People have been debating the proper place of calculators in math classes almost as long as those hand-held devices have been around. Those disagreements boil down to this: Are calculators necessary tools to help students cut through tedious procedural steps they already know on the way to performing more challenging math? Or are they crutches that keep students from mastering the basic steps they need to master in that subject? A new study takes up that issue once again. Researchers at Vanderbilt University found that elementary students' pre-existing knowledge of basic multiplication facts was the factor that determined whether calculators ...


Texas officials are embarking on a revision of their state's science standards, a process that has generated a furious debate in several states in recent years—most of it focused squarely on the topic of evolution. A first draft of the new standards, released this week, seems likely to please the scientific community. The new document removes language from the current document that says students should study the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories. Many scientists consider that to be code language used to suggest—falsely, they say—that the theory is pocketed with holes, rather than being one of...


The editors here at Ed Week like us to have a sense of history and context when we write about school reform. Each week a copy of the front page from the newspaper's archives is hung on the wall next to the editorial-floor refrigerator, so everyone is certain to see it. The long-ago headlines often elicit double takes, and perhaps a chuckle or two. I usually have to scan the publication date for a reminder of when the article was written because most of the time the news touted in the headlines could make it in the paper today. Hanging ...


The Church of England, the Anglican denomination that dates to the 16th century, has issued an apology of sorts to Charles Darwin, the British naturalist famous for having advanced the theory of evolution. In an essay published on the C of E's Web site, "Good Religion Needs Good Science," the Rev. Malcolm Brown, the church's director of mission and public affairs, says that the church, in opposing Darwin's ideas, has at times been guilty of distorting them and wrongly assuming that they contradict Christian beliefs. The idea that God created humans is consistent with evolution, Brown writes. Evolution simply provides ...


The Ed Dept. announced a new round of Early Reading First grants this week, with 31 applicants from 19 states sharing $106 million. The federal preschool literacy initiative will maintain its funding level, which has held steady since the program was instituted in 2002, even as Reading First is threatened with extinction. Luckily for Early Reading First it has not been associated with the controversy of Reading First, which became a political pawn in the federal budget because of allegations of mismanagement and confusing or inconclusive studies on its effectiveness (background here). Early Reading First is also popular among grantees, ...


Now's your chance to put in your two cents about the practical guidance that should be included in a federal Beginning Reading manual. "The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) wants to hear from you!" says a recent announcement from IES. "We are beginning to develop a practice guide for Beginning Reading and we'd like to hear your thoughts on the topics and issues that would be most useful to you." The feedback page gives a list of topics being considered for the guide. You can choose three from the following list: Differentiated Instruction. Grouping students and organizing reading time. Oral Reading. ...


A new book examines math study in four nations that are receiving lots of attention for their education systems these days: China, Japan, Korea, and Singapore. "Math Curriculum in the Pacific Rim" is based on the proceedings of a conference sponsored by the Center for the Study of Mathematics Curriculum, held not too long ago, which brought together government officials and scholars from across Asia. The book is edited by a Zalman Usiskin and Edwin Willmore, of the U of Chicago. It includes written contributions from Asian education officials and scholars, as well as American experts who have studied K-12 ...


A new documentary, scheduled to air Monday, will examine how U.S. schools stack up against those of foreign countries, like China and Finland, in subjects like math and science and in meeting goals such as keeping students in school through graduation. The PBS program is titled "Where We Stand: America's Schools in the 21st Century." It takes its name from a Walter Cronkite program that aired 50 years ago, shortly after the Soviets shocked us Yanks with the launch of the Sputnik satellite. The producers of the new PBS program say the Cronkite show "is often credited with mobilizing ...


The Reading First Advisory Committee is hoping that its analysis of a recent federal evaluation of the reading initiative will clarify for policy makers what we know, and don't know, about the effectiveness of the program. In meetings this summer, the committee worked on a statement outlining its concerns about the Reading First Impact Study: Interim Report. The study found that Reading First funding had no significant impact on students' reading comprehension. But many researchers have questioned the complicated design of the study, and criticized the use of a comparison group that likely had significant exposure to Reading First-type instruction. ...


Having spent many of my days as a scribe covering state and local governments, I can tell you that when opponents of a government policy want to challenge it, two of their most common strategies are: 1) To say that it was approved without the necessary public input; and 2) To challenge whether the public officials who approved it exceeded their authority under the law. Those two arguments are now being employed in a lawsuit challenging the state of California's new requirement that all 8th graders be tested in Algebra 1, one of the toughest such measures in the country. ...


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