Monday, October 31, 2005

Teacher pay: Tenure or performance-based?

Linking teacher salaries to student achievement

On Tuesday, Denver voters will decide whether to approve a $25 million annual property tax hike that would dramatically overhaul how city teachers are paid. Among other things, the plan would link teacher salaries to student achievement, rather than years of service and education level.

Teachers' unions have generally balked at pay-for-performance plans instead of guaranteed raises and salary scales. The proposal here, however, was put together by the Denver teachers' union and school district administrators after a four-year pilot program -- and experts say educators and policy-makers around the nation are watching the vote with interest. CNN has the story.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Lawmakers want Rosa Parks to lie in honor

Senate passed resolution Thursday; House expected to follow suit Friday

Lawmakers worked Thursday to clear the way for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks to lie in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. That would make the former seamstress the first woman given such a tribute.

The Senate passed a resolution Thursday. If the House follows suit Friday, the public will be able to file past Parks' casket Sunday evening and Monday, as it did most recently for Ronald Reagan last year. More from USA Today.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Teaching language and culture

Conference focuses on bilingual education

As bilingual classes become increasingly common in Mexico and dual immersion classes grow in popularity in the U.S., teachers from both countries are trying to go beyond teaching English and Spanish, trying to understand what children in a border area could have in common when it comes to learning.

Culture and teaching methods were discussed during the second-annual Bilingual Biliteracy Conference at California State University San Marcos. About 40 teachers from Tijuana spent the day reviewing U.S. reading comprehension techniques with about the same number from Orange and San Diego counties. Details: San Diego Union-Tribune.

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Eyes to the sky for the Mars spectacular

Don't miss the blazing view

On Sunday, October 30, the Red Planet will be 69.4 million kilometers (43.1 million miles) from Earth -- a distance that in galactic terms is less than wafer-thin and will not be equaled until 2018. Skywatchers are rubbing their hands at the opportunity.

The last time Mars swung so close to Earth, Hindu seers foretold of war, European astrologers predicted love and Germany reported a rash in UFO sightings. AFP/Yahoo and NASA tell the complete story. By the way, the NASA site has pages specifically devoted to educators and kids.

Tags: , , , , ,

Bus ride shook a nation's conscious

Rosa Parks, civil rights pioneer, dead at 92

Rosa Parks, the dignified African American seamstress whose refusal to surrender a bus seat to a white man launched the modern civil rights movement and inspired generations of activists, died Monday at her home in Detroit, the Wayne County medical examiner's office said. She was 92. Read her obituary in the Washington Post.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Teachers need love, too

A personal perspective on "moving on"

Ambreen Ishrat is a talented writer in Karachi, Pakistan, and creator of the web log her writings. She has worked as a teacher and a content and creative writer for an information technology (IT) firm. Armed with a master's degree with English literature, Ambreen also has put her skills to good use in journalism and editing. During a recent visit to Ambreen's site, I came across a charming post titled "My First Ever Love Letter." Take a break from your fast-paced day and relax with her writings.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday, October 24, 2005

Research and innovation for a more literate world

In touch with offers electronic resources and tools for the national and international literacy communities serving youths and adults. The website is jointly sponsored by the International Literacy Institute (ILI) and the National Center on Adult Literacy (NCAL) at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

The website seeks to accomplish several goals, among them:

- improve the understanding of youth and adult learning
- foster innovation and increase effectiveness in youth and adult basic education
- expand access to information on literacy

With assistance from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, the site also provides leadership in research, development, and training in international literacy and development, with an emphasis on developing countries. Recent projects, for instance, focus on enhancing literacy and technology in countries such as India, Ghana and South Africa. An ESL/civics link provides ESL teachers with online professional development modules and ESL-related resources for adult education. For a comprehensive look at technology resources, check out TECH21.

Looking for a literacy program near you, international literacy projects or information on workplace education? Visit

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, October 23, 2005

When parents don't show up

Examining attendance at parent-teacher conferences

In most districts, parent participation in conferences drops off significantly in middle school and high school. Educators in some districts report that about 85 percent of kindergarten parents signed up for the spring conferences, but only a handful of 12th-grade parents attended --mostly to discuss their kids’ college plans.

