Getting teenagers to talk about their problems or their worries about classmates is no easy task. But Westfield High School in Houston has come up with a method its officials think may make some inroads with a generation immersed in instant messaging and MySpace. With the help of a communication firm, the school has set up a private Web site to which students can e-mail anonymous tips about their own or their peers’ issues. The system then provides regular reports to help the school’s staff address trouble spots—bullying and self-mutilation being the greatest last year. Students’ identities are ...


This is obviously a big week for political performances, but another drama is being played out on a stage in Greenwich Village: an off-Broadway one-woman show entitled No Child. For more than six months and 170 performances, Nilaja Sun has played all the roles in a show about a teacher trying to stage a play with underprivileged kids in the Bronx. “When I wrote this piece, I thought I’d be doing it for three weeks for the standard theatergoing audience,” says Sun, who spent eight years as a guest artist in New York City schools. Critics, however, weren’t ...


Yet another sign that the traditional classroom is undergoing a transformation: School districts in Texas, among other places, are increasingly replacing hardcover textbooks with e-books. In the most extreme case, the Forney district in north-central Texas is in the midst of a plan to use only digital textbooks in grades 5 through 12 within two years. (The initiative depends on the passage of school bond package that includes $11.8 million for student laptops and systems upgrades.) Among the advantages of e-books, school officials say, are that they are easier to update and can be ordered more quickly than traditional ...


When parents in Simsbury, Connecticut, became concerned that their high school’s demanding grading system was jeopardizing students’ chances for admissions into elite colleges, a local nuclear engineer decided to do something about it. Robert M. Hartranft, a self-proclaimed workaholic who was forced into early retirement because of Parkinson’s disease, developed an extensive mathematical model to compare school grading systems across the nation by tracking grade-point averages against SAT scores. The model can thus purportedly show, for example, that a B at Simsbury High School is equivalent to an A at many other schools. Simsbury High now includes the ...


In reading as in driving, speed isn't always the best indicator of skill. But the nation's NCLB-induced testing frenzy now often includes periodic classroom assessments of elementary students' reading fluency. The problem, experts say, is that these tests often don't get down to the real nitty-gritty of reading fluency—instead, they focus mostly on speed. So children who can read fast and score well on such tests may be missing out on understanding what they read. "They read so fast, with no punctuation and no expression, that we'd go back and ask comprehension questions and they weren't very successful answering...


While schools across the nation are revisiting their lockdown plans and evacuation procedures in the wake of a spate of school shootings, crisis planning in Burleson, Texas, looks a little different. The 11-school, 8,500-student district is teaching students—even elementary-age pupils—to fight back if confronted by a gunman in the classroom. The district is thought to be the only one in the country embracing such a plan. Students are trained by instructors from the company Response Options, including Maj. Robin Browne, a British army reserve member. Browne tells children to "react immediately to the sight of a gun by...


Here’s something you might not have sensed at your last staff-development meeting: According to an annual survey released last week by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, teacher job satisfaction is at a 20-year high. Specifically, “The Metlife Survey of the American Teacher: Expectations and Experiences” reports that 56 percent of 1,001 teachers surveyed this year said they are “very satisfied” with their careers, compared to just 40 percent in 1984. The finding comes as something of a surprise, considering reports in recent years citing teachers’ frustration with--among other things--mandated testing and lack of autonomy. Perhaps less surprisingly, the ...


Jeffrey Huyck is the kind of teacher parents wish their kids could have. He holds a doctorate in classics from Harvard. He has taught at the secondary and post-secondary levels for 22 years. His Latin students at Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, California earn national honors and go on to elite universities. But Huyck is missing one thing: the 'highly qualified' stamp that, under the No Child Left Behind Act, would allow him to continue teaching at the charter school. Confronted with the choice of enrolling in a multi-year teaching-certification program that would cost at least $15,000 or ...


Four-plus years into the NCLB era, some teachers are adopting a new attitude toward standardized tests: If you can't beat ’em, may as well use ’em. Educators in Bristol, Connecticut, for example, attribute the recent turnaround of two high-needs schools to a systematic approach of analyzing and acting on test-score results. For the past few years, teachers and administrators in the district have gathered in strategic teams to parse student-performance data and tailor instruction to address the trend lines. The process did not come naturally, however. “Education is not a culture of collaboration,” notes Bristol Superintendent Michael Wasta. “It’s ...


Fifty years ago, the first Advanced Placement classes were seen as a way for high-schoolers to acquaint themselves with college-level work. But today, with 1.8 million students taking them, they’re considered a top-college-admissions requirement. Scarsdale High School in New York, where 70 percent of the 1,500 students enroll in at least one AP course, is proposing to help end the rat race by doing away with AP courses—citing too much time spent on fact- and data-gathering and not enough on imaginative learning. “People nationwide are recognizing what an inhuman obstacle course college admission is, and a big...


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