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February 2012 Archives

Twitter for 1st Graders?

The Chicago Tribune has a story on the apparently growing use of Twitter in 1st grade classrooms. According the article, some early-grades teachers have their students using the micro-blogging tool, as well as other kid-friendly blogging programs, to do things like send daily updates to parents or share ideas and stories with classmates. Educators quoted in the article say using blogging and secure social-media platforms helps even very young students become more engaged in writing and begin to get a grasp on today's diverse forms of communication. Younger students are "going to have an entire life that exists on the ...


Reports: Teachers Acted Heroically During Ohio School Shooting

A number of news stories are highlighting the courageous role that teachers played in the midst of the tragic shooting yesterday at Chardon High School in Ohio, which authorities are now saying claimed the lives of two [sigh] three students. By reports, after the gunman opened fire in the cafeteria, assistant football coach Frank Hall charged him and chased him out of the school—and into police hands. Witnesses say that Hall, known around the school as the "gentle giant," continued his pursuit even though the shooter brandished the gun at him. Meanwhile, math teacher Joe Ricci had put his ...


Facebook Grant Funds Teacher Projects in Newark

At a reception today in Newark, N.J., 25 teams of teachers will receive over $200,000 in "teacher innovation" grants.


Friday Humor Break

Inspired by a popular YouTube meme, Ms. Eyre—who was off this week and trying at all costs to avoid thinking about New York's new teacher-evaluation plan—puts together a short list of "Stuff Teachers Say on Vacation." Here's number three, for example: Awww, heck yeah! Sale on business casual separates at TJ Maxx!...


An Overlooked Benefit of Common Standards?

The Washington Post's Jay Mathews—initially a proponent of the Common Core State Standards—asserts in a recent blog post that Virginia is doing the right thing in refusing to adopt the new standards. Drawing on discussions with Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless, who recently put out a report on the topic, Mathews makes the case that the standards are but the "educational fashion of the moment" and "will fail," writing: As Loveless notes, there are three main arguments for having all public schools teach the same subjects at the same level of rigor and complexity. First, students will learn...


Summer PD Fellowships Available to Social Studies Teachers

High school social studies teachers interested in some offline professional development this summer—specifically, the chance to travel to historic sites with some like-minded colleagues—may want to look into the Founders Fellowship. The program, hosted by the Bill of Rights Institute and the Foundation for Economic Education, will take place in Washington, D.C., July 16-20, and will focus on the themes of "Civil Liberty, Commerce, and the Constitution." Attending fellows, selected based on leadership experience and interest in teaching about politics and economics, according to the website, will participate in discussion sessions with constitutional scholars and will visit...


Shades of (Daniel) Pink: The Merit Pay Debate

In case you missed it, last week's Washington Post article on merit pay does a nice job of summing up the major rift between proponents and skeptics of a school reform effort that, according to the Post reporter, is "suddenly gaining traction." Daniel Pink, author of the popular book about motivation, Drive, claims that merit pay doesn't improve teaching. "Rewards are very effective for some things—simple things, mechanical things," he said. "But for complicated jobs that require judgment and creativity [i.e., teaching], the evidence shows that it just doesn't work very well." In fact, extrinsic rewards can decrease...


The Challenges of Being a Teacher-Writer

Ariel Sacks, who is working on a book, reflects on the difficulties of being a teacher and writing about it at the same time: Like Virginia Woolf argued in A Room of One's Own—a woman cannot be expected to write while she's cooking and taking care of children in a confined space. Her writing will suffer. I always hated that point, thinking it was narrowminded, but there was some truth to it. One needs mental space to bring the ideas out of the working memory and onto the paper. Space to focus on putting the words together. That process...


Questioning the 'Rigor' of Teacher Evaluations

Aaron Pallas, Professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, makes the argument on his blog that, within current discourse about teacher evaluation, the word rigor "is getting distorted almost beyond recognition." In science, he writes, rigor is determined by a study's design and method for analyzing data. A study is rigorous if the scientific claims are backed by strong evidence—regardless of the content of those claims. However, when it comes to teacher-evaluation talk, he says, a system is deemed rigorous if it rates many teachers as "ineffective" and very few as "highly effective" (or whatever the ...


Are Schools Missing Career-Readiness Opportunities?

There was an interesting article in the Washington Post this weekend about how manufacturers in Michigan are having a hard time finding skilled workers to fill a now-burgeoning number of good factory jobs. The problem is that many of the state's older laid-off workers do not have the technical skills needed to operate the automated equipment that is now used in most thriving factories. Meanwhile, younger people who might fill the gap appear to have little interest in or preparation for factory jobs—in part due to the perceived "volatility and stigma" of such work. Trends in education have played...