Susan Black, an education consultant, says that even when parents show up, they're not necessarily satisfied. In a study by Boston’s family literacy project, several parents said schools should make meetings longer, ensure privacy, provide options for attending during the day or in the evening, and hold conferences more than twice a year. Why do some parents, particularly those with children in the upper grades, avoid parent-teacher conferences? Rethink parent engagement at the middle school level, suggests researcher Shelly Billig.

Economic and social realities also prevent some parents from attending school conferences, according to Paul Camic of Columbia College, Chicago, and Lynda Cafasso of Concordia University in Illinois. Families affected by divorce, those headed by single parents, and two-parent families where both parents work long hours are less likely to attend conferences no matter what grade their child is in, these researchers found.

Read Black's full report in October's American School Board Journal.

Tags: , , ,

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Evaluating No Child Left Behind

Federal education law meets with mixed results

The first nationwide test to permit an appraisal of President Bush's signature education law rendered mixed results, with even some supporters of the law expressing disappointment. Math scores were up slightly but eighth-grade reading showed a decline, and there was only modest progress toward closing the achievement gap between white and minority students, which is one of the Bush administration's primary goals. In many categories, reports Sam Dillon, the gap remains as wide as it was in the early 1990s. Details: New York Times.

Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Online education 101

What to know before you enroll

More and more people are utilizing online education as a way to advance their academic backgrounds and careers. The Internet is particularly useful for working people with long hours and family obligations, those who can't deal with rigid course schedules at universities and colleges. The good news is that first-class institutions such as Stanford University and Harvard University promote many course offerings.

There is a downside to pursing online education, however. Finding the right class can be a monumental research task. The term "online education" is used to describe everything from semester-long seminars to 20-minute tutorials. Read the Wall Street Journal for some tips on choosing courses that are right for you.

Tags: , , ,
, ,

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The growing market for slightly used books

New trend creates a nation of amateur booksellers

The Internet is creating a new and fast-growing category in the book-selling market -- the barely-used book. An increasing number of consumers are snapping up used volumes online at invitingly cheap prices. For details, click on the header ("The growing market for slightly used books").

Master classes proposed for England's brightest students

Tailored lessons could motivate the gifted students

University lecturers could be brought in to teach England's brightest pupils. Education Secretary Ruth Kelly, about to unveil a white paper, wants schools to provide more "personalized" lessons to accommodate pupils with varying skill levels.
The plan features specialized teaching and "master classes" to keep Britain's "gifted and talented" students challenged . Such "tailored" learning would initially be for 11 to 14 year olds. Details from BBC News. (Thanks, Javed.)

Tags: , , , ,

Sunday, October 16, 2005

This is Pakistan - Azad Jammu and Kashmir

The power of memories

"This is Pakistan" is the title of a series of posts by blogger Shirazi, creator of Light Within. In one of his most recent installments, Shirazi shares vivid and beautiful memories of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, a region affected by the recent earthquake. Here are two excerpts from the post, captivating prose that immediately take you to striking landscapes:

The beauty of Azad Kashmir landscape lies in the light, unlike any other tourist mountain region in Pakistan including Northern Areas. Fiercer, stronger, and sharper light silhouettes the mountain resort and scattered houses on slops in ever-changing patterns against the skyline....

Whereas the beauty in most places in the world has been marred by detritus of tourism, one can still find ‘secluded’ places in Kashmir -- relatively quiet where one can find privacy as well as unmarred vistas of the green hills together.

Check out the entire post on Light Within.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, October 13, 2005

This, too, is Pakistan: Thatta Kedona

Rural project showcases cultural dolls, toys and folklore

Thatta Kedona is a remarkable project in rural Pakistan where high-quality toys and dolls are crafted. Many volunteers from Western countries have visited and coached village people in the self-help project since 1991. The dolls and tin toys reflect regional cultures of Pakistan. The products generate cash income for the farming families through the local cooperative-like NGO (non-governmental organization).

