October 2006 Archives

In reading as in driving, speed isn't always the best indicator of skill. But the nation's NCLB-induced testing frenzy now often includes periodic classroom assessments of elementary students' reading fluency. The problem, experts say, is that these tests often don't get down to the real nitty-gritty of reading fluency—instead, they focus mostly on speed. So children who can read fast and score well on such tests may be missing out on understanding what they read. "They read so fast, with no punctuation and no expression, that we'd go back and ask comprehension questions and they weren't very successful answering...


While schools across the nation are revisiting their lockdown plans and evacuation procedures in the wake of a spate of school shootings, crisis planning in Burleson, Texas, looks a little different. The 11-school, 8,500-student district is teaching students—even elementary-age pupils—to fight back if confronted by a gunman in the classroom. The district is thought to be the only one in the country embracing such a plan. Students are trained by instructors from the company Response Options, including Maj. Robin Browne, a British army reserve member. Browne tells children to "react immediately to the sight of a gun by...


Here’s something you might not have sensed at your last staff-development meeting: According to an annual survey released last week by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, teacher job satisfaction is at a 20-year high. Specifically, “The Metlife Survey of the American Teacher: Expectations and Experiences” reports that 56 percent of 1,001 teachers surveyed this year said they are “very satisfied” with their careers, compared to just 40 percent in 1984. The finding comes as something of a surprise, considering reports in recent years citing teachers’ frustration with--among other things--mandated testing and lack of autonomy. Perhaps less surprisingly, the ...


Jeffrey Huyck is the kind of teacher parents wish their kids could have. He holds a doctorate in classics from Harvard. He has taught at the secondary and post-secondary levels for 22 years. His Latin students at Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, California earn national honors and go on to elite universities. But Huyck is missing one thing: the 'highly qualified' stamp that, under the No Child Left Behind Act, would allow him to continue teaching at the charter school. Confronted with the choice of enrolling in a multi-year teaching-certification program that would cost at least $15,000 or ...


Four-plus years into the NCLB era, some teachers are adopting a new attitude toward standardized tests: If you can't beat ’em, may as well use ’em. Educators in Bristol, Connecticut, for example, attribute the recent turnaround of two high-needs schools to a systematic approach of analyzing and acting on test-score results. For the past few years, teachers and administrators in the district have gathered in strategic teams to parse student-performance data and tailor instruction to address the trend lines. The process did not come naturally, however. “Education is not a culture of collaboration,” notes Bristol Superintendent Michael Wasta. “It’s ...


Fifty years ago, the first Advanced Placement classes were seen as a way for high-schoolers to acquaint themselves with college-level work. But today, with 1.8 million students taking them, they’re considered a top-college-admissions requirement. Scarsdale High School in New York, where 70 percent of the 1,500 students enroll in at least one AP course, is proposing to help end the rat race by doing away with AP courses—citing too much time spent on fact- and data-gathering and not enough on imaginative learning. “People nationwide are recognizing what an inhuman obstacle course college admission is, and a big...


The traditional epicenter of the classroom may be losing some of its sway. Many teachers today are reportedly getting rid of their desks, saying the bulky objects distance them from their students and obstruct classroom interaction. There’s no research as yet on how many teachers are going without desks, but the movement appears to be strongest in charter schools. A number of charters have banned teacher desks outright in an effort to promote greater engagement with students. The idea of a teacher just sitting behind a desk “kind of makes me nauseous, actually,” says a founding teacher and administrator ...


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