Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quick Hits

Uncertainty surrounds new teacher evaluations in Chicago:  Chicago Public Schools will replace its current system for evaluating teachers, principals and other staff, next year with one that is based, in part, on students' test scores. Some education experts, however, point out many questions about the new system have yet to be answered. Officials have not negotiated with the teachers union over the criteria that will be used to measure effectiveness or how those who teach non-tested subjects will be evaluated. (The New York Times)

Republican presidential hopefuls discuss government's role in schools:  Many Republican presidential candidates are campaigning to reduce the federal role in the country's schools but have different ideas for how to do so. Texas Gov. Rick Perry would like to shutter the Education Department, and has said the Race to the Top grant competition "smacks of a federal takeover of public schools." Herman Cain would like to see the government end its policy of providing college loans to students. "I do not believe it's the responsibility of the federal government to help fund college education," he said. (Yahoo!/The Associated Press)

Revised content frameworks for common standards released:  The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers released its final content frameworks meant to reflect key ideas in the new common standards to help provide guidance to teachers, curriculum and test developers. In response to feedback from educators, the consortium also said it will develop K-2 frameworks that are aligned with those for grade 3 and higher. Other changes include more guidance for schools on creating high-school math courses. (Education Week/Curriculum Matters blog) 

Senate continues work on bipartisan education reform:  A U.S. Senate committee heard testimony from teachers, principals and school superintendents Wednesday about the bipartisan legislation it approved last month reforming No Child Left Behind. Sen. Tom Harkin, who cosponsored the bill, said it offers a compromise, but critics argues it gives the federal government too much control. A full Senate vote has not been scheduled. (Politics K-12 blog), (U.S. News & World Report)

States, students embrace online learning, though concerns remain: States and school districts across the country are implementing more online K-12 public schools, in which students can take some or all of their courses online, or programs in which students take online courses at brick-and-mortar schools. Currently, 30 states permit students to participate in full-time online education, in which 250,000 students are now enrolled, an increase of 40% over the past three years. Concerns remain, however, about the quality and consistency of full-time online schooling, with some touting the benefits of hybrid or blended-learning options. (The Wall Street Journal)

A day in the life of a flipped classroom:  In this article, teachers explain their process for using a "flipped" instructional model, where online media is used to access classroom lectures at home and hands-on learning and small-group work is the focus in the classroom. The model is becoming more common in schools, as educators create instructional videos and find ways to ensure that students who may not have access to the Internet at home have the time and access to complete the online assignments. (Harvard Education Letter)

GED to be reworked with college-readiness in mind:  A project to redesign the General Educational Development -- or GED -- program is under way in recognition of the fact that students need more than just a high-school education to succeed. Among the changes, content will be updated, the test will be reformatted for computers and a higher standard will mark whether students have achieved college- and career-readiness. (Education Week)

Does testing saddle teachers with burdensome paperwork?:  The emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing has created an abundance of paperwork that teachers in Fairfax County, Va., and elsewhere say has become too burdensome. Teachers work after school to plan classes, but they also must complete forms that detail students' lesson plans and progress, which can take five hours per class. "Every year, it's gotten worse. There's so much paperwork and documentation," one fifth-grade teacher said. (The Washington Post) 

Survey - School counselors frustrated in their mission to help students:  Many middle- and high-school counselors say insufficient training and other priorities at their schools are hampering their ability to help prepare students for college and the workforce, according to a new survey released today by the College Board's Advocacy & Policy Center. "Counselors' duties should be aligned to the needs of students, but that doesn't always happen in a school setting," said Patricia Smith, a counselor-consultant to the Hillsborough County, Fla., school district. (Education Week)

New D.C. curriculum focuses on play to improve learning:  A pilot curriculum that uses intense and structured play to improve students' "executive function" is being used with preschool, pre-K and kindergarten students at 28 Washington, D.C., schools this year. The Tools of the Mind curriculum is based on the work of the late Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, who believed that play was essential to learning. Among other things, the new curriculum -- which targets disadvantaged students -- also is meant to improve students' classroom behavior, reduce gender stereotypes and raise academic achievement. (The Washington Post)
Report finds gap between minority students, teachers:  Just 17% of the country's teachers are minorities, compared with 40% of public-school students, according to a report by the Center for American Progress. "This is a problem for students, schools, and the public at large. Teachers of color serve as role models for students, giving them a clear and concrete sense of what diversity in education -- and in our society -- looks like," the report states. The report links the gap to low graduation rates among minority students and the increasingly high cost of obtaining a college education. (The Huffington Post)

