Required Reading

by Robert Pondiscio
September 28th, 2008

A weekly roundup of the week’s most important news, information and blog posts about curriculum, teaching, education policy and other items of interest.

Core Knowledge

Counterfeit Equity
A new report from the Brookings Institution’s Tom Loveless notes many students are being pushed into algebra without having mastered basic skills such as multiplication, division and fractions. 

Hardy Perennials
From generous grading for failing work to “no homework” policies, there’s lots to cheer about if you’re a fan of lower standards and diminshed expectations.

Notes on a Scandal
Officials in South Carolina are investigating old test results at a poor, inner-city Charleston elementary school that had been hailed as a miraculous success story. 

Core Knowledge School Raises Money With Math
O’Dea Core Knowledge Elementary School students in Ft. Collins, Colorado are raising money for their school each time they take a math test until Oct. 3. Students are asking friends and family to pledge money for each correct math problem they get on a marathon test.  

Best of the Blogs

The Community Schools Con at the Education Gadfly
Checker & Co. find the idea ”gooey and emotional, focusing on the externalities of daily life that drip into America’s classrooms-poor healthcare, single parent families, unemployment–rather than on what schools can do with the kids who actually turn up there.”

Evolution in Play in Texas at Curriculum Matters
Texas officials are embarking on a revision of their state’s science standards, a process that has generated a furious debate in several states in recent years—most of it focused squarely on the topic of evolution. A first draft of the new standards, released this week, seems likely to please the scientific community.

Cool People You Should Know: Sean Reardon at Eduwonkette
Until recently, we did not have a clear portrait of the differences between black and white high-achievers in elementary school. Thanks to Sean Reardon, a Stanford sociologist of education who studies school segregation and the sources of racial/ethnic achievement gaps, we’ve come a long way.

My Kingdom for a Parking Space at It’s Not All Flowers and Sausages
“If one more person tells me to do it for the kids, I might throw a kid at them,” writes Mimi, who teaches at a NYC elementary school.  “It just seems at times as if this job teeters on the brink of being inhumane.”

Teaching and Curriculum

FCAT analysis finds misconceptions about science
Associated Press
Florida students have misconceptions about science, and they need more practice demonstrating its concepts and relating them to the real world, according to an analysis of the state’s standardized test.

Recalculating the 8th Grade Algebra Rush
The Washington Post
“Nobody writing about schools has been a bigger supporter of getting more students into eighth-grade algebra than I have been,” writes Jay Mathews.  “Now, because of a startling study, I am having second thoughts.”

Joy in School
Educational Leadership
If the experience of “doing school” destroys children’s spirit to learn, their sense of wonder, their curiosity about the world, and their willingness to care for the human condition, have we succeeded as educators, no matter how well our students do on standardized tests?

Education Policy

NCLB Testing Said to Give ‘Illusions of Progress’
Education Week
Harvard University researcher Daniel M. Koretz says rampantly inflated standardized test scores are giving the misbegotten impression that, as in the fictional town made famous by radio personality Garrison Keillor, all children are above average

Consensus on Learning Time Builds
Education Week
Under enormous pressure to prepare students for a successful future—and fearful that standard school hours don’t offer enough time to do so—educators, policymakers, and community activists are adding more learning time to children’s lives.

Study Details Barriers to Career-Changers Going Into Teaching
Education Week
Experts are pointing to a new opinion survey and research analysis as evidence of a need to overhaul teacher training, compensation, and support, in order to appeal to potential career-changers interested in teaching.

Are high-stakes tests making the grade?
Richmond Times-Dispatch
After a decade, have standards and high-stakes tests improved public education in Virginia? It depends on whom you ask.

Colorado Targets Achievement Gap
The Rocky Mountain News
School districts must focus on and organize help for failing students if Colorado is to close the achievement gap between rich and poor students.

Homeschooling and Parenting

Minneapolis Sets Covenant on Black Achievement
Education Week
The Minneapolis school board and the local African-American community have taken an unusual step toward healing fractured relations and improving schooling for black children by signing a “covenant” that places responsibility for improvement on the shoulders of parents and district leaders.

Homeschooling Surges in U.S. as Parents Reach for Legal Rights
Fox News
States and school districts have a disjointed jumble of ordinances and measures that can make it tough for parents to know exactly what they are permitted to do as homeschoolers.

Father Abandons Nine Kids Under “Safe Haven” Law
A Nebraska father who dropped off his nine children at a hospital emergency room apparently cannot be charged under the state’s new Safe Haven law, which says any child under the age of 19 can be left at a hospital if they’re in immediate danger.

Et Alia

Learning From Mistakes Only Works After Age 12, Study Suggests
Science Daily
Eight-year-olds learn primarily from positive feedback (‘Well done!’), whereas negative feedback (‘Got it wrong this time’) scarcely causes any alarm bells to ring, a new study suggests.  Twelve-year-olds are better able to process negative feedback, and use it to learn from their mistakes. 

Stand-up desks provide a firm footing for fidgety students
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Several schools are experimenting stand-up workstations in the classroom.  Anecdotally, teachers report greater attentiveness, fewer behavioral problems, better posture and more enthusiasm.

Bay Area Schools Need Earthquake Proofing
Contra Costa Times
Engineers say nearly 8,000 older school buildings in California are prone to collapse during a major earthquake.

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