The workmanship of the dolls and toys has garnered international recognition. Literacy and vocational training, holistic village development, self-help activities, the empowerment of women and art history in Pakistani culture are among the many components of Thatta Kedona. For more information this unique project, click here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

South Asia: Remember the children


An editorial in the Christian Science Monitor focuses upon the children impacted by the earthquake in South Asia. Entire schoolhouses collapsed, leaving thousands of mourning parents. Children like those pictured above were left homeless. For details, click on the header ("South Asia: Remember the children").

Tucked in Katrina relief, a boon for online colleges

Many educators oppose proposed legislation

A U.S. Senate bill proposes practical and compassionate assistance for the many pupils and educators affected by Hurricane Katrina. If enacted, it would provide more time for displaced students to repay federal loans, flexibility for teachers to be hired outside the home states where they are licensed, and financial assistance for schools that enroll homeless and disabled children, among the most vulnerable of survivors.

Inconspicuously tucked within the document, however, lies a potential bonanza for the profit-making online colleges that have been a persistent source of fraud for several decades. Samuel Freedman reports in the New York Times.

Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Report examines literacy in secondary schools

Making students powerful readers and writers

The National Literacy Trust (NLT) of London encourages educators to "make literacy a part of the curriculum." Researchers stress the importance of reviewing the your school's literacy curriculum via a whole-school audit. The report also takes a look at improving literacy by gender and lists a variety of online resources. Click here for details.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Quake in South Asia: Stories of miracles emerge

Signs of hope amid crisis

Glimmers of hope and stories of miracles are surfacing as reports continue after the devastating earthquake in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. One such story surfaced in a report carried by the Washington Post on Monday. To learn about one family's incredible experience, click on the header above ("Quake in South Asia: Stories of miracles emerge").

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Podcasting enters the classroom

High school integrates new technology into the curriculum

The word podcasting represents the blending of two other terms and their definitions - Apple's iPod and broadcasting. According to Wikipedia, podcasting is a method of publishing files to the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed and receive new files automatically by subscription, usually at no cost. It first became popular in late 2004, used largely for audio files.

According to CNET and The Associated Press, Yahoo is expected to launch a podcast service on Monday that offers access to much of the streaming audio on the Web and features user reviews and other information about the programming.

Education represents one of the newer venues taking advantage of podcasting. The Hazelwood School District in Missouri is exploring this relatively new frontier.

Hazelwood East High School student, teacher enter the brave, new world of podcasting

Hazelwood East High School senior Ariel Green (pictured above) is a pioneer. She is the first student at the school to create a podcast, which is a way to publish audio programs via the Internet.

“Think of it as Internet radio,” said her communication skills teacher, Bill Bass. “You have always been able to download a lot of audio files off of the Internet, but a podcast lets you subscribe to a specific audio file.” He added that podcasts can be set to download automatically.

Seated at a computer, Green wears headphones and works diligently in Bass’ classroom while other students work at standard desks or on the room’s other computers.

“It’s something different,” Green said. “When he [Bass] first approached me about it, none of the other students seemed interested or if they were interested, they didn’t have the time to do it. He said it had never been done here before and I have always liked doing new things.”

While a podcast can be any length desired, bandwidth, or lack of it, can be a possible barrier, Bass added. Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transmitted during a fixed amount of time and is usually expressed in bits or bytes per second (bps) for digital devices and hertz (Hz) for analog devices. He said he would like to keep the school’s podcasts to around 20 minutes long.

“Podcasting just came about in September 2004,” Bass said. “I discovered it this past January. I heard about it and began thinking about it. I’m always looking for ways to include technology in my class. I wanted to communicate to parents about what we do and to let people know about the good things we are doing and podcasting is a good way to do that.”

Bass said podcasting can be made as simple or as complex as one wants. Some of the equipment needed includes an audio recorder, a converter for changing audio files to MP3 files, so the files can be posted on a weblog or a “blog” and an Internet connection.

