In another sign that teachers are pushing to be heard as Congress works on a renewal of the No Child Left Behind Act, educators in California this week spoke out against the law’s testing-and-accountability system. In news conferences across the state sponsored by the California Teachers Association, teachers took particular aim at the NCLB’s requirement that all students score at proficient levels by 2014. “We’d like for all students to score at grade level—period—without that definite time,” said Dennis Kelly, president of the United Educators of San Francisco. “It’s education, not a car race.” ...


Tuesday's Teacher Appreciation Day was marked by cards, candy, and 11,000 petitions dropped on a state superintendent’s doorstep. Washington Education Association members took advantage of the day to express how unappreciated they were feeling, writing letters of protest about State Superintendent Terry Bergeson's inability to increase teacher pay and alleged unyielding attitude toward state testing. The situation is especially ironic because Bergeson is a former president of WEA. "We have a funding crisis in Washington and that’s not all her fault but she certainly bears some of the responsibility so again we’re calling for new leadership ...


Some parents in Arizona have one more thing to add to their shopping list—teachers. Moms and dads at Desert Sage Elementary in Glendale can "teacher shop"—that is, come in on set-aside days to observe their child’s possible teachers for the next year. Principal Randy Coen says the process is helpful to parents, but knows it can also be strenuous for teachers. "They're (the parents) trying to be good consumers and do their research," Coen says. "I don't disagree with that. It's just the teachers' up there feeling like they have to put on a show." Other schools...


Perhaps chalk is the best teaching tool after all. Last month a federal study found cast doubt on the benefits of educational software, and now some schools districts are dropping one-to-one laptop programs. “After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement—none,” says Mark Lawson, board president for Liverpool Central School District in New York. The district initially implemented the program to give all students access to a computer at home and prepare them for a tech-savvy future. But it also resulted in students cheating, looking at pornography, and crashing the network. “The ...


The publication of the seventh and final Harry Potter book this summer promises to be a major cultural event. It may also be a good time to consider the book’s educational impact. In a 2006 survey by Scholastic and Yankelovich, more than half of kids who identified themselves as Harry Potter readers responded that they had not previously read for fun, and 65 percent said that reading the Potter books had helped them improve in school. (Their parents agreed, only more so.) The study also found that the books had the greatest impact on the reading habits of boys. ...


Every Wednesday after school, a cadre of teachers from Rose Kidd Elementary in Sterling Heights, Michigan, treks to a mobile-home park to help some of the neediest students with their schoolwork. “It’s teaching at its purest,” says Helena Foust, who founded the seven-month-old volunteer program involving a handful of her colleagues. The group meets in the park’s clubhouse, where kids do their homework, review lessons, and play brain games. “It makes doing homework fun for them,” says Tina McGuffin, whose 9-year-old son, Jordan, concurs, adding, “My grades have improved. So I know it’s helping.” The idea is ...


Some parents no longer have to wait until their children come home to find out what they did in school that day—they already know. If the school is among the proliferating number of middle schools and high schools subscribing to data services such as Edline, SchoolFusion, and School Center, parents have instant access to their children's every grade, absence, and quiz score. But the programs aren't infallible—just ask Laura Iriarte Miguel. The high school student recently switched anatomy classes, but Edline didn't immediately register the change. Iriarte Miguel hadn't told her parents about her decision, so the switch...


The revelation that Seung Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, had composed a number of dark writings for his classes has clearly heightened awareness among English teachers. A case in point: Allen Lee, a straight-A Chinese American student at Cary-Grove High School outside Chicago, was arrested this week on charges of disorderly conduct after he submitted violence-laced essay in his creative-writing class. Though Lee’s essay did not contain specific threats, his teacher was concerned enough about the content to notify her department chair, which in turn led to a call to the police. School and law-enforcement officials say the ...


Following closely behind plans to improve school breakfasts and lunches, a prestigious scientific panel has presented, at Congress' request, a new set of guidelines for healthier snack food at schools. And it's quite a list. The Institute of Medicine's report recommends sharply restricting the calories students consume at school, especially by changing up "competitive" foods—those sold to raise funds. Instead of selling chips or candy bars from a vending machine or in the cafeteria, it says, schools should sell apples, carrot sticks, raisins and nonfat yogurt, for example. After normal school hours, high schools would be allowed to sell...


On Monday, students at Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco were asked to sign a contract promising to go 10 days without television and video games. The pledge was a tough sell: "Why would we want to turn off the TV?" asked one 7th grader. School officials consider the plan—which coincides with the national TV-Turnoff Week, an annual event—a way to reduce bullying. The school is using a curriculum that has been shown to significantly reduce both physical and verbal aggression on the playground. Whether the kids will follow through remains to be seen. In fact, many...


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