May 2007 Archives

Love your grad, but hate the graduation ceremony hassles? Why not just kick back at home and watch the festivities there? Thanks to "gradcasts," as some are calling them, several school districts in Texas are offering live streaming video of all the pomp and circumstance, the Houston Chronicle reports. District officials told the newspaper the technology was not hard to master. "We spent $150 and made absolutely no promises," said John Crumbley, director of technology and support services for the Aldine (Texas) school district....


In a new report based on five years of research, RAND Corporation considers standards-based accountability in three very different states—California, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. Educators' views of standards-based accountability were "mixed"—they liked the idea, but not always the reality, RAND said. The report also lays out educators' recommendations for improving the accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, including finding better methods for measuring school and student performance. One area of agreement across state lines: school improvement. RAND said that, despite differences in accountability systems, superintendents "generally ranked three activities as most important: aligning curriculum with state...


Catholic schools are struggling these days to remain viable options for students, particularly in the inner city where they often deal with some of the most disadvantaged students around. This City Journal story chronicles the efforts of Harlem’s Rice High School and its struggle to stay afloat, along with a solid overview of Catholic schools in general as they face falling enrollment and the decline of donations. Education Week details one recent bright spot for Catholic schools, however, with a story this month on some mega-donations New York’s Catholic schools received from wealthy philanthropists....


New regulations taking effect in England today make it easier for dissatisfied parents and groups to open government-supported schools of their own. The Guardian reports on new rules under the Education and Inspections Act 2006 that hold local school authorities "directly accountable" for expanding parental choice. As the Guardian puts it: "For the first time, parents would be able to call for changes if they are unhappy with the quality of schools and local authorities would be under a legal duty to respond formally." The Department for Education and Skills Web site offers a wealth of information and lays out ...


Along with its annual list of "America's Best High Schools," Newsweek explores the role of the principal in making a school great. Principals "set the tone for what happens from the moment the opening bell rings and can turn a troubled school around with a combination of vision, drive and very hard work. It's a 24/7 job," Barbara Kantrowitz and Jay Mathews write in the magazine's May 28 issue. The woman named the 2007 Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals tells Newsweek that running a school takes energy, leadership skills and an ability ...


A federal judge has opted not to lift the suspension of a high school student in Washington state punished in connection with a most unflattering YouTube video about one of his teachers. The student, Gregory Requa, 18, denies involvement in producing the video, yet he has been suspended from Kentridge High School for 40 days, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. Requa's lawyer argues that her client's free speech rights are being violated—regardless of whether he participated in making and posting the video. But U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman agreed with the school district's argument that the punishment fit for ...


So, who are this year's "Daring Dozen"? According to the June issue of Edutopia, they're 12 people who "are reshaping the future of education." Edutopia now offers an online map that shows who the daring innovators are and where they operate. It's a cool tool and worth checking out....


She didn't exactly kill, but U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings handled herself well on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart last night. Well after the bedtime of most of the nation's students (hopefully), Spellings and Stewart chatted about No Child Left Behind, the "soft bigotry of low expectations," and Lunchables—which Stewart brought out along with No. 2 pencils and an apple just after Spellings sat down at the anchor/interview desk. Stewart told Spellings that she was the "only active member of our government—in terms of the executive branch—who is not allergic to me." "So ...


Over at PBS's teacher blog, learning.now blog host Andy Carvin wonders whether schools will be able to use the candidate videos on the Internet to inform students about the 2008 elections and to show them how to create video political commentary of their own. But to do this, schools would have to allow their students open access to political videos online. However, most of these videos are available via YouTube, a site which is blocked by many public schools. "These videos will be of clear educational benefit," Mr. Carvin writes, "yet as long as their host sites are blocked, ...


This week—May 17, to be specific—marked the 53rd anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. An article in the May 18, 1954, edition of The New York Times recounts Chief Justice Earl Warren reading the decision in the courtroom: "In the field of public education," Warren said, "the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund offers a personal look at one of the figures behind Brown and the changes he has witnessed since the ruling. ...


Education historian Diane Ravitch makes clear her opposition to New York City's plans to open a new public school devoted solely to study of Arabic culture and language in a guest column in the New York Daily News headlined "Arabic school fails the test—A United City Demands We Educate Kids Together." "This is a mistake," argues Ravitch, who also co-writes the Bridging Differences blog on edweek.org. "Such a school violates the very purpose of public education, which is to teach the ideas, traditions, values, knowledge and skills that young people need to become productive members of American society."...


Auditors are going to give a close once-over to the Racine (Wis.) Unified School District's agreement with a private consulting firm that, it turns out, has overbilled the district by $125,000. The firm had been hired to run the district's business office and (ironically) to help it find ways to save money. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported on the matter on May 7. In a May 15 editorial, the Journal Sentinel applauds the district's decision to review its agreement with with the Public Business Consulting Group: "The Racine auditors should look very carefully at this contract. And other ...


Under a partnership with the Maryland Historical Society, students at Doris M. Johnson High School in Baltimore are uncovering new chapters in black history, Gregory Kane writes in a column in the Baltimore Sun. The historical society has partnered with the school for the past three years to explore a variety of topics in Maryland history. For the past two years, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has underwritten the project, which is called "Keep on Movin' Toward Freedom: The 'Free' State's Struggle with Equality." This week, students gave oral presentations on their research. Among their topics: the "March on Annapolis" ...