Court supports schools' efforts to avoid conflict over national flags:  A U.S. district judge in San Francisco, sided with a school principal in a case over students' rights to wear to school on the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo shirts bearing the American flag. The judge agreed the principal could have "reasonably forecast that (the shirts) could cause a substantial disruption," and ruled that officials did not violate the students' rights to free speech by asking them to either turn the shirts inside out or return home for the day. (San Francisco Chronicle) 

Wis. state superintendent unveils teacher-evaluation system:  A proposed system for evaluating teachers in Wisconsin would base 50% of the teachers' ratings on classroom practices and 50% on student achievement, as measured by test scores and other metrics. The proposal, which links student test scores and teacher performance for the first time in the state, "marks a major shift for Wisconsin," according to a state task force on the issue. Also under the plan, teachers could receive one of three ratings: developing, effective or exemplary. (Wisconsin State Journal)

New census data show social programs help stave off child poverty:  Nearly 2 million children in the U.S. are staying out of poverty because of federal programs, according to new measurements from the U.S. Census Bureau. The data suggest that child poverty is still on the rise, but that social initiatives, such as national school-meal subsidies and other programs, are helping keep poverty at bay for some. (Inside School Research blog)

Should financial literacy be taught in schools?:  U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is urging an advisory council on financial literacy to be bold with its recommendations for changes in school curriculum. Duncan said personal finance should be taught early as part of schools' core curricula, suggesting that basic courses could begin in kindergarten. "[W]e don't have a financially literate population," Duncan told the panel. "... As important as reading and math and social studies and science [are], I think today more than ever financial literacy has to be part of that." (OnWallStreet.com)

Parents in N.C. county to be held accountable for student truancy:  Parents in Halifax County, N.C., school districts could soon be subject to jail time if they fail to ensure their children regularly attend school. Under a new initiative cosponsored by the districts and local courts, a criminal warrant could be issued in cases where a student has accumulated 10 unexcused absences in a school year and the principal has determined the parents are not making an effort to comply with school-attendance laws. (Daily Herald)

NYC principal finds long-lasting success with simple practicesMadeleine Brennan has been principal of Dyker Heights Intermediate School 201 in Brooklyn, N.Y., for 48 years. Though she has presided over the school throughout the tenure of many chancellors and policies, Brennan believes in the lasting success of simple practices, such as consistent rules and consequences, a dedicated corps of teachers and staff, and a calendar full of enriching events. (The New York Times)

Is the Tenn. teacher-evaluation system hurting morale?:  Some school administrators in Tennessee say the state's new system of evaluating teachers involves burdensome paperwork and a confusing system for rating teachers of non-tested subjects, which are harmful to teacher morale. Some say the state rushed through the new systems as part of its winning bid for Race to the Top funding, but officials say they are working to modify the new system. (The New York Times)

Study shows high rate of sexual harassment among students:  Roughly 50% of students in grades 7 to 12 report having experienced sexual harassment during the past school year, with a majority of those saying the experiences caused them to miss school and sleep or have stomachaches, according to a new study. Conducted by researchers at the nonprofit American Association of University Women, the study found that girls more often were the victims of harassment, which had more severe effects for students from low-income backgrounds. (The New York Times)

How visual arts can build critical-thinking skills:  Education in the visual arts can be an avenue for building students' critical-thinking skills, writes blogger Andrew Miller, a National Faculty member for the Buck Institute for Education. Miller points to two examples of this, including one in which students at a California school created an art piece to symbolize a better representation of an atom for a chemistry project. (Andrew Miller's blog)

Is the growth of virtual schooling becoming politicized?:  Politics may play an increasingly significant role as virtual-education options continue to grow for the nation's students, says the writer of this blog post. Education-technology writer Ian Quillen offers an example from Indiana, where a battle over online learning is being played out primarily along party lines. (Digital Education blog)       


Samantha Good said...

I completely agree with David Ginsburg article Strategic Group Selection--By Teachers, Not Students. I do think students should be placed in groups according to their skill level. This would benefit the students and help the teacher out, as well. The teachers would be able to spend equal amount of time with each group, rather than spending it all with one that needs extra help. This in turn would allow the teacher to push her entire classroom farther instead of bringing one group up to the level of the rest of the class.

Samantha Good said...

If we take out the federal government out of education, how will that affect the students? Not all students can pay their loans off as they go through school, and if we take these loans away from these students we are depriving them of a chance to education. With the price of living going up students are finding it harder and harder to afford school. Therefore, many college students would be unable to attend school and would be force to settle with a mediocre job, if the federal government removes itself from education.