Required Reading

by Robert Pondiscio
February 15th, 2009

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

“How All Our Schools Should Be”?
President Obama visited Washington’s Capital City Public Charter School and praised “this kind of innovative school” as “an example of how all our schools should be.” Does he mean that all schools should have project-based learning and “authentic assessment based on multiple measures,” just like Capital City does?

A Measure of Privacy
Contemporary classrooms seem set up to prevent students from having any time for private thought, observes teacher Diana Senechal. “If privacy of mind brings some risk of failure, we need that risk. Otherwise we give up the sanctuary of thought: the slow struggle with a problem, the frustrations and breakthroughs, the questions and insights, the romance with the subject. This is too great a loss,” she concludes.

Ignoring Parents Gives Voucher Proponents Traction
Georgia’s voucher bill “is counterproductive legislation that will only help its sponsor’s political career,” writes AJC columnist Maureen Downey.  “However, I also think the bill represents an overdue wake-up call for public schools that they must be more responsive to parents.”

Visual Media Hampers Critical Thinking Skills
Our visual skills are improving, while our critical thinking abilities are in decline, according to a review of 50 studies on learning and technology conducted by UCLA psychology professor Patricia Greenfield and published in the journal Science. 

Best of the Blogs

Why Are People So Gullible About Miracle Cures in Education?
Bridging Differences
“As long as we expect schools to perform miracles, we will continue to be bitterly disappointed,” writes Diane Ravitch. “Perhaps it is this phony expectation that has created so much anger and frustration among the public. Surely they wonder why all teachers can’t be like Jaime Escalante or any of a dozen other miracle-workers.”

Unfit for a College Education
Joanne Jacobs
Today’s students are uneducated and unfit for a college education, writes a Penn State accounting professor who’s taught for 35 years.  There’s no different in native intelligence, writes J. Edward Ketz.  The difference lies in their “educational backgrounds, analytical thinking, quantitative skills, reading abilities, willingness to work, and their attitudes concerning the educational process.”

Running Schools as Businesses?
Our public schools cannot refuse service to customers (students) they don’t wish to serve.  We can’t choose not to locate our schools in certain communities because of low incomes or low return on investment.  Running schools as businesses is one of those great straw men issues that we often throw out there as a substitute for talking about reforms or targeted improvement.  

Duncan Puts Up a Three-Pointer
The Quick and the Ed
There’s a clear message emerging from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s early public pronouncements: He’s going to push for higher standards than most states have adopted under NCLB, and that may include national standards (and tests).  

Teaching and Curriculum

Texas School Reformers Try to Learn Lessons From Finland
Dallas Morning News
Educators from across the world have looked to Finland for ideas on improving public education. Dallas reformers are especially intrigued with how Finland gets positive results from all of its schools and nearly all of its students – an equality that has been a chronic problem in Texas since the days of racial segregation.

Third-grade Math: A Teacher’s Calculus
Christian Science Monitor
A three-part series looks at how a veteran teacher handles a single day’s math class, leaving no child behind while holding none back; what “failure” can mean under “No Child”; and how hard it is to gauge academic progress in English learners.

A Colorado school district does away with grade levels
Christian Science Monitor
A Westminster, Colorado school district is doing away with traditional grade levels. Ultimately, there will be 10 multiage levels, rather than 12 grades, and students might be in different levels depending on the subject. They’ll move up only as they demonstrate mastery of the material.

Education Policy

Big cuts loom for education: 574,000 jobs at risk
USA Today
The first look ever at how the economic downturn could affect education finds that states probably will cut an estimated 18.5% of spending over the next three years, an $80 billion drop that could eliminate 574,000 publicly funded jobs.

Nation’s Schools Would Get $106 Billion From Stimulus Package
Los Angeles Times
The massive federal economic stimulus package hammered out by Congress this week contains about $106 billion earmarked for education, an unprecedented expansion of federal spending into the nation’s schools. The money would pay for, among other things, special education, school repair and retaining teachers who might otherwise be laid off.

The Toughest Job
Washington Post
Michelle Rhee says her thoughts about teachers have not always come through accurately.  “I do not blame teachers for low achievement levels,” she writes in an op-ed in the Washington Post.  “I have talked with too many teachers to believe this is their fault.”

Arizona No. 1 in Voucher Programs
East Valley (AZ) Tribune
In the annual report released Tuesday by the Alliance for School Choice, Arizona ranked No. 1 in the number of programs available to students that allow them to receive funds to attend a private school.

Scholastic Accused of Misusing Book Clubs
New York Times
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood said that it had reviewed monthly fliers distributed by Scholastic last year and found that one-third of the items sold in the brochures were either not books or books packaged with other items.

Homeschooling and Parenting

Home-schooling popularity grows
Washington Times
Because the modern home-schooling movement has been around for more than 25 years, it is becoming a more diverse education movement. Almost everyone knows at least one home-schooling family. It’s also much easier to home-school now than even five years ago.

Bill would require parent-teacher meetings
Cincinnati Enquirer
A Kentucky lawmaker has proposed a law to require all parents to meet with their children’s teachers within the first 60 days of the school year–or risk fines of up to $200.
The Cough-and-Sniffle Question: When to Keep a Child Home?
New York Times
The bottom line is this: Keep your child home from school if there’s fever, or if the child feels too crummy to participate – but don’t worry so much about the runny nose in the row behind.

No, You Shut Up!
What to do when your kid provokes you into an inhuman rage.

Et Alia

Growth of gaming, TV hurting kids’ critical reasoning skills
ARS Technica
A review of the literature suggests that the growth of visual media, such as games and television, is producing a generation that has greater visual reasoning skills, but a reduced ability to stop and engage in critical reasoning. 

The New Book Banning
City Journal
It’s hard to believe, but true: under a law Congress passed last year aimed at regulating hazards in children’s products, the federal government has now advised that children’s books published before 1985 should not be considered safe and may in many cases be unlawful to sell or distribute.