Sunday, January 29, 2006

Examining training for substitute teachers

Schools redefine role of subs

Many public school districts across the U.S. are making the decision to set new standards for substitute teaching. Currently, fewer than 10 percent of substitute teachers get any skills training. Only 42 percent go through an orientation. But that is changing.

The demands of the school day are altering the role of substitute teachers as placeholders or babysitters. More districts are training their subs in classroom management and instructional skills so a teacher's absence does not mean a lost day of learning. Education World explores substitute training programs.

Tags: , , , ,

Learning in the Arts Grants

Funding supports student appreciation of the arts

The National Endowment for the Arts is accepting applications for its "Learning in the Arts Grants" program. The program funds projects that help students acquire appreciation, knowledge and skills in the arts. Projects must provide participatory learning and engagement of students with skilled artists, teachers, and excellent art. Projects should be based on national, state or local arts education standards.

Maximum award: $5,000-$150,000. Eligibility: school-based or community-based projects for students K-12. Deadline: June 12, 2006. For more information, click here.

Tags: , , , ,

Knowing the score

Study: Public school students perform well in math

New research concludes that when it comes to math, students in regular public schools do as well as or significantly better than comparable students in private schools. The study was performed by Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski, of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. They compared fourth- and eighth-grade math scores of more than 340,000 students in 13,000 regular public, charter and private schools on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Details from the New York Times.

To see the entire 48-page report, click here. The publication is a PDF document, which may be opened with Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you don't have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer, go to for a free download.

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday, January 27, 2006

Breaking the language barrier

Reaching families on their terms

How do you translate "authentic assessment" into Urdu? "Stakeholders" into Spanish? "Paradigm shift" into Cambodian? Translation is a notoriously difficult task, but in the world of education, which often employs a language all its own, the job can be even more daunting.

After all, in education, parents aren't just parents. They're "stakeholders." A test isn't a test. It's an "outcome-based assessment."

Increasingly, education is not just about how to reach students in the classroom. It's about how to communicate and connect with their families outside of school. The Washington Post tells how some school districts are addressing the challenge.

Via: Public Education Network

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The drive for education reform

Book encourages “one team, one goal” to foster higher student achievement
by D. C. Sistrunk

Improving the quality of public school education cannot be accomplished without the collaboration of school, home and community. That is the basis of Educational Reform: The Role and Responsibility of School, Parents, Students and Communities by Carletta D. Washington.

Washington is a St. Louis educator. She works off the premise that “one team, one goal” is critical in fostering improved student achievement and preparing our children for their journey into the real world. The message holds as much value for parents as it does the education community and policy makers.

The author makes many compelling points when she addresses educators – from superintendents and school board members to classroom teachers. Among her key points:

• The keys to education are inside each and every educator.

• In the midst of all that drives [them], educators must reclaim the respect that so rightfully belongs to them and their profession.

Washington also goes into great detail about the importance of parent involvement. She offers specific tips to teachers and parents on how to better engage each other – on the importance of working together to achieve common goals.

Washington's book is a must-read for anyone who values academic success for all children, empowered teachers and informed parents. It centers around that often-quoted African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Educational Reform: The Role and Responsibility of School, Parents, Students and Communities is published by Prioritybooks Publications of St. Louis. For more information about the book or its author, visit or Washington's website, Education 4 All.

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Bilingual program takes center stage

Dual-language program attracts national attention

A program that teaches students in English and Spanish is succeeding in a state that bans bilingual education. And that program is getting national attention.

Educators from across the country recently toured Herrera School for the Fine Arts near downtown Phoenix. Members of the National Association for Bilingual Education met with the elementary school students, who switched easily from English to Spanish, to talk about why they like the program.

The project is held up as a national model. Details from The Arizona Republic.

Tags: , ,

Saturday, January 21, 2006

$100,000 for five innovators over 60

The Purpose Prize honors innovation and leadership

Today, many of the best ideas for social change come from a source often overlooked: people over the age of 60. Civic Venture is about to change that. The nonprofit organization announces The Purpose Prize - five $100,000 investments in Americans over the age of 60 whose creativity, talent and experience are transforming the way our nation addresses critical social issues, including education. The Purpose Prize is for those "with the passion, smarts, and experience to discover new opportunities, create new programs, or find inventive ways to make lasting social change."

The winners will be effective and action-oriented innovators who have launched this work after their 50th birthday. They may be working in nonprofits, government, or for-profit organizations devoted to tackling the hardest challenges of our time: homelessness, social justice and human rights, violence, poverty and hunger, health, education, and the environment, to name a few.

They will be making their impact in many different ways. The winners may be: social entrepreneurs who have started new organizations; change-makers whose innovative approaches to leadership have transformed existing organizations; or grassroots activists playing a leadership role in improving communities or advancing a cause. And they will hold the promise of even greater accomplishments in the future.

Sixty semi-finalists ("60 at 60") will also receive national recognition for their work. Deadline: February 28. To nominate someone or apply yourself, click here.

Tags: , , ,

Honoring 'math heroes'

MathMovesU Grants and Scholarships Program

Raytheon Company has launched the MathMovesU Grants and Scholarships Program to reward real-life "math heroes" for their dedication to improving math education and their ability to inspire their students. Maximum Award: $2,500. Eligibility: full-time teachers currently employed and teaching a mathematics curriculum at a middle school or high school in the U.S. Deadline: February 15. For more information, click here.

Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

25,000 college students back in class in New Orleans

Youth, optimism and money return to the Big Easy

New Orleans is back in business as a college town, and not a moment too soon. Today marks the start of classes at Tulane, Xavier and Southern University. Loyola and Dillard started last week. Thousands of students have returned, as the city's universities open after a semester shut down for recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

None are fully up to speed, and it could be years - if ever - before all institutions are back to their former size. But the students bring with them energy, optimism and spending money, something the city no doubt welcomes. The Houston Chronicle has more about how the students are faring.

Related: The Chronicle Online (Duke University)

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

Pushing back start times for high school students

Waking up to teenagers' unique sleep needs

Concerns about sleep - who needs how much and when - are often overlooked in efforts to improve student achievement. But modern brain researchers say it is time that more schools faced the biological facts.

Sleep deprivation can affect mood, performance, attention, learning, behavior and biological functions. Teenagers have long complained about early start times for school. For many high schools, the typical starting time is about 7 a.m. Some adults tend to blame the lack of sleep on the students' behavior - procrastinators who stay up late to complete homework, or phone-loving teens who hold late-night conversations with friends. However, many researchers say that teenagers aren't to blame for being cranky in the morning. According to studies, the grumpiness has to do with levels of the hormone melatonin.

Biological differences could be one reason why many students arrive at school clutching cups of coffee, writes Valerie Strauss for the Washington Post.

Related: Teens and Sleep

Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, January 16, 2006

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

'A man without borders'

To read more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the holiday observance, click here.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Utah desert gets ready for Stardust landing

A NASA space capsule returns with 'building blocks of life'

Precious bits of comet and star dust will blaze a 15-minute long fiery trail over California, Nevada and western Utah early on Sunday morning. NASA's Stardust capsule will return to earth, completing its seven-year long, 3 billion-mile-journey to the comet Wild 2. The capsule is carrying the first-ever comet particles and stardust for study on earth. The spacecraft's cargo is expected to land in early morning darkness Sunday at the Dugway Proving Ground in the desert west of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Thousands of volunteers are lining up - online, that is - to help scientists at the University of California-Berkeley analyze the first close-up pictures of primal matter from beyond our solar system.

Scientists say the unmanned Stardust spacecraft is carrying thousands of microscopic particles cast off by Comet Wild 2. More than 4 billion years old, the particles could provide clues to the origins of the solar system and even life on Earth.

The Stardust capsule will create a fireball as it plummets through the Earth's atmosphere. The brief show may be visible in southern Oregon, Northern California, Idaho, Nevada and Uta. The pinkish light will glow brighter than Venus. More from Reuters.

Tags: , , , ,

Monday, January 09, 2006

Linking local history with community service


CiviConnections, a program of the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS), links local historical inquiry with community service-learning activities nationwide in 3rd-12th grade classrooms. CiviConnections projects during the 2006-20007 school year will focus on poverty, health care, discrimination, and/or the environment. Maximum Award: $7,500. Eligibility: teams of three teachers from grades 3-12 in the same public school district with membership in NCSS, or agreeing to join if selected. Teams must partner with at least one local community agency and meet certain other requirements. See the website for details. Deadline: February 24, 2006.

Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The truth about graduation rates

Many states hide behind false data, report says

The Education Trust, a Washington think tank, sharply criticizes the way states calculate and report graduation statistics. The analysis, entitled “Getting Honest About Grad Rates: How States Play the Numbers and Students Lose,” also rebukes the U.S. Department of Education for failing to exert leadership by demanding that states get honest about graduation rates.

The Ed Trust analysis reveals disturbing patterns: Some states rely on ludicrous definitions of graduation rates. Others make little effort to accurately account for students who drop out of school. And others still provide no data at all. The final result: Extremely unreliable graduation-rate information that erodes public confidence in schools and their leadership and threatens to undermine the important work of high school reform.

Equally troubling are the appallingly low graduation-rate goals that states set for students under the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Under the law, schools must show progress educating all students to state standards in reading and math and must meet state goals for improving graduation rates. Most states have made a mockery of this requirement – setting graduation-rate goals that are lower than the current grad rates they already report to the federal government.

Even worse, despite the fact that the United States now ranks 17th in the developed world in high school completion rates, states have set extraordinarily low goals for improving graduation in the years to come. Most have declared that any progress at all is good enough. And two states, New Mexico and South Carolina, have decided that as long as graduation rates in their high schools don’t actually decline, schools have met the improvement goals of the federal law.

