Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Quick Hits

Updated AP science courses focus on inquiry-based learning:  The new curriculum for Advanced Placement science courses will require teachers to focus more on student-centered activities and inquiry-based learning. To implement those changes, teachers in an Illinois district attended training sessions conducted by AP consultants. Under the new teaching method, students will act as scientists, they say, with teachers asking questions for students to research and answer on their own. (The Herald News)

N.Y. union suit claims new reviews focus too much on state tests:  The New York State United Teachers union is suing a state board over the passage of a new teacher-evaluation system that would base up to 40% of evaluations on state test scores. The teachers union argues that state test scores are to count for 20% of a teacher's evaluation, with an additional 20% based on other assessments determined by districts and unions through collective bargaining. The move could derail plans for districts to begin using the new evaluations, a change enacted last year to help that state secure $700 million in Race to the Top funds. (The Wall Street Journal)

Summer field trips help history teachers explore subject matter:  A federally funded, four-year program is helping some history teachers use their time off to enrich their knowledge through field trips focused on events such as the Civil War and the Progressive Era. Recently, 18 teachers visited Alabama to learn more about the state's role in the civil rights movement. "The field study trip ... was like a visit into a scrapbook," said Donna Sack, the Teaching American History project director. (The Naperville Sun)

Tennessee students create online civics curriculum:  A group of high-school students in Knox County, Tenn., have created the Citizens' Guide to Problem Solving, an online curriculum for teaching students how to solve problems in their communities. The students, who are members of a local Youth Action Council, worked with the public policy center at the University of Tennessee to create the three-lesson plan for use in local government or civics courses and can be adapted for use in other regions. (The Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Law allowing charter schools passes in Maine after long battle:  Maine could create as many as 10 charter schools in the next 10 years -- the first in the state -- if Gov. Paul LePage signs a bill passed by lawmakers, as is expected. Republican control of the legislature and the governor's office buoyed the bill, which aims to encourage innovation and choices. The previous Democratic governor pushed for charters, but was not supported by the Democratic-controlled state house. Opponents argue the bill will hurt underfunded public schools. (Bangor Daily News)

With data counting more, principals want students in class on last days:  New York City's focus on data, which includes average attendance, has changed some administrators' attitude toward students skipping days at the end of the school year. This year, principals tried tactics such as waiting to give out test scores or delaying eighth-grade graduation until the last day of school. "Whether it's Jan. 26 or March 26 or June 26, a day of attendance is a day of attendance," principal Brett Kimmel said. (The New York Times)

Schools are providing alternative ways to earn credits:  More New York City high-school students are earning credits toward graduation through alternative means, including online courses and programs created by nonprofit groups. One group offers free sailing lessons to students, who can use the course to earn science or physical-education credit. Principals at each of the city's 400 high schools -- which are facing shortages of space and staffing -- determine which courses can be used to earn credits. (The New York Times)

Many teachers in Fla. county support Gates-funded evaluation system:  Teachers in Hillsborough County, Fla., are wrapping up their first year under a $100 million evaluation system funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and many teachers say they received valuable support and advice from peer mentors and evaluators. However, a smaller number of others disagreed, saying the system was used to target teachers for dismissal. District officials say they expect teacher ratings to drop across the board for the first year of the program. (St. Petersburg Times)

Trends and ideas for educators:  Edutopia community manager Betty Ray lists in this blog post several emerging trends and tools in educational technology discussed at this year's EduBloggerCon. Among them, the "flipped" classroom has students accessing content outside the classroom through a video or podcast while teachers use lesson time for projects and collaboration. The multimedia wiki Qwiki can be used for research, while Stencyl can be used to help students learn computer programming and create their own video games, she writes. (Edutopia)

Districts' financial means dictate summer-school offerings:  Budget cuts have shut down summer-school programs in low-income areas in San Jose, Calif., while programs in more affluent areas remain open. Students in areas where parents can afford to pay for fee-based recreation and enrichment programs learn about public speaking or "The Science of Hollywood." Meanwhile, schools in poor neighborhoods are limited to a selection of classes paid for with grant funding that target remediation and achievement among specific groups of struggling students. (San Jose Mercury News)

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