May 2009 Archives

Texas Board Chairman Ousted

Several Texas lawmakers have already made their dissatisfaction known with the performance of the state board of education and the recent saga over evolution's place in the state standards. Now members of the state Senate have succeeded in blocking the reappointment of the board's controversial chairman, Don McLeroy. McLeroy, a dentist from College Station who joined the board in 2007, pushed for standards that encouraged more criticism of evolution and many core components of the biological theory. As self-described creationist, according to media reports (see this story from the Austin American-Statesman) he played a major role in the 15-member state ...

Gleanings From a 'Funders Forum' on Adolescent Literacy

Private and public funders of adolescent literacy convene in the nation's capital to talk about their priorities for the future.

Obama and Renewable-Energy Education

Obama pledges to use the resources of the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy to boost students' knowledge of and interest in renewable energy. Can it work?

Begging for Loan Forgivenesss

One of the carrots meant to lure college graduates, and career changers, into math and science teaching is loan forgiveness, a form of assistance offered by states, nonprofits, and the federal government. Whether these programs actually have an impact on creating a sustained pool of talented teachers is a matter of dispute. But it's probably a safe bet that for some aspiring teachers, particularly those thinking of forgoing higher-paying gigs for the classroom, the promise of paying off their college debts—especially if the debts rise as high as $50,000 or $70,000—means something. A story in yesterday's...

Native (Alaskan) Education

Alaska is creating a new director of rural education, who will also focus on serving the state's native population. Several other states have administrators who work specifically with American Indian students.

A "Cyber" Summit on Education

The future is now. A "Cyber Summit," to be held entirely online, will examine "21st Century Skills."

A Bit of Classroom Chemistry

A report by the National Research Council examines the many challenges facing high school chemistry teachers—and offers ideas on how to overcome them.

A PDF Blast of Math and Science, from EdWeek

Teachers, researchers, undergrads, grad students, and assorted policy types looking for some summertime reading might be interested in a new resource on math and science being offered by EdWeek. It's a collection of recent stories called "Spotlight on STEM," which can be downloaded in PDF form for the price of $4.95. EdWeek has offered these packages of stories on other topics, such as "response to intervention" and tips for new teachers, but this is the first one we've put out on math and science topics. For those who are interested in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education ...

Legislating Evolution

A number of evolution-related bills died in state capitols around the country. Somewhere, Richard Dawkins is smiling.

Reading Expert: Free Reading Isn't the Be All and End All

What Michael L. Kamil, a reading researcher at Stanford University who was a guest on an EdWeek live chat today on adolescent literacy, has to say about free reading may surprise you. A transcript is now available. Here was the question: "What is your opinion of allowing students time in class to read what they want, instead of following a rigid, prescribed reading plan?" Kamil gave the following answer: The research on free reading, reading practice, or recreational reading shows that having students read more does NOT lead to better reading. Instead it seems to show that good readers read ...

Phone in the Math!

If you're one of those people who's still struggling to master the most basic functions on your cell phone (like send, receive, and check messages), you may not want to continue with this blog post. What it says may depress you. As you sort through your technological shortcomings, it turns out that two young men in suburban Chicago—a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old, to be precise—have developed an application for an iPhone that allows users to solve math problems on the device. It costs 99 cents to download the application, according to this story describing their application, in the Chicago...

Today's Live Event: A Chat on Adolescent Literacy

Michael L. Kamil, a prominent researcher on reading, will join us today for a live chat on how to improve adolescent literacy. It will take place from 1 p.m to 2 p.m., Eastern time. Find more information here....

Insight on Textbooks: 'Who Writes These Things?'

A former school textbook editor describes the process that most textbook publishers use to create textbooks as stifling for engaging and original content.

Language Software Company Is 'Bright Spot' in Bad Economy

The success of Rosetta Stone, a language-software company, on the New York Stock Exchange indicates that many people in this country want to learn a foreign language.

Math and Science in the Big City

Two stories in today's newspapers highlight efforts to improve math and science education in major cities, one of which is well under way in Los Angeles, while the other is just getting off the ground in Detroit. A story in the Los Angeles Times describes a pilot program taking place in six schools in the city that aims to boost students' interest in computer science. So far, it seems to be having success reaching minority students, according to the story. Over the last five years, the program helped double the number of African- American students taking Advanced Placement computer science ...

Arne Duncan Wants to Expand Striving Readers Program

At a hearing of the House Education and Labor Committee this morning, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he would like to increase funding for the federal government's Striving Readers program from $35 million to $370 million per year. He said he also wants to extend the program from operating only in middle and high schools to elementary schools. (It's likely that he's referring to the upper elementary school grades that weren't covered under the federal Reading First program. A draft bill is circulating in Congress that could provide a program that could be a replacement for Reading ...

A Better Brain, Through the Arts?

What's the connection between cultivating students' artistic talent and their overall brain development? That topic was explored at a recent seminar sponsored by the Neuro-Education Initiative at Johns Hopkins University's School of Education, as was detailed in this story in the Baltimore Sun. Researchers, as the article explains, are exploring whether training in the arts can change students' brain structures and the way they think. It's fascinating stuff. The article alludes to a number of intriguing research projects, who is examining a correlation between students' training in music and their skill in geometry. It also mentions another study underway at ...

Walter Kirn, "Meritocracy," and Stephen Colbert

The novelist and critic Walter Kirn was a guest on Stephen Colbert's show last night, discussing his new book, "Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever." Kirn's book, according to the description I've read, is a memoir recounting his transition from rural Minnesota to Princeton, and what he sees as the gamesmanship endemic to getting into the nation's higher education institutions—and succeeding there. He explored some of these points in a 2005 Atlantic Monthly article. One exchange from last night: Colbert: "I'm no fan of Ivy League education, because I think they turn people into elites. But ...

Tripping over Math in Massachusetts

Last week I wrote about Massachusetts' plan to require aspiring elementary school teachers to pass a math-specific portion of the state licensing test, as opposed to simply passing the generic exam. Many of those teachers, it seems, have a major task ahead of them. The state this week released results showing how teachers fared on the math portion of the state's licensing exam, and the scores were very poor. Seventy-three percent of elementary teachers failed the math portion, according to this story in the Boston Globe. State education officials were not especially surprised by the low scores, the story says. ...

A "Early Warning" System for Dropouts

The American Institutes for Research has created an online program in an effort to help schools identify students at risk of dropping out of school, before they're already halfway out the door. It's called the "Early Warning System Tool," and it was created by the National High School Center within the AIR. Want to take this vehicle for a test drive? Go to the above link and scroll down to the tool, which you'll see listed as an Excel file. Fill in information giving the risk factors of individual students—which include days of school missed per quarter, low GPA,...

Cornelia Smith Orr Will Direct NAGB

A top Florida schools official has been named as executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for the influential NAEP test.

Grading States in the Biosciences

Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, among others do well in covering bioscience topics, a group of biotech advocates say. Arkansas, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and others do not.

Math Lessons from Hong Kong?

When you think of Hong Kong, what comes to mind? International financial hub, certainly. Perhaps that spectacular skyline, ablaze in neon. Bruce Lee movies, or, if you're a younger generation of film buff, maybe John Woo. Yet if your primary interest is education, there's a good chance you associate Hong Kong with something else: high-quality math lessons. Devoted readers of Ed Week know that U.S. policymakers are paying a lot more attention to international assessments these days. Perhaps more importantly, they're attempting to use data to move into very detailed analyses of what other countries seem to be doing ...

The Next Federal Reading Initiative Could be Broadest Yet

A draft bill is circulating and could be introduced in Congress later this year which details a federal reading effort that would target children of all ages, essentially from birth to high school. The proposal includes many of the tenets of Reading First, but also includes writing and motivation as key components of effective literacy instruction.

Graduating Early—Make That, Very Early

A pair of students will graduate from Arizona State University at the age when most people are still fretting over SAT scores and filling out college applications.

Lament for College Board's Cancellation of Latin Lit Exam

A private school teacher laments the cancellation by the College Board of one of its Advanced Placement Latin exams.

UPDATE: New Math Standard for Massachusetts Teachers

The state plans to create a math-specific test for aspiring elementary teachers. Passing a generic state licensure exam is no longer good enough.

Changing Math Classes Through Curriculum

When a federally sponsored study appears to favor two types of early-grades mathematics programs, just how should the education community interpret it?

'Common Standards' Come Up at High School Hearing

Talk about "common standards" continues to pop up all over town here in the nation's capital.

Mission to Accomplish: Reading Comprehension

Over at Inside School Research, my colleague Debbie Viadero describes Reading for Understanding, a research initiative just announced by the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education. It's designed to tackle the problem of how children can learn to understand the words they are reading beyond merely sounding them out....

Changing Elementary School Science

What’s the main goal of elementary school science instruction? And why do students who thrive in early-grades science seem to stumble when they reach middle and high school? I explore some of these topics in a story in this week’s issue of Education Week. It’s about efforts by a University of Michigan researcher to cultivate “complex scientific-reasoning” skills in young, urban students. That researcher, Nancy Butler Songer, is challenging elementary students in Detroit not only to understand basic science facts and concepts, but also to understand what science is and what scientists actually do. That means that ...

California Going Digital with Math, Science Textbooks

California will offer "free, open-source" digital textbooks in math and science for high school students, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced. The governor says his state would be the first in the nation to take that step. Maybe there is something to Rahm Emanuel's quip about not letting a good crisis go to waste. Schwarzenegger, in a statement about the plan, suggests that the idea for digitalizing textbooks has come about partly because of California's severe and well-documented budget problems. He says the move will cut costs and encourage collaboration among districts. Schools have shown an increased interest in digital textbooks ...

Washington Post Endorses Common Standards

The Washington Post published an editorial on Sunday offering support for "common, national standards." The editorial also says that improvements on the long-term National Assessment of Educational Progress trend data for younger students, particularly minority students, "can be traced to the standards-based reforms embodied in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law and the state efforts that predated it." As I indicated in a story about the long-term data published in this week's Education Week, not everyone would agree with that assessment. Chester E. Finn, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, noted that at least he'd be cautious ...

The Future of Detroit Schools, and Dave Bing

After completing a legendary pro basketball career for the Detroit Pistons, Dave Bing left to see out the twilight of his career with professional teams in other cities. Then he did something unusual, given the socioeconomic forces that have been battering the Motor City for decades: He came back. As Detroit's population and economic wealth evaporated, and many residents fled for surrounding suburbs, Bing returned to the city after his playing days and founded an ultimately successful steel company. He became active in the community, on issues such as neighborhood revitalization, as his business grew. Bing has traced the origins ...

National Institute for Literacy to Get Ax

Eduflack highlights a small but notable cut in President Obama's education budget in this post about the potential demise of the National Institute for Literacy. He's right when he describes the quasi-federal agency as struggling, both to tackle its ambitious mission to address literacy from birth through adulthood, and to be a leader in promoting research and innovation in the field. I've written a number of times about the institute's misadventures in trying to launch the Commission on Reading Research, to take on the much-needed task of following up on the work of the National Reading Panel. Several other efforts ...

Obama's Budget Proposes Cutting Even Start Program

My colleague Alyson Klein reports over at Politics K-12 that President Obama's budget proposes to slash the $66 million Even Start family-literacy program. During the 11 years I've worked for Education Week, I must admit I've never had the chance to observe this program in action. I read a research brief recently published by Child Trends and the Center for Social and Demographic Analysis at the University of Albany focusing on low enrollment of Latino youngsters in early-childhood education programs that made the following statement about Even Start: While the most recent evaluation of the Even Start literacy program did ...

