July 2007 Archives

Linda Perlstein is getting a lot of attention this week with the release of her second book, this one about the impact of testing and accountability on an elementary school in suburban Maryland. “Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade” chronicles the success of Tyler Heights Elementary, a Title I school in Annapolis, in boosting students’ test scores in math and reading. The veteran journalist’s first book, "Not Much Just Chillin’: The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers," gave an eye-opening and sometimes alarming look into the world of adolescents. It appears Perlstein has hit on another hot ...


Students and teachers everywhere are slowly being shocked back to reality by the inevitable Back-to-School ads. In some places, though, classes for the new school year have already begun. In the South, the school year generally starts earlier than the rest of the country, while districts in Indiana, North Carolina, and other places are instituting year-round schooling. The changes are designed to ease overcrowding or allow more continuous instruction to improve students’ retention of what they’ve learned. But not all students are cooperating, and even some parents are spurning the changes. In Indianapolis, for instance, hundreds of students failed ...


The much-heralded release of the new Harry Potter book took bookstores by storm Sunday, selling more than 8 million copies in the first 24 hours. As a reporter covering reading/language arts for Education Week for more than a decade, I have read countless news stories about the magic spell Harry has cast on so many kids, particularly boys, who previously displayed little or no interest in picking up a book for fun. The series by J.K. Rowling has been credited with luring millions of children into the power of reading. A story has to be pretty riveting to ...


It’s summer, so that means the annual bashing of the traditional school break has begun. An article in Slate seems to take exception with the idea that children get a three-month break from school when adults are “toiling as usual” during the summer. On his blog, Alexander Russo points to another reason “to get rid of the long summer break”: a U.S. News report on the increase in serious injuries that occur while children are out of school. I wonder if the critics of summer break were ever children. If they were, they seem to have missed, or ...


I’ve already heard more than a few times the dreaded words of a child in the midst of summer break: “I’m bored.” Or my daughter’s version: “I’m Sooooo bored!” Of course the complaint is not an accurate reflection of summer vacation for many middle- and upper-income children, who have a wealth of activities lined up to keep them busy until the next school bell. They tend to learn from those library and museums visits, family outings and vacations, summer camps and sporting events, albeit subconsciously or involuntarily. A recent report from researchers at Johns Hopkins University ...


There's a lot of talk lately about how schools should be teaching so-called "soft skills," such as punctuality, respect for deadlines, working well with others, and time management. Undoubtedly, these are very important skills and most of them are all about motivation. But the question is: Should schools really be responsible for teaching such skills? The LeaderTalk blog weighs in on this issue with the perspective of an administrator who grew up in a working-class, coal-mining community where everyone learned soft skills early on through jobs they worked at outside of school. Here is an excerpt from that blog post: "I...


Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College, wrote a fascinating op-ed piece in the New York Times this week about New York City's plan to pay students up to $500 for doing well in school. Mr. Schwartz argues that offering external perks to students can actually be detrimental in the long run because the expectation of rewards replaces the intrinsic satisfaction students receive from learning. Fellow Education Week blogger Diane Ravitch also tore into the plan last month in this piece on The Huffington Post. Growing up, I was always envious of kids whose parents gave them money for ...


The Science After School blog links to an article that asks the question: Why Do Some People Resist Science? Indeed, a very good question. As K-12 schools search for better ways to improve math and science education, this is a question that must be asked and answered from classrooms to the highest levels of education research and policymaking. If educators, researchers, and policymakers don't truly understand where that resistance and lack of motivation comes from, they will have a hard time figuring how to get more kids fired up about finding a cure for cancer or understanding the causes of ...


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