The mantra at most schools these days—and rightly so—is something along the lines of, “All of our students will succeed.” But is that what every teacher really thinks? When it comes to city schools, at least, the answer is no. A new survey, sponsored by the National School Boards Association, finds that of the 4,700 K-12 educators polled anonymously in a dozen urban districts, 25 percent said most kids wouldn’t succeed in a community college or university. And another 18 percent weren’t certain. Administrators, perhaps predictably, weren’t as pessimistic: While roughly 16 percent admitted ...


Public-school integration has been the law of the land ever since 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal” schooling unconstitutional. But now a class-action lawsuit in Florida charges that the Pinellas County School Board’s policy of equal access to education has unconstitutionally failed to properly educate the district's 20,000 African American students. The suit, headed for trial this July, was filed seven years ago by a father on behalf of his son, then a student at Sawgrass Elementary School in St. Petersburg. The boy had academic problems that were "typical of those difficulties commonly ...


An award-winning poet is speaking out in defense of two teachers in Los Angeles who were fired in connection with a planned recital of one of her poems. Earlier this month, administrators at the Celerity Nascent Charter School dismissed teachers Marisol Alba and Sean Strauss for signing a student’s letter protesting the school’s decision to cancel a reading of Marilyn Nelson’s poem “A Wreath for Emmett Till” during a Black History Month program. Now Nelson, a former National Book Award finalist, is urging that the teachers be reinstated. “It’s a terrible injustice,” she said. “I wanted ...


The news stories pop up with a regularity that triggers yawns instead of gasps: A student's "hit list" has been found in a locker, notebook, or online. It contains the names of classmates and categorizes them according to the harm the writer wants to inflict upon them—ranging from "kill" to "knock out cold." As hit lists become almost commonplace, school officials and experts are debating both what the lists mean and how best to respond. "It's like a fad ... It becomes something that's popular to do," says a university professor who's studied kids who kill their peers. Some students...


Science fairs have long been an education staple, but students in Florida displayed their knowledge of a different subject this week. The Polk County History Fair's theme of "Triumph and Tragedy" inspired interactive exhibits on the Black Death, Galileo's criminal trial, the Warsaw ghetto, and other scenes from the past. Two students even performed a skit on the history of standardized testing. "Anyone can sit in a classroom all day and learn," said Brittany Stephens, one half of the testing-skit duo. "But with the [history fair], you get involved and care about your subject." Rozy Scott, the district's American history ...


Like flowers in spring, those little tricks that supposedly boost student performance pop up every standardized-testing season. Some paint classroom walls a soothing pink while others, hoping to pump the adrenaline, lead pre-test physical exercises. In parts of Maryland this week, they’re handing out peppermint candies. And, as it turns out, there may be a good scientific reason. Back in the ’90s, a study at the University of Cincinnati concluded that the peppermint scent helped test subjects focus better on long-term tasks. Reactions at the 800-student Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring are mixed. “I don’t think [peppermint] ...


What if there were someone at each high school whose only responsibility was to keep students from dropping out? That’s the job description of 363 newly minted “graduation coaches” in Georgia, but the description is the only easy part of the work: about a third of the state’s high school students never make it to commencement. “Figuring out the best way to do this job has been a constant challenge,” says Kim Stewart, a former English teacher and guidance counselor who became North Gwinnett High School’s graduation coach when the program was launched this year. “But I’m...


From the changing-world department: An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal laments the displacement of libraries in today’s learning environment. While many adults “recall the libraries of our childhoods as magical places,” writes columnist Jeff Zaslow, kids today—virtually weaned on Google—“feel little connection” to the local stacks. “The library is removed from their lives,” comments one retired librarian. “It’s a last-ditch place to go if they need to find something out.” Zaslow believes the trend has a direct educational impact: As students become more reliant on the Internet for schoolwork, he says, many get to ...


Gary Spina grew up reading Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson, hunting squirrels, exploring the woods, and failing in school. "I never wanted to see the inside of a school again," he recalls. "I knew I wanted to experience things." So when his circuitous career path—including stints in the military, the police, and the merchant marine—delivered him back to a classroom to teach English, he understood his students' aversion to studying grammar. He tried to make it less painful by replacing the dry examples from the textbooks with sentences about his many adventures. Recently, he parlayed these into...


Perfection is an ideal, not a real-world goal. The politicians working on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind may realize this, but that doesn't mean they're ready to lower the law's requirement that 100 percent of children reach proficiency in reading and math by 2014. The reason: rhetoric. "There is a zero percent chance that we will ever reach a 100 percent target," said Robert Linn, codirector of UCLA's National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing. "But because the title of the law is so rhetorically brilliant, politicians are afraid to change this completely unrealistic standard. ...


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