20. February 2013 11:59
While Common Core seems to be pushing forward full-steam ahead, there could be trouble lurking on the tracks. During the past few weeks, Common Core has been making headlines, but mostly all take a negative view on the new standards. In The Huffington Post
, 2010 Teacher of the Year Sarah Brown Wessling questions if the Common Core “demoralizes” teachers. The state of Indiana is working on legislation where they could ensure the standards are no longer taught in their schools. Former Texas Education Commissioner, Robert Scott, has made it his personal mission to speak out against the Common Core. GED students are also being encouraged to complete their degree in 2013, before the test is drastically changed to the Common Core version. So, with all the negative press, it is clear that many educators are concerned about the inability of the standards to meet the needs of students.
For example, in her article, “Does the Common Core Demoralize Teachers?,” Wessling hashes through some of the major concerns surrounding the standards. She lists her concerns as follows: teachers already have too much to worry about, and the standards just add to the pile; the standards were written by people who are clueless about how a real classroom works; the standards ignore the needs of the student as a whole; and the standards take away teachers’ creativity. Wessling acknowledges the legitimacy of these concerns, especially for teachers who work in districts where funds and resources are limited.
Her article, however, takes a different tone when she encourages teachers to not let the Common Core get them down. Although it is bound to cause some issues, she gives some pointers for making the Core work in the classroom.
Other news, however, has been much more severe. Robert Scott, a past Education Commissioner in Texas, (one of the states that did not accept the Common Core), has been speaking against the standards. He believes the standards are not right for Texas, and he has been encouraging other states to follow suit.
In fact, he once called the Common Core a “perversion” of what a real education should look like. In a recent testimony in Georgia, Scott said that he was pressured to sign on to the standards before they were even written. He feels the standards are more of a power grab by the national government and that the Common Core lacks transparency, since it was written behind closed doors. You can see his speech on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WcpMIUWbgxY
In fact, this entire YouTube channel is dedicated to appealing the Common Core, where individuals hope local government will obtain control over local schools.
Leave a comment below! What do you think about the controversy surrounding the Common Core? Is the Common Core too much of a top-down approach, where the national government dictates what schools must do? Or is it necessary for the national government to have a set of standards that keeps education the same for all students? Would local government be able to better meet the needs of a local school?
15. February 2013 10:23
While much attention has been given to students and how they utilize social media, teachers are also making waves on many networking sites. On Facebook, teachers can personally contact other instructors to see what they’re teaching and how they’re teaching it. On Pinterest, teachers pin ideas for lesson plans, textbooks, educational supplies, classroom décor, parties, and games. Tumblr provides a unique space for teachers to visually and verbally document their daily experiences, and Twitter allows teachers to follow other educators, schools, and even state and national education departments. Today, teachers are using a variety of methods to gain ideas and experiences in order to truly connect with their students.
In addition to connecting with other teachers, some instructors also use their Facebook and Twitter as a way of getting information to students outside of the classroom. Many students like to know that they can post on their teacher’s Facebook wall about a homework question. Oftentimes, other students will be able to respond to questions even before the teacher! Likewise, college professors might send out a tweet or post about specific assignments or class cancellations. I know I’ve personally benefitted from this means of communication. Instructors seem much more approachable on Facebook or Twitter, and in the process, students can get to know a different, maybe more genuine, version of their teacher.
Pinterest is also a great platform for teachers to share ideas. On the site, teachers can pin items of interest (there are no rules!) to a pinboard, and education is one of the most popular categories. Over 350 boards are titled “Lesson Plans,” over 400 boards contain the word “classroom,” and over 450 have the word “teacher” in their title. We’ve also joined Pinterest here at LEP, and we have fun pinning on a variety of subjects-like Art, College Prep, Classroom Technology, and Language Arts. You can check out all of our pins here.
eSchool News recently reported on some other educational pinners that are worth checking out: Lisa Johnson
, an EdTech specialist, Curriculum Chicks
, a group of friends that oversee curriculum in Lake Worth, Texas, and even the Dallas Independent School District
. Maybe some of these pins will provide you with some inspiration for your classroom!
