July 2008 Archives

Some 500 educators attending the National Reading First Conference here in Nashville this week have signed up for more information about a new national association that will push for legislation and policies based on the tenets of the federal program. State Reading First directors came up with the idea for the National Association for Reading First after learning about plans in Congress to eliminate the $1 billion-a-year grant program, according to Debora Scheffel, who directs the program in Colorado. The organization will promote inclusion of Reading First principles in the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, and work ...


There's no shortage of cheerleaders among the nearly 6,000 attendees at the National Reading First Conference here in Music City. Calling it the "5th annual celebration of the success of Reading First," Joe Conaty, who directs the program for the U.S. Department of Ed, kicked off the national conference today with a plenary session touting the benefits of the federal reading program, and lamenting its potential demise if Congress proceeds with plans to zero it out in the next budget. Deputy Secretary Ray Simon was up next, shaking his head at the looming cuts, saying Reading First "has ...


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill that would have required discussions of climate change to be added to the state's textbooks and curriculum, calling the measure an "overly prescriptive" approach. The Republican governor is no skeptic when it comes to global warming. He speaks often of the dangers of climate change on his state and the country, and he has won praise from environmental advocates for leading a high-profile fight to attempt to get the federal government to allow California to set its own, more stringent auto-emissions standards. The climate-change curriculum legislation was sponsored by Sen. Joe Simitian, a ...


Jim Rubillo has announced that he is resigning as executive director of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics after seven years in that position. NCTM, headquartered in Reston, Va., has had a strong influence on math instruction in the nation's classrooms, dating back decades. During Rubillo's tenure, NCTM released "Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8: A Quest for Coherence" and took an active role in attempting to shape policy at many levels. The organization's president, Hank Kepner, recently informed the board and staff of the 100,000-member organization of Mr. Rubillo's decision. Kepner credited Rubillo for his ...


For years, arts education advocates have been pushing for restoring programs in schools hampered by budgets and curriculum plans that tend to marginalize those subjects. So when D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee promised art, music, and PE teachers in every school, she won widespread praise from those advocates, as well as from teachers and parents. But a study released by a consortium of D.C. organizations this week claims that the plan—which is based on a new funding formula—would create budget disparities between the city's disadvantaged schools and better-off ones, such as "teacher shortages, large class-sizes,...


Charles Smith, the executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, has announced that he's stepping down from that post to take a position with the Washington office of ACT. The governing board, which sets policy for the influential National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, has an important role in education policy, though one that, it's safe to say, is probably not well understood by the public at large. Smith, 69, says he has sought to change that during his tenure on the board. He took the position of executive director in 2003, not long after the passage of ...


Math and science "academies" have grown more popular around the country in recent years. But the movement apparently has stalled in Gary, Ind., as Ball State University has withdrawn its sponsorship of a new school there. The school was scheduled to open on Aug. 20 in the city the Jackson Five made famous. But according to the Associated Press, university officials found that the school had not secured an adequate building, enrolled students, or hired teachers. The school was to be known as the Indiana Math and Science Academy, a charter school. A university official is quoted as saying it ...


This is my second and last entry blog based on a recent interview with Francis M. "Skip" Fennell, who completed his two-year run as president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, earlier this year. The first entry focused mostly on Fennell's work in crafting and promoting "Curriculum Focal Points,". But Fennell also had another prominent task while serving as NCTM president: He was named to a seat on the National Math Advisory Panel, a White House-created group tasked with identifying the best ways to prepare kids to take and succeed in algebra. Pretty much from the get-go, the ...


The Education Commission of the States has launched a pair of online resources, which seek to provide a nationwide view of state efforts in science, math, and career and technical education (the subject formerly known as vocational education). The first resource, at //www.ecs.org/hsdb-stem, provides a 50-state database on state programs and efforts in STEM education. These include state policies in the recruitment of science and math teachers, after-school programs in those subjects, graduation requirements, state mentoring and internship programs, and so on. The second online site is a database on career and technical education, at //www.ecs.org/hsdb-cte....


