Rep. Mike Honda, a California Democrat, had to whittle down the list of requests for the few inauguration tickets he had to give away. So the former science teacher, public school principal, and school board member came up with a contest that would reward a few creative constituents and potentially yield some ideas for school reform in the process. Honda asked entrants to give their best pitch as to why they deserve the tickets, or to share their educational reform ideas. Here's a sampling of the responses from Rep. Honda's Facebook page. From the summaries posted from the 10 winners, ...


In what will probably not come as a surprise to anybody, a potential fracas over evolution is surfacing again in Louisiana. I write that this wasn't unexpected, because the topic was all but certain to re-emerge with the passage of legislation signed into law last summer by Gov. Bobby Jindal. The first-term Republican governor, with little fanfare, gave his approval to Senate Bill 733, which allows teachers to use supplemental classroom materials that will help students "analyze, critique, and review" scientific theories, including evolution. (It also says the "origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" could be the subject ...


A last-ditch fundraising effort to keep the AP Italian program alive will not be enough to continue the classes and tests beyond this school year, the College Board announced this month. The language was added to the Advanced Placement program in 2005-06 under plans to double the number of language courses and assessments offered by the College Board. Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic were also added, reflecting the demands of the business world, government agencies, and development groups for experts in those languages. But Italian seemed like the odd man out. A beautiful language and rich culture, yes, but learning Italian ...


After six years the National Early Literacy Panel released its study of preschool literacy research. I wrote about the panel's preliminary report in 2003, so the final version has been a long time coming. There's nothing too surprising here: The panel found that teaching the alphabet, the sounds of letters, and vocabulary, as well as developing oral language and print knowledge in small children are important foundations for learning to read later on. But the report's strong focus on the effectiveness of code-related interventions, and weaker findings on the importance of vocabulary and background knowledge, have raised some concerns in ...


The other day, Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher wrote a nice profile of Broad Acres Elementary School, in Silver Spring, Md., a school that has made a strong turnaround academically, despite many challenges. A good number of the school’s students are in “survival mode,” the principal says. Many of those students are newly arrived immigrants, who have made harrowing treks to get to the United States. One of the strengths of the story is that the writer presents readers with what I would describe as an organic picture of a school. By that I mean that in describing Broad ...


When attempting to help students in math, don't forget the human factor. That appears to be the central conclusion of an article I came across recently, which came out this fall in the Review of Educational Research, a publication of the American Educational Research Association. Published in September (I just noticed it a few days ago), the study is a research review of 87 experimental studies of the effectiveness of elementary math programs. You can read it here. The basic conclusion: Changing teaching practices does more to increase students' math achievement than simply changing textbooks or using computers in instruction.The...


"Sesame Street" has sought for years to help children from all backgrounds develop basic reading skills. Can "Planet 429" help them read and comprehend? WTTW National Productions, a Chicago-based company, has begun production of a TV show to be titled "Mission to Planet 429," which, like Sesame Street and other educational-themed programs, will seek to help nurture students' reading skills as it entertains them. "Planet 429" is expected to hit the air on PBS about a year from now, targeting 6- to 9-year-olds. The show seems likely to receive an added dose of publicity because of one of the creative ...


Every week seems to bring new drama for besieged Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Will he resign, or be impeached? Can he successfully defend himself against federal corruption charges? Most recently, will the man he has nominated to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate, former Illinois attorney general Roland Burris, ever be allowed to serve? But those of us who focus on education might be asking another question: What does Robert Schiller make of all of this? Some readers will recall that Schiller served as the Illinois' schools superintendent for two years before being essentially pushed out of ...


Let's say you're entering your senior year of high school. Your school district, or your state, is requiring you to take a fourth year of math. But the only options offered, in addition to the courses you've already taken, are pre-calculus, calculus, and a more basic course that wouldn't challenge you. You don't want to take a blow-off course, but you also don't like the calc and pre-calc options. It's not that you hate math. But you're not planning on majoring in math in college. You want math that challenges you in a different way. Many schools are creating alternative ...


Less than a year after a federal panel offered its blueprint for how to improve teaching and learning in math, a number of academic researchers have put some sharply worded critiques of that work in print. Their reviews have been published in a special issue of the Educational Researcher, a journal of the American Educational Research Association. The AERA, a well-known, nonpartisan Washington organization, invited and published the essays, which examine the final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, titled “Foundations for Success.” The math panel was appointed in 2006 by President Bush to study effective strategies for improving ...


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