Film critic Roger Ebert is fuming mad about a "retold," intermediate reader version of The Great Gatsby published by MacMillan. The book employs greatly simplified prose, comes in at less than half the length of the original, and seriously muddles the ending. For Ebert, the whole project amounts to literary and educational malpractice: There is no purpose in "reading" The Great Gatsby unless you actually read it. Fitzgerald's novel is not about a story. It is about how the story is told. Its poetry, its message, its evocation of Gatsby's lost American dream, is expressed in Fitzgerald's style—in the ...


As part of a summer professional development series, Edutopia is offering free tutorials on Web 2.0 tools that are popular with teachers.


In a cost-cutting move, Illinois has eliminated writing from the state's standardized exams for high school juniors. Well, it's just one grade, you say. Not so fast: The state scrapped the writing portion of the standardized exams for elementary and middle schoolers last year. Some educators contend that the change won't necessarily affect students' writing skills. Schools will continue to teach writing as a part of literacy development and language arts, they argue, and students will still have to prepare for the written portions of college entrance exams. Dr. Janice Neuleib, executive secretary of the Illinois Association of Teachers of ...


It wasn't particularly surprising when a Maryland mother with Tea Party leanings complained last month that her 3rd grade daughter's social studies textbook harbored a leftist agenda. But now Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney, himself a liberal, has read the book—titled Social Studies Alive! Our Community and Beyond—and he thinks she may have a point: It's not that it's grossly inaccurate. ... It's just clearly one-sided. Among the examples he cites: For instance, Chapter 6 profiles individuals who have made a positive difference in their communities. All four are liberal icons: Latino farmworker and union leader Cesar Chavez; ...


In what portends to become a national trend, the Indiana Department of Education has announced that, starting this fall, it will no longer require schools to teach cursive writing. The Department sent a memo [PDF] to school leaders this spring saying that, in accordance with the Common Core standards, students will be "expected to become proficient in keyboarding skills"—formerly known as typing—instead of handwriting. However, the memo notes that schools can continue to teach cursive writing as a part of local curriculum standards (assuming such things still exist, of course). Parents' and educators' reactions to the state's ...


A group of teachers at Carney Academy in New Bedford, Mass., paid visits to their students' homes this past year, for no other reason than to get to know their parents better, reports the South Coast Today. The teachers visited 30 (out of 500-plus) of their students' families once in the fall and once in the spring—a small start to a project which was only funded for the past school year and which aimed to "establish and build a relationship with parents outside of the school setting." As one parent told the paper, seeing her child's teacher "outside of class...


English teacher Randy Turner champions "term limits for teachers" of somewhere between four and eight years, saying that veterans like himself are "burdened with experience."


A group of teachers in Hamilton County, Tenn., are spending some of their summer vacation doing community service as part of a state Service Learning certification program, according to WRCB TV Channel 3. The Chattanooga news station says the program gives teachers classroom and curriculum training on how to "teach their students about the importance and rewards of helping others," all while getting their hands dirty as they clean up after animals at the humane society or volunteer at the food bank. Delray Zimmerman, the communications director of Volunteer Tennessee, which oversees the program, told the station that students "improve ...


The Los Angeles school district is instituting a new policy uniformly limiting homework to 10 percent of a student's grade. Drawing on recent research, the policy states that students should not be punished for differences in their "home academic environment" and that, as a rule, homework should be used to support learning rather than to drive compliance. L.A. high school English teacher Larry Strauss, writing in the Huffington Post, appreciates the sentiment but says the policy is ultimately an exercise in expectations-lowering: At least let's start by believing in all of our students and motivating them to find ways ...


School-level incentives for teachers are potentially more effective than individual incentives, according to a pair of researchers who spoke yesterday at an education-policy symposium in downtown Washington. Participating in a panel discussion on "Making Teacher Incentives Work" hosted by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Thomas Ahn of the University of Kentucky and Jacob Vigdor of Duke University presented their research on North Carolina's statewide Teacher Bonus Program, which rewards teachers based on their school's performance. Vigdor first listed three obstacles to individual-level incentive programs: not all teachers teach grades and subjects that require standardized testing; the tests ...


