September 2011 Archives

Preparing Tech-Smart Teachers, TFA-style

In a recent policy brief, the Progressive Policy Institute, a Democratic-aligned think tank based in Washington, proposed preparing a corps of tech-savvy teachers aimed at boosting 4th grade literacy rates in low-income communities, using Teach for America as a program model.

Taking a Philosophical View of Standardized Tests

On the New York Times' Opinionator blog, a Notre Dame philosophy professor warns against the inclination to take "immediate and drastic" corrective action based on subpar student standardized test scores. Tests, he suggests, are not always a good gauge of students' applicable knowledge in a particular subject area. And even when they are, there's usually no easy or uniform solution for how to boost the requisite knowledge and skills for all students. In this connection, it's noteworthy that, according to the article we highlighted yesterday, Finland's education leaders seem to take very little interest in the Programme for International Student ...

The Tao of Finland's Schools

This month's Smithsonian magazine includes an interesting article exploring the (relatively recent) success of Finland's school system. The author highlights a certain Zen-like quality in the way Finnish schools operate: Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours at school each day and spend less time in classrooms than American teachers. Teachers use the extra time to build curriculums and assess their students. Children spend far more time playing outside, even in the depths of winter. Homework is minimal. Compulsory schooling does not begin until age 7. "We have no hurry," said Louhivuori [a school principal]. "Children learn better when they are ...

Doctor's Orders: Fund Teacher-Coaching Programs

Atul Gawande, the surgeon-writer featured in our recent first person piece about using checklists for reading instruction, has written another gripping New Yorker article with provocative insights that apply to both health care and education. This one is about coaching.

Are Schools Preparing Kids for the Future?

Teachers from across the nation recently gathered together in Rockefeller Plaza, and virtually through Facebook, Twitter, and an online chat for the second annual Teacher Town Hall hosted by NBC's Education Nation.

Math & Science Teaching Fellowships Announced

Heads-up for up-and-coming math and science teachers: The Knowles Science Teaching Foundation is now accepting applications for its 2012 fellowship award. Valued at $150,000, the award includes financial resources (including tuition assitance), professional development, teaching materials, and access to the Knowles network of teachers. It is renewable for five years. The fellowship, which is not need-based, is designed for new or near-future college graduates with strong subject-area knowledge in mathematics or biological or physical sciences. A committment to teaching for at least five years is also preferred. (The FAQs specify that the award is not intended for "individuals who ...

Teacher Makes $230,000 on Lesson Plans

Two years ago, Deanna Jump, a Georgia kindergarten teacher with two kids in college, was struggling to make it from paycheck to paycheck. More recently, though, she has found herself rocketing up the tax brackets. Jump is still teaching kindergarten—but she is now also the top seller on Teachers Pay Teachers, the website on which educators can buy and sell lesson plans. In the past year, she has reportedly made $230,000 through the site. She says that roughly $100,000 of that came in the last fiscal quarter alone. "It's unbelievable," she says, noting that when she first...

Teachers' Unspoken Role as Protectors

This is somewhat random but I think noteworthy in light of the generally dismissive attitude toward the teaching profession we've occasionally seen lately ... For completely nonwork related reasons, I was recently watching an old C-Span interview with Richard Rhodes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Making of the Atom Bomb (among other books). At one point, Rhodes, who grew up in an abusive home, was talking about a project he had undertaken to collect the stories of other child-abuse survivors. He noted that one common theme among the stories was the significant role of a person close to the child ...

What Do Teaching and Manufacturing Have in Common?

In an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, authors Saul Rubinstein, Charles Heckscher and Paul Adler use the history of manufacturing in the United States to draw a parallel to the current "blame the teacher" attitude in public education.

Educators Encounter More 'Hidden Disabilities'

The Wall Street Journal reports that a rise in the diagnoses of "hidden disabilities"--those that are debilitating but not visible, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and migraines--is putting a strain on both teachers and already tight special education budgets.

Has Reading Instruction Lost the 'Gist'?

In the New York Times, literary critic and Core Knowledge Foundation founder E.D. Hirsch reasserts his case that the recent drop in SAT reading scores derives not from student demographic changes but from a long-term de-intellectualization of elementary school curricula: The most credible analyses have shown that the chief causes [of the verbal scores decline] were not demographics or TV watching, but vast curricular changes, especially in the critical early grades. In the decades before the Great Verbal Decline, a content-rich elementary school experience evolved into a content-light, skills-based, test-centered approach. For Hirsch, strong reading skills are dependent on ...

Teachers Tell Their Stories

StoryCorps, the nonprofit that records and archives the stories of everyday Americans, begins a new oral history project dedicated to teachers on Monday.

