Sunday, July 24, 2011

Quick Hits

Tennessee teacher suspended for sharing test info with students: Tennessee's State Board of Education is investigating a Sweetwater High School teacher after students alerted other faculty they got information they shouldn't have about this year's TCAP tests. There are a lot of specifics the state and Monroe County Director of Schools Mike Lowry won't talk about because the investigation is on-going. However, as of Tuesday night, several students' TCAP scores have been thrown out and a teacher is suspended without pay. (WBIR)

AP classrooms reveal a racial divide in Tennessee: The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights tracked minority student trends at more than 72,000 schools in 2009-10, including those in Middle Tennessee. Its report shows many of the region’s minorities are in classrooms led by inexperienced teachers, and relatively few of those students seek out high-level courses. The report calls on schools to make changes and offer equity to low-income and minority children, improving their chances of completing high school and college. But local observers say doing so has been a challenge for decades. “I’ve been studying this since 1991, and the issues are almost the same in 2011 as they were 20 years ago,” said Donna Ford, a Vanderbilt University professor who researches underrepresentation of minorities in gifted and Advanced Placement programs. “There are a number of barriers. ... Low expectations is number one.” (Tennesseean)

Ex-teacher's insanity plea in sex case allowed: [An Ohio] judge ruled Tuesday that he will allow a former Mason High School teacher to plead not guilty by reason of insanity on charges of having sexual contact with students and providing them alcohol. Common Pleas Judge Robert Peeler ordered Stacy Schuler, 33, of Springboro to be evaluated and vacated her Aug. 8 trial date. It is not known when Schuler's trial might start. Peeler wrote he made the decision "in an abundance of caution to ensure that the defendant is entitled to present her defense." (

Forecast predicts continued increase in spending on e-learning in schools: E-learning for K-12 students will continue to expand in double digits through 2015, according to a new forecast. Researchers predict the market for education technology in prekindergarten through 12th grade will outpace that of higher education as well as health care despite the elimination of the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology grant program. The report, by market research firm Ambien Insight, predicts spending on e-learning for the preK-12 market to reach $4.9 billion by 2015, up from $2.2 billion in 2010. (T.H.E. Journal)

The debate over how computer science should be taught: A new framework on the development of national science standards is drawing criticism over its lack of focus on computer science. Blogger Erik Robelen considers the pushback from some advocates who say the omission will harm students. "No other subject will open as many doors in the 21st century as computer science, so it is disappointing that neither the science framework nor the mathematics core standards make room for computer science in the K-12 curriculum," said Della Cronin, of Computing in the Core. (Education Week)

Can school officials search students' cellphones?:  One legal expert expects more cases to emerge regarding the search and seizure of students' cellphones at school. Joshua Engel, vice president and general counsel of the Lycurgus Group, writes that under past legal standards such searches are allowed if there is a reasonable suspicion that the phones are being used for illegal activity, such as bullying or sexting. However, the actions of school officials are limited by the suspected severity of the crime, he writes. (The National Law Journal)

How should curriculum materials be designed for the common core?: Two writers of new national academic standards in English/language arts have developed guidelines for creating associated curriculum materials. The guidelines highlight key points of the standards -- particularly where they represent a shift from previous standards -- and are meant to ensure the creation of quality instructional materials. The guidelines, however, are raising questions about whether they go too far in dictating pedagogy to teachers. (Education Week)

Why humanities should be taught in schools: English teacher Bill Smoot makes the case for the continued study of the humanities, even at a time when science, technology, engineering and math are dominating the job market. The humanities, he writes, teach students to pay attention, think critically and have historical perspective, among other things. It is possible, Smoot writes, for liberal arts and STEM to coexist and even complement each other. (Bill Smoot's blog)

What is the best way to prepare teachers for the classroom?: The Relay Graduate School of Education is poised to become the first new standalone teacher-education college to open in New York state in a century. It aims to provide teachers with an alternative to traditional teacher training that is focused on practical techniques that can be implemented immediately. Critics, including officials with other graduate schools in the area, say the approach offers less intellectual rigor. (The New York Times)

Compromise plan could allow Memphis schools to open: School board officials in Memphis, Tenn., are considering a compromise plan that would allow the city's schools to open on time on Aug. 8. The school board had voted earlier this week to delay the start of school until they receive some $55 million in city funds. If the plan is approved by both the city council and the school board, the city would pay the district $15 million by Aug. 15, with the remainder paid in weighted monthly installments. (Reuters) (The Commercial Appeal)

Seattle to close district for a day due to budget cuts: Seattle Public Schools will close Aug. 31 -- before school begins -- and will hold a half day once during the school year as part of an effort to show the public that the state's $1 billion in cuts to education have an effect. Principals, teachers and support staff will take Aug. 31 as a furlough day and a half-day of unpaid leave during the school year. The state cuts to education included 1.9% salary decreases for teachers and support staff and 3% cuts for principals. (The Seattle Times)

TFA-heavy Group is critical of student-teaching programs: Roughly 75% of U.S. student-teaching programs are inadequate, according to a report by the National Council on Teacher Quality. Researchers rated the programs' against standards related to the quality of their student-teaching components and found that more attention is needed to ensuring high-quality guidance from supervising teachers. NCTQ has developed a system to rank education schools for U.S. News & World Report and those rankings will include the data on student-teaching programs. Critics of the report questioned its methodology. (InsideHigherEd) (The New York Times)

Who is the most influential tweeter in education?: Education expert Diane Ravitch is the most influential Twitter user on education policy, while Vicki Davis is the top educator tweeter, according to a ranking system known as Klout that gauges a person's overall online influence. This article lists the top 25 tweeters in education policy and the top 25 educators on Twitter. While it is still unclear whether the information on Twitter has any effect on the overall education reform debate, this writer points out that the same argument was made several years ago about blogs -- which became widely influential. (Education Next)

Framework for developing new science standards released: A framework for new national science standards was released Tuesday by a panel of experts convened by the National Research Council. The guidelines call for more in-depth study of science, the inclusion of more scientific inquiry and engineering design in science lessons, and a greater "coherence" in instruction of science concepts across grade levels. The framework will be used by the nonprofit group Achieve, which will work with states to write the standards. (Education Week)

Study shows high teacher turnover at L.A. charter schools:  Many charter middle and high schools in Los Angeles have high teacher turnover, with nearly 50% of educators leaving each year, a University of California, Berkeley study shows. The rate -- nearly three times that in other L.A. public schools -- is in contrast to that of students, who are more likely to remain at the charters than at traditional schools, the study shows. Researchers called the results worrisome, citing studies that show long-term relationships between students and teachers to be crucial for student achievement. (Los Angeles Times)

Many parents worry about cyberbullying, survey finds: Eighty-five percent of more than 1,000 parents of 13- to 17-year-olds said their children had accounts on social networking sites, according to a survey by the American Osteopathic Association. About 52% of them said they worried about cyberbullying, and about 17% said their children had been victims. The survey also showed that 91% of the parents believed they hold the responsibility to curb long-term effects of cyberbullying and that more than 75% had talked about it with their children. (HealthDay News)

Should charters be established in successful suburban districts?: Some parents in affluent suburbs such as Millburn, N.J., are working to keep out specialized "boutique" charter schools, which they say would divert resources and students from public schools. They say charter schools, conceived as alternatives to low-performing urban schools for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, are unnecessary in successful districts. Supporters say the charters expand school choices that should be available to all students. (The New York Times)

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