Unfortunately, interaction between teachers and students after school has often been a cause for controversy. While student bullying has always been a concern, some educators think it’s best if a teacher’s personal life remains personal. To combat this, most instructors set up a specific classroom Twitter or simply use their Facebook for school use only-no personal statuses, etc. Today, many schools provide teachers with a social media code of conduct, letting them know what works for students and what doesn’t. Clearly, social media opens up a whole new world for teachers, and it will be interesting to see how they continue to make it work for themselves and their students!
Check out this article in The Guardian
about the use of social media in schools: http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/2012/jul/26/social-media-teacher-guide
This article offers tips on how to use social media in the classroom: http://edudemic.com/2012/11/6-ways-for-teachers-to-effectively-use-social-media/
6. February 2013 16:09
For years, teachers have heard over and over again that STEM classes are vital to students’ success in the real world. STEM courses, which emphasize the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, are said to prepare students for available positions, particularly those that will bolster the U.S. economy and keep Americans competitive in the global market. Unfortunately, this focus on technical-related fields has caused art to be left by the wayside. Recently, the Rhode Island School of Design has started a movement to change STEM to STEAM, where art and design are considered equally important to a student’s education and to the American job market.
Proponents of STEAM believe art ignites the spark of the American creative spirit, which has helped Americans take the lead in innovation in the past. Likewise, art and design aid the development of new technology and can help consumers differentiate between American products and competitors. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are also major components of art and design, which can help students think outside of the box.
In fact, the ideas behind STEAM are already taking root in schools across the nation. In Chicago, public schools are implementing new arts education programs, while also focusing on college and career readiness. Charter schools in Atlanta, Georgia are also adhering to the STEAM plan. Educators must focus on STEM courses, but they are also required to concentrate on design and problem-solving, with real-world applications. In Maryland, educational researchers compared schools that emphasized art (AIMS-Art Integration-Focused Schools) to schools that did not stress the importance of art. Interestingly, schools that focused more on art and art integration had higher reading scores over the three-year testing period.
Although it seems there is not much backlash against adding more art into schools, however, it remains to be seen if art will actually be emphasized. With Common Core getting ready to take over, teachers are already feeling pressure about educational standards and curriculum. Unfortunately, teachers only have a certain amount of class time, and only so much can be squeezed in.
What do you think about STEAM? What are some of the other benefits of adding art? Will it positively affect students? Since many schools have tight budgets and
specific curriculum requirements, will art ever be equally weighted with math or science?
30. January 2013 15:20
In an age of perpetually shifting technologies, interactive whiteboards are here to stay, according to a 2012 report issued by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. GIA’s research shows the global IWB market should reach 1.85 billion dollars by 2018. The report cites increasing demand for technology-based education solutions, as well as strong governmental and funding initiatives, as primary indicators of the IWB’s longevity.
This is excellent news to those teachers and administrators stuck in holding patterns over which of the seemingly countless educational technologies to spend their limited budgets upon. As the rate of innovation has skyrocketed, so too have the number of ‘game-changing’ technological initiatives: tablets and other personal devices, ‘flipped’ classrooms, and student-directed online learning, to name a few. While these are valuable solutions for any educator to consider, a strong argument can be made that interactive whiteboards reign supreme in the technological classroom. Long thought to be education’s next big thing, the demise of IWBs has been often reported, though never realized. Each year, reports like GIA’s show that the technology is going to be around for a very long time; and that it will continue to improve and develop as more and more educators embrace and invest in it.
Here are just a few more reasons to say yes to interactive whiteboards:
It’s truly amazing what a motivated teacher (or student) can do with this device. Far more than a surface upon which to project a lesson, the IWB makes your lesson an organic experience. Teaching a unit about Ancient Greece? With a whiteboard, you could project a map showing important city-states; if students are particularly interested in, say, Athens, you could go to the Internet and display photos, videos, and information about the city. You could play audio that teaches students how to say their names in Greek, have students read Greek myths, or play educational games. Best of all, you can do all of this on an IWB – no additional materials are required.
