August 2008 Archives

It's funny how school improvement ideas around the globe often sound similar themes. As part of Australia's "education revolution," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced a plan to require school report cards as a condition for receiving federal funding, according to this recent article in The Australian. Rudd, who was elected in November, has also promised to appoint a board to craft a national curriculum, an effort that has been pushed in Australia for decades. The call for national academic standards here in the U.S. has also gained new traction recently. Believe it or not, the plan to put ...


If you've got a strong interest in school policy and testing (seems likely if you're reading this blog), you might consider making a bid for one of the soon-to-be-open spots on the National Assessment Governing Board. NAGB, as it is known in Washington, sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. That gives the governing board an outsized influence on testing nationwide since many states look to NAEP, "the nation's report card," in trying to craft their own exams in various subjects. While NAGB members are appointed by the secretary of education, it's an independent board, designed to go ...


If they are looking for an inspiring and compelling speaker to promote the cause of public education at the conventions, organizers should put Dalton Sherman on the next plane to Denver or St. Paul. Here the 5th grader at the Charles Rice Learning Center gets thousands of Dallas teachers on their feet and psyched up for a new school year: This kid is awesome!...


It may have been a bit depressing following the Fordham Institute's "Education Olympics" or Bob Wise's video commentary comparing the nation's fixation with the Beijing Olympics and athletic excellence with the inadequate attention given students' academic performance. But there was at least one shining achievement. I almost missed it by assuming that all the posts would reflect dismally on U.S. schools and students (and because of the temporary jolt I got from seeing Mike Petrilli with red, white, and blue face paint for his final broadcast). The top finish came not in math or science or even literacy, but ...


Another documentary filled with history, emotion, and visual splendor ran on PBS this week, this one about the photographers who documented "the face of Depression-era America." For Frank Baker that means another chance to help teachers use media resources for their lessons. The longtime educator and media literacy consultant has created a teachers' guide for using the film, "Documenting The Face of America", in the classroom. It includes background, readings, preview and review questions for students, links to national standards in several subjects, and suggested assignments. Baker, who's become somewhat of a guru on media literacy education for his efforts ...


Democrats have descended on the Mile High City this week for their party's national convention (Ed Week coverage galore here and from our home page). One of the headliners will be former Vice President Al Gore, who is expected to speak the final night of the event, around the same time as presumptive nominee Barack Obama. Gore is certain to carry a strong pro-environment message to the podium. But whatever your political views, if you're listing speakers who've made a mark on what gets taught in the classroom over the past few years, you'd probably be hard-pressed not to at ...


In the No Child Left Behind era, it's hardly unusual to see teachers "restructured" out their jobs—basically, fired or reassigned as part of the major changes that the law allows administrators to make at continually poor-performing schools. But not many of those teachers have as devoted a lobby as Art Siebens. Siebens, who until recently worked as a science teacher at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in the District of Columbia, lost his job as part of what has been described as a school restructuring effort under NCLB. He had taught biology, anatomy, and physiology at the school for ...


After-school and informal science education programs have become a fixture in school districts around the country. It's easy to see why. They offer a way to introduce students to the natural world in a fun and pressure-free (free of tests, for example) environment. But how can educators and parents judge the strengths and shortcomings of those programs? And how can researchers evaluate them in a consistent way? A new study, prepared for the Noyce Foundation, attempts to provide some answers to those questions. It recommends the development of specific criteria for judging informal science programs, in areas such as student ...


The issue of boys' literacy has been fueling a lot of chatter lately. It is a topic that has come to my attention a lot throughout my years of covering reading policy and practice for Ed Week. Like every time girls outperform boys on national reading assessments. But lately the coverage has expanded beyond the test scores. USA Today columnist Richard Whitmire has launched a blog solely dedicated to boys and their struggles in school. Why Boys Fail is not all about reading, but it's loaded with material from research, media reports, and online discussions. (There's some interesting guest commentary ...


Few concepts are as fundamental to students' understanding of biology and plant life as photosynthesis. And everybody knows what photosynthesis is, right? Right? Well, a study published this year makes the case for introducing students to scientific concepts and phenomena, such as photosynthesis (the process by which plants use light energy to convert water and sunlight into oxygen and high-energy carbohydrates) in plain English. The study, published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, found that students who were introduced to science concepts in "everyday English" before learning the exact scientific language fared better on tests than students who ...


College Board officials have confirmed that they are working on a pre-PSAT, a voluntary assessment for 8th graders designed to gauge their progress toward success on the college-entrance exam and beyond. The Los Angeles Times broke the story Friday when an official with the New York City-based board discussed it at a conference, not realizing a reporter was in the room taking notes (don't you love when that happens?). The board would not give Ed Week details, but said an announcement and more information should be ready in the fall. "It’s designed to provide schools with insight about students’ ...


It's hard not to get drawn in to the record-breaking heats in the Olympic swimming competition, or the excitement of the early matchups in soccer and basketball. But before you get all patriotic about the dozen or so medals the United States has already won in Beijing this month, you might temper your enthusiasm with two different takes on international competition. Here Bob Wise of the Alliance for Excellent Education weighs in with his second broadcast of the "Education Olympics," as he shares disappointing data on where the U.S. stands against other nations on literacy measures. And Fordham's Mike ...


There's been a growing interest in recent years in holding U.S. students to a higher standard—specifically an international standard. As we've reported, more state policymakers and researchers seem attracted to the idea of states judging their academic progress against foreign nations by competing directly with them on international exams. But Mark Schneider, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, recently spoke about the difficulty of making those state-to-nation comparisons at a meeting with federal oficials in Washington. Schneider recounted that he had met earlier this year with representatives for a few education organizations, including the Council...


Everybody seems to agree that the United States needs to improve the quality of its math education. There's less consensus, however, on how to get there. A conference scheduled for next month in Washington will focus on that topic, specifically on the math taught in high schools. Hosted by the University of Maryland's Center for Math Education, the two-and-a-half day event will highlight such topics as improving the math curriculum, professional development in high schools, and the essential math skill needed to succeed in college. The conference will be held Sept. 25-27 at the Renaissance M Street Hotel in D.C....


As the world turns its eyes toward China for the upcoming Summer Olympic Games, former W.Va. Gov. Bob Wise has donned a sweatsuit, ready to talk international competition. But in a series of video messages being released over the next two weeks, Wise, the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, will outline the need for the U.S. to aim to be among the best in the world not just in athletics, but in academics. In his kickoff message, Wise talks about the "Academic Olympics" and the need for high school students to compete on the world stage. "We...


The board that sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress has been meeting in Washington over the past few days, attempting to solve some of the trickiest issues in the world of testing. An ad hoc committee of the National Assessment Governing Board gathered Thursday to consider one such topic: how to bring more uniformity to the proportions of students that states and cities exclude from taking NAEP, or provide with special help known as accommodations, on it. It's not easy, as I discussed in a recent story. States set their own policies on how to deal with ...


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