I was a little worried for Kathy Cox, Georgia's school chief, as I watched her struggle with one of the early round questions on the TV show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? She seemed to hesitate on the 2nd grade animal science question--True or False: crawfish are fish--before answering false. As you all know, they are crustaceans. Then the spelling question seemed to really stump her: How many Ds in the word granddaughter? She guessed right, but would have been able to fall back on the answer of her teammate, a 5th grader, if she hadn't. A couple ...


In "Hooked on Phonies," Mother Jones magazine takes on the well-worn tale of Reading First and the alleged cronyism in the federal effort to improve reading instruction. The article is in the Sept./Oct. issue of the independent, liberal magazine. It chronicles the unlikely success of the K-2 reading program Voyager Learning and its founder, Randy Best. The story is mostly a rehash of what's already been reported in Ed Week and other publications, like Best's relationships with and contributions to key politicians, including President Bush, and his hiring of former school administrators. But there are a few interesting new ...


For more than a year now, Richard Simmons, the flamboyant fitness guru, has been pushing for a bill that addresses the need for more physical education in schools. Most recently, he took his case to the Hill this summer, speaking to the House Education and Labor Committee. Under discussion at the hearing was the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids—or FIT Kids—Act, which, as described in this Ed Week column, would require states and districts to report on the amount and quality of physical education they offer their students. Simmons might get more support for his cause in a ...


It's funny how school improvement ideas around the globe often sound similar themes. As part of Australia's "education revolution," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced a plan to require school report cards as a condition for receiving federal funding, according to this recent article in The Australian. Rudd, who was elected in November, has also promised to appoint a board to craft a national curriculum, an effort that has been pushed in Australia for decades. The call for national academic standards here in the U.S. has also gained new traction recently. Believe it or not, the plan to put ...


If you've got a strong interest in school policy and testing (seems likely if you're reading this blog), you might consider making a bid for one of the soon-to-be-open spots on the National Assessment Governing Board. NAGB, as it is known in Washington, sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. That gives the governing board an outsized influence on testing nationwide since many states look to NAEP, "the nation's report card," in trying to craft their own exams in various subjects. While NAGB members are appointed by the secretary of education, it's an independent board, designed to go ...


If they are looking for an inspiring and compelling speaker to promote the cause of public education at the conventions, organizers should put Dalton Sherman on the next plane to Denver or St. Paul. Here the 5th grader at the Charles Rice Learning Center gets thousands of Dallas teachers on their feet and psyched up for a new school year: This kid is awesome!...


It may have been a bit depressing following the Fordham Institute's "Education Olympics" or Bob Wise's video commentary comparing the nation's fixation with the Beijing Olympics and athletic excellence with the inadequate attention given students' academic performance. But there was at least one shining achievement. I almost missed it by assuming that all the posts would reflect dismally on U.S. schools and students (and because of the temporary jolt I got from seeing Mike Petrilli with red, white, and blue face paint for his final broadcast). The top finish came not in math or science or even literacy, but ...


Another documentary filled with history, emotion, and visual splendor ran on PBS this week, this one about the photographers who documented "the face of Depression-era America." For Frank Baker that means another chance to help teachers use media resources for their lessons. The longtime educator and media literacy consultant has created a teachers' guide for using the film, "Documenting The Face of America", in the classroom. It includes background, readings, preview and review questions for students, links to national standards in several subjects, and suggested assignments. Baker, who's become somewhat of a guru on media literacy education for his efforts ...


Democrats have descended on the Mile High City this week for their party's national convention (Ed Week coverage galore here and from our home page). One of the headliners will be former Vice President Al Gore, who is expected to speak the final night of the event, around the same time as presumptive nominee Barack Obama. Gore is certain to carry a strong pro-environment message to the podium. But whatever your political views, if you're listing speakers who've made a mark on what gets taught in the classroom over the past few years, you'd probably be hard-pressed not to at ...


In the No Child Left Behind era, it's hardly unusual to see teachers "restructured" out their jobs—basically, fired or reassigned as part of the major changes that the law allows administrators to make at continually poor-performing schools. But not many of those teachers have as devoted a lobby as Art Siebens. Siebens, who until recently worked as a science teacher at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in the District of Columbia, lost his job as part of what has been described as a school restructuring effort under NCLB. He had taught biology, anatomy, and physiology at the school for ...


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