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 ...


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