Articles in the Curriculum category

Financial literacy a hot topic, as recession reveals more needs to be done

stockvault_9810_20080130Beginning in September, Virginia schools will be required to teach a standalone financial education course to its high school students, and as can be expected the state mandate has touched off a vigorous debate among various special interest and education groups about the wisdom of a such a move.

Having just written a piece on financial literacy for the May edition of ASBJ, which is online and available for free viewing for a limited time, it was familiar territory to me and the arguments for each side are compelling.

On the one hand, there are school districts, which are already under serious financial strain with little to suggest that the pull between what they are able to do and what they are required to do will ease up anytime soon. Adding one more requirement, particularly one that is unfunded and some say is satisfied through other courses like math and social studies, is just plain impractible, as well as an infringement on local control.

On the other hand, we have a clear example right in front of us, of what can happen when ordinary citizens are not equipped with sound financial knowledge. Sure, these are skills that should be taught at home but the reality is they’re not.

Naomi Dillon|May 16th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Governance, NSBA Publications|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

Have you heard the news? Well, it’s all over the Internet, so it must be true.

Here’s the headline:

Budget Mix-Up Provides Nation’s Schools With Enough Money to Properly Educate Students

The story “quotes” prominent Washington politicians, falling over one another to apologize for the error.

“Obviously, we did not intend for this to happen, and we are doing everything in our power to right the situation and discipline whoever is responsible,” said a House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.) – but not really. His “quote” and the headline – along with statements from chagrinned Democrats as well – appear in The Onion, the satirical daily that seems to get all its facts wrong but still manages to come up with the truth.

Would that a little budget “slip up” could fix everything regarding school funding, but in the real world of public education it was not the case, as battles raged on over just how to define equity in education and in society.

In the Fordham Institute’s “Flypaper” blog, Peter Meyer charged that protesting New York teachers and their sympathizes, who marched this week on Wall Street to protest Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to cut more than 6,000 teaching positions, were fomenting “a class war.”  (Yes, we’re horrified too.)

“Even if one sympathized with  these folks’ sentiments about the financial ‘inequality crisis’ or believed for a second or two that it was the big banks that ‘crashed our economy,’” the question is where the big unions – and their contrail of sympathizers — have been during the inequality crisis in education the last thirty years,” Meyer writes. “Their silence in the face of crushing inner city educational failures has been deafening.”

Lawrence Hardy|May 13th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Curriculum, Governance, Policy Formation, Teachers, Urban Schools|

Driving data and staying on track

12284172421897139812CoD_fsfe_Checklist_icon_svg_medBeing “data-driven” is generally considered a good thing. The U.S. Department of Education collects data, of course, as do states and local school districts. But whether this information is: a) useful, b) not useful, or c) grossly misleading depends on what data is collected and how it’s interpreted.

It’s a tricky business that’s anything but straightforward, as the Center on Education Policy shows in a recent letter to the two consortia that are developing common core standards for the states.

CEP supports the work of SBAC and PARCC (the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment and Readiness for College and Careers), but it says numbers can unwittingly obscure or distort the information they’re supposed to illuminate.

Citing a common example, CEP notes that NCLB, with its single-minded emphasis on the percentage of students achieving proficiency, does “not tell the whole story of what’s happening in student achievement.”

“The percentage proficient places an  implied value on bringing students to a minimal level of efficiency,” the letter says, “but does not capture achievement gains above the proficiency cut scores (or below it for students who have not yet reached proficiency).”

Naomi Dillon|May 9th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Educational Research, Policy Formation|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs

If you can’t read, you can’t learn. That statement might seem obvious.

Yet in the United States, according to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash), there are more than 8 million students in grades four though 12 who are reading below grade level. At this time in their schooling – that is, beyond third grade – they should have moved from a “learning-to-read” mode to one sometimes called “reading to learn.” And the fact that they have not reached this point, or have only partially reached it, means they will have trouble keeping up with their peers, graduating from high school, and succeeding in life.

“The students of today will be the workers of tomorrow,” Murray told a group of literacy coaches recently. “Trying to find jobs, struggling to make their way in a world in which literacy is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity.”

Murray, who received NSBA’s Special Recognition Award last month, is introducing the Literacy Education for All Results for the Nation or the LEARN Act, which would authorize $2.35 billion in federal support for literacy programs spanning birth through age 12.

