March 2010 Archives

Common Standards: A Group of Mathematicians Responds

A group of mathematicians has come out with a critique of the proposed common standards, which are undergoing their final few days of public comment this week. (Friday is the last day of the public-comment period. You can post your feedback on their website by clicking the little yellow bar in the left column.) As I have said before, it would be a valuable service to make public all the comments on the K-12 common standards draft. More than 5,000 have been submitted so far. But the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, which ...

Race to Top Winners Include STEM in Agendas

Both Delaware and Tennessee featured STEM education in their successful Race to the Top applications.

Alaska Considers Common Standards

We've been writing it over and over: Forty-eight states have agreed to support the common-standards push. The two exceptions are Texas and Alaska. Is that about to change? It seems that educators in Alaska are discussing whether to adopt the standards....

Anticipating Profits From Common Standards

As you know, the common standards are up for public comment through the end of this week (more than 5,000 comments so far, sources tell me). While lots of debate has focused on whether the standards cover the right stuff, whether their level of rigor is appropriate, and whether they were developed in a sufficiently transparent way, a bit less conversation has centered on the standards' potential as a business venture. Not that no one's talked about it. The potential profits to be made from designing curriculum materials and assessments for the standards have been a trigger for skepticism ...

Florida Educators Share Attitudes on Teaching Evolution

Three in four Florida teachers say they are comfortable with the inclusion of evolution in the state's recently revised science standards, a survey finds.

Which Democrat Restored Sexual-Abstinence Program?

You may have heard a little something this week about President Obama winning changes to the U.S. health-care system. What you might have missed amid the hoopla and the hollering is a couple of provisions tucked into the legislation to fund abstinence-only education and comprehensive sex education at a cost of more than $600 million over five years. The health-care overhaul essentially gives a new lease on life to the Abstinence Education Grant Program, which has been around since the 1990s but recently was zeroed out with backing from President Obama. It provides grants to states for initiatives that ...

Exclusion Rates in NAEP: A Pot Still Simmering

Questions persist about the effect of exclusion rates on NAEP scores.

Illinois House Approves Bill for a 4-Day School Week

The Illinois House, in response to concerns about tight school budgets, approved a bill this week that would allow local school boards to set four-day weeks to save money.

NAEP Reading Scores Out Today

NAEP scores in 4th grade and 8th grade reading are being released today.

Budget Cuts in South Carolina Hit Single-Sex Classes

Amid state and local budget cuts, South Carolina is seeing a decline in the number of single-gender classes offered at public schools.

Fordham Report Gives Common Standards Good Grades

As comments pour in on the common standards, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute here in Washington is weighing in with an analysis of the draft. Its report, issued today, gives the math standards an A-minus and the English/language arts a B. That's an improvement over the last time the organization checked into the drafts that have been produced and refined as part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Last fall, Fordham had its experts pore over an earlier draft and gave B's to both math and the ELA. (See our story here, which links to that study.)...

Barriers to STEM Careers for Women, Minorities Examined

Two new studies look at the barriers women and minorities face in entering the STEM fields.

Comments Pouring in on Common Standards, But You Won't See Them

Comments are flooding in on the common standards, but the public probably won't get to see them.

A New Vision of Career Technical Education

The sharpened national focus on career and college readiness has prompted many questions about what both of those terms mean. Despite some protestations to the contrary, there is still something less than, ahem, total agreement on what constitutes sound preparation for college or for good jobs (there are so many types of colleges, and so many careers!). While those folks yak about overlapping sets of skills and such, you might be interested to peruse a document that tries to capture what America's "vision" of career technical education should be as we drag ourselves move boldly into the 21st century. Issued ...

House OKs Bill to Promote Environmental Literacy

The House today passed a bill to enhance environmental education.

Ed Dept to States: In Race to Top, Only Common Core Will Do

I'm sure you remember, because it set a lot of people's neck hairs on end, that President Obama recently proposed that Title I funding for disadvantaged students be tied to whether states have adopted the Common Core State Standards. And I am also sure you know that in order to get the most bang for their buck in Race to the Top applications, states have to promise to adopt the common standards. In the Title I proposal, states may choose the common core standards or work with their own university systems to build standards rigorous enough to be considered "college ...

Is 'Career Ready' Getting the Short End of the Stick?

"All students college and career ready" is getting to be a veritable mantra among educrats, with "all students proficient" joining cassette tapes as quaintly outdated. If you've somehow napped through the steady flow of rhetoric coming out of the Obama administration in the last year and you want proof of this college-and-career-readiness drumbeat, you need go only so far as the president's recent blueprint for reauthorization of the ESEA (currently known as No Child Left Behind). (See our story here.) What does the career readiness part of all this mean, though, and how would it manifest itself in schools? Some ...

Florida Measure Would Mandate Civics Class and Test

Florida legislators are eyeing a measure to require a 7th grade civics course, and to impose a new high-stakes test in the subject.

Crop of Opinion Pieces Take Up Texas Social Studies Debate

It's taken a few days to sink in, it seems, but I'm starting to see some opinion pieces appear in various newspapers and in the blogosphere about the controversial actions last week by the Texas state board of education to revamp its social studies standards. As I wrote the other day, the debate has been infused with political, racial, and religious tensions. The board gave preliminary approval to the revised standards on a party line vote of 10-5 last Friday, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed. The board may well make additional amendments before taking a final ...

How Many States Will Adopt Common Standards?

The first public draft of the common standards is out, as you know from reading and this blog. But states don't have to put their feet to the fire on this thing yet, since it isn't the final version. (That won't happen until after the public- comment period closes on April 2 and revisions are made based on that feedback.) So far, the fact that the draft has been a work in progress has allowed states to demur about whether they will adopt the common standards. A popular line has sounded something like this: "Check back with us ...

