Rodney Ellis is fed up, and he's fighting back the way state legislators usually do. The Texas state senator, having witnessed the latest hubbub over the teaching of evolution on his state's board of education, has filed a bill to strip the board of the bulk of its authority over textbooks and curriculum. According to this story in his hometown newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, Ellis' move would leave the board with more narrow duties under the state constitution. The measure is unlikely to pass, even Ellis, a Democrat, acknowledges, because of conservatives' influence in the legislature. So Ellis has filed ...


There's a long-running debate about how the skills of U.S. students compare with those of their peers in nations like China. A recent study seeks to cut through the speculation with research from both nations' university systems. In an article published in the journal Science, a team of researchers found that first-year Chinese university students easily beat American freshmen in a test of their knowledge of specific scientific concepts in mechanics, electricity, magnetism. Yet the U.S. students equaled their Asian counterparts when it came to a measure of their broader scientific reasoning ability. The students tested in the ...


On the list of people you least want to tick off on Capitol Hill, Sen. Chuck Grassley's name is probably pretty high up there. Yet some employees of the National Science Foundation have managed to do just that, after allegedly spending a considerable amount of agency time looking at pornography on the Internet. The revelations about NSF staff members downloading sexually explicit files from the Web and storing them on their computers emerged in a semiannual report by the agency's office of the inspector general. One of the more startling revelations in the report is that an "NSF senior official" ...


One major piece of the Reading First program is the money it provides schools to hire reading "coaches," who work to improve the skills of fellow teachers. Under the federal law, money flows to states, which provide grants to schools and districts to adopt "scientifically based" reading programs and provide interventions with struggling students in the early grades. Reading First specifically provides professional development to teachers through institutes, workshops, and on-site literacy coaches. In fact, the law mandates that schools that receive grants use funds to hire those coaches. I recently came across an interesting study by the Northwest Regional ...


Can a kickball game help transform the climate of a school? That playground activity and other informal “classic games,” such as four-square and tag, can promote student health, as well as improved classroom behavior and learning, some health advocates say. Just last fall, a major effort aimed at expanding access to those activities, during recess and afterschool was launched with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., awarded a four-year, $18.7 million grant to Sports4Kids, an Oakland, Calif., nonprofit, to train adult “coaches” who can supervise and encourage recess and after-school activities. ...


Some of the publishers that made a heap of money off the Reading First program—which pumped $1 billion a year into instructional materials and professional development, as well as coaching positions in participating schools—are reporting losses now that the budget has been axed, according to this Publishers Weekly article. "Worsening economic conditions facing large urban districts were exacerbated by a sharp reduction in federal funding for Reading First programs," the magazine quotes Terry McGraw, the chairman of the company that publishes Open Court Reading and other popular reading series. Despite the 5.4 percent decline for McGraw-Hill's...


Is there any obligation for a school sports team to ease up on an opponent, when one side is so outmatched that the event devolves in a blowout that's embarrassing to just about everybody involved? Should athletic associations set up rules to prevent this from taking place? Those questions leap to mind in the wake of a much-publicized beat-down delivered by the girls basketball team from Covenant School, a Christian school in Texas, to the team from Dallas Academy, on Jan. 13. Even by the standards of high school basketball, where talent mismatches are common, this score was pretty stunning: ...


Any time the U.S. Department of Education gets a nudge to move on FOIA requests, particularly those related to the Reading First program, it gets my full attention. I have tussled with the department a number of times over the last six years, constantly nagging and prodding for documents that should be readily available but somehow take months, even years, to find and process. I'm not the only one to hit such hurdles. Now CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) has won a round with this federal court judgment. The Washington-based organization, which uses FOIA, litigation, and ...


The Washington Post has a good story on what I would describe as an under-reported issue in education today: The dissimilarity of math standards and courses that, on paper, appear to be uniform. The story focuses on Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, and their efforts to encourage more students to take Algebra 2. The story says DC is moving toward a requirement that all students complete that math class before high school graduation. While Virginia and Maryland are not taking that step, the story notes that all three jurisdictions are raising requirements for Algebra 2 in one way ...


Scientists are celebrating in Texas today—or are they? The Texas state board of education on Friday tentatively approved new science standards, the basic blueprint that spells out what students are expected to know in that subject. The overwhelming focus has been on how the document would treat evolution. The existing version of the standards, which have been around since 1998, call for students to learn about the "strengths and weaknesses" of various scientific theories. Scientists have long complained about that wording, basically arguing that certain critics are only interested in examining what they believe are weaknesses in one theory...


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