grandmother's computer. "The one clear rule that emerges from today's opinions is that school officials' authority to punish kids for saying offensive and critical things off campus is limited," said Witold Walczak, who argued both of the cases and is legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. (Post Gazette)

NYC delays in special-education placement blamed on computer system:  New York City's new special-education computer system is being blamed for a delay in placing about 2,500 incoming kindergarten students with special needs, which could compel the district to pay thousands in tuition for private-school placements. The system, which has cost the district $79 million, was meant to ease the process by which services were delivered to students, but some say it has been plagued with problems from insufficient bandwidth in some schools to inadequate training for employees. (Daily News)
D.C. uses videotaped classroom lessons to screen teacher candidates:  The Washington, D.C., school system is using 360-degree digital video cameras to record teacher applicants conducting sample lessons, so district officials can review their performance as well as students' reactions. While more districts are using such videos as professional-development tools, the district is one of just a few using the technology to screen job candidates. "We would like to be one of the elite places to teach in America and for people to know that you've got to be really good to teach" in D.C. Public Schools, district official Jason Kamras said. (The Washington Post)
Ore. considers limiting testing of students:  A bill that would require the development of guidelines for Oregon schools on standardized testing -- to ensure testing does not diminish instructional time or harm the curriculum -- has received legislative approval and now awaits the governor's signature. Under current guidelines, Oregon students may take computerized tests up to three times each to help schools improve their ratings. "That means less time for students to work on areas they need to improve on," teacher Dena Hellums said. "The students get really burnt out on it, too." (The Oregonian)
Why parents should be held accountable for student success:  Former Los Angeles teacher Walt Gardner considers in this blog post legislative proposals in some states that would hold parents more accountable for their children's success in school. Whether or not they pass, such bills acknowledge even the best teachers cannot make progress with students who are chronically absent or whose parents are detached or uninvolved in their education, he writes. (Reality Check blog)
Study finds achievement gap persists for Hispanic students:  Hispanic students have made significant gains on National Assessment of Educational Progress tests in math and reading since 1990, but a wide achievement gap between Hispanic students and their white counterparts remains, a new federal study released today shows. The National Center for Education Statistics found more improvement among English-speaking Hispanic students, suggesting that language proficiency may be playing a role in the findings. (Education Week)
Research - Home learning environment affects children's school skills:  A five-year study that followed more than 1,850 low-income children and their mothers suggests that home learning environment is an indicator of children's readiness to go to school, with children whose home learning environment scores were consistently low much more likely to suffer language and literacy skill delays at pre-kindergarten than those who had high home learning scores. Factors such as cognitive abilities of children during infancy and family's household income also predicted a child's early learning experiences, according to the study in the journal Child Development. (U.S. News & World Report), (United Press International)
Challenges mount to Colorado district's voucher plan:  Two lawsuits were filed this week over the Douglas County, Colo., district's plans to provide taxpayer-funded vouchers for students to attend private schools. The Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and others believe such plans violate the separation of church and state by allowing the vouchers to be used at religious schools. District officials say they want to give parents greater choice in determining the best schools for their children. (The Denver Post), (and here)

No comments: