Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What's next for NCLB?

Examining the effectiveness of the federal mandate

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) comes up for renewal next year. Educators voice growing concern over the federal law's impact and the rising number of schools facing sanctions.

More than 23,000 schools, a quarter of all public schools, failed to meet their NCLB test targets this year. Growing numbers will face the now-familiar NCLB sanctions of student transfers and supplemental tutoring. Many schools also face penalties of "restructuring." That means state or private takeover, or other major reorganization.

Critics of NCLB cite lack of funding to meet mandates, vagueness in the 1100-page legislation and questions as to whether the law has actually fostered improved student achievement. Stan Karp examines the issues for Rethinking Schools magazine.

* * * * * * * * * * *

NCLB background

In 2002, President Bush signed into law the most sweeping educational reform law since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was first enacted in 1965. Authors of the legislation say it is designed to improve student achievement and change the culture of America’s schools.

NCLB passed with bipartisan support. The statute addresses four principles of education reform:

- stronger accountability for results
- increased flexibility and local control
- expanded options for parents
- emphasis on teaching methods that are proven to work

There are five nationwide goals for all children:

- proficiency in reading and math by the 2013-2014 school year
- English proficiency for limited English proficient students
- qualified teachers in every classroom by 2005-2006
- safe and drug-free learning environments
- high school graduation for all students

Related: U.S. Department of Education, National Education Association

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Improving low-performing high schools

Research addresses five challenges facing educators

A new report, Meeting Five Critical Challenges of High School Reform: Lessons from Research on Three Reform Models, offers research-based lessons for helping low-performing high schools, which are the focus of increased concern by federal, state, and local policymakers. The study comes from MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization focused on education and social policy.

Dropout rates at American high schools remain stubbornly high — estimated at 29 percent nationally and even higher for African-American and Hispanic students. In fact, 46 percent of African-American students and 39 percent of Hispanic students attend high schools where graduation is no better than a 50-50 proposition. And too many high school students who do manage to graduate aren’t ready for the worlds of work and college. For instance, 28 percent of all students entering public two-and four-year colleges in the fall of 2000 had to take remedial courses.

Recent research on three high school reform models — Career Academies, First Things First, and Talent Development — offers hope that programs can improve low-performing high schools. Together, these three interventions are being implemented in more than 2,500 high schools across the country, and various components of these models are being used in thousands more schools. Each model has been the subject of rigorous evaluation by MDRC, and each has been shown to improve some measures of student success. The new report offers lessons from across these three studies on:

- Creating personalized and orderly learning environments
- Assisting students
- who enter high school with poor academic skills
- Improving instructional content and practice
- Preparing students for the world beyond high school
- Stimulating change in overstressed high schools

In short, the report asserts that structural changes and instructional improvement are the twin pillars of high school reform. MDRC’s research suggests that transforming schools into small learning communities and assigning students to faculty advisors can increase students’ feelings of connectedness to their teachers. Extended class periods, special catch-up courses, high-quality curricula, and training on these curricula for teachers can improve student achievement. Furthermore, school-employer partnerships that involve career awareness activities and work internships can help students attain higher earnings after high school.

In addition, students who enter ninth grade behind academically can make better progress if initiatives single them out for special support. These supports include caring teachers and special courses designed to help them to acquire the content knowledge and learning skills they missed out on in earlier grades.

Freshman Academies housed in a separate part of the building may also be helpful. Developed for an audience of policymakers and practitioners, MDRC’s new research synthesis looks inside the “black box” of the three comprehensive reforms to draw reasoned conclusions about which particular aspects of the interventions made them effective (or, in some cases, proved ineffective).

“Whether districts and schools adopt a comprehensive reform initiative like the ones MDRC studied or put together the elements of a comprehensive intervention on their own, much has been learned about what is needed — and what seems to work,” noted report author Janet Quint. “What remains is to make sure that practitioners have the support they need to put that learning into practice.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The demise of the kindergarten nap?

In academic push, "quiet time" replaces classroom shut-eye

It's an experience many of us have had - comfy little naps during kindergarten. In the push for better classroom performance at all grade levels, naps for young students are becoming a thing of the past. Are we educating a generation of sleep-deprived children? Gail Smith-Arrants of the Charlotte Observer takes a look.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, May 01, 2006

New resource available for parents, teachers of learning disabled

Online guide serves wide range of needs

Teachers of struggling learners have a new resource to draw upon. The National Center for Learning Disabilities has just launched an innovative, online guide to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),which is designed to explain the federal laws that underpin special education in every state.

Although created primarily for parents, the guide is also a valuable source of information -- in accessible language -- for classroom teachers who may not have a background in special education. Teachers can use the guide as a referral for parents or use it themselves to better understand the rights and requirements of their students who have special needs. For details, click here.

Via: Public Education Network

Tags: , , , , , ,