Let’s be honest: this is why you really install an IWB in a classroom. They allow hands-on interaction for students, increasing incentive, attention, and enjoyment. Students don’t sit back and watch; they participate by using the board to directly manipulate lesson materials. IWB developers know this, and are constantly introducing features that focus on this student-lesson interaction. For example, many IWBs now feature dual-touch functionality, meaning that multiple students can interact with the board at the same time. Its also an undeniable fact that students respond more positively to IWBs, thanks to their increasingly technological lives (cell phones, tablets, video games, etc.).
It’s true that IWBs don’t come cheap, but they are an investment that pays off in multiple ways, thanks to their versatility and adaptability to student and teacher needs. There is a growing catalog of IWB software. The next generation of textbooks and workbooks, these products are designed around the capabilities of an IWB, approaching traditional educational content in an entirely new and creative way. But that’s not all: IWBs also support teacher-created content. It’s simple to create your own lesson plan or interactive activity. And many of these resources are available, for little or no fee, at special websites such as Promethean Planet. This, along with the many ways an interactive whiteboard can be used on a daily basis, more than offset the cost of buying and installing one.
It’s getting more and more difficult to envision an educational future without interactive whiteboards. It’s been a valuable technology for years, but it’s only starting to hit its stride. We recommend joining the race to the future.
23. January 2013 16:56
Approximately 78.2% of public high school students are completing high school in four years, a percentage that hasn’t been this high since 1976. The National Center for Education Statistics revealed yesterday that over 3.1 million high school students graduated in 2010 (which is when the most recent data is available). The center bases their data on the averaged freshman graduation rate, which is an estimate of students who graduate in four years. While this is positive news, there has been much speculation on the underlying reasons for this change.
Although the center does not analyze why graduation rates are up, Education Secretary Arne Duncan made it clear that the economy is the underlying reason. He stated, “If you drop out of high school, how many good jobs are there out there for you? None.” He also mentioned that 15 to 20 years ago, non-high school graduates could easily find a job, buy a home, and provide for their family. This isn’t the case today. Finding a job is usually highly competitive, and because of the economy, part-time jobs and internships can often be hard for students to find. Thus, more students are recognizing the importance of graduation-and how it can set them on the right track for the rest of their lives.
Other education officials thought the growth was promising but still see obvious room for improvement. For instance, the NCES showed that graduation rates are still lower for many minorities, like American Indian and African-American students. Interestingly, the statistics show that Asian/Pacific Islander students graduate at the highest rate at 93.5%, then Caucasian students at 83%, Hispanic students at 71.4%, American Indian/Alaska Native students at 69.1%, and African-American students at 66.1 percent. Secretary Duncan was particularly pleased, however, that the graduation rate for Hispanic students has improved. Their rate jumped nearly ten percentage points. Most educators believe that closing these gaps is the key to raising the rate overall.
In the same strain, many states have dramatically different graduation rates. Nevada only has a 57.8% graduation rate, and Washington D.C. students are only at 60%. Vermont, on the other end of the spectrum, has a 91.4% graduation rate, and Wisconsin also has 91%. Additionally, the national drop-out rate is about 3%, with Arizona being the highest state for drop-outs at 8%, and Mississippi following closely behind at 7%.
Why do you think the graduation rate has increased? What can be done to close the graduation gap between minorities? What about the gap between states? Is there a financial link between a state and its graduation rate?
16. January 2013 10:02
Next Monday, January 21st
, our nation will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The holiday not only commemorates the life and accomplishments of Dr. King, but it also serves as a reminder for how far our nation has come and what we still have to accomplish. Additionally, this holiday provides a perfect platform for students to learn about the Civil Rights Movement, along with ideas of equality, justice, freedom, and civil disobedience. While most schools are off for this special day, it is important to remind students about the underlying reasons for their vacation. Dr. King dedicated his life working towards equality for African Americans, and his work continues to inspire us all.
