I've had a lot of people tell me there's been a reduction, however slight or gradual, in the level of bluster and acrimony emanating from various combatants in the so-called "math wars" in recent years. To the extent that there's an easing of the harshest rhetoric, I would trace it partly to the release of "Curriculum Focal Points" by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in 2006. Much of the anger from parents, mathematicians, and others who believe schools have gone too far in promoting "fuzzy math" at the expense of traditional problem-solving methods was directed at NCTM. "Focal ...


Apparently bowing to intense pressure from the all-powerful mathematicians' lobby, Capitol Hill lawmakers have approved House Resolution No. 224, calling for March 14 to be recognized as "National Pi Day." Kidding aside, the chief sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Science and Technology, and other lawmakers have a serious intent. Teachers around the country can plan math lessons and events around March 14 to celebrate Pi, or "π," which is the relationship between the diameter of a circle (its width) and its circumference (the distance around the circle). But I'm completely...


I got my chuckle for the day over a blog post by Timothy McSweeney that's being passed around. It reduces William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" to a Facebook news feed. Even Robert Pondiscio over at the Core Knowledge Blog acknowledges that the Facebook rendition of "Hamlet" is a good example of world-class skills and world-class content working together hand in hand. My favorite stanza (if it can be called that) is the one that refers to how Hamlet's mother took a husband immediately after her first husband, Hamlet's father, went to his grave. The king poked the queen. The queen poked the ...


A recent study, which I wrote about last week, makes the case for building students' depth of knowledge in science—as opposed to focusing on "breadth," a long list of topics across the subject. But in the era of high-stakes tests, how do you test for depth? It's not easy. Many states and schools, at the urging of science advocates and others, believe exams should be broad enough to cover a lot of topics in science, as my story explains. It's fine if you want to pare down the list, those advocates seem to be saying—just don't jettison...


The federal What Works Clearinghouse, which offers reviews of education programs according to rigorous standards, has released three new reports. But only one of the programs reviewed, the I Can Learn focused on helping students with prealgebra and algebra, was found to have been studied enough to qualify for a rating—it was found to have positive effects on student achievement. A new study that I wrote about this week also found that I Can Learn, which uses computer software and hardware, is effective, particularly in working with classes where students miss a lot of school. Two other programs had ...


At an event in Washington yesterday, President Barack Obama spelled out some of his priorities for rewarding effective teaching through extra pay. "[W]e know it can make a difference in the classroom." And in the pages of Ed Week, a pair of researchers presented some surprising data on the question of what can be done to create and secure a more stable pool of math and science teachers—among the most sought-after educators in the market. Much of the attention given to Obama's speech rightly focused on what he said about performance pay, and rewarding teachers who excel with...


I reported some bad news recently about the status of foreign-language programs in the United States in Education Week. Fewer elementary schools are providing foreign-language programs now than a decade ago. This decade of decline follows a decade in which elementary schools had increasingly launched foreign-language programs. But this week I reported some good news in Education Week about the attention that the nation's foreign-language needs are receiving. A task force in Maryland has handed the state legislature and Gov. Martin O'Malley a report that tells state agencies how to better take advantage of the native-language skills of the state's ...


Barack Obama is expected today to announce a new policy lifting restrictions on funding for human embryonic stem cell research. He will also issue a presidential memorandum meant to protect federal scientists and scientific research from political influence, according to reports. I would argue that it's the second action has the most potential for creating intriguing discussions in science classrooms. Bush administration officials were accused repeatedly of attempting to disregard or squash scientific findings and views that did not mesh with their political ideology, especially on issues such as climate change and environmental regulation. A recent series by the Philadelphia ...


Originally created in Japan, the practice known as "lesson study" grew more popular in the United States in the 1990s. Basically, it's a research and instructional-improvement method in which a teacher conducts a class under the observation of other educators and interested observers. The idea with these lab-type environments is that teachers discuss the teaching methods on display and how to refine them to improve student learning, engagement, and behavior. When we wrote about lesson study techniques in 2004 (I linked to it in the above paragraph), teachers in 29 states were experimenting with that practice, according to the story. ...


There's a lot of debate these days about how to define "technology literacy," but in a couple years, the National Assessment of Educational Progress will take the unusual step of testing students in those skills. This week, the panel that oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress heard an early report on how it is attempting to forge a working definition, in preparation for judging students' tech literacy in 2012. The National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for the NAEP, must first develop a framework, or basic blueprint for that test. The board has put together steering and planning ...


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