February 2010 Archives

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators this week introduced legislation to promote and improve engineering education in schools. "As a nation, our future success depends on our ability to produce a greater number of engineers," Sen. Edward E. Kaufman, D-Del., a co-sponsor of the bill who claims to be the only current senator who has worked as an engineer, said in a prepared statement. "This legislation will give schools nationwide more incentive to implement science and engineering education into K-12 curricula." With both the America COMPETES Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act up for reauthorization, you can ...


Wisconsin's governor has signed legislation that requires public schools to teach about birth control and sexually-transmitted diseases as part of comprehensive sex education classes.


The White House is conducting a competition among public schools, with the winner getting President Obama to deliver their commencement address this year.


Something tells me that a "Dear Colleague" letter circulating in Congress to shore up federal support for the Reading Is Fundamental program is just one of many such letters making the rounds in response to President Obama's recent budget request. The bipartisan letter by Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and Don Young, R-Alaska, urges fellow House members to join them in resisting Obama's plans to consolidate federal aid for RIF into a new literacy fund the president hopes to create at the U.S. Department of Education. It's part of Obama's larger effort, outlined in his fiscal 2011 budget plan, ...


President Obama wants to tie Title I aid to states' adoption of the common standards, as you already know from reading our story. But a couple of new reports are out today claiming that several states would have more to lose than to gain by adopting them. One study comes from the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research in Massachusetts. The institute compared the September and January drafts of the common standards with the state standards in Massachusetts and California. The study concludes that the common standards will not ensure that students are college-ready in math or English/language arts. ...


Those of you who consider yourselves assessment freaks (I say that affectionately) might be interested in a couple of tidbits today: the vision of next-generation assessment laid out at a forum I attended yesterday, and a report and webinar this week on the topic. The experts at yesterday's panel articulated quite the sweeping vision of assessments they'd like to see take shape as the Race to the Top money becomes available for development of common tests, and as Congress starts to discuss reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. See what they had to say in my story today. You ...


You've read before in this blog that the role the federal government is taking—or ought to take—in the development of common standards is a touchy subject. Fresh rounds of evidence popped up yesterday, with the news that President Obama proposes tying Title I money to the adoption of college- and career-ready standards, a clear—though not exclusive—nod to the set currently under development. The National Conference of State Legislatures gave an elbow jab to the feds, as you can see in reading our story about Obama's proposal. Take a look, also, at this announcement from...


New research from Michigan State University suggests that parental influence and access to math courses are likely to guide students to careers in the STEM fields and medicine, says an article in ScienceDaily. The article draws on information presented this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Only 4 percent of students who experienced low parent encouragement to attend college planned to enter a postsecondary program and major in a STEMM field," said Jon Miller, a professor of integrative studies at Michigan State who presented the findings at the meeting. (Editor's note: The ...


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan apparently told governors at a meeting yesterday that the Obama administration wants to tie billions of dollars in annual Title I aid for low-income students to whether states adopt standards judged to be "college- and career-ready," my colleague Lesli Maxwell is reporting over at State EdWatch. President Barack Obama is meeting today with most of the nation's governors at the White House. During that session, he's expected to share specific proposals for revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known in its latest iteration as the No Child Left Behind Act), with a ...


Just as Kentucky this month became the first state to adopt common academic standards for math and English/language arts, a Senate committee in the Bluegrass State has unanimously approved a bill to establish guidelines for teaching Bible literacy in public schools. Stories from the Associated Press and the Courier-Journal newspaper of Louisville both describe the effort, with somewhat different angles. "The purpose is to allow the Bible to be used for its literature content as well as its art and cultural and social studies content," the AP quotes state Sen. David Boswell, a Democrat and the chief sponsor, saying ...


The National Writing Project is getting an $800,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to expand a program that uses digital media to teach young people to write.


One of the guys leading the common-standards initiative sat down in front of a roomful of state board of education members in Philadelphia yesterday and said, "I'm not from the federal government." A wave of chuckles rippled through the room. But he was getting at something serious. The quip by Chris Minnich, who is overseeing the common-standards work for the Council of Chief State School Officers, was intended to ease some of the skepticism about the initiative being led by CCSSO and the National Governors Association. He was appearing with the NGA's David Wakelyn at the third in a series ...


