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?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/
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
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
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/
8. April 2013 11:30
While students have to undergo numerous assessments every year, oftentimes teacher evaluations are much less frequent. In an interview with The Washington Post, Bill Gates, famous founder of Microsoft, mentioned that, “Ninety-five percent of teachers get no feedback at all.” It is surprising then that students are constantly evaluated, but their teachers, who are in charge of student learning, receive little information on their performance. Bill Gates, along with many educators across the nation, hopes that teacher evaluation systems are reformed, leading to the development of stronger teachers and students.
Although improved teachers evaluations are a nice idea, how can teachers actually be assessed fairly? One form of evaluation would hardly do the trick, since there are a multitude of different school environments and student learning styles. At the moment, many states are trying to define teacher effectiveness in the hopes of creating a new evaluation system. Right now, most states monitor teachers through students’ test scores, but those results do not give teachers any concrete ways to improve.
Gates also pointed out in his article that, “teachers want to be accountable to their students. What the country needs are thoughtfully developed teacher evaluation systems that include multiple measures of performance, such as student surveys, classroom observations by experienced colleagues and student test results.” In fact, many countries with successful education systems have these types of teacher evaluations. Teacher success is not dependent on one category but is measured through a variety of important factors.
Likewise, in many foreign nations, teacher compensation is based on teacher responsibilities, including things like collaborating with colleagues, mentoring other coworkers, and introducing others to new teaching techniques. This kind of collaboration leads to a positive work environment where teachers feel as if they are working towards a common goal. Compensation based on student testing alone leads to feelings of competition, not to mention worries over job security.
Additionally, concern over new evaluation systems is also rampant. Some states have implemented strict guidelines for subjects that don’t even have state-tested student exams, like choir and gym. In Ohio, where our LEP offices are located, Physical Education teachers are held to severe standards, including rules that discuss students’ proper techniques for skipping, throwing, and catching. It seems like some states are making up new rules just so they will have something to evaluate, which is hardly fair to teachers or students. On the other side of the spectrum, states like Kentucky, Delaware, and Connecticut are creating evaluations that involve teachers and administrators. These types of assessments might just be what the doctor ordered for our ailing evaluation system.
How do you think teachers should be evaluated? If you are a teacher, what kind of feedback do you usually receive? Is it enough? Are teacher evaluations too dependent on student performance? What would a universal teacher evaluation look like?
28. March 2013 08:47
Since many schools are increasingly short on cash, B.Y.O.T. has become a growing trend in many classrooms. So, what exactly is B.Y.O.T.? It stands for Bring Your Own Technology, where students bring their own smartphones, laptops, and tablets to class. Many teachers believe this is the most efficient way for students to gain access to necessary applications that can help them learn math problems, take quizzes, and even share and comment on one another’s essays. Most importantly, B.Y.O.T. helps schools save money.
In fact, large school districts in Atlanta, Houston, and Central Florida have already implemented B.Y.O.T. Many schools across the nation are also interested in the idea, and administrators frequently call these large districts for advice.
Just several years ago, many schools wanted nothing to do with students’ smartphones, tablets, and laptops. In the Volusia County School District in Florida, signs used to read “No Cellphones.” Now, everywhere, B.Y.O.T. signs are posted throughout the halls. So, why the change? School officials said they wanted to take advantage of students’ interest in technology, instead of fighting against it. Plus, the district found that B.Y.O.T. is extremely cost effective. Interestingly, the district says B.Y.O.T. has also made students more engaged in the classroom. The only downside is that students sometimes forget to charge their batteries!
On the other side of the spectrum, however, many educators are exceedingly skeptical about B.Y.O.T. First off, there is no evidence that using different technological devices in the classroom actually increases student learning. If every student is working on different devices, the teacher will spend most of his or her time figuring out usability issues instead of actually teaching the lesson. Teachers would also have to build their lessons around different devices, which would take the focus off of the curriculum. It seems B.Y.O.T. might make things more complicated.
And what about students from low-income families? It seems unbelievable to think that all students will have access to these expensive devices at home. Plus, B.Y.O.T. could easily make students feel like outsiders if they have to go without or use school-owned tech gear, compared to their peers who bring in their devices from home. B.Y.O.T. could easily alienate students from different backgrounds. According to Florida districts though, that apparently has not been an issue. Districts there have seen students from all income levels bringing in smartphones, iPods, and laptops. While their response might shed some positive light on B.Y.O.T., it seems almost too good to be true.