The Ed Trust report comes as the national discussion intensifies on how to boost stagnant achievement in high schools, make U.S. schools more competitive with those in other industrialized nations, and ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for college and work.

“We've got to end this rampant dishonesty about graduation rates,” said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust. “If we are going to prepare students for the challenges of college, work, and life, we need to transform our high schools.

“But if we are to persuade policymakers, educators, and the public to take on the vital and necessary work of high school reform, states must start telling the truth – telling the truth about how many students aren't graduating from high school,” she said. “And it would sure help if the U.S. Department of Education stopped sitting on the sidelines and worked to put an end to these shameful practices.”

The report examines the 2002-03 graduation-rate data states provided to the U.S. Department of Education in January 2005. Many states report implausible graduation rates – numbers that are generally far higher than other independent measures of statewide grad rates and hide the true extent of the nation’s dropout problem.

New Mexico – which claimed to have a graduation rate of almost 90 percent, one of the nation’s highest – does not report the percentage of high school freshmen who graduate, but instead reports only the percentage of high school seniors who go on to graduate. This ignores entirely students who dropped out in the 9th, 10th, and 11th grades.

North Carolina, which reports a 97 percent grad rate, uses an even more irrational definition. State officials simply report the percentage of graduates who received their diplomas in four years or less. In other words, students who drop out of high school are excluded from North Carolina’s calculations altogether. Theoretically, if only 50 percent of students who entered high school in North Carolina eventually obtained a diploma, but every one of them did so in four years or less, the state would claim a “graduation rate” of 100 percent.

“It is astonishing that states are trying to pass off these numbers as legitimate,” said Daria Hall, the report’s author and a policy analyst at the Education Trust. “Graduation rates are a fundamental measure of whether high schools are doing a good job. But rather than confront our very real dropout problem, many states have chosen to bury it beneath false data.”

To their credit, some states are working to improve their data systems in a way that will allow them to track individual students and arrive at more accurate graduation-rate numbers. But many are using the fact that they are building data systems to justify reporting inaccurate graduate rates in the meantime.

The Education Trust report calls on states to start using other, more reasonable estimates of graduation rates in the interim. Some states have done so. One is the state of Washington, which in an earlier submission to the federal government reported a questionable graduation rate of 79 percent for the 2001-02 school year. But the state realized that it had counted only students who dropped out in the 12th grade. It has since adopted a calculation that accounts for dropouts in each grade and has arrived at a much lower, but more honest, graduation rate of 66 percent.

Other key findings:
  • Three states – Alabama, Louisiana, Massachusetts—and the District of Columbia did not report any graduation rates.
  • Seven other states -- Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Vermont -- did not disaggregate their data, effectively hiding the disparity in graduation rates between white and minority students.

In total, 29 states did not provide data for students with disabilities, and 33 did not provide data for students with limited English proficiency. In addition, 33 states did not provide graduation rates for low-income students.

For more than 20 years, educators have said they need better data systems to report more accurate graduation rates. However, according to Ed Trust, they do need better education data systems to produce data that track every student. As the Ed Trust report demonstrates, schools can start reporting more honest estimates to the public right now. The means to do that are in the hands of every state.

(This is a PDF document. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open it. If Adobe Acrobat Reader is not already installed on your computer, visit for a free download.)


The Education Trust works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-kindergarten through college, and forever closing the achievement gaps that separate low-income students and students of color from other youth.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Community problem-solving using science and technology

Entries being accepted for the Christopher Columbus Awards program

Today's middle school students are the "innovation generation." They are everyday kids with untapped potential. They are creative problem-solvers. Unlocking that potential is the mission of the Christopher Columbus Awards program, a cutting-edge national competition that combines science and technology with community problem-solving in a real-world setting.

Students work in teams with the help of an adult coach to identify an issue they care about. Using science and technology, students work with experts, conduct research, and put their ideas to the test to develop an innovative solution.

Maximum Award: $25,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney World to attend the program's National Championship Week. Eligibility: middle school students (6th, 7th, and 8th grade). Teams do not need to be affiliated with a school to enter. Deadline: February 13, 2006. For details, click here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, January 02, 2006

Seeking new leaders for urban schools

Program offers training for candidates wishing to become principals

New Leaders for New Schools is accepting applications for candidates who want to lead change for children in low income communities by becoming urban public school principals. Candidates should have a record of success in leading adults, expertise in K-12 teaching, and a strong drive to lead an urban school. Most importantly, candidates must believe that every child has the potential to achieve academically at high levels.

Eligibility: a minimum of 2-3 years of successful K-12 instruction experience. A teaching certificate is preferred. Deadline: March 1, 2006. To learn more about the selection critieria and application process, visit the New Leaders for New Learning website.

Tags: , , , , , ,