There's no surer sign of autumn's arrival than Halloween, when friends, co-workers, and complete strangers greet you in colorfully outlandish costumes, looking to impress you and rustle up some candy while they're at it. Yet autumn also brings another important American tradition: an unrelenting, glorious spate of football games. Since we're roughly at the midway point of the professional football season, I thought I'd relay a story that relates to that beloved American sport, and to science teaching. Not too long ago, I read a fine biography of the legendary late coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi. It ...


A few years ago, I queried a few states looking for itemized budgets for Reading First. I was curious to learn what similarities and differences were in the kinds of things individual states were spending their millions in federal grant monies on. Of course, much of the money was spent in very visible ways—well-attended and well-organized professional-development sessions, new instructional materials, reading coaches in every school—but there were also rumors that some of the money was being spent hastily on nonessentials simply because there was so much cash on hand, or to meet spending deadlines. Alas, there were...


Opponents of a new mandate requiring that all California students take introductory algebra in 8th grade scored a victory in court this week. How significant a victory? Check back in December. A Sacramento County superior court judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the new mandate from taking effect. Judge Shelleyanne Chang agreed the groups that sued to prevent the requirement from going forward, the California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrators, would "suffer irreparable injury before the matter can be heard" formally, the Associated Press reported. She said the state Board of Education, which approved ...


After some five years at the helm of the National Institute for Literacy, Sandra Baxter's appointment was not renewed this month and a national search was launched for her replacement. It took a bit of effort to find the announcement, but here it is. No word on where Baxter has landed, but Dan Miller of OVAE is now the acting director. Like Baxter, the next executive director will have the unenviable task of answering to officials from the Education Department, the NICHD, and the other federal agencies that are part of the Interagency Group that oversees the institute. There's no ...


Here's another rebuttal of the notion that U.S. schools and students are being outperformed by other nations. Veteran Washington Post education reporter and columnist Jay Mathews in an Op/Ed piece in the Boston Globe takes issue with the claims that American students have fallen far behind their counterparts in India and China and elsewhere. "The widespread feeling that our schools are losing out to the rest of the world, that we are not producing enough scientists and engineers, is a misunderstanding fueled by misleading statistics," he writes. "Reports regularly conclude that the United States is falling behind other ...


Olena, Ana, and Ioana, we salute you. At a time when American educators and elected officials are fretting about their inability to encourage more girls to consider studies and careers in math, you apparently jumped into that subject quite willingly. You three were high finishers in the Putnam Mathematical Competition, an intercollegiate, six-hour test of students from universities in the United States and Canada. Those results were reported in a recent study I wrote about, which examined the shortage of U.S. girls with superior math talent. Perhaps not surprisingly, the study reports that several other top Putnam finishers were ...


Career-and-technical education (the subject formerly known as voc-ed) occupies a strong place in the school curriculum, not to mention the public imagination. Studies have shown that many students take at least one elective class focused on a specific trade or a job-based skill, like auto technology, health care, or construction. Many of us can remember trading our textbooks for safety goggles at some point during middle or high school. Those programs aren't just popular in school districts. They've been popular on Capitol Hill, too. The federal vocational program receives $1.3 billion a year. I saw one study describing it ...


If you saw Mike Petrilli with his red, white, and blue facepaint amid a faux backdrop of China's Great Wall this past summer, you had to see the humor in the video reports for Fordham's Education Olympics 2008. But behind his antics was a serious message about the relative low standing of U.S. students on international comparisons of various achievement measures, from college-going rates to PISA results. Well, researchers for the Think Tank Review Project didn't find the series so funny. The project is a joint effort by the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of ...


A couple weeks ago, I wrote a story about a study that looked at the rising number of students taking algebra in 8th grade and made the argument that many of those middle schoolers are woefully unprepared for the challenge. How unprepared? Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution examined coursetaking data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress and found that the lowest-performing students taking 8th grade algebra were scoring five or six years below grade level. Now a new study takes issue with Loveless' conclusions, particularly his use of data comparing average state NAEP scores and students' enrollments in ...


Some parents and residents in Racine, Wis., are raising eyebrows over a section in a middle school literature textbook that includes a lengthy narrative on Barack Obama and excerpts from his book, Dreams From My Father. The 8th grade text, published by McDougal Littell, has been in use in the schools since last year, according to this local news account. And now, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, the debate has gone national, fueling a feeding frenzy on blogs and Web forums. Some conservative bloggers and pundits see it as a carefully organized campaign to indoctrinate students with liberal ...


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