One of the more visible benefits of the federal Reading First program was that the $1 billion-a-year funding provided for reading coaches in each participating school. Those coaches were assigned to work with teachers to improve practice and expand their understanding of the research on literacy development. Now, with the funding stream dried up and the growing economic woes across the country, schools are starting to abandon some of the basic tenets of the Reading First program, particularly when it comes to the additional staffing it required. See these news reports out of Florida and New York. The extensive professional ...


The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is accusing Scholastic Inc. of using school book clubs to sell video games, jewelry kits, and toy cars, The New York Times reported this week. A spokeswoman for the Boston-based advocacy group said it reviewed brochures for Scholastic's book club for 2nd and 3rd graders and for 4th through 6th graders and found that 14 percent of items weren't books. The group claims that an additional 19 percent of items in those brochures were books accompanied by trinkets, such as stickers or toys. Judy Newman, the president of Scholastic Book Clubs, stands by the ...


Here in the Washington area, many public schools have gotten involved with teaching children about homelessness through participation in the annual Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Walkathon, which is a fundraiser for nonprofit organizations that serve the homeless or try to prevent homelessness. Full disclosure: For five years I organized walkers to participate in this event to raise money for a local soup kitchen. And more schoolchildren in this area are increasingly homeless themselves, according to "Schools Face Sharp Rise in Homeless Students," published Feb. 8 in the Washington Post. So I was eager to take a look at a ...


The Obama administration has pledged to make the federal government's work more transparent and to give the public more opportunities to make its opinion known on issues through technology and other means. Whether those campaign visions come to fruition remains to be seen. But the administration is launching a new online tool to allow students to share ideas and opinions on environmental policy. It's a new blog called "Greenversations," run by the Environmental Protection Agency. The site is aimed at encouraging students to share ideas about the environment and energy issues, and reducing personal energy use. In an announcement of ...


Over at Jim Burke's Ning at The English Companion, a teacher raised the question of what to do with the remaining budget her department has for the rest of the school year. All $37.40! In the comments, someone suggested buying coffee and bagels and getting the teachers together for a brainstorming session on how to tap into other resources. The department had to make an expensive purchase of textbooks for middle school students, but now there is little left for the interactive whiteboard they were hoping to buy for one classroom. I'm sure a lot of districts are facing ...


There is a fairly regular stream of stories in the news about schools and districts tackling requests to ban or restrict students' access to books that a parent or community member finds offensive or inappropriate. I wrote about one case in Fayetteville, Ark., that sparked heated debate over dozens of books, including classics and young adult literature. Banning books seems to have become a time-honored tradition in some places, and challenges happen so frequently that the American Library Association began commemorating the fight against unreasonable censorship in schools more than 25 years ago with Banned Books Week. The latest effort ...


Someone recently forwarded me this link to a citizens' organization that is apparently tracking the revision of state math standards in New Jersey. Many of its members' concerns, and their language, will seem familiar to anybody who's followed debates over K-12 math over the years, particularly in state academic standards. For instance, the coalition's members are concerned about students at early grades becoming too reliant on calculators, and they say the draft state document is misleading from a mathematical standpoint. (I'm not certain if the draft has been reworked since then.) Nothing unusual about those complaints, as far as these ...


A newsletter published by the Kentucky Department of Education for teachers recommends a book written by a school shooting survivor for the reading list of middle and high school students. The book, I Choose to Be Happy: A School Shooting Survivor's Triumph Over Tragedy, is written by Missy Jenkins, now 27, who was one of eight student in a prayer circle at Heath High School in Paducah, Ky, shot by a 14-year-old student, Michael Carneal. Three students were killed. Jenkins was paralyzed from the chest down. Her message is that bullying, even in its mildest form, can have ramifications, according ...


Since I write about math and science education, I spend a good amount of time reporting on topics where elected officials, influential advocacy groups, and big businesses seem to speak with one voice—agreeing, to a large extent, about middling U.S. performance on international tests, unfocused math and science curriculum, poorly trained teachers, and the need to help prepare students for crucial subjects, like algebra, which are springboards to more advanced studies. The general thinking on a lot of these issues is that schools can and should be listening to the business lobby. After all, employers presumably know what...


Many civic education experts and historians have touted the potential for tapping into the enthusiasm surrounding the recent presidential election and the inauguration to get students interested in related school lessons. All well and good, but only if students have the background knowledge to understand the process and the rhetoric, Robert Pondiscio writes in this Ed Week commentary. As the communications director for the Core Knowledge Foundation, Pondiscio is hitting on the message the foundation has long promoted about the importance of rich content. But this piece brings a compelling and relevant twist. "President Obama’s inaugural address placed us—all...


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