19. July 2013 11:34
In the past, summer school has been used solely as a remediation tool, where students who have failed classes or missed much class time come to make up their work in order to proceed to the following grade level. Not so today.
Many large school districts, like New York City,Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Providence, Charlotte, and LEP’s nearby Cincinnati Public School System, have decided to use summer classes as a means of preventing summer slide, bolstering knowledge, and reaching students in a more fun and relaxed learning environment.
In these reinvented summer schools, students cover the basics, like reading, writing, and mathematics, but they also benefit from creative activities, like art and music classes, as well as trips to local museums or theaters. This gives teachers the opportunity to truly make learning “fun” and work without the constraints they have placed upon them during the school year. In Jacksonville, a large number of students attend summer school not to make up classes, but to continue their education and prevent falling behind their classmates.
To fund these programs, many schools, especially fiscally challenged districts in Baltimore, Chicago, or Pittsburgh, have looked to philanthropic organizations. In Jacksonville, schools used federal stimulus dollars and a Wallace Foundation Grant to fund summer school programs. They also partnered with several nonprofit organizations, which helped the school set up a variety of field trips. It’s clear that many of these schools have had to get creative with funding, but no matter the source, students will reap the benefits.
In fact, summer slide can be truly problematic for teachers and students. Research shows that summer break causes students to lose at least one month of instruction per year. Low-income students are often disproportionately affected by summer slide. While students from higher economic backgrounds are often able to travel, go to camp, or even enroll in educational classes over the summer, low-income students might be stuck at home or daycare, where they often experience little to no educational stimulation.
With these factors in mind, many educators have long been pushing for a year-round school year, where students have short breaks throughout the year. Having the summers off was logical when students were affected by harvest time, but honestly, it doesn’t make much sense any more. Now, many students live in large cities or suburbs and both parents hold a full-time job, so summer break means sleeping in and spending the day at the pool, watching cartoons, or playing video games. However, summer break seems to be so ingrained in our society, it might be hard for students or parents to give it up. In the meantime, it looks like summer school may be students’ and teachers’ best bet to level the playing field and increase knowledge and engagement.
What do you think about reinvented summer school programs? How will they help students? What are the downsides to summer school? Is year-round school something our government should consider?
26. June 2013 16:47
As the school year wrapped up, students were busy taking tests and showing how much they learned. According to Education Week, some students dropped the paper and pencils and instead used new online assessments, which is how the Common Core assessments are expected to administered. Like most practice rounds, some things went well but some problems crept up.
First the problems. Not all computers were created equally. Those that have been in use by schools for a number of years might not be able to use the same programs as more recent computers. If the assessments that are distributed to students are developed using recent technology, either all schools need to upgrade their systems or test makers need to keep in mind that not every student will have access to the same things. Although the tests are able to incorporate more, such as videos, by being online, there are still limitations.
Online tests bring other unique problems. Instead of having a piece of paper in front of them, students have to log in to access the test. They also have to be able to stay logged in. That didn’t always happen. Some students got kicked out of the system. The problem could be anything from the connection with the internet (especially for laptops) to the massive numbers of students in the system at one time. This is what testing the tests is for: to find and fix the problems.
Not everything went wrong though. Students seemed to easily get the hang of testing on the computer. But with the amount of exposure to different kinds of technology, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Many students are growing up learning how to use computers, smart phones, and tablets.
The practice tests also gave teachers a preview of what the Common Core assessments will be asking. Though the standards have already been provided, examples have not, and as we all know, interpretation can vary from person to person. Without sample questions, teachers are struggling to come up with a common understanding of what the standards are asking and the types of questions that students will encounter. Having seen examples, they should hopefully be able to better prepare their students.
Are you concerned about online testing? Or do you think that the capabilities outweigh the possible issues that come with it? How will you prepare students for the new format?
You can learn more about the results of the test here: http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2013/06/12/03commoncore.h06.html
12. June 2013 15:51
Gifted programs, honors courses, and accelerated courses are common in schools as a way to challenge students who are easily able to learn material. They are one way to bring more individualized attention to the classroom. Although each student may not get one-on-one attention, they are given more challenging coursework tailored to the abilities of high-achieving students
In the past, another way teachers brought this idea into the classroom was to group students in their own classroom by ability. But in the 1980's and 1990's, the practice of ability grouping came under fire.