Obama Aims to 'Renovate a Flawed Law'

President Obama's plan to revise the Elementary and Secondary Education Act could have some potentially significant implications for curriculum matters across the country.

Texas Board Tentatively OKs Social Studies Standards

The Texas board of education by a vote of 11-4 gave its preliminary approval to new social studies standards.

By Adding an 'A' for Arts to STEM, a New Acronym Is Born

A professor is urging that the popular STEM acronym expand to STEAM with an "A" for the arts.

Business and Industry Groups to Launch STEM Coalition

A new business and industry coalition to be announced tomorrow is seeking to enhance and elevate the U.S. commitment to STEM education

Interesting Reactions to Common-Core Standards

If you don't live or work here in Washington, it could be hard to wrap your head around the intense inside-the-Beltway mentality that shapes dialogue around here. But since our office is inside that Beltway, for better or worse, it came as no surprise that I was inundated with official statements yesterday about the first public draft of the common standards. Most were fairly predictable, of course, given their long-standing agendas or their roles supporting the project (or the politically sensitive prospect of saying anything nasty about the standards). See statements from Achieve, the Business Roundtable, the Alliance for Excellent ...

Is Fox Being 'Fair and Balanced'? Texas Ed. Agency Says No

The Texas Education Agency is criticizing Fox News for its coverage of efforts under way to revise the state's social studies standards.

'Eyeballs in the Fridge': Science Interest Starts Early

A new study finds that scientists' initial interest in their subject is often sparked before they enter middle school, a conclusion the researchers suggest has implications for rethinking policy efforts aimed at getting more young people to become scientists. The federally funded study examines the experiences reported by 116 scientists and graduate students that first engaged them in science. Sixty-five percent said their interest began before middle school. Women were more likely to report that their interest was ignited by school-related activities, while most men recounted self-initiated activities, such as conducting home experiments or reading science fiction. The early interest ...

Praise and Criticism for Grade-by-Grade Common Standards

There is an interesting mix of reactions taking shape to the first public draft of the K-12 common standards. (Yes, these folks viewed advance, embargoed copies, or already had the draft because it's been circulated among state leaders.) Check out our story on, and check back again at 10 a.m EST., when we will link you directly to the drafts. UPDATE: The links to the drafts are now available on our story....

Calling All Teachers: Input Needed on Common Standards

The public-comment period on the grade-by-grade common standards opens tomorrow, and the drafters are very interested in what teachers will have to say about them. Some teachers have been involved in creating the standards, but the folks at the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association tell me that they want many more to weigh in. Chris Minnich of the CCSSO and Dane Linn of the NGA say they want to know whether teachers find the standards "teachable" and whether the grade-by-grade progressions of skills outlined in there make sense. They also want to hear teachers' ...

Texas Board Ready for Next Round in Social Studies Debate

The Texas state board of education is gearing up to resume debate over revisions to the state's social studies standards.

K-12 Common Standards Scheduled for Release Tomorrow

Since you pay such rapt attention to this blog, you already know that the first public draft of the grade-by-grade common standards is supposed to come out this week. And tomorrow's the scheduled release day. We will have a story on, and we'll blog about it in this space, too. But starting early tomorrow morning, before that stuff happens, there are a few webinars you might want to catch if you are interested in common standards. The National PTA is holding its annual legislative conference, and focusing a large chunk of its Wednesday morning on common standards. ...

AP: Bible-Influenced Science Texts Top Home-School Market

Leading textbooks for homeschoolers offer a Bible-influenced view of science, reports a story from the Associated Press

Another Career-Track Option, Fewer Regents Exams?

Top o' the week to you. A couple of good tidbits floating around out there today in the "high school space." New York is apparently thinking about cutting back on the number of regents exams it requires. And another state, Mississippi, is exploring expansion of career-track options for students who don't think college is their thing. I wonder if it will prove as controversial as it did when Louisiana did something similar recently....

GOP Voters Oust Key Conservative from Texas Ed. Board

Although most national attention on the Texas primary is focusing on incumbent Gov. Rick Perry's win, the results will spark some changes on the state board of education. But not soon enough to affect final action later this spring on revising the state's social studies standards, which have sparked a lot of controversy. Don McLeroy, seen as a key leader of a Christian conservative bloc on the board, was defeated by Thomas Ratliff, a moderate Republican. With no Democrat and one Libertarian on the ballot this fall, Ratliff is virtually assured of the post, reports the Dallas Morning News. "Ratliff's ...

Reading Roundup: Senior Year, Title I, Common Standards

Time to play catch-up after having been gone from the newsroom for a week. There are a number of good reads I want you to know about. Check out this story from USA Today about how teenagers are changing their senior year of high school. This is something that interests me, and I hope it interests you as well. The move to revamp senior year is certainly a symptom of one of the illnesses of high school. But it also strikes me as something that could carry great risks as well as potentially great opportunities. All in all, worth watching. ...

17 States Vow to Increase College-Completion Rates

Seventeen states have committed to raise their college completion rates, establish common measures of progress, and publicly report their annual results.

Draft Standards for K-12 Coming Out Next Week, Official Says

The long-awaited, much-anticipated draft of grade-by-grade common standards for K-12 education will be coming out for public comment next week, an education official at the National Governors Association said yesterday. The word came during a panel discussion hosted by the nonprofit group Achieve pegged to the release of a new report on state progress toward advancing the so-called "college- and career-ready" agenda. "You'll see those standards released next week," said Dane Linn, the director of the education division of the NGA's Center for Best Practices. "We'll open them to public comment, much like we did with the college- and career-ready ...

New Report Sees State Progress on College-Career Standards

A new report looks at how states are doing in implementing the so-called "college- and career-readiness agenda."

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