Time for a bracing change of pace for those of you interested in high school issues. The National Center on Education and the Economy is proposing a very different way of doing high school curriculum and assessment, and it's outlined in The New York Times. The folks at NCEE have the idea that if students can pass a set of rigorous board examinations at the end of 10th grade, they should be able to move on to community college. If they aspire to a more selective institution, they can remain in high school and take college-prep classes. (This is an ...


Amid strong opposition, state education officials are apparently backing off a recent proposal to rewrite social studies standards.


Forty-eight states have signed on to support the development of common academic standards. But they may be supporting something that doesn't have much evidence of effectiveness in improving learning, according to a new paper from a think tank here in Washington. In a policy analysis released today, Neal McCluskey, the associate director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, argues that the case for a set of standards shared by all states is empirically weak. In "Behind the Curtain: Assessing the Case for National Curriculum Standards," he argues that expanding educational choice is a more effective way ...


A task force concludes that the "national system of preparing physics teachers is "largely inefficient, mostly incoherent, and massively unprepared to deal with the current and future needs" of U.S. students.


A state senator from Utah is suggesting that his state save money by making the senior year of high school optional. Many states and districts have been searching for ways to save money during these lean financial times. One of the most frequently cited—though not widely embraced—suggestions is shortening the school calendar. But this is the first time I've heard of someone proposing to eliminate an entire year of school. Not that the senior year hasn't been the target of criticism for a long time. You can hardly spit without running into a high school senior who will...


A lot of people are talking about The New York Times story on how Texas revised its social studies standards. (You might remember that process got just a tad controversial recently.) Read what Eduwonk has to say about it (the blog provides lots of good links to other commentary as well). Former Gates Foundation education biggieTom Vander Ark shares thoughts (and a fun headline) as well over at VA/R Partners. A recent story in the Dallas Morning News reports on the board's decision. Check out our previous blog posts on Texas' revision here and here, and a story here. ...


Curriculum Matters co-author Erik Robelen will appear on the Kojo Nnamdi Show this coming Monday to discuss charter schools.


A new initiative called the Pi Society will award a first round of grants this spring for math fellowships worth $5,000 apiece.


Perhaps Harvard Business Review isn't high on your list of regular leisure reading. It isn't high on mine, either. But this is worth a look. It's an argument for the importance of feeling that you are making progress in your work. The authors studied "knowledge workers" of many stripes, and found that recognition, incentives, interpersonal support and clear goals are not as high on the motivation scale as that sense of making progress in your work. (Managers of these workers thought that recognition for good work would be the most important motivator, and making progress would be the least important. ...


Add Ohio to the list of states currently working to revamp Social Studies standards.


We've had so much snow here in Washington that we're all on snowverload. (Some are calling it snowverkill, but I like my own word, "snowverload," better. I welcome the grammarians to bring it on.) So perhaps it's all the white stuff getting to me. But I see an odd connection in three stories of interest today to all you curriculum wonks. One the one hand, we hear that huge portions of students in Colorado need remediation to keep their heads above water in college. (The fact that kids need remediation isn't news, of course. But just check out the proportions ...


The Kentucky board of education voted unanimously this morning to adopt the common standards. It's the first state to do so. And it did so even before the first public draft of the K-12 standards has been issued. (Nonpublic drafts have been circulating among state officials for review.) The original idea, officials there tell me, was to hold the adoption vote after the standards were finalized. Completion was originally expected in December, so Kentucky officials scheduled adoption for the board's Feb. 10 meeting. But the timeline for finalizing the K-12 standards stretched. They're now expected to go up for public ...


U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers of Michigan, a major champion of improving STEM education, has announced plans to step from Congress.


