Several big organizations, in a letter to President Obama, are calling for more federal support for career and technical education (the subject formerly known as voc-ed). The primary federal vehicle for those efforts right now is the Perkins program, currently funded at more than $1 billion a year. I've seen Perkins, which was reauthorized a few years ago, described as the largest single high school program in the country. President Bush repeatedly sought to kill the Perkins program, and got nowhere, probably at least partly because of career-and-tech programs' strong popularity in Congress. Critics have said that career-oriented programs do ...


The president of a major professional organization for science teachers has a new online essay on what seems like a familiar topic: "professional learning communities." Page Keeley, of the National Science Teachers Association, argues that too many learning communities are unfocused, and need to have a much clearer mission in order to improve science teaching and learning. What is that mission, as Keeley sees it? It may seem obvious, but the focus of PLCs—which can be found in schools everywhere today—needs to be on improving instruction, rather than on management or departmental issues, or on loosely defined ...


A number of states require schools to teach all students about Native American tribes in their states, but few states support such requirements with a line item in their budgets. So teachers glean resources to teach about Native Americans wherever they can. One possible resource for the classroom is a PBS series about Native Americans, "We Shall Remain," which is also available on DVD. The series starts Monday, April 13, and continues for five episodes. The titles are "After the Mayflower," "Tecumseh's Vision," "Trail of Tears," "Geronimo," and "Wounded Knee." The promotional text for the series calls it a "provocative ...


The journal Science has an interesting item about a proposal, included in the $410 million budget measure approved by Congress last month, apparently aimed at identifying and cultivating supreme mathematical talent at the K-12 level. The article (subscription required) says that a $3 million earmark for the National Science Foundation was included in the spending plan with the potential to create a new institute serving "profoundly gifted" students in math. The spending was supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, according to the story. How would that money create a new institute for gifted children? The story says ...


It's common for science teachers to try to craft classroom lessons out of things that students see every day and can easily understand. I remember a lot of the science teachers I had during my school days talking about the physics of baseball, probably with good reason. It's a sport that's rich with opportunities to discuss science.Kathy Willens/AP I was reminded of this when I read a new interview in Scientific American with Alan Nathan, a physics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign who has studied science's connection to the sport. In the interview, Nathan ...


A school district needs to have a coherent plan in how to spend extra funds to raise academic performance for low-income, minority students in cities for the money to make a difference. If the district has a good plan, dramatic improvement can occur. If the district doesn't have a good plan, more money can produce confusion and even declining academic performance among students. That's one lesson that New Jersey officials learned in their implementation of increased funding to improve educational outcomes in low-income school districts that resulted from the Abbott v. Burke New Jersey Supreme Court case, according to the ...


Those who can't get enough international school data may be interested in a newly released study that provides comparisons of academic performance, instruction, teacher training, and school spending in the Group of Eight Nations, including the United States. Released by the Institute of Education Sciences, the report pulls together a lot of previously published information collected through three international exams, PISA, TIMSS, and PIRLS, as well as other sources. Those interested in particular content areas, such as reading, math, and science, could find some of the study's data intriguing. Here's a taste: In reading, the United States had the highest ...


Chris Comer, a former employee of the Texas Education Agency, resigned from her job in 2007 after she forwarded an e-mail to her colleagues advising them of a public appearance by a critic of creationism and intelligent design. Comer quit her job after she said that agency officials threatened to fire her for the e-mail, warning her that her electronic message had violated the agency's policy of impartiality on such issues. Comer sued the agency, but last week a federal judge dismissed her lawsuit, according to this story in the Austin American-Statesman. The ex-employee had argued that the state did ...


I'd like to alert any educators involved in the teaching of reading to a chat at edweek.org scheduled for next week with Donalyn Miller, a 6th grade language arts and social studies teacher. She's also the author of The Book Whisperer, which was recently published by Education Week Press and Jossey-Bass. The chat will take place on Tuesday, April 7, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time. I'm sure my elementary school teachers helped expand my reading vocabulary and comprehension, but I cannot give them credit for inspiring me to love reading. I remember that in ...


Reading First failed to have stellar results not because it favored a systematic use of phonics but because it was implemented by the federal government, argues Andrew J. Coulson over at Cato @ Liberty. Coulson writes: "If we want schools around the country to continually adopt and refine the best methods available, we must create the freedoms and incentives that will cause that to happen… or get used to disappointment." Basically Coulson is saying you can't trust the federal government to recommend "best practices" for reading, or education in general, because the government's recommendations will always be subject to political winds. ...


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