It was only a matter of time! First there was Jeopardy! I’m sure I would do as well as Ken Jennings. Then there was Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? which has some pretty baby questions and lets contestants ask for help. It’s almost as if we have a devolving frame of mind about our abilities. And for further evidence of that possibility, now there is Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? I am proud to say that I am smarter than a fifth grader, by the way. I know because I played online three times and ...


The headline on a recent Washington Post story reads: "Checkbook Math Increasingly Rare." Daniel Devise reports that these practical math courses, aimed at teaching students "how to balance a checkbook and shop for a home loan," are disappearing in Virginia and Maryland schools. That’s not surprising. Here in Virginia, we no longer teach Consumer Math as a middle or high school course. The goal is for everyone to start Algebra in eighth grade and for everyone to graduate with four years of mathematics. However, because parents and potential employers consider these skills essential, our General Assembly has mandated that ...


Okay, the last out-of-town guests have gone home. On Sunday night we finished up the turkey leftovers. But I’m not quite through with Thanksgiving. In the pantheon of American holidays, it seems to be trapped between two hulking neighbors, Halloween and Christmas. The new power player is Halloween, which was once a few hours of sweating behind a dime-store mask, collecting candy from the houses on your street. These days Halloween merchandise replaces the Back to School aisle around the second week of September. On November 2, the 50 percent-off sale is over and the Halloween aisle gives way ...


Or is it an assessment? Assessing and testing issues are on my mind a lot lately. They’ve been hot topics at school, on the Web, in Education Week and around the dinner table at our two-teacher home. But this brain dump is not brought on by first-quarter grades and the parent conferences we are having tonight at my middle school. You may think that I’m going to talk about No Child Left Behind , but I’m not. Nor is this about the recent release of National Board for Professional Teaching Standards assessment scores, or the new “Trial Urban ...


Today, Tuesday, November 6, was Election Day and since our schools are also our polling places, there were no classes. For about three weeks we’ve been courted with full color glossy mail pieces and inundated with recorded phone messages. Every night candidates, with their children or grandchildren in their arms and the family dog at their side, smile benignly from the TV screen. They promise that they understand my concerns and their interest in my welfare is sincere. You will be encouraged to know that every candidate has assured me and my fellow voters that Education is a top ...


The headline reads “Fashion Bullies Attack—In Middle School.” An article from Seventeen Magazine? NEA Journal?. No, this piece appeared in last Thursday’s Wall Street Journal. The article quotes Dorothy Espelage, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois and expert on bullying, as saying: “Having access to designer clothing affords some kids "the opportunity to become popular--and that protects you and gives you social power and leverage over others." Why does this surprise us when What Not to Wear, a popular television show, features fashion bullying as entertainment? Just in case you’ve missed it, each ...


There is an award plaque on my office wall featuring a common education icon—an old fashioned desk. You know the one—cast iron frame with a wooden bench seat and a hinged slant top. Style has changed, but the desk is still a classroom staple. If guests on a game show were asked to list the five most common things in a classroom I’m sure student desks (neatly aligned), a blackboard (even though most of them are whiteboards now) and a teacher’s desk (accessorized with an apple) would make the list. My classroom isn’t like most ...


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