“I really didn’t know what to think,” Green said as she took a break from making the school’s second podcast. “It has been difficult but I’m getting the hang of it as I go along.” She has been traveling around Hazelwood East, interviewing principal Mark Martin, several of the school’s new teachers as well as gathering information on new programs within the building.
“I want it all to be student-produced,” Bass said. “I will help them do it. I will take care of things but if it’s just me doing the podcasting, I don’t think it means as much.” He made the school’s first podcast, a five-minute piece that came as an outgrowth of one of his creative writing classes, he said. At least one other high school keeps an eye on East’s progress: a teacher in Denver, Colorado will use the podcasts as a model for his school, Bass said.

Green spent time on a recent morning merging her interviews with background music she had selected. “Before I graduate, I hope to cover more events and features and information to parents so they know more about what’s going on here at Hazelwood East.”

So far, Green is the only student at the school working on podcasting. She interviewed the principal, new teachers and learned about new school programs for her podcast, which is designed to keep parents informed about activities at the high school.

To listen to the first Hazelwood East podcast, log on to the Internet and go to To find out more about podcasting, go to Click here for additional information. has also written on this topic.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday, October 07, 2005

Raising student achievement in math and science

Examining education equity and reform

Ensuring equity and excellence lies at the core of systemic reform efforts, especially in science and mathematics. Math and science are two academic areas that historically have not been widely open to females, ethnic minorities, or students from less affluent communities and families.

A new article by Arlene Hambrick draws attention to the concept of education equity and its potential to increase excellence in mathematics and science for a diverse population of students. Raising expectations for student learning is first on the list of key practical recommendations to help schools ensure equitable instruction to meet a wide range of student needs. This article also provides a focused look at equity issues in mathematics and science as they apply to subgroups identified in the No Child Left Behind Act.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Missouri News: New high school graduation requirements

Officials approve changes to conform to college admissions standards

State Board of Education has approved new and tougher minimum requirements for high school graduation that apply to all of Missouri’s public schools.

The new policy applies to members of the Class of 2010. Students who are now in eighth grade must plan their schedules for next year (2006-07) and the remainder of their high school careers based on the new standards.

"All students – and we emphasize ALL – need more knowledge and skills to be successful in today’s economy and in the workforce of tomorrow," said Commissioner of Education D. Kent King. King has advocated the adoption of more rigorous high school standards for more than a year.

"While the new graduation requirements put more emphasis on the core academic areas, they still allow enough flexibility for students to pursue their interests in the arts, foreign language, or career-oriented courses. Kids still need to be able to make choices and explore their interests in high school," King said.

The new standards raise the minimum number of credits needed to graduate to 24. The current requirement is 22 units. Students will be required to earn four units in English and three units each in the areas of math, science and social studies. This represents an increase of one full unit in each of the four core academic areas.

In addition, the new standards require a half-unit course in "personal finance" and a half-unit course in health education. For more information, click here. A story also appears in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Tags: , , .

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hardest-working frog tells all

Kermit turns 50

It's hard to believe that Kermit the Frog has been around for a half century. He says the kids keep him young. The high-profile Muppet is in a chatty mood. He'd rather be outside, soaking up the California rain. But he's a good sport. Kermie agreed to do a series of phone interviews from a car as he began his celebration of the big 5-0.

Louisiana parents turn to home-schooling

Schools hit by storms scramble to reopen

Across Louisiana, families are turning to home-schooling as officials scramble to reopen shuttered schools. At least 800 families in Plaquemines Parish alone are affected, according to school officials. Six of nine schools in the parish were washed away by storms. Details:

Tags: , , ,

Post-college program with a buzz

Top graduates line up to teach to the poor

Teach for America is drawing graduates who want to contribute to improving society while building an impressive résumé. For a surprisingly large number of bright young people, Teach for America - which sends recent college graduates into poor rural and urban schools for two years for the same pay and benefits as other beginning teachers at those schools - has become the next step after graduation. It is the postcollege do-good program with buzz, drawing those who want to contribute to improving society while keeping their options open, building an ever-more impressive résumé and delaying long-term career decisions. Details:
Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Racial disparity continues in affluent districts

