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.
P21 Still Doesn’t Get It
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills continues to insist that choosing between teaching content and skills is a “false choice.” No one disagrees. Children need skills and solid academic content. The problem is that the P21 plan is all treats academic curriculum as merely something to plug in to lesson plans driven by tech toys and “thinking tools.”
A Sobering Assessment of National Standards
The Fordham Foundation’s Checker Finn, a longtime proponent of national standards, sounds a strong cautionary note.”Evidence is mounting that those who take curricular content seriously may not like what we find at the end of this road,” Finn writes, “and I worry that America could be headed toward another painful bout of curriculum warfare.”
Reading Between the Lies
An anonymous questionnaire in Britainshows two-thirds of people admit to lying about having read a book. George Orwell’s 1984 is the most lied about boo, followed by War and Peace, and Ulysses. Also gathering dust on the shelf: The Bible, Madame Bovary, and Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.
Best of the Education Blogs
21st Century Skills and Teaching at Teacher Beat
The argument from critics of 21st Century Skills with respect to teachers isn’t really so much one of content versus skills, it’s that the need to be really prepared to be able to do “project-based” instruction is an incredibly difficult kind of teaching to do without losing sight of content.
21st-Century Skills, Accountability, and Curriculum at Bridging Differences
Diane Ravitch is perturbed that discussions of assessment and federal legislation can go on for hours without any reference to education at all. “It seems that the crucial decisions about accountability will now be in the hands of psychometricians, economists, and actuaries,” she writes, “and let’s not forget the ideologues, whose idea of accountability is to fire teachers and close schools.”
The Future of Teacher Ed? at Eduflack
Patrick Riccards suggests teacher training needs its own version of the Flexner Report – a 1910 report on the wildly uneven quality of medical education in the U.S. that changed the face of the medical profession and led to the closing of half of all the medical schools in the U.S. “Those that remained bolstered their quality,” Riccards writes, “turning out a better doctor to meet the growing medical needs of our industrialized nation.”
The Origins of Summer Vacation at The Quick and the Ed
The agricultural origins of summer vacation is one of those factual tidbits that everyone knows, a useful shorthand piece of evidence to use in emphasizing how our education system hasn’t changed with the times. But Kevin Carey notes our irrational school calendar is more a function of what was convenient for rich people than is commonly understood.
Curriculum and Teaching
Great Depression a Timely Class Topic
Because of the parallels social studies teachers are able to draw between the current economic crisis and the Great Depression, students are seeing that history is relevant. “Teachers are comparing and contrasting the causes of the Great Depression and the current recession, as well as the New Deal and the recent stimulus package and other government responses to today’s crisis,” reports Ed Week’s Mary Ann Zehr.
New Curriculum Becomes A SpringBoard For Teacher Criticism
A classic education it’s not. Hillsborough County (Florida) schools’ yearlong studies of world, American and British literature in high schools are history. “The American Dream” replaces 11th-grade American literature, with a span of subjects from Arthur Miller’s play about witchcraft, “The Crucible,” to clips from the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
After FCAT “F” School Embraces Solution
St. Petersburg Times
It’s commonly assumed there is an iron-clad correlation between poverty and academics. Poor school? Bad school. But in Florida, a growing number of high-poverty schools are defying public perception. Nearly 1 in 4 elementary schools across Florida with poverty levels above 70 percent have improved in the past five years, a St. Petersburg Times review of FCAT scores shows.
Substitute teaching applications surge
As unemployment continues to rise, school districts nationwide are being flooded with applications for substitute teaching jobs. Those applying range from a laid-off finance manager for Harley-Davidson to a vice president of a collapsed financial institution, all for work that pays $45 to $160 a day.
35,000 College Seniors Apply to Teach in Low-achieving Schools
San Jose Mercury News
Facing the tightest job market in a generation, thousands of elite members of the class of 2009 are competing for a chance to head off to the nation’s most troubled schools. Applications to Teach For America have surged an astounding 42 percent for the coming school year.
Obama Thinks Big on Education
President Obama’s education speech was, in my memory, the largest assemblage of smart ideas about schools ever issued by one president at one time, writes Jay Matthews. “The speech puts Obama without any further doubt in the long line of Democratic party leaders who have embraced accountability in schools through testing, even at the risk of seeming to be in league with the Republican Party,” he notes.
The Teacher-in-Chief Speaks
For those who listened carefully, the underlying theme of Barack Obama’s big schools speech on March 10th was how little influence the federal government ha on education. He promised that “America’s entire education system [will] once more be the envy of the world.” But the plans he laid out for achieving this goal consisted largely of pleading with states and school districts-which actually run the show-to do a better job.
Effect of Stimulus on NCLB Renewal Mulled
Even as states and school districts prepare to absorb billions of dollars in economic-stimulus aid for education, policymakers and analysts are quietly discussing whether the infusion of federal cash may reshape the landscape around reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Homeschooling and Parenting
“No Picnic for Me Either”
New York Times
In his education speech this week, Barack Obama told how his mother would waking him up at 4:30 to tutor him before he went off to school. When young Barry complained about getting up so early, his mother responded: “This is no picnic for me either, Buster.” The anecdote, notes David Brooks, underlines the two traits necessary for academic success: relationships and rigor.
Distractions May Shift, but Sleep Needs Don’t
New York Times
Even as we’ve come to understand more and more about the importance of sleep, for brain function and learning, for mental and physical health, the world has gotten to be a harder and harder place for a child to go to sleep.
Out-of-School Factors Seen as Key
A new report makes a case for paying more attention to the critical role that out-of-school factors-such as inadequate health care, food insecurity, or environmental pollutants-have on children’s school success.
Mom will fight order against home schooling
The News and Observer
Home-school groups and conservatives across the country are infuriated by a North Carolina judge’s declaration that he will make a mother stop teaching her children at home and send them to public schools. The judge said at the hearing that while the children are “thriving,” they need to be exposed to the “real world.”
To Fight Truancy, Wise County Judge Trades Hall Monitors for Ankle Monitors
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
To keep tabs on students who are habitually absent, a Texas Justice of the Peace can now place a GPS ankle monitor on them for 30 days. The monitors, which are more commonly used to keep track of convicted felons on probation, are the latest move in stepped-up efforts across North Texas to curb truancy and help turn around climbing dropout rates.