Posts Tagged ‘No Child Left Behind’

7 Tips for Building a Better School Day

August 11, 2013



Courtesy of

1. Begin the Day “Over Easy”—with Breakfast

At Ellis Elementary in Denver, teachers are reinventing homeroom as a morning meeting over eggs and toast. “When students eat a good, nutritious breakfast, they can hit the ground running,” said Mayor Michael Hancock during a visit to the school last year—yet a 2011 survey found that though 77 percent of young children eat breakfast every day, only 50 percent of middle schoolers and 36 percent of high schoolers get a regular morning meal. According to nutrition researcher Gail C. Rampersaud of the University of Florida, “breakfast consumption may improve cognitive function and school attendance,” and Ellis principal Khoa Nguyen notes that tardiness and missed school days have dropped off significantly since the program began. And he’s noticed other benefits. “Both the kids and teachers know that they will have a few minutes every morning where they can eat, chat about what’s happening that day, and not be rushed,” he says.

2. Emphasize Learning, Not Testing

As a result of government policies like No Child Left Behind—which requires schools to improve on students’ standardized test performance year over year—educators are overwhelmed with testing and test prep. And that has contributed to an increasingly dysfunctional public school system, says Diane Ravitch, Ph.D., research professor of education at New York University and author of the upcoming book Reign of Error. “Schools and teachers are under so much pressure to get students to pass that most of the school day is spent teaching to the test. Subjects that don’t appear on the tests—art, foreign languages, even science and history—are being dropped from the curriculum,” she says. The result, says journalist Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed, is that we’re producing many grads who are great test takers but not great learners. “Students don’t know how to deal well with confrontation, bounce back from defeat, see two different sides of a problem,” he says, “things that are essential not just in adulthood but in continuing your education past high school. It turns out the students who are most likely to graduate from college aren’t necessarily the ones who do best on the standardized tests, but the ones who are able to develop these other qualities.”

3. Teach 21st-Century Skills

In a Gallup poll this year of 1,014 young adults, those who said they had learned “21st-century skills” (like developing solutions to real-world problems) during their last year in high school were twice as likely to describe themselves as successful in the workplace. How can we get students to develop such talents?

Three ideas:

a. Emphasize long-term projects. Consider the way most professional jobs work, says Tough. “You’re probably not working on one assignment today, and another one tomorrow, and another one the day after that. Instead, you’re working on a project over a period of time—revising it, perfecting it, presenting your findings to others.” Those are precisely the skills that students need to develop, he says.

b. Use technology. How can schools get kids to embrace technology inside the classroom the way they do outside of it? According to former teacher Will Richardson, author of Why School?, “it’s got to be in service of answering big questions.” For example, at the Science Leadership Academy, a public magnet high school in Philadelphia, 10th graders studying chemical engineering asked: How can we make an efficient biodiesel generator that people in developing countries could use to create their own electricity? “And they did it!” says Richardson. “Technology was able to augment the students’ work, allowing them to connect with leading engineers or create 3-D computer models.”

c. Make classes multidisciplinary. At New Technology High School in Napa, Calif., classes combine different disciplines (think: digital media arts/geometry). Last year, in bio-fitness, ninth grader Haley Kara used deductive reasoning to diagnose a mystery illness; and in chemistry, 10th grader Brian Shnell designed a bio-dome that could sustain life on another planet. “Splitting subjects into slots is easier for us,” says Richardson. “But that’s not what the real world looks like. It’s much messier.”



White Students Not Allowed to Transfer from Failing School

August 2, 2012

A very odd case. I hope common sense prevails:

Rayville Elementary School in Louisiana received a failing grade this year, based on the state’s School Performance Scores. Under the state’s Public School Choice policy, eligible students in schools flagged as failing and in need of certain levels of improvement can transfer to an “academically acceptable school.”

But an interesting and controversial issue has arisen that may actually challenge equal opportunity intended by the law. In a letter to parents dated July 25, Rayville Elementary school officials inform families of the school’s “F” grade and list two other institutions — with letter grades C- and B — that the parents can choose to transfer their children to. But there’s a disclaimer:

The case in question refers to a 1968 court decision that, in an effort to maintain desegregated schools, prohibits white students from leaving schools if their departure could cause the school to be considered “all-Negro.”

Click on the link to read Proof You Can Be Suspended for Anything

Click on the link to read The Case of a Teacher Suspended for Showing Integrity

Click on the link to read Primary School Introduces Insane No-Touching Policy


Teachers Considered “Highly Qualified” After 5 Weeks of Training

July 18, 2012

Of course a student learning to become a teacher has not developed the skills to justifiably call themselves a “highly qualified” teacher. Sadly, with teacher training at such a poor standard, they could be studying for 5 years and it wouldn’t make much difference:

Today a U.S. House appropriations subcommittee will consider legislation that would allow students still learning to be teachers to be considered highly qualified teachers under federal law.

The nonprofit organization Teach for America places college graduates into high needs schools after giving them five weeks of training in a summer institute. The TFA corps members, who are required to give only a two-year commitment to teaching, can continue a master’s degree in education with selected schools while teaching.

Of course it doesn’t make any real sense that a new college graduate with five weeks of ed training or any student teacher should be considered highly qualified — because they aren’t. But federal officials inexplicably partial to Teach for America have bestowed millions of dollars on the organization, and TFA has, not surprisingly, lobbied Congress for this legislation.

The truth is, that 5 weeks of practical observation and teaching is far more beneficial that years of theory and mindless lectures.

Click on the link to read, ‘Teachers Trained Very Well to Teach Very Poorly

Fixing Math Education

August 25, 2011

I just read a brilliant article in the New York Times about a suggested overhaul to teaching math.  It argues that much of what is on the standard curriculum will never apply to the average adult.

THERE is widespread alarm in the United States about the state of our math education. The anxiety can be traced to the poor performance of American students on various international tests, and it is now embodied in George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, which requires public school students to pass standardized math tests by the year 2014 and punishes their schools or their teachers if they do not.

All this worry, however, is based on the assumption that there is a single established body of mathematical skills that everyone needs to know to be prepared for 21st-century careers. This assumption is wrong. The truth is that different sets of math skills are useful for different careers, and our math education should be changed to reflect this fact.

Today, American high schools offer a sequence of algebra, geometry, more algebra, pre-calculus and calculus (or a “reform” version in which these topics are interwoven). This has been codified by the Common Core State Standards, recently adopted by more than 40 states. This highly abstract curriculum is simply not the best way to prepare a vast majority of high school students for life.

For instance, how often do most adults encounter a situation in which they need to solve a quadratic equation? Do they need to know what constitutes a “group of transformations” or a “complex number”? Of course professional mathematicians, physicists and engineers need to know all this, but most citizens would be better served by studying how mortgages are priced, how computers are programmed and how the statistical results of a medical trial are to be understood.

Whilst this is not news to us, the suggestions given for overcoming this problem are very simple yet quite brilliant all the same.

A math curriculum that focused on real-life problems would still expose students to the abstract tools of mathematics, especially the manipulation of unknown quantities. But there is a world of difference between teaching “pure” math, with no context, and teaching relevant problems that will lead students to appreciate how a mathematical formula models and clarifies real-world situations. The former is how algebra courses currently proceed — introducing the mysterious variable x, which many students struggle to understand. By contrast, a contextual approach, in the style of all working scientists, would introduce formulas using abbreviations for simple quantities — for instance, Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2, where E stands for energy, m for mass and c for the speed of light.

There’s not many common sense ideas in education at the moment.  It’s good to stumble upon one that is clearly steeped in common sense.

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