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.
Teaching Content IS Teaching Reading
A remarkable YouTube video by cognitive scientist Dan Willingham demonstrates convincingly why background knowledge is essential to reading comprehension, and why a broad, content-rich education is the best way to ensure kids can understand what they read.
We Need to Be A ‘Water Cooler Nation’ Again
America desperately needs to become a “water cooler nation” again, with a common set of cultural references, says historian Richard Norton Smith. “It shouldn’t be Britney Spears or the latest celebrity divorce,” he notes in an interview on the Public School Insights blog, but rather ”Gettysburg and Rosa Parks–and an endless source of possibilities.”
Best of the Blogs
Early Education in the Stimulus at Early Ed Watch Blog
The House Appropriations Committee released an outline of spending priorities for an economic stimulus package. The plan would provide $550 billion in new spending to stimulate the economy, including over $52 billion in funding for PreK-12 education programs, including early education. Sara Mead provides an analysis
A Good Word or Two About Schools at Bridging Differences
“In my research, I have occasionally come across progressivist thinkers who dream of a day when work, play, and learning all wondrously merge, and “education” takes place in the fields and the activities of daily life,” writes Diane Ravitch. ”I have never succumbed to the lure of abolishing institutions, especially the institutions of schooling that we have.”
Risen Rising at DFER Blog
Fix schools or fix communities? “From an outsider’s perspective, one of the most frustrating aspects of the education policy debate is that both sides are right,” notes The Atlantic Monthly’s Clay Risen. “It seems bafflingly obvious that change must come both inside and outside the classroom.”
Teaching and Curriculum
Experts Eschew Narrow Reading of Early-Literacy Study
Teaching the alphabet and letter sounds in preschool strengthens children’s chances of success in learning to read later on, according to the report of the National Early Literacy Panel. But Kathleen Kennedy Manzo reports some experts worry that skills-driven instruction could become a dominant focus for 3- and 4-year-olds, much as it has for the early-elementary grades.
A Wake-Up Call for Science Education
The latest alarm bell just rang and it’s official. The United States is once again missing from the list of top-10 science and math education countries. Long-term economic growth depends on a fully competent talent pool, including workers who can excel in a technology-based economy, writes Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. But young people in many less-developed countries now outperform their American counterparts in both science and math.
Teachers at 2 Charter Schools Plan to Join Union, Despite Notion of Incompatibility
New York Times
The United Federation of Teachers announced it had organized teachers at two respected New York City charter schools, making inroads in a movement that has long sold itself as an alternative that is not hamstrung by union contracts and work rules.
Report: Divide Teaching Profession Into Levels
Alabama is considering a system that allows teachers to advance in their careers without having to leave the classroom for an administrative post. The Governor’s Commission on Quality Teaching recommends that the teaching profession be divided into apprentice teacher, classroom teacher, professional teacher, master teacher and learning designer.
Unexpected Twist: Fiction Reading Is Up
For the first time since the National Endowment for the Arts began surveying American reading habits in 1982 the percentage of American adults who report reading “novels, short stories, poems or plays” has risen instead of declining: from 46.7 percent in 2002 to 50.2 percent in 2008.
Leaving My Lapel Pin Behind
National Review Online
Is No Child Left Behind’s birthday worth celebrating? Saying you “support” NCLB is shorthand for affirming a set of ideas, values, and hopes for the country as much as an expression about a particular statute, writes Mike Petrilli. ”Speaking personally, I’ve gradually and reluctantly come to the conclusion that NCLB as enacted is fundamentally flawed and probably beyond repair.”
Duncan hearing spotlights school reform
Barack Obama’s choice for education secretary, Arne Duncan, said at his confirmation hearing that the No Child Left Behind law should stop punishing schools where only a handful of kids are struggling.
Bush leaves gift of education reform behind
School accountability driven by disaggregated data is George W. Bush’s education legacy. “The notion that Obama would gut a law exposing the maleducation of millions of black children is a fantasy,” writes Richard Whitmire. ”The last laugh belongs to Bush, because his Texas-style accountability will survive.”
Homeschooling and Parenting
Educators Resist Even Good Ideas From Outsiders
“It is time to disclose a great truth about even the best educators I know,” writes Jay Mathews. “As much as they deny it, they really don’t like outsiders messing with the way they do their jobs.” Too often, says Mathews smart educators “write off parents as interfering idiots, even if they actually have a good idea and data to prove it.”
Too Much Homework? Schools Look at the Load
Parents complained that forcing a student to toil for hours a night takes away meaningful family time and opportunities for other educational and healthy activities. But school districts say homework is important because it helps kids learn independence and responsibility, serves as a link between school and home and reinforces skills that students have learned in class.
Does handwriting really matter anymore?
Christian Science Monitor
In the great scheme of things, I refuse to get upset over my son’s lousy handwriting, writes Nell Musolf “Handwriting, like so many other things that were once deemed vital – such as ballroom dancing and learning Latin – doesn’t seem all that important anymore.”
U.S. school segregation on the rise
Blacks and Hispanics are more separate from white students than at any time since the civil rights movement and many of the schools they attend are struggling, according to a report from the Civil Rights Project at the University of California.