So, what’s your take on B.Y.O.T.? Is it a positive idea for schools, or is it likely to separate kids who have expensive devices from those who don’t? How will it affect teachers? Will it cost more time or be helpful in the classroom?
21. March 2013 11:59
If your child is stuck in a failing public school system, new parent-trigger laws may force the under-performing school district to make drastic changes. Parent-trigger laws, laws that allow parents to officially request an overhaul at their child’s school, are now being considered in twelve different states. Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma legislatures are currently reviewing parent-trigger bills. Other states that have these in place already, like Texas, California, and Indiana, are looking at revising their parent-trigger laws. While advocates for the laws believe they help parents make necessary changes for their children’s education, opponents are concerned about the privatization and corporatization of public schools, as well as the disruption it causes for communities.
While there has been concern over parent-trigger laws, California is the only state that has actually put the law in use. No other schools across the U.S. have been the subject of a parent-trigger bill. Those who support parent-trigger, however, say that the law’s existence alone is a boon to parents. These laws let parents know they can have a voice in their child’s education. Regardless of income and visibility in the district, all parents will all be able to have a say.
However, parent-trigger could also cause some problems. For instance, if a school is underperforming, will transforming it into a charter school really provide the answer to the problem? Some charter school operators are just looking for business opportunities and care more about money than they do about education. Additionally, charter schools could bring more expenses to parents in the long run, where they might be required to foot the bill for their children’s education. While charter schools can often be a positive thing, it seems like turning every government-funded school into a charter school is ignoring the real question: how can we improve public schools?
In Georgia, the parent-trigger bill is close to becoming a reality. This bill allows a majority of parents and teachers in the community to sign a petition in order to change the nature of the underperforming school, most likely to a charter school or other model. Interestingly, the bill highlights the importance of parent and teacher support. If the petition gets support from 60 percent of parents or teachers, two-thirds of district school board members would be required in order to reject the proposed turnaround model. A simple majority of board members, however, could reject a petition from a simple majority of parents or teachers. This idea really seems to keep parents and teachers as the guiding voice of parent-trigger laws.
Comment below! What do you think about parent-trigger laws? Will it cause many public schools to become privatized? Will they give parents and teachers more of a voice in the school district’s style of education? Are charter schools really better for kids? How do you think public schools can improve?
6. March 2013 14:34
As of March 1, over 2 billion dollars will officially be cut from the national education budget after politicians failed to reach an agreement over the burgeoning deficit. The sequestration involves a series of automatic budgetary cuts, which will total to about 1.2 trillion dollars over the course of 10 years. The cuts will be split evenly between defense and domestic areas. These cuts are particularly harrowing in light of the need for educational improvement in the U.S. How can the education system improve when budgets are being slashed? Obviously, these massive cuts will result in teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, and delayed purchases of needed technological equipment. Additionally, the cuts are occurring at a particularly hairy time for teachers, since the Common Core State Standards will soon be initiated in classrooms across the U.S. Either way you slice it, these cuts will impact the ways students learn in the classroom.
Although all schools that receive federal funding will be affected, schools in low-income areas will be hit the hardest by the cuts. The sequestration slices Title I spending on low-income students by $725 million. According to eSchoolNews, this will affect nearly 1.2 million students and put nearly 10,000 teachers at risk for their jobs. Special education spending has also been dramatically cut, and the federal government expects local districts and states to make up for the loss. This will affect 7,200 special education teachers. Sadly, many state and local governments are not in a place to alleviate the educational budget. Ultimately, it seems grossly unjust that schools who need funding the most will be impacted in the worst way. In response to the cuts, Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated, “Doing that to our most vulnerable students is economically foolish and morally indefensible.” Indeed.
While K-12 students will be impacted, college students are also facing roadblocks. In a recent statement, the Education Department pointed out that nearly 29 million college kids with student loans will be affected by the cuts. Likewise, lenders might have to lay off staff or close their doors entirely. Clearly, the sequestration is bad news for students, educators, and the U.S. education system as a whole. Something needs to be done to combat the cuts and promote responsible spending. Unfortunately, most politicians are playing the blame game, and students will be the ones to suffer in their wake.
In a recent report conducted by the American Association of School Administrators, over 400 administrators from 42 states detailed what the cuts would look like at their school. Administrators said they would have to eliminate between 3.7 and 4.8 teaching positions. Increased class sizes, less spending on educational materials, and a decrease in academic and professional programs were also common responses.
What’s your opinion about the cuts? How do you think they will impact your school? What can politicians do to fix the educational budget? Will politicians be able to agree on educational spending?