Many people believed it forced students onto a specific path that they couldn’t escape. They thought that ability grouping led teachers to believe they couldn’t expect much from students in the low-achieving groups, so they would instead focus on the high-achieving students and leave the students that had difficulty understanding the material to fend for themselves.
Ability grouping was therefore eliminated from the classroom. Educators aimed lesson plans and techniques at the average student in an attempt to focus on the entire class. In reality though, this leaves out both the low-achieving and high-achieving students. The students who have difficulty understanding the material become frustrated with school. At the same time, those who easily understand the material become bored with school.
Recently, ability grouping has made a comeback according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. Teachers are once again grouping students together based on their abilities, whether that is their reading level in English courses or how well they understand the material in math. Students in the advanced group for English may be in a less advanced group for math and vice versa. As the lesson continues and testing occurs, the groups change. Students who have shown progress move to a more advanced group. Students who need more help with new material than the material in the last unit are moved to a less advanced group.
Activities and assignments are created for each group instead of giving every student the same worksheet. For the less advanced groups, activities could be created to help explain the basic concepts. For the more advanced groups, activities might involve more in-depth problem solving. Other grouping may be based on how students learn. For example, some groups may be based on hands-on activities and others may be based on reading the textbook and completing word-problem worksheets. This does mean that teachers will need to create multiple lesson plans, but it will bring more attention to the abilities of students and the ways individual students learn.
What do you think? Is ability grouping helpful or does it alienate students and draw attention to only one group? How would you group students and tailor activities to their needs?
7. June 2013 08:57
Reactions about Monona’s decision have been mixed. Many agree with the school’s decision, but others do not think fining parents really solves the problem. While it’s true that parents do play a critical role in shaping their child’s attitudes towards others, their efforts can only go so far. The question at Monona really seems to get down to issues of parent responsibility-should parents be “punished” if their child is a bully? Are parents the ones to blame? Are some kids more likely to become bullies because of personality, temperament, etc,-things that have little to do with parenting style? Should punishment be handed down to the parent, student, or both?
|While it’s clear that bullying is a major problem in schools throughout the U.S., there hasn’t been a clear- cut solution to solving the problem. Many schools have their own inventive solutions to prevent bullying, and some of these can often be controversial. This week, the school district in Monona, Wisconsin, a suburb of Madison, passed an ordinance that allows police to fine the parents of chronic bullies. Parents are first notified in writing about their child’s bullying; if the child continues to act out against other students, parents can be |
fined $114 in municipal court.
Monona schools maintain that they will be reasonable about enforcing the new ordinance. For instance, if parents are trying to solve the issue, there will be more leniency. However, if the parent is in denial about his/her child’s problem, then it might be time to talk about fines. Monona is one of the first school districts to implement a policy like this; its effectiveness remains to be seen. If it works, this could easily become a common policy in many schools.
Those at the National Bullying Prevention Center seemed pleased with Monona’s new plan. The Center is actively involved in increasing cooperation between schools, parents, and even law enforcement in order to stop bullying. The Center previously focused their attention on schools alone, but they have come to discover that their message is most effective when all three groups are involved. If students are taught about the negative effects of bullying from teachers, parents, and even law officers, they will have a better chance of building others up, instead of tearing them down. Bully prevention needs to be integrated in all three areas to positively impact American schools.
What’s your take on Monona’s decision to fine parents of bullies? Are the parents ultimately at fault? If not, who is? How do you think bullying can be prevented?
Check out some of these links about bully prevention:
National Bully Prevention Center http://www.pacer.org/bullying/Review for the documentary Bully, a film that shines the spotlight on bullying problems in schools: http://movies.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/movies/bully-a-documentary-by-lee-hirsch.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0The Bully Project http://www.thebullyproject.com/
29. May 2013 16:11
Although “redshirting” is a term usually associated with sports, it has also been linked to academic concepts. In the world of education, redshirting is when a parent decides to postpone his/her child’s kindergarten entry. In recent years, redshirting has become a common occurrence in many families. Somewhere between 4 and 5.5 percent of pre-kindergarteners are redshirted. Parents make this important decision for a variety of reasons. Some make the decision on the grounds of their child’s emotional or social immaturity, or they might think that making their child one of oldest in class will increase academic success or decrease the possibility of peer pressure. Even though redshirting has received a lot of attention lately, one important question needs to be asked: Does it really help students succeed and improve their educational growth?
