After six years the National Early Literacy Panel released its study of preschool literacy research. I wrote about the panel's preliminary report in 2003, so the final version has been a long time coming. There's nothing too surprising here: The panel found that teaching the alphabet, the sounds of letters, and vocabulary, as well as developing oral language and print knowledge in small children are important foundations for learning to read later on. But the report's strong focus on the effectiveness of code-related interventions, and weaker findings on the importance of vocabulary and background knowledge, have raised some concerns in ...


The other day, Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher wrote a nice profile of Broad Acres Elementary School, in Silver Spring, Md., a school that has made a strong turnaround academically, despite many challenges. A good number of the school’s students are in “survival mode,” the principal says. Many of those students are newly arrived immigrants, who have made harrowing treks to get to the United States. One of the strengths of the story is that the writer presents readers with what I would describe as an organic picture of a school. By that I mean that in describing Broad ...


When attempting to help students in math, don't forget the human factor. That appears to be the central conclusion of an article I came across recently, which came out this fall in the Review of Educational Research, a publication of the American Educational Research Association. Published in September (I just noticed it a few days ago), the study is a research review of 87 experimental studies of the effectiveness of elementary math programs. You can read it here. The basic conclusion: Changing teaching practices does more to increase students' math achievement than simply changing textbooks or using computers in instruction.The...


"Sesame Street" has sought for years to help children from all backgrounds develop basic reading skills. Can "Planet 429" help them read and comprehend? WTTW National Productions, a Chicago-based company, has begun production of a TV show to be titled "Mission to Planet 429," which, like Sesame Street and other educational-themed programs, will seek to help nurture students' reading skills as it entertains them. "Planet 429" is expected to hit the air on PBS about a year from now, targeting 6- to 9-year-olds. The show seems likely to receive an added dose of publicity because of one of the creative ...


Every week seems to bring new drama for besieged Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Will he resign, or be impeached? Can he successfully defend himself against federal corruption charges? Most recently, will the man he has nominated to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate, former Illinois attorney general Roland Burris, ever be allowed to serve? But those of us who focus on education might be asking another question: What does Robert Schiller make of all of this? Some readers will recall that Schiller served as the Illinois' schools superintendent for two years before being essentially pushed out of ...


Let's say you're entering your senior year of high school. Your school district, or your state, is requiring you to take a fourth year of math. But the only options offered, in addition to the courses you've already taken, are pre-calculus, calculus, and a more basic course that wouldn't challenge you. You don't want to take a blow-off course, but you also don't like the calc and pre-calc options. It's not that you hate math. But you're not planning on majoring in math in college. You want math that challenges you in a different way. Many schools are creating alternative ...


Less than a year after a federal panel offered its blueprint for how to improve teaching and learning in math, a number of academic researchers have put some sharply worded critiques of that work in print. Their reviews have been published in a special issue of the Educational Researcher, a journal of the American Educational Research Association. The AERA, a well-known, nonpartisan Washington organization, invited and published the essays, which examine the final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, titled “Foundations for Success.” The math panel was appointed in 2006 by President Bush to study effective strategies for improving ...


With the recent release of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (suggested headline: Mixed Results for the United States), it's worth noting that there are many good opinion pieces and commentaries being put forward by researchers offering their take on how to interpret these and other, nation v. nation exams. The obvious question these commentators are trying to get at is: How good- or bad-off are we? In trying to interpret those results, I'm struck by how many respected, astute researchers have looked at the available data from international tests like TIMSS and PISA and come to very ...


There’s a long, fractious debate over the performance of public schools v. private schools in this country, and that feud has grown more intense over the past few years, with the publication of a couple of intriguing studies on student performance that compare the two systems. And if subject-specific fights are your thing, you’d find a similar level of rancor in play in the so-called “math wars,” the seemingly unceasing disagreement over the value of “reform”-oriented math, as opposed to a more “traditional” curriculum. (Though there has been noticeable evidence of a détente among the various factions ...


A judge has now officially blocked a California policy requiring students to take algebra in 8th grade from going forward. Judge Shelleyanne Chang had originally issued a "tentative ruling" saying she was likely to halt the policy, as of a few days ago. But she's now made the decision final, in a decision dated today, Dec. 22. If you opposed California's algebra mandate, don't celebrate just yet. Ted Mitchell, the chairman of the California Board of Education, which approved the policy, says the panel will appeal, according to the Associated Press. More to come....


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