For the last several years, politicians, policy officials, and educators have been stressing the need to improve math and science education so American students can compete in a global economy. Here’s a new book that attempts to make science cool—and a lot more palatable—for teachers, parents, and students who think the sciences too technical. Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Natalie Angier’s new book, The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, discusses science in a reader-friendly way, providing the lowdown on issues like global warming and bird flu. The book also skips through chemistry, biology, ...


Truancy is a problem all across the country and newspapers are finally drawing attention to the issue. The Hartford Courant takes a look at the problem, discovering that 2,000 local students are absent from school each day without excuses. But the story cites programs tackling chronic truancy, including Hartford’s Truancy Court Prevention Project. Last month we wote about truancy problems in Indianoplis....


The New York Times offers a moving video story about a 13-year-old Utah boy who hopes to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee for an unusual and heartbreaking reason. Kunal Sah, an 8th grader, wants to draw attention to the plight of his parents, who were deported to India. Because of this, he is training for the competition in anger, reports the video, titled "American Album: Spell Utah," (5:38) Sah lives in a Ramada Limited hotel in Green River, Utah, with his uncle and aunt. He hopes to win the bee, draw the attention of President Bush, and open ...


It's good to be glamorous—of that, the students at Seattle's Franklin High School can have no doubt. Thanks to being named the West's "most glamorous high school" in a recent Verizon Wireless-sponsored contest, Franklin High was treated to a special concert by pop star Fergie (of Black Eyed Peas fame). "Franklin High School, you got styyyle!" Fergie told the crowd gathered in the school gym, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. Franklin's principal worked with the singer's team to censor songs "not suitable for the school house." And Fergie herself acknowledged: "We're using the clean versions of the songs, definitely." The ...


MTV is using the airwaves—naturally—to take a closer look at dropping out. On May 9, MTV:Music Television is premiering a new documentary titled "The Dropout Chronicles" that looks at three young people on the brink of leaving school without a diploma. The show will air on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. EST/PT on MTV2. It will also be shown at Wednesday's "National Summit on America's Silent Epidemic" in Washington, an event that MTV is co-hosting with Time, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Civic Enterprises, and the National Governors Association to examine the reasons so many ...


The Oregonian series on "Standout Schools" profiles three schools that are using innovative methods to reach kids. Monday's piece looks at Mt. Tabor Middle School in Portland where the staff makes a special effort to bond with the students. "Teachers work in teams with small groups of students. They know their students and quickly intervene when one stumbles," reporter Steven Carter writes. "When a boy doesn't show up for school, for instance, a staff member goes to his house to get him." The focus is on the personal at Mt. Tabor. Should more schools go to these lengths? Can they? ...


Schools feeling pressure from the No Child Left Behind Act to push students to absorb more reading and math skills should take a look at what their students are sitting on, says this article in Edutopia. Students would learn more in comfy chairs instead of hard seats and desks, the authors say. Schools should also think about indoor air quality, get rid of “horrible bells” and other noise pollution, create pleasing spaces for learning and install a school café conducive to absorbing all that knowledge floating around. Anyone seen a school like this?...


The Nation offers a fascinating take on five years of No Child Left Behind and where to go from here (in the view of four veterans in the policy community). Linda Darling-Hammond writes in the magazine's May 21 issue that while NCLB provided some breakthroughs and "shines a spotlight on longstanding inequalities" in education, its implementation has undermined good intentions. It is time to reconsider the big picture, she says. "We badly need a national policy that enables schools to meet the intellectual demands of the twenty-first century," Darling-Hammond writes. "More fundamentally, we need to pay off the educational debt ...


Norma and Norman Baker finally made it to the prom in Sutton, Mass.—62 years late. Baker and then-Norma Duhamel met and fell in love at Northbridge High School in the days when Franklin Roosevelt was president, but World War II—and Baker’s decision to drop out of school and join the Navy—thwarted their opportunity to go to the prom together. The Bakers, who married after Norman’s return from the war, jumped at the chance to attend a “prom” at the Sutton Senior Center on May 1, the Boston Globe reports. The Sutton High School jazz ...


Their parents would be proud. The Mortarboard blog in the Guardian (England) reports on a survey in which teens "put hard work and reliability at the top of the list of skills they think they need to get them their dream job.” What’s more, only 15 percent of those surveyed called being creative an asset in vying for jobs, according to the survey commissioned by the United Kingdom’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. In an ironic twist, however, NESTA says today’s employers are actually looking for creative, resourceful employees to advance innovation. Would the ...


Linda Thomas of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer blogs about how far parents—and some schools, seemingly—are willing to go to keep an eye on children. The story behind her post: the revelation that a high school official shared school surveillance videotape with the parents of a girl who’d asked the school to keep an eye on her behavior. The tape allegedly showed the girl kissing another girl, and the parents subsequently moved their daughter to another school. “I understand why parents of a Gig Harbor High School girl asked the school to examine surveillance tapes and help them spy ...


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