Lawrence Hardy|May 6th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Curriculum, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Urban Schools, Week in Blogs|

The week in blogs

Far from the American School Board Journal to get all tizzied up over the Royal Wedding. We’ve got more important things to do.

However, seeing as I’ve already mentioned it ….. did you see the lady in the church with the big black hat that covered one whole side of her face? What was that about? And what’s it like for the guy sitting next to her facing a veritable “hat wall” on his left?

We’re journalists here; we have to ask these things. And, we must add, in the interests of full disclosure: “Tizzied,” apparently, is not a word. But of course it should be.

Now back to the matter at hand: Yes, Education. Did you know that Princess Kate, if and when she becomes queen, would be the first English queen to get a college education? That revelation comes courtesy of Valerie Strauss’ Answer Sheet, although Strauss notes that the best educated and brainiest queen “was probably the brilliant Queen Elizabeth I, who was leaning Latin at age 5.”  (And we thought it was Bush/Obama that pushed academics into kindergarten.)

In other, non-wedding-related, news, Joanne Jacobs highlights a troubling report from the Education Trust, which looked at high-performing schools in Maryland and Indiana and found they still left certain subgroups of students behind.

John Thompson, of This Week in Education, seconds education consultant Andrew Rotherham’s assertion that “intention” is key to schools that succeed despite student poverty.  Rotherham made the comment in an interview on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

While on Fresh Air’s site, hear Diane Ravitch, who spoke at NSBA’s Federal Relations Conference earlier this year, on the pitfalls of standardized testing.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|April 29th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, School Reform, Student Achievement, Week in Blogs|

ED announces Green Ribbon Schools program

You’ve heard of Blue Ribbon Schools, now the U.S. Department of Education is launching a new program, Green Ribbon Schools, that will recognize the efforts and intiatives of schools that adopt, promote, and teach environmental sustainability.

From graduating environmentally literate students to reducing their carbon footprints, schools that best exemplify America’s move toward a sustainable economy will be awarded this prestigious honor — and in the process protect and save valuable resources.

Naomi Dillon|April 27th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Governance, School Buildings, School Climate|Tags: , |

Go green to save some green

recycle-greenWe all know that embracing energy efficiency is better for the planet, but did you know it could also be better for your school’s budget?

Last week, two 17 year-old environmental activists from California traveled clear across the country to speak at the Power Shift conference in D.C. and meet with Aneesh Chopra, the Chief Technology Officer in the White House.

Shreya Indukuri and Daniela Lapidous, both members of the Alliance for Climate Education’s youth advisor board,  emphasized the importance of energy efficiency in schools, explaining that burning fossil fuels and using excess energy emits additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which helps to trap heat on Earth. Such human activities are some of the main causes of global warming.  

After The Harker Upper School in San Jose, Ca., was awarded an ACE grant in 2009, the students initiated the installation of a Smart Submeter system on their campus. The resource measures energy usage in each building throughout the day and creates a corresponding visual map, so administrators can see where and when activities are highest.   

As a result, the school has seen a 250 percent return on investment, and a 13 percent decrease in energy over the course of the past two years, Lapidous said.

Naomi Dillon|April 25th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Governance, School Buildings, School Climate|Tags: , |

Role playing not always the best method for teaching race relations

1863lithograph_locNow I’m all for hands-on classroom activities…but holding a mock slave auction? I can’t think of a more politically incorrect and offensive idea.

At the beginning of the month, one fourth grade teacher in Virginia lined her students up according to race—Whites on one side and Blacks, Latinos and other minority races on the other. Then the “buying” and “selling” began, the Washington Post reports.

Apparently she didn’t learn from the mistakes of an elementary school Ohio teacher, who was heavily reprimanded in March for a similar classroom role playing scenario.

An involved African-American fifth grade student explained to the local news station that he felt embarrassed, insulted and angered by the mock slave auction. His classmates were even allowed to examine his teeth and body to determine his strength and suitability, methods used by slave owners in the 1800s.

Well, obviously the poor boy was humiliated! His white classmates were encouraged to make him feel helpless, weak and subservient. Clearly this would taint his feelings about education. Maybe this kind of lesson would work in a world where racial discrimination was unheard of, or null and void. But clearly this is not the case.

Furthermore, as eight and nine year old kids, these students still don’t fully understand race relations or discrimination. Feelings from the set-up will remain far after the history lesson is lost. White students will recall feeling strong and powerful—and maybe this will encourage them to belittle minorities again. Black students will recall their pain and want to avoid it—perhaps even by skipping class in the future.

