There’s a long, fractious debate over the performance of public schools v. private schools in this country, and that feud has grown more intense over the past few years, with the publication of a couple of intriguing studies on student performance that compare the two systems. And if subject-specific fights are your thing, you’d find a similar level of rancor in play in the so-called “math wars,” the seemingly unceasing disagreement over the value of “reform”-oriented math, as opposed to a more “traditional” curriculum. (Though there has been noticeable evidence of a détente among the various factions ...


A judge has now officially blocked a California policy requiring students to take algebra in 8th grade from going forward. Judge Shelleyanne Chang had originally issued a "tentative ruling" saying she was likely to halt the policy, as of a few days ago. But she's now made the decision final, in a decision dated today, Dec. 22. If you opposed California's algebra mandate, don't celebrate just yet. Ted Mitchell, the chairman of the California Board of Education, which approved the policy, says the panel will appeal, according to the Associated Press. More to come....


A California judge has issued a “tentative ruling” saying she's likely to block a requirement that all California students take algebra in 8th grade. California Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang, in a ruling dated today (Friday), sided with advocates who had argued that the state, in approving the controversial policy, did not allow for sufficient public input in that process. She also appeared to agree with their view that state officials had exceeded their authority in approving the mandate. Tentative rulings are common in California courts, and, as the name tells us, they're not final until the judge makes them ...


Zoos, aquariums, and science centers have become major resources for science teachers over the years. Educators see those facilities as places where students can study the behavior of living things, or learn about them through visually appealing exhibits, rather than simply reading about them in a textbook or hearing about them in a lecture. In reporting a story earlier this year, I learned that 90 percent of the nation’s zoos, aquariums, and museums said that they had at least one educational outreach program. That story was about Urban Advantage, a New York City program that offered middle school students ...


I came across this new release from the Ed Dept. on the "Progress by Our Schools and the U.S. Department of Education." The paper outlines what the Ed. Dept. sees as accomplishments of the NCLB era, including higher test scores, a narrowing achievement gap, and progress on international comparison exams. It also recounts some of the changes the law required, including more data, disaggregated by student group, options for students in failing schools, and more support services for those schools. There are sections on teachers, higher education, and choice. I'm sure some of the claims will be challenged by ...


The What Works Clearinghouse has issued a few new reports in its Beginning Reading series, including one for Houghton Mifflin's Invitations to Literacy and another on Reading Recovery. The reviews are short. I'll let you decide if they're useful. For the four studies on Reading Recovery, the review found "medium to large for alphabetics, small for fluency and comprehension, and medium to large for general reading achievement." An earlier review of the intensive one-on-one tutoring program was mostly positive. The Houghton Mifflin program did not have any studies that met the review criteria. The clearinghouse has drawn criticism for those ...


One of the consequences of the financial shortfalls hitting states and school districts is that they are scaling back all sorts of programs, or cutting them altogether. In a variation on that dour theme, Oregon state officials said recently that they're planning to delay the implementation of a new math requirement, partly for budgetary reasons. Earlier this year, Oregon's state board of education approved tougher requirements for graduation in math, as well as other subjects. But last week, board members said that while they don't plan on putting off higher graduation standards in reading, writing, and making oral presentations, the ...


If you're an English teacher and you don't know who Jim Burke is, I just have to wonder where you've been for the last decade. Burke, an English teacher at Burlingame High School, outside of San Francisco, has been sharing his professional insights with colleagues around the country through numerous books and a popular listserv he has moderated for years. His Web site is a treasure trove of resources for novice and veteran teachers alike. Now Burke is trying to use social-networking tools to build an even more vibrant online community for English teachers. He just alerted me that he ...


In case you missed it, the TIMSS results were released this week, and U.S. students didn't fare too badly, unless you count the point difference between them and their 4th and 8th grade peers in Singapore, Korea, and Hong Kong. The report is here, Ed Week's story here, and a critique of the U.S. performance by Mark Schneider, the former commissioner of education statistics at the Ed. Dept., here. I've included the video briefing as well. There are lots of interesting data points and tidbits in the hundreds of pages that make up the report, as well as ...


The International Reading Association is looking to shift more of the decision making back to teachers when it comes to reading and writing instruction. That would be a pendulum shift away from many current policies at the local, state, and federal levels that have instituted strict requirements for the materials and methods teachers use in their classrooms. In a new policy paper, published in the Dec./Jan. issue of Reading Today, the Newark, Del.-based association outlines its recommendations for the incoming Obama administration. The association also wants more and better professional development, as well as a boost in the ...


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