Cultivating "Specialists" in Elementary Math

Elementary school teachers in this country, by and large, are generalists. That means they’re required to teach everything—math, science, language arts, history, you name it, regardless of how prepared they are in any particular subject. When it comes to math, a lot of people find that lack of expertise pretty troubling. After all, many elementary teachers leave college having only taken one or two courses in math, at most. Their content knowledge may be pretty shaky, to put it mildly. Yet they’re also expected to provide the essential, ground-floor knowledge of math that young students need to prosper...

Federal Study: Four Reading Programs Don't Have Positive Impact

A large-scale randomized control study released yesterday by the federal government doesn't give us much insight into reading programs that are effective because it found that three of the four reading programs examined didn't have a positive impact and one had a negative impact on students' reading comprehension. But Robert E. Slavin, a researcher and the founder of the Success for All Foundation, which developed the reading curriculum found to have a negative impact, dismissed the findings, saying in an e-mail to me that evaluations sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, which conducted the ...

English-Language Learners Closed Out of a College-Prep Curriculum

See my other blog, Learning the Language, for news about a study of California schools released by the National High School Center that indicates English-language learners don't have the same access as other students to a college-preparatory curriculum....

Math Across Cultures

The Erikson Institute staged its first-ever international symposium on math education recently. The event brought together speakers who discussed approaches to teaching early-grades math in a number of countries, including Singapore, Japan, Australia, and China. The event was part of Erikson's Early Mathematics Education Project, which seeks to improve teaching of that subject in Chicago. You can see all of the speakers' Power Points and presentations here. The guests at the forum included Lyn English, a professor of mathematics education in the School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education at Queensland University of Technology in Australia. She's also the founding ...

Chatting Up the National Math Panel

Roughly a year after the National Mathematics Advisory Panel released a major report on teaching and learning in that subject, two people who served on the panel will answer questions in an Ed Week forum. It's an online "chat" to be held tomorrow, Tuesday, at 2 p.m. ET. One of our guests is Francis M. "Skip" Fennell, former president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The other is Vern Williams, a math teacher at Longfellow Middle School in Falls Church, Va. You can watch the chat and submit questions (try to keep them short!) up to a ...

Taking Reading Instruction Beyond the Primary Grades

Two reports have been released in the last few days that stress the need for states to have a statewide focus on adolescent literacy. Both reports challenge the traditional assumption that reading instruction in schools should end at grade 3. They emphasize that quite a lot of research is available on teaching strategies for reaching struggling readers in middle or high schools. A report by the Southern Regional Education Board released on Friday at the Education Writers Association annual meeting calls on states to enact policies to support adolescent reading. See my article, "Southern States Urged to Tackle Adolescent Literacy," ...

College Board Signals Policy on AP Tests Disrupted by Flu

Officials at the College Board say they are ready to adjust testing schedules for the Advanced Placement tests in case local school officials decide to close their facilities because of the outbreak of H1N1, otherwise known as the Swine Flu. As of this afternoon, about 300 schools around the country had closed out of concerns that the virus may spread. (See Ed Week's full coverage on the issue here. UPDATE: The U.S. Department of Education reported later today that 433 schools had closed, affecting 245,000 children in 17 states.) Officials at the College Board, which sponsors the AP, ...

Gains Among Students Whose Parents Didn't Finish High School

One interesting sign of academic progress on the latest "nation's report card" results came among students who are presumably at a pretty serious disadvantage. Math scores for students who reported that their parents didn't complete high school rose on the NAEP from 287 to 292, on a 500-point scale, the biggest jump of any student group, as measured by parents' educational background. Overall, 17-year-olds' scores were flat among students in every performance level. By contrast, among students who said at least one parent had graduated from college, and those who said either mom or dad had "some education after high ...

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