A Gesture Gap?

by Robert Pondiscio
February 13th, 2009

The researchers studied 50 families from diverse economic backgrounds. They recorded video of children with their parent, or primary caregiver, for 90-minute sessions, during ordinary home activities.  Fourteen-month-old children from high-income, well-educated families used gesture to convey an average of 24 different meanings during the 90-minute session. Meanwhile, children from lower-income families conveyed only 13. 

Their study, in the journal Science, suggests gestures could play an indirect role in word learning by eliciting speech from parents.  “For example, in response to her child’s point at the doll, mother might say, ‘Yes, that’s a doll,’ thus providing a word for the object that is the focus of the child’s attention,” they wrote.

(photos by veader and ellecer on Flickr)

Anyone Can Teach!

by Robert Pondiscio
February 13th, 2009

Training or experience? Pedagogy or subject matter expertise?  Utah lawmakers are weighing what makes a good teacher as they consider a bill that would allow anyone with a bachelor’s degree to become a licensed teacher by passing competency tests in the subjects they wish to teach or demonstrating skills in those areas. The bill, SB48, was given preliminary approval Thursday, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Now, most people who lack education degrees but want to become teachers must get approval from the districts in which they hope to teach and then pass subject and pedagogy tests. They may also go through an alternate process that requires them to take education classes before becoming fully licensed, among other things.  SB48 would allow individuals to go directly to the state Board of Education to become licensed and would not require pedagogy classes or tests.

“I know a lot of guys who have retired and are absolutely fabulous and would make wonderful teachers because they understand the marketplace,” says the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Chris Buttars said. “This is long past due.”

“This bill really is an insult to education,” counters another Senator. ”Teachers have a skill set that is unique, developed and is nurtured and trained. I think this bill expands the profession of teaching into a hobby of teaching.”

The bill requires a bachelor’s degree and passing a “rigorous” state test to teach elementary school. Anyone wishing to teach basic middle school and high school subjects would also need at least a bachelor’s degree and would either need to pass a state test or demonstrate competency in the subject with a major, graduate degree or coursework.

The Utah Education Association has come out against the bill.

Parental Involvement? Just Fine

by Robert Pondiscio
February 13th, 2009

Within the last few weeks we learned about one Maryland school district that’s thinking of doing away with parent teacher conferences, and a proposed law in Colorado to give parents unpaid leave to attend them.  Now a Kentucky lawmaker wants a law to require every parent who to meet with his or her child’s teacher within the first 60 days of school–or risk a fine of up to $200.

Rep. Adam Koenig seems unsure if his proposal has a chance. “Parental involvement is not something policymakers are used to talking about, but should be talking about,” he said.

“You can’t dictate parental involvement,” says one school superintendent. “You have to create avenues to make parents feel welcome in the school, and break down those barriers that prevent them from getting involved.”