The achievement gap in elite schools

Discontent overshadows pride among some parents and students. The dirty little secret is out about a prosperous school district New Jersey. It is now public knowledge that the achievement gap in the district has been left uncorrected for decades. Research reveals that even affluent districts nationwide have failed to end racial disparity in student achievement. The gap exists in suburban schools as well as inner-city ones. Samuel Freedman of the New York Times writes that the federal No Child Left Behind law is putting pressure on districts to improve academic achievement for all students. Details:
Tags: , , , , ,

The color of language

'Chick flick,' 'hospitalist' among new dictionary entries

Go ahead, treat yourself. Check out the latest "chick flick," get a "bikini wax" or enjoy an ice cream -- but be careful about "brain freeze." Puzzled? Get the 411 from CNN:

A healing "Hole in My Heart"

Urban teen debuts first book

A Hole in My Heart, a novel co-authored by 15-year old Edward Booker, is garnering great reviews for the East St. Louis youngster. Booker already is scheduling book signings while the publication captures national attention. He co-authors the book with Rose Jackson-Beavers, a career social worker. Jackson-Beavers is also the brain child of the blog Lessons Learned.

A Hole in My Heart offers an introspective look how an East St. Louis teenager comes face to face with poverty, betrayal and drugs - and how he overcomes his demons. Educators are using the book in the classroom. Book clubs have also expressed an interest. Details:

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Parent involvement gets results

Involved parents increase chances for student success

All parents want their children to succeed in school. Research reveals that children whose parents are involved in their kids' education are more likely to succeed. But for many parents, it is hard to know how or when to start.

Today's parents work long hours, extra jobs and must handle a host of other responsibilities. Resources such as Parent Information Resource Centers (PIRCs) offer assistance in many states. Many community centers also provide help. By all means, do not overlook your child's school, which can provide a wealth of information.

Education starts at home. Kids spend most of their waking hours outside of school. Rose Jackson-Beavers, an author and director of parent services for the Parent Engagement and Empowerment Center in St. Louis, believes that even busy parents can take an active role in their child's education. According to Jackson-Beavers, the benefits of ongoing parent involvement are substantial.

"A parent's opportunity to get involved in their child's education doesn't end the moment that child walks into the classroom," said Jackson-Beavers. "Studies show that children with involved parents have more positive learning experiences. This translates into better academic performance, higher grades and test scores. I know our parents can make this happen with a little help."

Here are tips on how busy parents can work smart:

- Send your child to school well-fed and rested.
- Stay on top of homework.
- Attend open house or back-to-school night at your child's school. It's the perfect time to meet your child's teacher. If you have to work, schedule a meeting with the teacher at another time.
- Go to parent-teacher conferences.
- Each day, ask your children what they are learning at school. Discuss it with them or have them explain it.
- Set high expectations for your children. Encourage them to do their best.
- Get involved in your school's parent-teacher organization, and find out other ways you can support your child's school.

Area parents offer their own advice on best practices. Kimberly Brandon is the mother of a middle school student. She also taught elementary school for 22 years in a St. Louis area school district. Family friends notice that Brandon and her daughter, Margaret, always work together as a team. They even tackle homework at the hair salon!

"I learned right away to be the best teacher you could be for your child at home," said Brandon. "Don't ever stop working with your child. Anytime my daughter has homework, I am involved in it." Brandon emphasizes that the effort comes with rewards. Margaret now carries a 4.0 grade point average.

Another St. Louis mom, Leslie Smith, encourages parents to establish ongoing communication with their children. Kids will talk to me before they will talk to their mom or dad," Smith stated. "They are afraid to talk to their parents." Smith says it is important that parents listen to their kids.

Debbie Crump has the experience of being a mother, a grandmother, and a foster mom. She says that when she was raising her own children, her job made it difficult for her to be active in school.

Nevertheless, Crump emphasizes, "You definitely need to develop a relationship with the teacher. Let the teacher know that you really care about your child's education."
Crump, who is proud of her adult kids, now raises two foster children.

Bottom line: When parents are involved in their children's education, kids do better in school.

Additional Resources:

Tags: , , , ,

Degrees of preparation

Community colleges fast becoming alternatives to teacher prep

Becoming a teacher once meant four years of university. But many students are successfully finding other training options to help them land their first teaching jobs. Details: