April 26, 2010
April 21, 2010
The New York State Board of Regents has voted unanimously to allow alternative-certification programs (such as Teach for America) to create their own master's degree programs, according to The New York Times. Previously, traditional education programs offered the only route to a master's in teaching.
Over the weekend, the Times ran a story highlighting the rise of alternative education programs, as critics of traditional education schools complain that they're too focused on theory and not enough on practice. Last fall, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, "Many, if not most, of the nation's 1,450 schools, colleges and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom," in a speech ironically held on the campus of Teachers' College, Columbia University's education school.
As a result, under the Regents' vote, the master's curricula for alternative education programs in N.Y. must emphasize practical teaching skills. Once teachers complete the program, the Board of Regents will award the degree to the teachers, and the teachers will be committed to teach in a high-needs school for four years.
Not surprisingly, some education school deans are already taking issue with the Regents' vote. "I have serious concerns about separating the craft of teaching from the knowledge base of teaching, and I think the regents are making a mistake in allowing the craft to be more important," said James J. Hennessy, dean of the graduate school of education at Fordham.
"We are not averse to alternative paths," Hennessy said. "But they have to be university-connected."
April 21, 2010
Fox News is reporting that the Oregon affiliate of the controversial Tea Party movement isn't looking to punish an Oregon middle school technology teacher for publicly lambasting the group. They want him to get help.
According to Fox, on his now-defunct "Crash the Tea Party" website, teacher Jason Levin allegedly expressed his intention to "dismantle and demolish" the movement. His alleged offenses include asking his supporters to collect Social Security numbers and other personal identification information from Tea Partiers. He's also being called out for intending to embarrass the movement by attending rallies dressed as Adolf Hitler and carrying signs with "racist, sexist, and anti-gay epithets," says Fox.
In turn, Geogg Ludt, the founder of the Oregon Tea Party, is calling for Levin to undergo "sensitivity training and some anger management therapy." "We don't want to see Jason Levin fired. We want to see him helped," said Ludt. "We want to reach out to him and we want to use his actions as a teachable moment."
In a press release, however, Ludt also asked for the Levin's school district of Beaverton to "apologize for inadequately supervising [Levin]; issue a written pledge to thoroughly investigate whether Levin encouraged his students to repeat overtly racist statements; and to send a letter to staff reminding them of district policy prohibiting teacher engagement in political activity on school time or using school resources."
The state education board has responded to Levin's actions by placing him on administration leave while they determine whether the technology teacher "promoted identify theft against Tea Party activists and misused school property."
April 16, 2010
Parents often reward their young children with allowances for helping out with chores around the house, so why can't schools offer students financial incentives for accomplishing more in the classroom? That's the logic behind an experiment conducted by Harvard economist Roland Fryer Jr., who used over $6 million dollars (of largely privately-collected money) to test performance-based pay for student in four cities across the United States.
Fryer runs an education-innovation laboratory at Harvard, with the mission of narrowing the achievement gap between the United States' white and minority students by 2025. After hearing about a small-scale program in New York City that rewarded students financially, he wanted to expand on the idea, using the scientific method to discover new ways to reach students academically.
Each city in Fryer's experimentWashington, D.C., Dallas, Los Angeles, and Chicagohad its own unique model of rewarding students, to test which methods worked most effectively. In NYC, students could earn up to $50 for performing well on tests; Chicago students could earn $50 for earning an "A" in a class (half of which would go directly into a savings account until their high school graduation); Washington students could earn upwards of $100 every two weeks based on their performance, attendance, and behavior; and Dallas second-graders had the simplest system, earning two dollars for every book they read (which ended up costing $14 per student, on average).
Fryer expected the New York students to respond most strongly to his experiment; much to his surprise, the New York students showed no evident improvement. Chicago students who earned money for grades attended class more often and scored better on tests, but their end-of-year standardized test scores didn't rise substantially.
On the other hand, the Washington students who participated in the experiment did raise their standardized reading test scores, leading Fryer to conclude that rewarding students for smaller accomplishmentssuch as attendance and good behaviorhad a positive effect on their learning. It was in Dallas, though, that the program had the most success. Not only did students who participated there raise their standardized reading test scores, but they continued to perform better than their peers the next year, after the rewards had stopped.
Surprised? Teacher blogger Nancy Flanagan isn't.
April 13, 2010
With young people spending seven and a half hours per day with a television, smart phone, or computer, some schools are taking action to teach their students about responsible Internet use, according to the New York Times.
Students don't always recognize that what they post on the Internet becomes part of the publicly visible information sphere, experts say.
"That sense of invulnerability that high school students tend to have, thinking they can control everything, before the Internet there may have been some truth to that," said Ted Brodheim, chief information officer for the New York City Department of Education. "I don't think they fully grasp that when they make some of these decisions, it's not something they can pull back from."
Jaime Dominguez, the head of the School of the Sacred Heart in San Fransisco, adds: "The hard part is, as adults we see that connection. They don't."
To combat the problem, starting this fall, New York City and Omaha will using a free curriculum developed by the nonprofit Common Sense Media to help students better understand how information can be spread and used on the Internet and how to protect themselves from exposure. Denver, Florida, Los Angeles, the District of Columbia, Maine, and Virginia are also considering the curriculum.
Some experts, like University of Pennsylvaniaprofessor Joseph Turow, think schools need to go beyond teaching responsible online behavior. Turow believes students should be learning about what cookies and Web viruses are, and about how corporations track consumer trends online.