In 2011, a monument was finally dedicated to Dr. King in Washington D.C. just off the National Mall. Unfortunately, since the beginning of its construction, the monument has been surrounded in controversy. Many Americans believed that the sculptor of the monument, Lei Yixin, who is a native of the People’s Republic of China, was chosen solely for financial reasons. (The Chinese government donated money for the memorial). Additionally, many people do not like how King is pictured on the memorial, believing he looks too stern. However, the greatest controversy surrounds the paraphrased quote on the side of the monument, “I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.” King’s actual quote was much more modest: "If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter." Viewers believe the paraphrase makes King seem arrogant. In December, due to the large public outcry, it was announced that the quote would be completely removed from the monument. Nothing will be added in its place.
Clearly, the monument has evoked strong emotions from its viewers. The themes of “Man, Movement, and the Message” are clearly entwined in the monument. It also represents King’s message of justice, democracy, love, and hope. Obviously, people have a specific idea of what Dr. King stands for, and they have voiced their opinions when the memorial has not met their standards. The fact that the government has decided to change the monument might just be another part of King’s legacy: when people stand together with one voice, change can happen!MLK Day Ideas for your Class
MLK Day of Service-The holiday is commonly known as a day of service. Encourage your students to help someone in need today. http://mlkday.gov/2.
Dr. King was a prolific speaker and writer. You can study some of his most famous speeches and writings in class, like his “I Have a Dream Speech” and his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” 3.
Discuss the controversy of the MLK Monument. Why do people feel so strongly about it?4.
Check out LEP’s Poster Paper
on Dr. King that helps students learn about his accomplishments
For more information about Dr. King’s life, check out: http://www.thekingcenter.org/about-dr-king
For more information on the monument’s controversy, see this news resource for current events and details surrounding the memorial: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/11/15848189-much-criticized-drum-major-quote-on-martin-luther-king-jr-memorial-to-be-removed?lite
9. January 2013 09:10
In the spring of 2012, the state of Texas overhauled their student assessments and introduced the new State of Texas Assessments for Academic Readiness (STAAR). Unlike the TAKS, the state’s old testing system that had been in place since 2003, STAAR is much more demanding and requires students to use their critical thinking and application skills, as well as demonstrate their knowledge.
Since this immense change requires time for teachers to adjust their lesson plans, the final requirements for STAAR are being slowly phased in. The testing requirements will grow in rigor each year until 2016, when the final performance requirements will arrive. After the first year of STAAR’s implementation, most educators find the new testing system promising. Throughout the state, students met expectations and, oftentimes, outperformed them.
In order to create this new testing system, public school & college educators, as well as testing experts, came together to develop new educational standards. Students are now tested on the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), which are composed of Readiness Standards and Supporting Standards. Although Texas has not accepted the Common Core Standards, the TEKS are designed specifically to meet the increasing educational demands in a globalizing world. Most importantly, STAAR and the TEKS are meant to assess students’ college and career readiness. Educators believe this will help students make the transition from high school to college a little smoother. With more students taking AP courses and attending college, it is easy to see that STAAR is intended to take students to the next level.
In fact, the most significant changes between STAAR and the TAKS occur in high school.
Instead of the four tests students were required to pass in order to graduate, students will now have to pass twelve different subject exams. It is easy to see that this will require much more time and preparation, both for teachers and students.
Although college preparedness is vital, some teachers believe too much class time is spent on state testing.
Instead of gaining important skills, teachers often have to spend time focusing on assessment-specific material in order for their school to receive the grade or funds they need. Unfortunately, testing can often be more about making the school look good than ensuring that students are actually learning and growing. Likewise, general testing cannot always assess students’ knowledge accurately.
Students’ brains works differently; it seems almost silly to believe that one basic test will meet everyone’s needs and be able to accurately determine what a student has learned.
What do you think about state testing? Does it help students and schools in the long run? Or is it too broad and general? What do you think about Texas’ plan to gradually introduce STAAR requirements?
For more information on STAAR: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=2147504081&menu_id=692&menu_id2=796
Check out our new test preparation system for STAAR, including student workbooks, parent/teacher editions, and flashcards.