According to a recent article from ABC News, results of redshirting are somewhat mixed. The article points to a report issued by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2011, which shows that children who are redshirted and children who enter kindergarten on time have higher test scores than kindergarteners who are forced to repeat the grade again. So, in other words, it might be better for students to spend an extra year at home rather than repeat kindergarten. On the other side of the spectrum, entering a child into kindergarten too early can also be harmful to educational development. Clearly, parents know their children best and can ultimately decide when their children are ready for school. It seems like kindergarten preparedness is truly about the maturity (mental, social, emotional) of an individual child and has less to do with age.
Additionally, the long term effectiveness of redshirting is also being analyzed. According to certain reports, redshirting can help prevent students from repeating the third grade and can increase math and reading scores by the tenth grade. Redshirting was seen to be more helpful for male students and students from low-income homes. (Interestingly, redshirting is most popular with white, high-income families, which shows these students might actually benefit less than those from other economic backgrounds).
While the results for students are somewhat mixed, many teachers are leery of redshirting. It can be particularly problematic for them when they have a variety of ages represented in one classroom. Teachers might have a hard time catering lessons to four and a half year olds and six year olds. Student development differs greatly at these ages, and one group might have material that is too challenging, while another might not be challenged enough. Likewise, older students might develop a complex that they are always bigger, better, or smarter than their younger classmates, which will be problematic for them later on.
What do you think about redshirting? Teachers: have you had redshirted students in your class? How did they interact with younger students? Parents: have you redshirted your child or known someone who was redshirted? Did it improve their academic performance? Why did you decide to redshirt?
22. May 2013 16:27
Want your students to succeed in math class? According to new research, preschool and kindergarten students with strong spatial and motor skills are more prepared for elementary math than their counterparts. Claire E. Cameron, a research scientist at the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning, discovered that developing spatial and motor skills early on will help students understand math concepts and abstract reasoning later in life.
This development occurs when teachers have their young students cut paper, color inside the lines, and draw and copy shapes and patterns. Tasks like these can be extremely challenging for youngsters. They require students to sit still, grip the paper and pencil, and even hold a specific image in their mind before putting it onto the paper. Accomplishing these things allows students to develop their spatial and motor skills.
Interestingly, other researchers have discovered that a student’s fine-motor skills and general knowledge in kindergarten are good predictors of a student’s performance in eighth grade math and reading. These children have higher test scores, and they also behave better in class. Clearly, early education can have a major impact on students.
It’s no wonder that our leaders in education (including President Obama) are emphasizing the importance of preschool!
Additionally, Cameron’s research also offers an explanation for achievement gaps. Many low income preschools and kindergartens do not allow time for students to use construction paper, clay, stencils, or other materials that would help them build their spatial and motor skills. This means these students enter elementary behind others in their age group who already have a foundation for these important skills.
In South Carolina, researchers added spatial and motor activities to several high-poverty elementary schools. For forty-five minutes a day, four times a week, kindergarteners and first graders copied shapes, traced handwriting, and copied patterns and pictures. Building blocks and art projects were also used. Before this program was initiated the students had tested at the 30th
percentile. After the program, their scores soared to the 47th
What do you think about Cameron’s findings? Does your school integrate spatial and motor skills into early learning programs? What other factors would help a student succeed in math class?
Try out LEP's Cut and Create books to help develop your student's motor and spatial skills! http://www.lorenzeducationalpress.com/results.aspx?srch=quick&cid=cut+and+create&c=cut+and+create&pg=1&rpp=30
14. May 2013 09:40
This week, high school students across the country are taking their AP (Advanced Placement) exams. AP classes are offered in most high schools, and they allow students to earn college credit before darkening the doors of a university. High-achieving students can choose between a wide variety of AP classes; English Composition and American History are the two most popular courses. Depending on the institution, colleges usually offer class credit if a student scores a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP exam. Oftentimes, the credits allow students to skip out on introductory English, mathematics, or history classes. Although the popularity of AP classes continues to grow, some professors are questioning the classes’ ability to provide students with the academic foundation they need to succeed in college.
In fact, Dartmouth recently decided to stop honoring AP test scores. In other words, a 5 on the English Composition exam will put you in the same Dartmouth freshman English class as everyone else. According to an article by Jay Mathews in the Washington Post, “Dartmouth College faculty, without considering any research, … voted to deny college credit for AP, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education courses and tests, all taught by those high school teachers who can’t be as good as they are.” Since the Dartmouth professors are experts in their fields, they don’t believe any high school class can possibly match up to what they have to offer in an ivy-league college course. Of course, Dartmouth still recommends their students take AP courses to prepare for college, but it won’t get students out of taking any fewer classes.
Other prestigious universities like Georgetown still give credit for AP courses, but many professors there are also worried students are missing out on important skills taught in freshman classes. Many introductory college courses focus on critical thinking, analyzing and synthesizing sources, and research. AP allows students to miss out on these skills, skills that will be necessary throughout their college careers. Professors are particularly worried about students’ research abilities, and many believe AP should further emphasize the importance of research. In many high schools, students are not required to compose extended research papers, which could put them at a disadvantage in college.
While some schools like Dartmouth can afford to be picky about AP exams, many state schools try to offer as much AP credit as they can. For these schools, AP credit can be a major draw for students. An incoming freshman might easily choose the less expensive state school that will offer them 6 credit hours verses a private university that will offer them none.
Additionally, when thinking about AP, money also comes to mind. If students aren’t given credit for AP courses, more courses have to be taken, and more money goes to the university. Some students (like those who would be accepted at Dartmouth) might enter freshman year with 15-30 credit hours to their name. Thus, it’s more advantageous to the university to be selective about the AP scores they honor. Today, it is more common to only honor higher scores, like a 4 or 5, and pass over scores of 3.
Do you think AP exams prepare students for college? Do you think colleges should continue to honor AP scores? Do you think money plays a big part into honoring test scores? Do exempt freshman miss out on important information in their introductory classes?
3. May 2013 15:56
According to a recent report from the Lexington Institute, a conservative think tank that focuses on national education reform, many states’ requirements for history teachers are inadequate. In particular, since history has been grouped with the larger branch of social studies, many students do not receive the historical information, especially in American history, they need by the time they reach high school and college. According to an article in Education Week, “Results from the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress exam in U.S. history found that only 12 percent [of all U.S. students]—no that's not a typo—scored proficient or above." For 8th graders, the figure was 17 percent. According the Lexington Institute, since teachers aren’t required to have a sound background in history, students’ history education is negatively impacted.
First off, the Lexington Institute points out that nearly two thirds of all states use the Praxis II Social Studies exam to test new, incoming teachers. The Praxis focuses on social studies, which includes history, geography, government, and even things like religion, economics, psychology, and civic responsibility. Only 20 percent of the Praxis II is devoted to American history. According to the Lexington Institute, schools are more concerned about the broad ideas included in social studies, and less concerned about the specifics of American history.
Interestingly, the think tank uses New Jersey as an example of history gone wrong. In order to become a history teacher in the state of New Jersey, teachers are only required to take one American history course. New Jersey also uses the Praxis II, which emphasizes social studies. In stark contrast, states like Rhode Island require 18 semester hours in several areas of history, including U.S. history, European history, non-Western history, and history of Western civilization. History teachers in Texas also have similarly stringent course requirements.
The Lexington Institute also pointed out that schools should be more willing to recruit history majors from universities. These kinds of students have studied history for at least four years, which makes them perfect candidates to relate historical information to students. According to their report, schools need to quit thinking about social studies and put the emphasis back on history.
While their report does make an interesting case, it seems equally important to think about the positives of social science. It’s equally important for students to understand geography, economics, and what it means to be a good citizen. Plus, teachers only have so much time on their hands, and there are an infinite amount of subjects that could be covered.