Middle school teacher Miss Bluebird reports: Despite the fact that most everyone seems to think that teachers are sitting around drinking margaritas on their back deck or at a far-off beach all summer long, I'm sitting here at my computer working up rubrics, and assignments, and all sorts of things so we can hit the ground running on August 3rd, when school starts up again. ... Come to think of it, I could use a margarita after all this work. August 3rd?...


Nearly 84 percent of the nation's school districts anticipate funding shortfalls in the upcoming school year, and a majority of those districts (some 64 percent) plan to cut staff to make up the deficits, according to a report released this morning [PDF] by the Washington-based Center on Education Policy. The report, which is based on a survey of school districts nationwide, attributes the bleak forecast to the fact that many districts have reached a so-called "funding cliff" after exhausting (or nearly exhausting) funds from the federal economic-stimulus and education jobs packages. All told, according to the report, 46 percent of ...


The Wake County school system in Raleigh, N.C., is on a mission to recruit male and minority teachers, reports the News & Observer. The paper, which covers Raleigh, notes that 50.5 percent of the students in the district are minorities, while 85 percent of the teachers are Caucasian. Since Tony Tata took over as superintendent in January, the district has made an effort to reach out to historically black colleges and universities for recruiting. In the past two months, the district has hired 45 new teachers, 27 of whom are minorities. Still, the paper reports that the district faces ...


One of the latest in a slew of education documentaries, "To Be Heard" profiles three Bronx high school students who participate in an outside-the-curriculum program called Power Writers.


Here's a good career-path gut-check question to ponder over the summer (just in case you were looking for one). By now most educators are familiar with TED Talks, the influential, Web-distributed presentations in which innovative thinkers share their ideas and inspiration. But could you deliver one? Doug Johnson thinks it's something every teacher should consider, even if only in a hypothetical sense: Could you give a TED talk inspired by a personal passion for what you do? What would it be about? What would others learn from it? What makes you look forward to the next day even after a ...


Imagine this: You're a kid in Iraq, and your parents tell you to pack your bags because your family has to leave the country in five minutes. What are the 10 things you take with you? Now your family needs help carrying their belongings. Which five of your things could you leave behind? This was just one of several learning exercises that English teacher Lauren Fardig had her 9th graders do at Banana Kelly High School in Bronx, N.Y. In a PBS NewsHour report, Fardig discussed how she took her students on a virtual journey to the Middle East ...


Liam Julian over at Fordham's Flypaper responds to the doom-and-gloom rhetoric surrounding the U.S.' static history NAEP scores and, well, every other education-related news item these days.


Sign of the times? After 10 years, ed-tech pioneer Will Richardson is closing down his influential blog and moving to a new space on Tumblr, a social-networking-slash-"microblogging" platform that is getting a lot of attention lately. Richardson believes it will help him, in effect, bridge the gap between blogging and tweeting. At the same time, with acknowledgement of the assorted ironies involved, Richardson is bringing out a new collection of the "40 or so" most-commented-on posts from his old blog—in book form. He sounds almost apologetic about this: It may be an anachronism by the time my grandkids...


Time.com legal columnist Adam Cohen, pointing to a couple recent court decisions, advises educators to take the high road when it comes to derisive or mocking postings by students on social-networking sites. Students, he says, have a constitutional right to make fun of their teachers—one they have exercised for generations. The difference, of course, is that today there's a better chance you'll find out about it. Too bad for you: There clearly can be student Facebook or MySpace speech that goes too far—for example, serious threats that really do disrupt educational activities. But when speech is merely...


In an opinion piece published by the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peter Smagorinsky, a professor of English education at the University of Georgia, questions the value of recent policy reports showing that increases in class sizes do not have a detrimental effect on student test scores. Most people don't go into teaching, he argues, to raise standardized test scores. Instead, they want to provide meaningful learning experiences and "make a difference in kids lives"—things that requires optimal working conditions: One working condition that matters is having class loads that enable the sorts of rich teaching and learning that make the ...


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