2. January 2013 13:23
Although a new year has started, concerns still surround the controversial Common Core standards. During the last few weeks, several major news outlets, including The Los Angeles Times
and The Washington Post
, have reported on the Common Core’s standards for English, which emphasize a large percentage of nonfiction reading over fiction reading. In fact, younger students are encouraged to divide their reading in half (50% fiction and 50% nonfiction); the reading ratio for high school students is a shocking 30% fiction and 70% nonfiction. Educators are worried this new emphasis on nonfiction and informative writing will eliminate the use of many pieces of great fiction in the classroom. As the editor at The Los Angeles Times
so adeptly put it, “This has led to allegations that T.S. Eliot will make way for Environmental Protection Agency reports and that "Great Expectations" will be dumped in favor of, well, lower expectations.” Unfortunately, with these percentages, it seems clear that the Common Core will alter the way fiction is taught in the classroom.
Of course, advocates of the Common Core say that the standards are not intended to eliminate the presence of literature in English classes. Instead, in history, science, and math classes, students will read many nonfiction and informative pieces. The standards focus heavily on primary sources, where students are meant to critically analyze texts. The creators of the standards believe this approach will better prepare students for college, where the majority of the texts college students read and analyze are nonfiction. Although readings of Thoreau’s Walden
along with The Gettysburg Address
show some hope for nonfiction reading, the 70% percent rule will surely eliminate some of the great classic pieces of English literature from the classroom.
For instance, at the high school level, students are given ten major standards in order to learn about nonfiction. These ten go hand-in-hand with the ten fiction requirements. Surely, as the editor at The Los Angeles Times
points out, one piece of nonfiction will not cover all the requirements. To cover them thoroughly, the editor estimated that 40% of English class time will be devoted to nonfiction. In the same strain, since the Common Core tests are only for English and Math, English teachers will have to take on the burden of these changes. If students do not test well, English teachers will be criticized. Similarly, history and science teachers might be less likely to add nonfiction pieces to their class, since frankly, their students will not be tested on it. This means English classes might bear the brunt of the nonfiction changes.
While students who learn to analyze and write about what they read, whether it is nonfiction or fiction, are able to be more successful in college, taking out staple pieces of literature is not the answer. Great literature is universal, it teaches students about the world around them, and it enables them to see the world in a different light. Surely, nonfiction cannot help students grow, develop, and mature in the same way.
What do you think? Should nonfiction be taught more than fiction? What would be the consequences?
For further information be sure to check out this recently published editorial piece in The Los Angeles Times http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-1227-fiction-20121227,0,5254333.story
Or listen to NPRhttp://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=3&islist=true&id=35&d=12-15-2012
19. December 2012 15:37
In order to keep U.S. education competitive, five states have recently decided to extend classroom hours. As part of a three-year pilot program, certain schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Tennessee will all see longer hours, a drastic change that will affect 20,000 students in 40 schools. In fact, starting in 2013, these schools plan on adding over 300 learning hours to the calendar, either by extending the hours of a normal school day or by adding extra days to the calendar. This change stems from the desire of educational leaders, who believe spending more time in the classroom will give students access to information they might not have received before, particularly in more “critical” areas like math and science.
For the past several years, discussions have revolved around the quality (or lack thereof) of the American public school system. Education Secretary Arne Duncan believes American students have fallen immensely behind their counterparts in China and India, who spend much more time in class. Earlier in his career, Duncan mentioned that American schools should be open six or seven days a week and run 11 or 12 months out of the year. It is clear that other educators feel similarly. With the rise of charter schools, new student testing (like the Common Core Standards), and teacher evaluations, it is clear that some educators and parents want reform.
Additionally, education officials also believe that extended school hours are the best way to prepare students for success in the workplace. With extra time, teachers can craft a well-rounded education plan. For instance, instructors can emphasize the importance of art and music and aid students who have fallen behind. Educators also hope students will be able to become intensely familiar with technology by learning specific software programs or receiving training on how to write computer code.
However, these extra hours can be costly. In general, federal, district, and state funds are covering these schools’ extended hours. In Massachusetts, schools are also getting funds from the state’s expanded-learning program, and in Connecticut, a recent education reform law will help provide extra support. Not only is it more costly, but extended hours have also been a major point of contention for teachers. Earlier this year, the teacher’s strike in Chicago was due in part to longer school hours. Eventually, Chicago schools’ hours were extended. It remains to be seen how teachers’ unions will work with these extended hours. Perhaps, if teachers were paid and valued more, like in many European countries, American schools would not have to worry about extending hours at all.
