July 2007 Archives

Developing adequate reading skills could have a lifelong pay-off. A study of 3,260 Medicare patients found that those without basic “health literacy,” or the ability to understand patient information and make decisions based on it, were more likely to die sooner than their more-literate counterparts. Even taking into account overall education and other social factors, the study, which took place over more than five years, concluded that inadequate reading skills were the highest factor in determining mortality rates. The authors of the study cited that education levels in general have long been considered important in determining lifespan. As for ...


In the wake of the vast teacher shortages sweeping the country, states are digging in to recruit. To fill vacancies, many are reaching beyond their state lines and others are offering enticing incentive packages. One Washington, DC suburb hopes to lure teachers with student appeals. Prince George’s County in Maryland is sponsoring a $300,000 national ad campaign, which features a dozen students of all ages and races appealing for teachers. In one ad, 14-year-old Amber, an African American student asks, “Teach me to grow up to be a Pediatrician. Please.” In another, Jordan, a high school freshman asks, “Teach...


Low salaries aren’t the only obstacles when it comes to filling teacher vacancies. According to an Arizona Republic story, the No Child Left Behind “highly qualified” requirement could be contributing to local and national teacher shortages. To be eligible for hire, teachers must now have a bachelor’s degree, a state certification or license, and a proven knowledge of their subject. For most, a major in their subject, an advanced certification from the state, or a graduate degree satisfies the “proven knowledge” prerequisite. With NCLB under review, some school leaders and politicians argue that these requirements don’t reflect ...


The British school curriculum is getting a makeover. An attempt to translate traditional academics into practical skills is at the heart of the overhaul. Now, citizenship courses will involve a discussion of British values; language courses will include Mandarin and Urdu; and a new course will cover “personal, social, health, and economic well-being.” World history curriculum is also facing a revamp; names like Churchill, Hitler, and Stalin will be noticeably absent. Some educators, particularly historians, worry that the plan will further erode an already slumping educational system. “We are producing a generation who know little or nothing about the past, ...


A new study suggests that obesity—or more particularly body image—may be an education issue as well as a health issue. Research from the University of Texas at Austin finds that obese girls are half as likely to go to college than their thinner female peers. Assistant Professor Robert Crosnoe, who conducted the study, says that, in comparison with boys, obese girls are more likely to suffer from a poor body image, which can have a detrimental effect on their educational goals. The study, which tracked 11,000 American adolescents, found that the link between obesity and lower college ...


With Friday’s midnight release date of the final Harry Potter book looming, the world’s abuzz with talk of the main character’s fate—did J.K. Rowling kill him off? Another pressing question—perhaps one more relevant to teachers—is swirling around Rowling’s popular series: Has the book popularized reading for hundreds of millions of children, particularly hard-to-reach teens, the way many experts say it has? The answer is “no,” according to National Endowment for the Arts chairman, Dana Gioia, who's also a renowned poet and literary critic. "This one series of popular novels has not been ...


Elective courses have run the gamut of importance. Once a core part of a student’s course load, then used as a way to boost a GPA, electives are now, in some school districts, being eliminated from GPAs entirely. A Texas school district will vote Monday to determine whether or not to include elective courses in students' GPAs. The reason? Overachieving students are avoiding taking classes that don’t receive as many points toward a weighted GPA. Under the proposed plan, elective grades would be shown on a transcript, but only the four core subjects and two years of a ...


San Francisco, which has one of the country’s priciest real estate markets, is looking to join cities like New York City, Washington, DC, and Chicago by providing housing incentives to lure and retain teachers. Between the fall of 2005 and the summer of 2007, the city lost 16 percent of its teaching force. In a recent study, the San Francisco Department of Children Youth and Families disclosed that housing incentives were the number one perk to encourage teacher retention. Responding to his city’s initiative, Mayor Gavin Newsome said, “This is a high priority for us. This [subsidizing teacher ...


Officials at Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools are replacing a precursory lesson to the reading of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. An essay and a poem that were used to prepare students for a discussion of the “N-word,” which appears in Lee’s novel, are being scrapped after a ninth grade African American student complained. According to a Washington Post article, the 15-year-old student was offended when she observed her English teacher, who is white, mimicking stereotypical African American gestures and elocution while reading the assigned Gloria Naylor poem, “The Meaning of the Word.” “She has a ...


Extending the academic year by hours, days or months is a question that school districts have been floating for a while. For many, the cost of extending the year must be weighed against the learning benefits. This week, in her state of education speech, Sandy Garrett, Oklahoma state school superintendent, raised the thorny issue. Dr. Joe Siano, school superintendent for Norman, Okla., said, “My reaction is positive. I think with the challenges in accountability, time is an important issue. I’m very much in favor of looking at those extended time options.” But he notes that there are also financial ...


Unhappy with a new curriculum developed by an outside firm, Pittsburgh's school district is diverting money from the company’s contact to hire district teachers and academic coaches as curriculum writers this year. Under the plan, some $2.4 million from the district's $8.4 million contract with Kaplan K12 Learning Services will be divvied up among the teacher-curriculum writers, teachers who provide feedback, and University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Learning, which will provide resources and services to the writers. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, teachers could make $16,000 to $22,000 per course for designing the curriculum—in addition...


Pennsylvania is learning the hard way that modernizing math instruction does not always further comprehension. The state’s students are faltering in math placement tests, in spite of demonstrating achievement elsewhere. As a result, colleges and universities are having to rewrite textbooks and add remedial courses so their students can catch-up on math concepts and skills. The college math professors in the state blame the emphasis placed on student testing combined with introducing higher-level math to increasingly younger students. “Many bright students are hurried through algebra and trigonometry courses on their way toward statistics and calculus,” said Marie Wilde, chairwoman ...


As the debate over evaluating test scores continues, many schools across the country are shifting their method of evaluating student progress. More than two dozen states, including Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, and Ohio, are looking to a new way of analyzing test scores, called a “growth model,” which assesses individual student's progress as they advance from grade to grade instead of comparing them to the previous year’s class. The model has been helpful in both urban areas where the student population includes at-risk children, as well as affluent communities which tend to attract top-performing children. While tests scores traditionally have ...


Illinois Sen. Barack Obama told members of the nation's largest teachers union this week that he supports the idea of merit pay for educators. In the prepared text for his speech at the National Education Association’s annual convention in Philadelphia, the Democratic presidential candidate said that teachers who excel at helping students raise their achievement, as well as those working in hard-to-staff schools and high-needs subject areas, should be rewarded extra. However, he noted that teachers’ performance should not be based “on some arbitrary test score.” “I want to work with teachers,” he assured the 9,000 NEA members ...


A school district in Michigan is considering a “pay to plug” program that would require teachers and school employees who use desk lamps, small fans, and mini-fridges to pay a fee. The program, designed to lessen the strain on the system’s shrinking budget, could save Chippewa Valley Public Schools at least $25,000, according to school officials. The plan, similar to one implemented in Grosse Pointe Public Schools, is part of an energy-saving initiative, which, according to business manager Chris Fenton, also includes making sure computers and lights are turned off. “If you take all of those pieces, they ...


They may be only one letter apart, but Parent Teacher Association officials are working to stress the differences between PTAs and the PT0s—or Parent Teacher Organizations—that are increasingly replacing them. According to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, PTA membership has dropped from 12 million in the 1950s to 5.5 million today, and PTAs now make up less than 25 percent of school-parent groups. The annual PTA convention, which ended yesterday in St. Louis, included a session called "A Instead of O: How to Talk PTA to PTO," which provided attendees with early warning signs that...


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