Deal of the Day: Teacher Prep?

Groupon in Chicago was offering a 57 percent discount on a teacher prep course.

What's Behind the SAT Reading-Score Drop?

Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss takes issue with the College Board's explanation that the decline in the SAT reading scores this past year was caused largely by an increase in the number and diversity of test-takers. She puts the blame squarely on the effects of recent education policy: After all, we've had a decade of standardized test-based school reform under the No Child Left Behind law that educators warned was narrowing curriculum and turning too many classrooms into test prep factories rather than places of real learning. Meanwhile, issues facing the rising number of English language learners and children ...

Homework That Helps

In a New York Times op-ed piece titled The Trouble With Homework, Annie Murphy Paul writes people should not be concerned with the quantity of homework students are getting--a much-contended topic in education--but rather the quality of that work.

Test Prep in the Kitchen

Looking for a new way to help students prepare for entrance exams? Have you tried teaching them to cook? Seriously, there's even a book for it. Charis Freiman-Mendal, an enterprising freshman at Choate college prep, has just published Cook Your Way Through the SAT, a cookbook in which the recipes are generously dolloped with 1000 typically tested words. For example, Freiman-Mendal's recipe for Sweet Potato Souffle includes a brief digression on coconut oil informing readers that, in the 1950s, "After a scientific study ENCOURAGED nixing it due to PERNICIOUS saturated fats, the use of the anything-but-BANAL oil ABRUBTLY DESISTED." Not ...

Deconstructing Handwriting

A retired special education teacher is finishing up piloting a K-5 handwriting curriculum with a new take on letter formation.

Should Teachers Be Free to Critique 9/11 Issues?

In an op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, New York University History Professor Jonathan Zimmerman writes that historically U.S. teachers have often been restricted from honestly critiquing the country's military conflicts—and may have even less leeway now than at any time since the 1960s. This is an especially important matter as we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he argues: To be sure, the best teachers have always taught their students to probe, question, and think. And on Sept. 11, they'll do it again. Who attacked us, they'll ask, and why? What did we do...

Teachers Would 'Like' Parents to Read This

If the Facebook "Like" count at the bottom of this CNN article is any indication, you've probably already read "What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents." (214,000 Likes in 24 hours? Really?) But if somehow this eluded you, it's an opinion piece by Ron Clark, author of The End of Molasses Classes and founder of The Ron Clark Academy (and Oprah sensation). In a "tell it like it is" tone, Clark asks parents to stop making excuses for their kids, allow them to fail sometimes, "be a partner instead of a prosecutor," and give teachers the benefit of the ...

Teens Speak Out About School

An interesting resource for you: Journalist and author Kathleen Cushman, a one-time Teacher Book Club featured guest, is producing a series of videos for the nonprofit What Kids Can Do called Just Listen: Students Talk About Learning. The idea is to bring greater exposure to kids' own ideas about why school matters to them and what they hope to get out of their education. That theme is very much in line with Cushman's written work and research, in which she emphasizes that understanding kids' perspectives is an essential part of sound and engaged instruction. The first installment in the series ...

Teacher to Compete on 'The Amazing Race'

A special education teacher will be among the contestants on this season's "The Amazing Race," the CBS reality show in which teams race around the world while tasked with sundry obstacles and "roadblock" competitions, according to DisabilityScoop. Jennifer Young, 26, from Stone Mountain, Ga., who will be racing with her younger brother, says her work in the classroom has prepared her to perservere in the face of challenges. And she may need all the perserverance she can muster. From the DisabilityScoop story: Other contestants on the show include a pair of "Survivor" winners, two Olympians, a former NFL player and ...

Teaching 9/11

By Education Week Assistant Editor Erik Robelen. This post originally appeared in Education Week's Curriculum Matters blog. The U.S. Department of Education has announced a new Web page with resources to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. (Just yesterday, we posted an EdWeek story on teaching 9/11 and related issues. Also, we have a collections page on 9/11 with plenty of archived stories.) The topics included on the Education Department page include 9/11 and the Constitution, a look at how "ordinary citizens acted in extraordinary ways" in response to the attacks, and the ...

Teacher Collaboration: The Missing Link in School Reform?

The current education reform ethos has centered on improving individual teachers' effectiveness and accountability—through merit-pay programs and the use of value-added performance data, for example. But in an interesting article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Carrie R. Leana, a professor of organizations and management at the University of Pittsburgh, argues that reformers have overlooked another, perhaps even more important, factor in school improvement: the level of interaction and collaboration among teachers within a school, or what she terms a school's "social capital." When teachers have strong ties with their peers, Leana says, student achievement invariably goes up. Here,...

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