President Barack Obama visited the District of Columbia's SEED School yesterday to sign the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. He described the school as "a place where service is a core component of the curriculum," according to a transcript of his remarks. President Obama added that "just as the SEED School teaches reading and writing, arithmetic and athletics, it also prepares our young Americans to grow into active and engaged citizens." I report in a story just published at edweek.org on several new programs created by the Serve America Act aimed at engaging middle and high school youths ...


NASA, or the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, has been creating curricular resources for science teachers for years. Here's a new resource for educators ready to move beyond traditional paper and pencil lessons, and even beyond traditional computer-based activities. The space agency has created a site that facilitates "do-it-yourself podcasts" for teachers and their classes. Teachers and students with camcorder or other video-recording equipment can record video and audio clips, then intersperse them with free NASA clips provided at the site. Podcast topics include Newton's laws, science lab safety, and the spacesuits worn by astronauts (you would expect no less ...


What kinds of classroom lessons and activities can improve the confidence, and ultimately the performance of minority students? A new study suggests that a series of structured writing assignments can play a strong role. According to a new research article published in the journal Science, African-American middle school students benefited academically and narrowed the achievement gap between them and their white peers, after being asked to produce written essays, which the authors describe as "self-affirmations." The 7th graders studied were asked to reflect on important personal values, such a relationships with family or friends, their musical interests, and other topics. ...


When Banned Books Week is commemorated for the 27th time this fall, the annual list of texts slated for possible removal from school libraries will be shorter than previously, if it follows the trend of the last few years. And it's expected that there will be many more books on the list that were "challenged" than those that were "banned" from library shelves, since librarians and library advocates have become very skilled at fending off such demands. For that they should probably thank Judith F. Krug. "Censorship dies in the light of day," Krug, who died this week of stomach ...


Students—even very young students—bring a lot of curiosity about the natural world, and assumptions about how it works, with them to school. How can preschool teachers tap into this enthusiasm, and build students' understanding of science? Researchers and advocacy organizations have been exploring the connection between early childhood education and science instruction for years. A philanthropy, the PNC Foundation, is announcing a grant to support those science efforts, which is going to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum and the Washington, D.C., public schools. (More details will be available next week on the particulars of the award....


Read "NGA, CCSSO Launch Common Standards Drive," by my colleague Michele McNeil, to learn about a meeting in Chicago today in which representatives from 37 states are discussing common national standards. She said that the process is expected to start with voluntary rigorous math and language arts standards aligned with college- and career-ready expectations. Even a year ago, who'd've thunk it?...


Across the country, one of the strategies schools are trying to help struggling students in algebra is essentially doubling the amount of time spent on that course. It's a popular tactic in other areas of math, and in reading, too. A new study, however, says that double-dose courses produced mixed results in Chicago schools. On the one hand, the 9th graders studied saw their test scores rise. But the policy did not appear to result in fewer students failing the course, as school officials had hoped, the authors report. The grades of some struggling students increased, after the double-dosing, though ...


A proposal to strip the Texas board of education of its powers to approve curriculum and textbooks is moving forward in the state's legislature. The basic idea of the bill, which is sponsored by Republican lawmaker Kel Seliger, is that the board has become too consumed with political-cultural debates, as evidenced by the recent evolution-in-the-science-standards saga, rather than the nitty-gritty of school policy. The measure would shift responsibility for textbooks and curriculum to the state's education commissioner (a post currently held by Robert Scott) and to expert committees drafting recommendations on materials. The board would be able to overrule the ...


Eduflack contends in an essay-like blog entry, "Arts Education and Quantification," that positive academic outcomes from arts education can be quantified. He implies that educators may have to make use of this kind of data to ensure that the arts keeps a strong presence in U.S. schooling. I gleaned some new information from the essay. I hadn't known, for example, that the National Assessment of Educational Progress includes data on arts proficiency. I felt sad reading the essay, however, because I don't want to accept the idea that the arts, which feeds our spiritual and creative sides, needs to ...


A post over at Core Knowledge Blog drew my attention to an article published in the New York Times this week about how market researchers at the Walt Disney Company and other media companies try to figure out how to engage boys in entertainment. Here's an excerpt: The guys are trickier to pin down for a host of reasons. They hop more quickly than their female counterparts from sporting activities to television to video games during leisure time. They can also be harder to understand: the cliché that girls are more willing to chitchat about their feelings is often true. ...


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