Cursing Teachers Risk Getting the Axe

Arizona state Senator Lori Klein recently introduced a bill that would punish K-12 teachers for their use of profanity in the classroom.


Arts Educators Float an Alternative Evaluation Plan

Education officials in Tennessee seem to be making good on their promise to find alternate student-achievement measures to be incorporated into teacher evaluations for teachers in nontested subjects—though it's teachers who are doing much of the heavy lifting in getting the idea moving. The state jumped into a new teacher evaluation system this school year after just a few months of piloting, much to the chagrin of the teachers' unions and overwhelmed educators. Under that system, 35 percent of a teacher's evaluation score is based on student-growth measures. The temporary solution for teachers in nontested subjects was to give...


Classroom Tech With a Human Touch

Earlier this week, The New York Times—which in the past has been criticized for negative coverage of educational technology—reported on a student-laptop program in the Mooresville, N.C., school district that has led to impressive gains in achievement and student engagement. The secret? By assimilating the Apple devices into their pedagogy and classroom routines, the story says, Mooresville teachers are able to provide more one-on-one instruction and allow students to work at different paces. Many teachers are also moving away from standard lecture formats and allowing students to do more collaborative and independent work. In general, the article...


Studies: Educators Lagging in Teaching Higher-Order Skills

Cross-Posted from Teacher Beat, by Education Week's Stephen Sawchuk Could teacher evaluations begin to offer us the best portrait yet of what instruction actually looks like in America's classrooms? And what changes might such information spur in teacher preparation and on-the-job training? Those are implications raised by a couple of different papers looking at teacher evaluations. I've written about them on this blog before, but only from the technical aspects of the systems. In reviewing the reports again, it strikes me that they also have a lot to say about instructional quality--some of which seems frankly troubling. First up is ...


Gov. Christie vs. the Teachers' Union (Redux)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, never one to shy a way from expressing contempt for teachers' unions, is calling for the executive director of the New Jersey union to resign for comments he made regarding poor families, reports NorthJersey.com. During a discussion about vouchers on NJTV, New Jersey Education Association chief Vincent Giordano responded to the host's comment that many families can't afford to pull their kids out of underperforming public schools by saying, "Life's not always fair and I'm sorry about that." (NJEA has historically opposed school vouchers.) According to NorthJersey.com, the Republican governor said he was "disgusted"...


Assigning Reading Exercises, Literally

Ward Elementary School in Winston-Salem, N.C., has created a unique program to promote reading and exercise by having students do both at the same time, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.


Students Solving Real-World Design Problems

Last month, the Chicago Architecture Foundation launched DiscoverDesign.org, a free Web-based learning tool aimed at getting students excited about architecture.


Bright Ideas for Teacher Evaluation

Over the last few years, the teacher-evaluation debate has revolved mainly around whether—or to what extent—value-added scores should be involved. Since most researchers and educators agree an evaluation system needs multiple measures, there's also been some discourse around observations—how often they should occur and who should perform them. But for the most part, the same proposals for revamping evaluation systems have been recycled over and over. However, just this week, two somewhat novel teacher-evaluation ideas crossed our desks here at Teacher. (A bizarre but pleasant surprise—not unlike the string of 60-degree days we've been enjoying...


Should Kids Read 'Trash' in School?

In a lively podcast, Jeffrey Wilhelm, a professor of English Education at Boise State University, discusses the preliminary research behind his forthcoming book—the wonderfully titled Let Them Read Trash: The Power of Marginalized Texts to Promote Imagination, Satisfaction, and Social Action. Wilhelm's bottom line, as his title suggests, is that the types of narrative works teens are drawn to outside of school, while often "scary" and even "loathsome" to the adults in their lives, can have deep educational and developmental value. Drawing on interviews with students, he says that such works—ranging from dystopian novels to vampire sagas to...


A Teacher's Test Problems

Having just finished scoring a batch of state English exams, NYC teacher Mrs. Eyre expresses sympathy for an ELL student who wrote one of the required essays in her native language: This student was clearly not ready for the challenge of writing an entire essay in English. [That] was someone's decision in Albany, someone who has never met this child or knows anything about what it's like to be forced to sit for 4.5 hours (with extended time) and take an essay in a language one understands well enough to slog through a fairly insulated and well-supported school day, ...


Google Redesigns Its Education Site

Google in Education recently launched its redesigned website in an effort to make navigation easier for teachers, schools, and students.


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