Is It Worth the Money?
While extending hours is clearly pricy, others question the actual benefits for students. In the high-performing countries of South Korea, Finland, and Japan, students spend much less time in the classroom. These schools often use unique approaches to learning, where quality is emphasized over number of hours.
What do you think about extending hours in the classroom? Will it be more beneficial for students? Will it make the American education system more competitive? What would you change about U.S. schools?
For more information, check out this article about education in Finland, one of the world’s top-performers in educational testing: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/
12. December 2012 11:35
Since the holidays are a time for giving, I would like to spend this week highlighting some of the ways you can be charitable this season, whether it’s offering time, money, or food, clothing, and school supply donations. At LEP, we think offering a helping hand to others is extremely important-that’s why we give to Crayons to Classrooms and spend time preparing meals at the Ronald McDonald House. Not only does giving a helping hand assist those in need, but it makes us feel pretty good too! We honestly believe giving is the one way to truly get in the holiday spirit.
Here are a few school-related charities we recommend:Crayons to Classrooms:
Located in LEP’s native city of Dayton, Ohio, Crayons to Classrooms provides free school supplies for teachers who teach in under-funded K-12 schools, where many of the students are living in poverty. C2C is part of the Kids in Need Foundation’s
National Network of Resource Centers. Set up just like a store, teachers are encouraged to come in and shop for classroom supplies for their students. Crayons to Classrooms aims to give students the tools they need to succeed. For more information on how to give or how to volunteer at the store, check out: http://dc2c.org/Adopt a Classroom:
This organization enables individuals or businesses to adopt and donate funds to a classroom in need. Specific classes can be chosen by region, teacher name, school name, etc. Once adopted, the teacher will receive much-needed funds to buy supplies for his or her class. Adopt a Classroom gives 100% of the donated funds to the specified class!
They also encourage teachers and donors to communicate and develop a friendship, so the donor can see how he or she has helped the class and learn about future needs that need to be met. You can adopt your own classroom and learn more about the program at their website: http://www.adoptaclassroom.org/index.aspxDonors Choose:
This program makes it easy to help students in need. This organization is project-based, where teachers post their classroom requests on the Donors Choose website. After they are posted, donors can pick the individual project they wish to support. This way, if a donor is specifically interested in supporting a science project, he or she can find the class where his or her funds are needed. Donors Choose receives the donation and takes charge of vetting classrooms and shipping materials to the teachers. No matter how much you give, the organization also provides you with a cost report, to show how every dollar was spent. Right now, 70% percent of projects that are posted become funded, but with your help, that percentage can grow! Check out projects that need funding and learn more about the organization at: http://www.donorschoose.org/Other Ways to Help By Using the Products You Already Buy
My Coke Rewards:
Since most of us have purchased Coke products at one time or another, this program makes it simple to use the products we buy to benefit others. Specific Coke products are labeled with codes that are found under caps and inside 12 packs.
Simply register online and use the codes to earn points. Once you’ve collected enough points, you can use them to donate funds to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, The Special Olympics, or even local schools in your community. Check out the reward program here: http://www.mycokerewards.com/home.doTarget REDcard/Take Charge of Education:
Similarly, if you have a Target REDcard, you can also use your rewards to benefit local K-12 schools. Target has donated over 354 million dollars to schools to date, and they will give up to 1% of your credit card purchase to the school of your choice. If you have their credit card, make sure you sign up for their Take Charge of Education program to make Target’s donations even larger. Look at their website for more information: http://www.target.com/redcard/benefits-target-rewardsBox Tops for Education:
Box Tops is another great program that helps students and teachers. Since 1996, the program has given over 475 million dollars to American schools. Hundreds of products have the Box Tops label on them; simply snip out the Box Top and give it to your school. Each box top is worth 10¢
. The school will collect the box tops and turn them in to receive cash for the items they need most. Their website provides more details: http://www.boxtops4education.com/
Please consider donating your time or money this holiday season! Helping schools is a great way to contribute to your community, and students will reap the benefits of your thoughtfulness.