Naomi Dillon|April 18th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Governance, School Climate|Tags: , |

San Diego schools receive NSBA/Kennedy Center Award for arts education

The San Diego Unified School District is the winner of the 23rd annual Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network (KCAAEN) and NSBA Award. The school district will be honored for its outstanding arts education programs at NSBA’s Annual Conference during the April 11 General Session.

The district was among school districts from across the country nominated by their State Alliances for Arts Education and State School Boards Associations for outstanding support of high-quality arts education.

A national review panel based their decision on several criteria, including district support for all four artistic disciplines–visual arts, music, theater, and dance–in arts education programs, widespread accessibility to instruction and programming, and collaborative partnerships formed with community cultural resources.

“We were impressed with how the school board increased access and the quality of arts education district-wide despite major funding cuts in the past few years,” said Susan Butler, who oversees the program for NSBA and convenes on the review panel. “The array of business and community partnerships, professional development opportunities for teachers, and the board’s advocacy and leadership in arts education is a model for other school districts to follow.”

Serving some 132,000 students, SDUSD is the second largest urban district in California and the 19th largest district in the nation. It offers a wealth of arts programs to all its students, including seven arts magnet schools.

What’s more, San Diego’s school board has consistently proven its support of the arts by making the financial and administrative commitments needed for a strong arts education program throughout all grade levels.

For instance, they have allocated five percent of the instructional budget to the arts programs, which helps support a visual and performing arts director, music program manager, grants coordinator teacher, curriculum and instruction support teacher, resource teachers in dance, theater, music and visual arts, and nearly 200 full-time arts teachers. And they’ve continued to maintain their support despite losing a quarter of their school funding over the past four years.

In addition, the board has created a learning environment where all students experience the arts, regardless of economic status. SDUSD does not allow student fees, instead working with local arts partners who donate supplies, materials, training, and provide access to community venues.

To enhance students arts experiences, those school sites without support groups receive funding when needed from the area superintendents budgets, grants, and the visual and performing arts department on a case-by-case basis.

Other finalists for this year’s award included:

  • Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Annapolis, Md.;
  • Appoquinimink School District, Odessa, Del.;
  • Cedar Rapids Community School District, Cedar Rapids, Iowa;
  • Fargo Public School District One, Fargo, N.D.;
  • Florence Public School District One, Florence, S.C.;
  • Jackson Public Schools, Jackson, Miss.;
  • Memphis City Schools, Memphis Tenn.;
  • Nebo School District, Spanish Fork, Utah;
  • City School District of New Rochelle, N.Y.;
  • Omaha Public Schools, Omaha, Neb.;
  • The School District of Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, Fla.;
  • and Sioux Falls School District, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Naomi Dillon|April 6th, 2011|Categories: Arts Education, Curriculum, NSBA Annual Conference 2011, School Board News|

The week in blogs

Ready for today’s “Week in Blog Question?” Here goes: “How are those weird Easter Island statues like the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition?”

“Say what?”

Sorry, time’s up.  But because this is our inaugural, occasional, semi-monthly-on-average Week in Blog Question, the Judges have graciously offered to give you another try.  “Now take the eraser end of your pencil and open the test  booklet…” No, actually, just think real hard.

Question #2: “So. About those statues: How is the fact that their construction is said to have totally devastated Easter Island civilization as we know it (or think we know it – it was, after all, hundreds of years ago) analogous to what RTTT will do to the public schools?”

Yes, it’s a toughie, and, yes, I’m poking fun at Yong Zhao’s blog on these seemingly disparate topics (“I can’t help but make the connection between Easter Islanders’ race to erect the statues and the Obama’s Race to the Top program…” he writes) because it’s a little, well, out there; but the fact is, the University of Oregon professor writes some of the most original and provocative analyses of K12 education on the web today.

Here, to be as brief as possible, is his point: Just as Jared Diamond’s argues in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed that the Easter Islanders exhausted their human and natural resources in a misguided competition to build ever-grander icons, so is RTTT exhausting our schools’ resources in a misguided competition for the best test scores.

“Test scores have no doubt become American’s stone statue in education…” Zhao writes. “Just like the Easter Islanders’ obsession with building statues damaged their ecosystem, America’s obsession with test scores have already begun and will continue to damage its education ecosystem.”

Lawrence Hardy|April 1st, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|
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