A report by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice says that vouchers improve the academic achievement of public schools. The author, Greg Forster, reviewed 17 empirical studies on that topic. All but one found that vouchers improved public schools, and none found that vouchers detract from them, according to the report. Twenty-four school-choice programs now exist, in 14 states and the District of Columbia, which serve about 160,000 students, the report says. Forster's evaluation examines voucher efforts in Milwaukee, Florida, Ohio, and other areas. The Friedman Foundation is home to "the nation's leading voucher advocates," according to a description ...


Informal science experiences—trips to zoos, museums, TV shows, computer games, and the like—can play an important part in improving students' science learning, a recent study found. Now the House Science and Technology Committee, chaired by Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee, is delving into that topic, holding a hearing on Thursday, Feb. 26, on those out-of-school science connections. The scheduled speakers include Joan Ferrini-Mundy of the National Science Foundation; Phillip Bell, who co-chaired a National Academies panel that studied the topic recently and produced a report that I wrote about last month (linked above); and Robert Lippincott, the senior...


Call me cynical, but I chuckled when I read the following statement in a press release pitching software to teach students about personal finances: With concerns growing over the nation’s lack of personal finance skills and increasing credit card debt, this simulation allows students to experience what life is really like in the real world. Have any of you been hearing about "the nation's lack of personal finance skills?" Not me. Laugh out loud. It seems like a good idea for teachers to teach students about personal finance. But it also seems to me that it's NOT JUST STUDENTS ...


An early-childhood researcher at the University of Illinois is featured in this Science Daily article, which argues that unstructured playtime is a critical part of literacy development. Pushing more traditional kinds of academic work in early childhood at the expense of play, Anne Haas Dyson says, is akin to "banning the imagination." Many early-childhood experts have pointed out the importance of play in developing inquiry and critical-thinking skills that are the building blocks for later learning. But there has been a movement toward more formal instruction in pre-K and kindergarten as a way of getting children on grade level by ...


If U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has started a fire in proposing that states adopt common academic standards, a report released today by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is adding kindling to the flames. The report looks at how the academic standards in 28 states are playing out in 36 elementary and middle schools. Basically, it found that it's much easier for schools to make adequate yearly progress goals under the No Child Left Behind Act in some states rather than other states. "Can we now officially say that accountability as currently conceived and practiced is a joke?" ...


After posting a series of items on national standards on this blog, like this one, I got an email from Neal McCluskey over at the Cato Institute. There are naysayers when it comes to national standards, for sure. McCluskey, the associate director for the Center for Educational Freedom at the Libertarian institute, is among them. And remember, the nation's initial foray into national standards was contentious and largely ineffectual. So it's only fair to present the counter argument. In his response to the Weingarten piece, McCluskey argues that standards do not guarantee quality. He elaborates in a handful of Op-Eds ...


In another sign of the growing interest of renewable energy lessons in schools, community colleges—a destination for many high school graduates—are getting into the act. One example is Kalamazoo Valley Community College, in Michigan. The college's officials have announced a new program to train wind-turbine technicians, according to this story. A similar program for wind-turbine workers is being created at North Iowa Area Community College. Iowa has no shortage of wind, the author of this blog item, a native Midwesterner, will attest. I learned of those programs through an organization that works heavily with community colleges, the Association...


In Massachusetts, three school districts are rethinking whether to offer full-day kindergarten for free, and the school board of a California district recently discussed cutting kindergarten altogether. The Boston Globe reported this week in "Schools reconsider full-day programs" that one district halted a plan to add full-day classes, another wants to charge fees for parents that opt to enroll their children in full-day kindergarten, and another has already announced fees. The Capistrano Unified School District in California recently announced a list of possible budget cuts that included eliminating kindergarten. That idea didn't go over well with some parents, who wondered ...


One essential skill I wasn't taught in my kindergarten-through-master's-degree education was how to read a road map. I learned this skill on my own through trial and error after I bought my first car at the age of 25 and worked as a reporter-intern at the Indianapolis Star. I'm spatially challenged, and maps and MapQuest directions are now my lifeline when I visit a new city for Education Week. And even then, sometimes I get lost. So if learning how to read a wide range of maps—from a highway map to Google Earth—isn't yet part of state academic...


Researchers from around the country are coming to the National Science Foundation this week to discuss cutting-edge and otherwise innovative research on science, technology, mathematics, and engineering ("STEM") education topics. On Thursday, Feb. 19, educational psychologists, cognitive scientists and others will present information on work funded through NSF's Research and Evaluation on Education in Science and Engineering program, known as REESE. A number of researchers will make presentations from 3:30 to 5 p.m., at NSF's offices at 4201 Wilson Boulevard, in Arlington, Va. A full roster of the participants, along with background information on their research, is available ...


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