June 2007 Archives

Reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of race-conscious school-assignment plans has been swift and emotional, with the decision even becoming a focal point of Democratic presidential debates last night. In Seattle, the mother who led the lawsuit against the school district’s “racial-tiebreaker” admissions policy broke down and wept in relief. Kathleen’s Brose’s daughter had failed to get into the high school of her choice—the one that was also nearest to their home—because she is white. “I don’t want any parent to go through what we went through,” said Brose. “It shouldn’t...


Reports of assaults against teachers seem to growing, particularly in big city schools. Sometimes they are verbal. Sometimes they are violent physical attacks. NPR’s Fresh Air host Terry Gross speaks with two veteran teachers, Ed Klein and Frank Burd, who were physically assaulted last year in their Philadelphia classrooms. Both Burd and Klein are white and taught at predominantly African American schools; however, neither perceived the incidents to be entirely racially motivated. Music teacher Klein was relocated to a school one month into the school year when his former school dropped their music program. Entering a new school, with ...


Most parents agree that cutting teacher jobs isn’t beneficial for their kids, but Boston-area parent Scott Jones was so frustrated that he started a campaign, aptly named Save the Teachers. With schools in Georgetown, Mass., facing a budget shortfall due to the failure of a proposed property tax increase, the father of four decided to raise the money from private donors. I can’t sit back and watch the schools decay another year, watch the kids suffer, and do nothing,” Jones says. He and a handful of volunteers have raised more than $18,000 in the past month by ...


In an effort to reverse the dropout rate, New Hampshire’s State Department of Education is suggesting statewide changes in its curriculum. The state released a document this week, which upends traditional classroom instruction with a more flexible approach to learning. The proposed suggestions include tallying learning hours rather than school days and replacing the standard curriculum with a more tailored one unique to each student’s interests. Teachers would mentor, rather than coach, and students would earn credits by mastering a subject instead of following a prescribed course. Each student would be accountable for maintaining high academic and personal ...


A combination of strong forces, including baby boomer retirements and increased career options for women, is creating growing teacher shortages around the nation, says a Washington Post story. Some three quarters of the country's public school teachers are women, but research indicates that the number of women who pursue teaching after college, as well as their class rankings, has declined sharply since the 1960’s. “It’s not that you don’t have some terrifically talented people going into teaching," says Richard J. Murname, a Harvard economist who has studied the teaching profession. "The issue is you don’t have ...


While many school districts are cutting back on cultural programming, North Carolina’s Appalachian country is expanding its music curriculum. North Carolina’s Junior Appalachian Music program or “JAM” teaches 3rd through 8th graders traditional bluegrass and Celtic music. The program is now in nine schools with three more schools scheduled to include it this fall. Seven years ago, Sparta Elementary School counselor Helen White observed a classroom of third-grade students studying flash cards of traditional Appalachian musical instruments. White was shocked to discover the students could identify the instruments, but didn’t know what they sounded like. A musician ...


A school that is an intregal part of American history may soon be gone. The city of Topeka, Kan., has given preliminary approval to demolish Sumner Elementary School, which was at the center of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. Citing cost concerns, City Manager Norton Bonaparte said, “We do not take this lightly. It is a historic structure.” Two groups have submitted proposals to preserve the building as a charter school or for housing, but their finances have fallen short. They have five months to turn their plans around. The Sumner School became famous when Oliver Brown, ...


Online classes, a luxury once available only to university students, are now being used to educate gifted high school students who don’t fit in at traditional schools. Online High School, a year-old program at Stanford University's Education Program for Gifted Youth, is giving its 30 international students—be they in California or Korea—the opportunity to receive differentiated instruction at home. Janet Keating, head of Online High, told the LA Times, "We feel that all kids need to learn at their own rate. I finally understand that we can do this." The school, which teaches 40 virtual courses in ...


Despite continuing concerns about school safety, some state lawmakers are questioning zero-tolerance policies on weapons, alcohol, and drugs in schools, saying they can unfairly punish students who have harmless intentions. “A machete is not the same as a butter knife. A water gun is not the same as a gun loaded with bullets,” says former school board member and Rhode Island Sen. Daniel Issa, who is sponsoring a bill that would allow school districts in his state to decide punishments for student violations on a case-by-case basis. Stories of the no-tolerance laws gone too far are widespread. For example, according ...


The appointment of Michelle Rhee, 37, as chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools is being seen as sign of the growing influence of Teach For America veterans on the education world. Referring to a "Teach for America insurgency," Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews notes that TFA alumni are acquiring a growing reputation as innovators in education leadership and policy. Among other similarities, Mathews says, organizations led by TFA veterans tend to share a skepticism of the traditional, ed-school based method of recruiting and training teachers. Nor are they particularly bashful about their objectives and accomplishments. "There is a core ...


Does Tim Russett belong in an AP History class? If a new $10 million project sponsored by NBC News takes off, he and other prominent broadcast journalists just might become part of the curriculum. The news network is working on an online project that would enable teachers to use NBC's extensive archival footage as a supplement to AP courses in history, government, and English. While intended to be educational, the program—called iCue—is also seen as a way for NBC to build a rapport with a new generation of viewers that tend not to get their news from television...


Here's a new take on performance pay: New York City is toying with the idea of paying students cash for scoring well on standardized tests. Harvard economist Roland Fryer has concocted a program that would reward fourth-grade students on a pay scale of $5 to $25 based on their standardized test scores; seventh-grade students would stand to gain anywhere from $5 to $50. The reward plan, which would be funded by private donors, is receiving support from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and several local principals. “If we aren’t looking at everything, shame on us,” said Mayor Bloomberg, ...


Two former teachers from Austin, Texas, have taken the concept of a fictional documentary, recently used to depict the idiosyncrasies of white-collar work in “The Office,” and adapted it for the classroom. “Chalk,” a mockumentary about discouraged educators, follows new teachers as they deal with classroom etiquette, cultural issues, and stereotypes, and delves into the reason why 50 percent of new teachers reportedly quit within their first few years. The movie has garnered some independent film awards, including Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and received mostly positive reviews—along with some harsh criticism....


The movement for longer school days is getting vocal support from a prominent big-city mayor. At a meeting last week at the Executives' Club of Chicago, Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago appealed to the Chicago Teachers Union to lengthen the school day and the school year. Daley said 10-week summers were outdated and that the current daily schedule was unacceptable. He argued that students in Chicago spend 40 fewer days in the classroom than New York City students, whose school day was extended this year, and questioned how Chicago's students could remain competitive. Some audience members reportedly gasped as ...


In another example of new thinking on homework, the school board in Middletown, Ohio, has proposed a new homework policy that would make grading homework a thing of the past. Under the policy, which board members say comes in response to unequal parent contributions to homework, grades would be replaced by descriptive feedback and student critiques, with in-class projects and quizzes used to evaluate student understanding. "The removal of the grade is to make sure that we're grading the student for their work, not the work of the parents or failures of the parents," said board member Marcia Andrews. Advocates ...


Many educators worry that the arts are being marginalized in today's schools, but officials in the Florida's Miami-Dade district of working to avoid that. With help from a grant from the South Florida Children's Foundation, Santa Clara Elementary School has launched a Violins Against Violence program, joining 60 other schools in the district that offer students free lessons in stringed instruments. Several studies show that music lessons can improve academic performance, but they are often unavailable to low-income children like those at Santa Clara, where 97 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch. Officials hope the program will also ...


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