Earlier this year, Francis M. "Skip" Fennell's two-year term as president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics officially ended. Debates over the most effective strategies for teaching math—sometimes called the "math wars"—have been playing out for years in school districts around the country. And it's safe to say that Fennell has had a unique vantage point in observing, and to some degree, attempting to mediate those disputes. In 2006, NCTM released "Curriculum Focal Points." The document that seeks to spell out the core math skills students need in grades pre-K-8 drew praise from combatants on various...


What would happen if instead of silencing or confiscating cell phones in the classroom, teachers encouraged students to use them? Hall Davidson, the director of the Discovery Educator Network, wants teachers to realize the potential power cell phones hold for enlivening lessons and engaging students in the content they are learning. Most cell phones, Davidson points out, now have a number of technological features that schools used to pay thousands of dollars for as separate devices—camera, video recorder, GPS, text messaging, music player—and many students, even in low-income areas, own one. At a weeklong workshop for a corps of...


A couple years ago, a bunch of leading business organizations set an ambitious goal: "Double the number of U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduates with bachelor's degrees by 2015." But as those leaders frankly acknowledged this week, the nation has barely moved toward hitting that mark so far. The United States produced 223,255 such grads in 2005, and that number had only risen to 225,660 by 2007, reported the members of Tapping America's Potential, the business coalition. That's light years removed from their goal of reaching 400,000 by 2015. Several members of TAP, as they ...


Anyone interested in how schools, particularly those in rural communities, are recruiting and retaining math and science teachers and attempting to improve instruction in those subjects, might sit in on a forum taking place on Capitol Hill tomorrow (Wednesday, July 16.) Edvantia, an organization that researches rural school issues, is hosting an event that will highlight the work of the National Science Foundation in promoting math and science education in rural areas. Those communities often struggle to lure and keep capable math and science teachers, already in short supply in schools nationwide. The forum, which begins at 9 a.m. ...


Quote of the day from Nicholas Krisof's opinion piece in yesterday's New York Times, which touts the efforts of Greg Mortenson and his book, "Three Cups of Tea," about building schools in Pakistan: “I am convinced that the long-term solution to terrorism in general, and Afghanistan specifically, is education,” Lt. Col. Christopher Kolenda, who works on the Afghan front lines, said in an e-mail in which he raved about Mr. Mortenson’s work. “The conflict here will not be won with bombs but with books. ... The thirst for education here is palpable.”...


The debate rages on over Reading First, with supporters trying to make their case for preserving the federal program, which they say is proving itself in higher test results, improved teacher knowledge, and support among educators. The critics are picking through the data and arguing that, at best, there is little evidence that it is effective, and, at worst, is promoting a low-level form of literacy in its skills-based approach. Over at USAToday.com there are about 60 comments! to this story by Greg Toppo, arguing for and against and otherwise. And the debate continues among researchers like Reid Lyon ...


On occasion, you hear about systematic cheating, academic fraud, or gamesmanship in U.S. classrooms. Sometimes it gets blamed on the pressure school administrators face to boost students' test scores, or simply on an educator's or coach's desire to single out a student for special treatment. But if you want a look at educational impropriety on an entirely different scale, check out this story in today's Washington Post, which touches on the apparently endemic corruption in Russia's schools. The article focuses on the scope and impact of bribery in Russia today—and on President Dmitri Medvedev's vow to stamp it out....


Any way you slice it, California's decision to require that students take Algebra 1, and be tested in it, in 8th grade is a major undertaking for the state. Supporters of the action, including the state's board of education and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, believe the state needs to be setting more demanding standards in math. They've also argued that without the requirement, the state is essentially promoting a two-tier system, in which some students are challenged with algebra in 8th grade and others take more generic math courses. Opposing the requirement was California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, who ...