April 09, 2010
Jefferson High School in Los Angelesdespite once having produced the likes of dancer Alvin Ailey, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Ralph Bunche, and a host of notable jazz musicianshas had a dismal record in recent years. Its test scores are routinely among the lowest in the city, and in 2007 it had dropout rate of 58 percent. But here's the twist: Instead of reconstituting the now mostly Latino school or turning it into a charter run by an outside company, the Los Angeles school board recently decided to effectively turn Jefferson over to its own teachers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In addition to building on a "small academies" organizational approach already in place, the faculty's improvement plan for the school includes opening classes to parent observation; instituting peer monitoring of teachers; cutting down on suspensions (since missed class time is already a big problem); and making unannounced home visits to students who are falling behind. Educators are also making efforts to prompt students to think more about career and educational goals. "These students do have dreams," said Counselor Laura Baca. "That's what we have to tap into."
No one is saying it's going be easy, though. On a recent motivational field trip to San Diego State University, two of the 44 students who made the bus ride were arrested on charges of shoplifting.
April 07, 2010
With school bullying problems dominating the headlines recently, it's nice to see a story like this: At Bonner Springs Elementary in Kansas, general education 5th graders have reportedly taken it on themselves--in a kind of spontaneous group effort--to help out and befriend their special needs peers, according a local news site. Some of the special ed. students at the school have significant disabilities. But rather than ignoring them or making fun of them, general ed. students help them with school work, walk them to and from classes, and--perhaps most importantly--just hang out with them and listen to them. Teachers say the effort began without their direction, although students note the importance of their teachers' example.
The school's principal notes that the students' behavior is not at all typical for 10 year-olds, who are often beginning to separate themselves from those perceived as different or less popular. Indeed, as one teacher notes, it's not even typical for adults: "A lot of times, even adults are afraid, they don't know what to do if a student has special needs. We stand back (thinking) 'What do we do?' These kids don't."
March 30, 2010
Take one-part national health statistic, one-part school lunch program, add a portion of resistance, and top it off with a British celebrity chef, and you have a new reality TV show: Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. The show, which started airing on ABC on March 21, follows Oliver's efforts to healthy up an elementary school lunch program in America's unhealthiest city, Huntington, West Virginia, where half of all adults are obese and the children's life expectancy is shorter than their parents.
The media is abuzz with reports of a recent survey of the Huntington elementary students that seems to point to Oliver's failed attempts to win students over to a healthier lifestyle. NPR reports that the survey found that the students preferred their junk food over Oliver's healthier fare. "And when denied the food they were used to, many stopped buying lunch." The survey also found that children drank less milk once Oliver eliminated the sweeter chocolate and strawberry varietals.
Oliver isn't only fighting the kids in the show; he's also got resistance from outside the school, including one disgruntled radio DJ, who's quoted in the first episode saying, "We don't want to sit around and eat lettuce all day long." And he adds, "I don't think Jamie's got anything that can change this town, he can try all he wants, but I don't think he's got it."
A shot of a school staff member declaring French fries a vegetable might stir up reminders of a former president referring to ketchup as a vegetable. What might rattle your cage even more are images of children misidentifying produce (ie, tomatoes as potatoes) and the truck that dumps loads of fat into a pick-up to the horrifying screams of children and adults.
So, it's conceivable that the jury's not outthe kids could still get with the program. The show runs through April. And the UK's Guardian reports that since Oliver cleaned up the menu at a school in Greenwich, south London, not only did the students' official scores jump, but the number of excused absences attributed to illness fell by 15 percent.
March 29, 2010
Students at Blackminster Middle School in the U.K. had the experience of watching a science teacher appear to be gunned down in the middle of their school playground; little did they know, they were all taking place in a "role-play" science project, according to Sky News.
Richard Kent, the science teacher in question, faked his own death on the school's playground by using a clapper board, traditionally used in filmmaking to announce the start of a scene, to simulate gunfire. As colleagues rushed to pretend to resuscitate Kent, students in the surrounding area were ushered away.
Ten minutes later, Kent was walking through the school hallways completely unharmed, much to the students' surprise.
Students of the school posted comments on Facebook about the experiment. One student called it "sick"; another student wrote, "Most of us were so scared we were crying."
Kent has since admitted that the experiment was a "step too far" after parents complained, and the school has sworn off all future violent role-play.
"On reflection the time lag between the clapper board and the hall was too long," head teacher Terry Hollands said. "It should have been seconds rather than minutes so it was made instantly clear what had happened."
March 25, 2010
While the likes of Ohio University, Northern Iowa, and St. Mary's probably sent your NCAA tournament bracket up in flames, you might find some solace in the news that an autistic 17-year-old from Chicago saw it all coming and picked every single game of March Madness' first weekend correctly.
Yes, Alex Hermann defeated the 1:13,460,000 odds this past weekend by correctly picking the winners of all 48 games in the NCAA tournament's first weekend, according to NBCChicago.com.
Hermann, with the help of his older brother Andrew, entered his bracket on CBSSports.com's Bracket Manager before the start of the tournament; after a first weekend chock full of upsets, Hermann's bracket remained unscathed.
"I checked his bracket and it was off the chart," Andrew said. "I thought it was a big deal."
At ESPN.com, approximately 4.78 million people participated in their NCAA tournament challenge, but there's not a single perfect bracket left.
How can Alex explain his absurdly great decision-making?
"I'm good at math," Alex said. "I'm kind of good at math and at stats I see on TV during the game."
If only it were that easy for the rest of us, Alex.
Check out his bracket here.