What do you think about history teaching requirements? Can teachers prepare students for high school and college history classes? Is it problematic to include history in with social studies? What are the positives of a social studies education?
25. April 2013 16:33
Thanks to the Common Core Standards, performance testing might be making a comeback. Since the Common Core Standards encourage states to test students in a variety of ways, some states have decided to reintroduce performance testing. (Performance testing gained momentum in the early ‘90s, but No Child Left Behind made the assessments too costly for most schools). Instead of having students fill in bubbles on their answer sheets, performance testing forces students to show their understanding of the learning material, typically by producing an essay, a portfolio, or a presentation. Students are required to demonstrate their knowledge about a particular subject. For many educators, performance testing is a superior method of examination because it allows students to show they’ve attained the critical thinking skills needed to advance to the next grade level.
In fact, educators believe the reintroduction of performance testing could alter the landscape of American public schools. In order for performance testing to be profitable, though, teachers must learn how to score/rate the assessments. Teachers must agree on what a particular score means and apply that rubric to every student. This will also lead to additional teacher collaboration. Teachers will need to discuss the qualities of excellent, mediocre, or poor work. At several charter schools, collaboration has been extremely important for performance tests. There, groups of teachers will meet and design projects that will allow their students to demonstrate their knowledge.
Additionally, one Boston-based educational center has put forth several necessary qualifications regarding performance testing.
The Center for Collaborative Education has emphasized the importance of aligned instruction, task design, and data analysis. Performance tests must be aligned to Common Core Standards, so students can accomplish the tasks they need to succeed in both college and the workplace. Likewise, the performance tests must be designed in such a way that students are clear about all the demands that are being placed on them. Finally, teachers must be able to analyze performance tests and glean information about student learning outcomes.
Add your voice! Is performance testing a boon to students and teachers? How can they be regulated? Is it a good idea to integrate them in with Common Core testing?
Check out eSchool News’ Report
on Performance Testing.
11. April 2013 17:00
They’re here! The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have just been released in their final form. The idea for new science standards started in 2010 when the National Research Council first began putting together a plan for national science education. Eventually, twenty-six states, including the likes of California, Ohio, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, and Arkansas, joined the coalition to create the standards. After two rounds of public feedback and deliberation, the standards were unveiled on Tuesday, April 9th
. The NGSS aim to provide a balanced science education, one that joins practice and content.
For educators, this marriage of practice and content makes the standards ideal for American students. Together practice, which includes the application of science through activities and experiments, and content, which involves the memorization and understanding of concepts, will allow students to learn the scientific principles they need to succeed later in life. The NGSS are divided into physical science, life science, earth and space science, and engineering, technology, and application sciences. Standards for kindergarten through fifth grade each have specific grade level requirements, while middle school and high school requirements are grade banded. With major emphasis being put on STEM degrees in college, it is important students receive the science background they need in elementary, middle, and high school.
While this is an exciting time for these new science standards, it remains to be seen how the states will react. Hopes are that the twenty-six lead states will quickly adopt the standards, since they were closely involved in their creation. Plus, adoption is just the start. Curriculum will have to be created and aligned to the standards, and educators will have to receive new training. Additionally, if the standards are adopted, educators hope states will pull together to create national science assessments, much like what happened for Common Core.
However, there are also some concerns over the NGSS. Some are worried about their “balanced” approach. For instance, since the standards emphasize the importance of activities and science application, some instructors are concerned other learning will slip by the way side. Likewise, educators are also apprehensive that some states might not like the NGSS’s position on evolution and climate change. Their position on these topics might cause some states to ignore them completely.
Interestingly, the White House has stayed mum on the topic. It is doutbtful that states will receive any kind of incentives for adopting the standards. When asked about funding, Arne Duncan hoped that states would see the importance of national science standards on their own, without needing pressure from the federal government.
What’s your reaction to the Next Generation Science Standards? Do you think the states will adopt them quickly? Do you like their balanced approach? Why should emphasis be put on both practice and content?
Check out the NGSS website for more details! http://www.nextgenscience.org/