After-school and informal science education programs have become a fixture in school districts around the country. It's easy to see why. They offer a way to introduce students to the natural world in a fun and pressure-free (free of tests, for example) environment. But how can educators and parents judge the strengths and shortcomings of those programs? And how can researchers evaluate them in a consistent way? A new study, prepared for the Noyce Foundation, attempts to provide some answers to those questions. It recommends the development of specific criteria for judging informal science programs, in areas such as student ...


The issue of boys' literacy has been fueling a lot of chatter lately. It is a topic that has come to my attention a lot throughout my years of covering reading policy and practice for Ed Week. Like every time girls outperform boys on national reading assessments. But lately the coverage has expanded beyond the test scores. USA Today columnist Richard Whitmire has launched a blog solely dedicated to boys and their struggles in school. Why Boys Fail is not all about reading, but it's loaded with material from research, media reports, and online discussions. (There's some interesting guest commentary ...


Few concepts are as fundamental to students' understanding of biology and plant life as photosynthesis. And everybody knows what photosynthesis is, right? Right? Well, a study published this year makes the case for introducing students to scientific concepts and phenomena, such as photosynthesis (the process by which plants use light energy to convert water and sunlight into oxygen and high-energy carbohydrates) in plain English. The study, published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, found that students who were introduced to science concepts in "everyday English" before learning the exact scientific language fared better on tests than students who ...


College Board officials have confirmed that they are working on a pre-PSAT, a voluntary assessment for 8th graders designed to gauge their progress toward success on the college-entrance exam and beyond. The Los Angeles Times broke the story Friday when an official with the New York City-based board discussed it at a conference, not realizing a reporter was in the room taking notes (don't you love when that happens?). The board would not give Ed Week details, but said an announcement and more information should be ready in the fall. "It’s designed to provide schools with insight about students’ ...


It's hard not to get drawn in to the record-breaking heats in the Olympic swimming competition, or the excitement of the early matchups in soccer and basketball. But before you get all patriotic about the dozen or so medals the United States has already won in Beijing this month, you might temper your enthusiasm with two different takes on international competition. Here Bob Wise of the Alliance for Excellent Education weighs in with his second broadcast of the "Education Olympics," as he shares disappointing data on where the U.S. stands against other nations on literacy measures. And Fordham's Mike ...


There's been a growing interest in recent years in holding U.S. students to a higher standard—specifically an international standard. As we've reported, more state policymakers and researchers seem attracted to the idea of states judging their academic progress against foreign nations by competing directly with them on international exams. But Mark Schneider, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, recently spoke about the difficulty of making those state-to-nation comparisons at a meeting with federal oficials in Washington. Schneider recounted that he had met earlier this year with representatives for a few education organizations, including the Council...


Everybody seems to agree that the United States needs to improve the quality of its math education. There's less consensus, however, on how to get there. A conference scheduled for next month in Washington will focus on that topic, specifically on the math taught in high schools. Hosted by the University of Maryland's Center for Math Education, the two-and-a-half day event will highlight such topics as improving the math curriculum, professional development in high schools, and the essential math skill needed to succeed in college. The conference will be held Sept. 25-27 at the Renaissance M Street Hotel in D.C....


As the world turns its eyes toward China for the upcoming Summer Olympic Games, former W.Va. Gov. Bob Wise has donned a sweatsuit, ready to talk international competition. But in a series of video messages being released over the next two weeks, Wise, the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, will outline the need for the U.S. to aim to be among the best in the world not just in athletics, but in academics. In his kickoff message, Wise talks about the "Academic Olympics" and the need for high school students to compete on the world stage. "We...


The board that sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress has been meeting in Washington over the past few days, attempting to solve some of the trickiest issues in the world of testing. An ad hoc committee of the National Assessment Governing Board gathered Thursday to consider one such topic: how to bring more uniformity to the proportions of students that states and cities exclude from taking NAEP, or provide with special help known as accommodations, on it. It's not easy, as I discussed in a recent story. States set their own policies on how to deal with ...


Some 500 educators attending the National Reading First Conference here in Nashville this week have signed up for more information about a new national association that will push for legislation and policies based on the tenets of the federal program. State Reading First directors came up with the idea for the National Association for Reading First after learning about plans in Congress to eliminate the $1 billion-a-year grant program, according to Debora Scheffel, who directs the program in Colorado. The organization will promote inclusion of Reading First principles in the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, and work ...


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