Required Reading

by Robert Pondiscio
December 13th, 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 to the Core Knowledge community.

Core Knowledge

Eich bin ein Reformer and Eich bin ein Reformer II
The anticipation and arguments over Barack Obama’s pick for Education Secretary are an internecine battle to determine whose vision of education reform will gain supremacy.  It’s also a battle over who can claim the title of “reformer.”

Do “Great Books” Still Matter?
To mark the publication of Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam’s new book, A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books, the Britannica Blog sets many minds to work on the question, “Do ‘Great Books’ still matter?”

Teachers and Quarterbacks
For all the attention to advanced degrees and other certification requirements, you can’t really know who will be a good teacher until they get to the classroom, says the New Yorker’s Malcolm Gladwell, whose much-discussed article helps move us past the “by their test scores shall ye know them” way of thinking about the teaching profession.

Best of the Blogs

Let’s Go Camping at Teacher in a Strange Land
A true movement to radically improve public education in the United States would invite multiple viewpoints, weighing an array of complex data and alternatives, writes veteran teacher Nancy Flanagan.  Even with good data there is plenty of room for interpretation about what we’re doing right, and what practices are ineffective.  It’s about developing human capital, not being in the winning camp.

Tiny TIMSS at The Education Gadfly
Math, which is tested under NCLB (math) saw progress on the newly released Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study while science, which isn’t tested fell behind.  “We suspect that’s because elementary schools are spending more time on math and less time on science, depressing learning in the latter,” note Mike Petrilli and Amber Winkler.  “When and how are we going to give science its due? And how can we make sure that all subjects in the core curriculum get the attention that they deserve?”

Teaching and Curriculum

Math Gains Reported for U.S. Students
New York Times
American fourth- and eighth-grade students made solid achievement gains in math in recent years and in two states showed spectacular progress, an international survey of student achievement released on Tuesday found. Science performance was flat.  The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, found that fourth-grade students in Hong Kong and eighth-grade students in Taiwan were the world’s top scorers in math, while Singapore dominated in science at both grade levels.

Scores on Science Test Causing Concern in U.S.
Washington Post
U.S. students are doing no better on an international science exam than they were in the mid-1990s, a performance plateau that leaves educators and policymakers worried about how schools are preparing students to compete in an increasingly global economy.

Singapore math makes a difference
Philadelphia Inquirer
A small but growing number of schools around the country are using a curriculum modeled on math teaching in Singapore, which consistently ranks first in international math comparisons.

Superstar Educators
Britannica Blog
Once a year, The Education Trust honors successful high-poverty and high-minority schools. It is one of the rare occasions when successful educators are treated as the superstars they are.  This year, four schools received Ed Trust’s “Dispelling the Myth” award, writes Karin Chenoweth. They and other similar schools offer our nation an important lesson: We can educate all children to high levels.

Education Policy

Kennedy’s wish list won’t be left behind
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is well-situated to see his wish list for NCLB largely influence next year’s reauthorization.  Kennedy has already whittled down his priorities to several key focus areas: closing the  achievement gap, encouraging parents to get involved in schools and amending the legislation’s one-size-fits-all approach to low-performance schools.

Nontraditional Achiever
Rocky Mountain News
Michael Bennet’s name often is followed by the phrase “the smartest guy in the room,” but it is doubtful even he could have predicted his current status as a contender for the job of U.S. secretary of education. Three years ago Bennet sought the job running Denver Public Schools as a “nontraditional” candidate, which means he admitted he had never spent a day in a school as a teacher or a principal.

Teacher Pay and 21st-Century School Reform
American Enterprise Institute
“Although compensation reform can and should be used to meet specific and urgent policy objectives,” writes Frederick M. Hess. ”It should be understood and debated not as a stimulus to prompt short term increases in test scores but as part of a long-term strategy to attract, cultivate, and retain high-quality educators.”

Gates Foundation to study ‘cash for grades’
Los Angeles Times
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is throwing its weight behind the trend to offer “cash for grades” to keep low-income students in college, despite protests from some quarters that such incentive payments amount to little more than bribery. The foundation will devote $13 million to study whether paying low-income college students between $1,000 to $4,000 to stay on track is effective.

Homeschooling and Parenting

School for $6 A Month
On a trip to India, Chester Finn reports an astonishing number of poor children in developing countries are being decently (and sometimes superbly) educated by a little-noticed army of low-budget private schools that receive no government support and, indeed, are paid for by those kids’ own parents.

Group Wants Obama to Name Officer to Fight Online Dangers
Washington Post
Online safety advocates are urging President-elect Barack Obama to put more resources toward protecting children from crime, harassment and predators on the Web. A Washington nonprofit organization is urging the new administration to appoint a national safety officer.

Et Alia

Dynamo Brought IB and Rigor To All Students
Washington Post
Jay Mathews writes a moving remembrance of teacher Bernie Glaze, who left the faculty of the celebrated Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology to help start an International Baccalaureate program at Mount Vernon High in Fairfax County, then considered one of the worst schools in Northern Virginia.

Facebook face-off: Student, suspended for blog rant, sues
Miami Herald
A student who criticized a teacher online has filed suit against her principal in an effort to have her suspension removed from her academic record.