The Common Knowledge newsletter, which digests the news about curriculum and teaching, education policy and other subjects of interest to the Core Knowedge community, is published each Friday during the school year. Here’s this week’s newsletter. To subscribe and receive Common Knowledge via email, click here.
E. D. Hirsch’s Curriculum for Democracy
If the Obama administration truly wants to have a positive impact on American education, it should embrace E.D. Hirsch’s ideas and urge other states to do the same, writes Sol Stern, who describes Hirsch in this profile as “America’s most important education reformer of the last century.”
Farms, Field Trips and Test Scores
Broad general knowledge certainly correlates with reading ability, but the test of a school’s dedication to that proposition is best measured in its commitment to a rich, well-rounded curriculum day after day, not the occasional field trip.
Best of the Education Blogs
Remembering Ted Sizer
Ted Sizer, who passed away last week, was “a towering figure in American education-and a wonderful guy,” writes Checker Finn. “He viewed education through the eyes of a teacher more than a policymaker and he had boundless faith in the capacity—indeed the necessity—of educators to make and remake their own schools.”
Duncan Puts Education Schools on Blast
Last week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s speech at Columbia University’s Teachers College criticized U.S. education schools for failing to prepare K-12 teachers to do their jobs well. The government has also been remiss in setting the licensure bar too low and disinvesting in high-quality mentoring programs, he added.
Is Homework Necessary?
“I used to be Mr. Homework, frowning at all the hand-wringing softies who said we were hurting our kids by piling on the assignments,” writes Jay Mathews. “But now I am wondering if my faith in homework for middle and high-schoolers has been misplaced
Teaching and Curriculum
Why We’re Failing Math and Science
Wall Street Journal
The U.S. lags far behind other developed countries at the K-12 level in terms of measured performance in math and science courses. The Wall Street Journal asks Joel Klein; Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania; and Christopher Edley Jr. of the University of California at Berkeley, what can be done.
Why teach the arts? Art inspires learning
Christian Science Monitor
When American presidents talk about education, they inevitably stress the need to focus on math and science. “Science emphasizes quantities. Art emphasizes qualities,” argues writer and artist David Arzouman. “Their mix, although paradoxical, moves us closer to completeness.”
Turnover in Principalship Focus of Research
While research has for years highlighted the large numbers of beginning teachers who leave the classroom in three or four years, no national study has documented the career moves that principals make, according to experts.
School district policy addresses social networking
Upstate Today (South Carolina)
A South Carolina school district is seeking to ensure its employees exercise caution when using Facebook and other social networking sites. A draft policy stipulates that the personal life of an employee, will be the concern to the school board “if it impairs the employee’s ability to effectively perform his or her job responsibilities or violates local, state or federal law or contractual agreements.”
Publisher enters new chapter in textbooks
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has announced a $40 million, multiyear contract with Detroit public schools to provide a computer-based teaching system it developed with Microsoft Corp. that will connect teachers, students, and administrators. It represents a radical shift away from the classic textbook publishing model and an industry transformation, as technology supplants books.
Are Teacher Colleges Turning Out Mediocrity?
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered a speech blasting the education schools that have trained the majority of the 3.2 million teachers working in U.S. public schools today. It was a damning, but not unprecedented, assessment of teacher colleges, which have long been the stepchildren of the American university system and a frequent target of education reformers’ scorn over the past quarter-century.
NCES Finds States Lowered ‘Proficiency’ Bar
Academic standards became less rigorous from 2005 to 2007 in a majority of states, says a study by the National Center on Education Statistics.
Bill Gates Is Spending Millions To Influence The Nation’s Education Policy
The real secretary of education, the joke goes, is Bill Gates The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been the biggest player by far in the school reform movement, spending around $200 million a year on grants to elementary and secondary education.
The Turnaround Fallacy
For as long as there have been struggling schools in America’s cities, there have been efforts to turn them around. But turnaround efforts have consistently fallen short. “Quite simply,” writes Andy Smarick, “turnarounds are not a scalable strategy for fixing America’s troubled urban school systems.”
Parenting and Homeschooling
L.A. Unified to allow parents to initiate school reforms
Los Angeles Times
For the first time in Los Angeles, parents will be able to initiate major reforms at low-performing individual schools, rather than waiting for the school district to make changes, under a plan unveiled Tuesday.
As aid shrinks, more ‘stuck’ for day care
As budget problems worsen, states are tightening rules, eliminating enriched child care programs, raising fees that parents and providers pay, and halting new subsidies. “The real impact of these cuts is on families,” says William Eddy, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Early Education and Care. “Parents are forced to find makeshift care, one day with a neighbor, one day with an aunt, in order to get to work.”
School chooses Kindle; are libraries for the history ‘books’?
The 20,000-book library at Cushing Academy, a New England boarding school, was in danger of becoming a relic. So the venerable boarding school began getting rid of most of the library’s books. In their place: a fully digital collection. Library watchers say it could be the first school library, public or private, to forsake ink and paper in favor of e-books.