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. ...


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 ...


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