In what seems like an unusual step by the judiciary, a judge in Washington state has ordered the Seattle school board to reconsider its choice of math materials for high schools across the district, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "The court finds, based upon a review of the entire administrative record, that there is insufficient evidence for any reasonable board member to approve the selection of the Discovering Series," writes Judge Julie Spector from the King County Superior Court in her Feb. 4 decision. The Seattle newspaper explains that last May, the board implemented a districtwide math curriculum called Discovering Math. ...


A new study takes a look at the role interim assessments can play in improving student achievement. And it offers an interesting conclusion. I'll let the co-authors speak for themselves: "We conclude that interim assessments that are designed for instructional purposes are helpful but not sufficient to inform instructional change," they say in a policy brief summarizing the study's findings. "When well-supported by their districts and schools, teachers used interim assessment data to decide what to re-teach and to whom, but not necessarily to change the ways in which they taught this content." The study is by three scholars at ...


If you've been reading this blog in recent months, you've heard a great deal about the effort to develop common standards in math and English/language arts, including a post just yesterday by my colleague and co-blogger, Catherine. But you might not know about a separate effort getting under way to devise a set of "next generation" science standards. I recently attended the inaugural meeting of a panel of experts convened by the National Research Council to craft a "conceptual framework" for those standards. You can check out my story from edweek.org for lots more details....


I'm not telling you anything new when I mention that many people are less than thrilled when federal officials start exerting a broader influence on local schools. This skepticism has long roots, and has cropped up time and time again in education debates. As I track the development of the common-standards initiative, it's certainly one of the themes I hear. I saw it again while reading my colleague Lesli Maxwell's new blog on state policy. And the message comes across loud and clear in this story, too. What does this mean for the common-standards initiative? Skepticism toward a large federal ...


A draft of revised social studies standards in North Carolina is facing criticism over proposed changes to the teaching of U.S. history in high school.


A majority of arts educators say NCLB has not reduced art staffing in their districts, but nearly half report that it's led to budget cuts to art programs.


We all know that children—most of them—anyway, love recess. It was probably my favorite "subject" in elementary school, and my heart raced when I heard the bell go off and we were free to hit the playground. But what's being billed as the "first ever" national poll of elementary school principals on the subject finds that most of them believe recess helps children learn. Four out of five principals report that recess has a positive impact on academic achievement, with two-thirds saying students listen better after recess and are more focused in class. Virtually all of the nearly...


A newspaper examines AP test data and finds that more students are taking the exams but more are also failing them.


The Education Department's top school safety official advocates standards for school climate.


State boards of education seem to be lacking a good deal of information about the proposed common-core standards. And in most states, these panelists will be the folks who will have to decide whether to adopt them. That message emerged clearly from Day 2 of a meeting of Western board members I attended this week in Las Vegas, organized by the National Association of State Boards of Education. (See my blog post from yesterday about Day 1.) About a dozen states had representatives attending the meeting, and they spent a chunk of the morning discussing the questions they have about ...


A recent study finds that 2005 high school graduates earned more credits in "STEM" courses than did their counterparts from 1990.


States that adopt the common standards must adopt 100 percent of the document, according to two officials working on the initiative. This clarification emerged yesterday from a meeting in Las Vegas organized by the National Association of State Boards of Education. NASBE is holding a series of these meetings around the country so state board of ed folks can discuss the initiative, which 48 states have signed on to support. During yesterday's discussion, one question sought to clarify the requirement that participating states achieve an 85 percent match between their state standards and the common standards. (This is a requirement ...


An experimental, abstinence-only approach to sex education can delay young teenagers from engaging in sexual activity, a new study finds


This morning, I blogged about President Obama's budget proposals for 'STEM' education. Next, I'll turn to his plans to consolidate a bunch of discrete programs into two larger funds, one for literacy and the other for, yes, a "Well-Rounded Education." (With a name like that, what's not to like?) First, the $450 million literacy fund (dubbed the Effective Teaching and Learning: Literacy Fund). This program would provide competitive grants to "support comprehensive state and local efforts aimed at improving literacy instruction, especially in high-need schools," says the U.S. Department of Education's budget summary. It would essentially replace seven existing ...


The White House describes it as money for grants to states to improve teaching and learning in the subjects.


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