Yesterday, I wrote about a new study that purports to show a link between high-stakes tests in reading and math and gains in student achievement in science. The study examines test results in Florida, and it gets at a crucial question in education these days: Is science being pushed out of the curriculum to make way for reading and math? The authors suggest the answer is no. In the spirit of bringing some outside scrutiny to that work, I called David N. Figlio, a professor of economics at the University of Florida who has studied the effects of testing and ...


I missed this entry at Edbizbuzz while I was on vacation, but it's worth backtracking for a good discussion on plagiarism by guest blogger Dorothy Mikuska. Mikuska, a veteran English teacher who developed a software program for helping students organize and manage their work for school research papers, describes four reasons students plagiarize: "disengaged learning; poor reading skills; lack of organizational and metacognitive skills; and careless documentation." In the computer age, she adds, students "no longer take notes, but merely copy/paste from online sources without reflecting, analyzing, synthesizing, or evaluating their information. Research has become as mechanical as the ...


Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, science education advocates have worried that the law's emphasis on reading and math has resulted in their favorite subject getting pushed out of the curriculum—presumably, with students learning less about it. A study released today, however, argues that is not necessarily happening. At least not in Florida. The research, published by the Manhattan Institute, examines the impact of high-stakes testing in reading and math in Florida on students' performance in science. At the time of the study, science was a "low stakes" subject there, meaning poor test scores did ...


I would be the first to jump on any plan to impose three-day weekends for Ed Week reporters! I would gladly promise to check my e-mail at least once on Mondays and read all my favorite blogs and news sites if that would help the editors approve a four-day work week. But I don't think most of the 700 students in the Maccray, Minn., district will be thinking about school each Monday, now that the state has approved the district's cost-saving alternative schedule. The measure shortens the school week by a day, but lengthens the school day Tuesdays through Fridays. ...


Teachers, parents, and researchers will probably be interested in a new book that focuses on why so many students seem to dislike math and what can be done about it. At the very least, I give it points for its catchy title. What's Math Got to Do With It? Helping Children Learn to Love Their Favorite Subject—and Why It's Important for America, is the work of Jo Boaler, a professor of math education at the University of Sussex, in England. Boaler has spent years studying middle and high school students and the impact of different teaching methods. I interviewed...


With the collapse of the subprime-mortgage market—and the crisis it has created for the economy—there have been calls for schools to take on yet another task: financial literacy. Many are, apparently, if you consider that more 20,000 high school students in 20 states took the Financial Literacy Certification Test this year, according to WISE, or Working in Support of Education, a nonprofit that promotes financial and business education. About three-fourths of the students who've taken the test since it was introduced in 2003 have passed, a statistic that may help improve the bottom line: "A national...


Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has quietly signed into law Senate Bill 733, which allows local education agencies to use supplemental classroom materials that will help students "analyze, critique, and review" scientific theories, including evolution. The governor's action was described in a list of 75 bills that he announced he had approved on June 26, with a one-sentence statement that makes no mention of evolution. The measure, which was sponsored by state Sen. Ben Nevers, a Democrat, and drew overwhelming support from Louisiana's legislature, specifically states that it is not meant to promote any religious doctrine or belief. But several scientific ...


Teachers College, Columbia University, is launching an effort to improve instruction in math- and science-related subjects in its backyard, with the help of a corporate gift. The GE Foundation has given Teachers College $5 million to boost teacher training and classroom work that is tied to relevant academic standards at 10 schools in Harlem. Teachers College will work with the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, also at Columbia, and the Morningside Area Alliance, a neighborhood organization. Corporations and their philanthropic branches have taken a major interest in "STEM" topics in recent years, supporting teachers' academies, the hiring ...


The first lady plans to host her second international literacy meeting in September, two years after the first, which my colleague Mary Ann Zehr covered here. The next one, however, will include discussions summarizing six regional meetings on literacy held around the world by UNESCO over the past year, and strategies for further action. While some longtime UNESCO staffers have seen Mrs. Bush's participation in the organization's literacy program as a political distraction, international development experts have seen it as a sure-fire strategy for raising the profile of the program and awareness of the education crisis in poor nations. See ...


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