Articles in the Middle Schools category

Blended learning showcased in District of Columbia schools

A small group of eighth-graders sit at a cluster of desks, staring down at their iPads. On their screens are diagrams of the interior of a slave ship. Their teacher, Tanesha Dixon, leads the discussion. She prompts them to consider what it was like on those ships. They enlarge the image for a closer look.

At another cluster of desks, students are discussing passages about the Atlantic slave trade on their iPads. The rest of the students are reading silently about the Fugitive Slave Act on their iPads.

From her tablet, Dixon can monitor all her students. An alarm sounds; the students working with Dixon move to the discussion group. The students working individually move to Dixon’s area.

Dixon is a social studies teacher at the K-8 Wheatley Education Campus, part of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). Her classroom is an example of blending learning, which integrates online technology and content with traditional face-to-face classroom activities. Her students have instant access to source documents and other resources electronically through their tablets through a service called Techbooks – digital textbooks with text, audio, video, and images.

Students have individual IDs and can log in on to any device – computer, mobile phone, or tablet.

“Digital textbooks are more engaging,” said John Rice, DCPS’s manager of blended learning. He recently took representatives from several national education associations on a tour of three district schools that were using blended learning in their classrooms.

The practice of blended learning is growing in schools across the country. Proponents say it allows students to practice simple or rote lessons online, freeing the teacher to do more small-group and individual instruction. DCPS uses blended learning in a variety of ways in its schools.

At the K-5 Randle Highlands Elementary School, all grades moved to a blending learning approached at the beginning of the school year. In one second-grade class, some students sit at classroom desktop computers, working on a program called ST Math. It allows them to work individually at their own pace, while their teacher works with another small group.

Other grades use a program called I-Ready, which includes language arts and math, for self-paced work.

Columbia Heights Education Campus houses a middle school and a high school. The high school, Bell Multicultural High School, features an early college program and classes taught exclusively in Spanish.

Sebastian Kreindel teaches ninth-grade World History in Spanish. He uses Techbooks to find digital resources such as Spanish videos for his students.

Fellow World History teacher Kristen Whitaker’s students don’t have individual computers or tablets yet like they do in Tanesha Dixon’s class, but she’s found a low-tech solution: She prints out Techbook resources for her students, including information about Genghis Khan for a recent discussion on psychological warfare.

Discovery Education, which sponsored the tour, provides Streaming Plus – a collection of instructional videos, skill builders, games, audio files, images, writing prompts, and encyclopedia reference materials – to DCPS district-wide. The company also provides the science and social studies Techbooks to five district schools.

“We are pleased to share with representatives from some of the nation’s leading education associations the wonderful digital learning environments DCPS educators are creating each day,” said Stephen Wakefield, Discovery Education vice president of public affairs. “The district’s efforts to create classrooms that mirror how students are interacting with technology and digital content outside the classroom are helping to prepare a new generation of learners for college, careers, and citizenship.”

The tour was organized by the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of education organizations, of which NSBA is a member.

Kathleen Vail|May 13th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, Mathematics Education, Middle Schools, Online learning, STEM Education, Student Engagement|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA participates in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), represented NSBA at gala dinner reception in Washington, D.C., honoring student recipients of the 19th Annual Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

The May 4 dinner at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History was the culmination of a four-day event that brought 102 state honorees — one middle level student and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia — to the nation’s capital to be recognized for their outstanding volunteer service to their communities. Selected from a field of more than 30,000 student volunteers, the state honorees were personally congratulated by actor Forest Whitaker, and each given a $1,000 award.

Ten students from the group were named national honorees for community service initiatives that ranged from feeding the hungry to helping victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings. Each received $5,000 personal rewards and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for charities of their choice.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards are sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. NSBA is proud to endorse these awards.

 

Lawrence Hardy|May 7th, 2014|Categories: High Schools, Middle Schools, Student Achievement, Student Engagement|Tags: , , |

Call for proposals for NSBA’s 2015 Annual Conference

2015 NSBA Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is requesting proposals for breakout sessions to be conducted during our 75th Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn., March 21-23. The conference will draw thousands of attendees, exhibitors, and guests representing nearly 1,400 school districts, and will feature distinguished speakers and hundreds of workshops, presentations, and other events that will help school board members develop leadership skills, boost student learning, and improve school districts’ operations.

If your school district or organization has an idea for a high-quality breakout session that focuses on a topic of critical interest to school board members for presentation at this conference, please complete a proposal online by the deadline of Monday, June 16 at 5 p.m. EDT. Only proposals submitted through the online process  will be considered. Breakout sessions will be 30, 45, or 75 minutes in length and will be scheduled throughout the conference.

Proposals are being solicited for the following focus areas:

• Innovations in District Management
• Legal and Legislative Advocacy
• Professional and Personal Development
• School Board/Superintendent Partnerships
• Student Achievement and Accountability
• Technology + Learning Solutions

Ten years into NCLB’s backlash

It has been ten years since President George W. Bush was signed into law No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had an opinion piece in The Washington Post where he noted:

Unfortunately, the law is unintentionally creating barriers for these reforms. States that have chosen to raise standards will soon need to explain why student scores are dropping. Instead, they should be able to highlight students’ academic growth. School districts are stuck using NCLB’s definition of a highly qualified teacher based solely on paper credentials, without taking into account the teacher’s ability to improve student learning. And the law continues to encourage schools to narrow curriculum at the expense of important subjects such as history, civics, science, the arts and physical education. After 10 years of these flawed policies, our nation’s teachers and students deserve better.

NCLB has created a measurement framework that bases its assessment of school quality on a student’s performance on a single assessment and mandates a series of overbroad sanctions not always targeted to the students needing services, and, to date, has not yet proven to have a significant impact on improving student performance and school performance.

After ten years of enactment of the federal law, local school districts continue to struggle to comply with the language of the law at a time when the unintended consequences of this complex law are imposing far more dysfunctional and illogical implementation problems than had been anticipated by the sponsors of the legislation. Additionally, federal and state lawmakers have become increasingly aware that successful attainment of the desired national goals is very much dependent upon the capacity of the state departments of education and the capacity of local school districts.

In September 2011, the National School Boards Association was encouraged by the Obama administration’s announcement to waive problematic and burdensome regulatory requirements of NCLB but cautioning that the waiver process should not be viewed as an acceptable substitute for Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.

Let us know what you think about NCLB. Speak out by submitting a comment.

Alexis Rice|January 10th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, High Schools, Legislative advocacy, Middle Schools, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , |

Analysis: NBC learned its lesson with this Education Nation

Glenn Cook, American School Board Journal’s editor-in-chief, attended NBC’s Education Nation summit in New York for the second straight year. Here are his observations.

You can’t blame traditional public school advocates if they were filled with dread when NBC announced that Education Nation would return this fall. Last year the network bought into the hype surrounding the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” inexplicably tying the event to a flawed film that exhorted charters as the pancea for public education’s ills.

Thankfully, NBC has learned its lesson. This year’s event took pains to correct past wrongs as it recognized the complexities school leaders face in managing a public system that is open to all.

Starting with a screening of “American Teacher,” a documentary that helped erase some of the “bad teachers” taste left by “Superman,” and ending with an appearance by former President Bill Clinton, Education Nation featured a strong balance of heavy hitters from education, philanthropy, and politics.

You also had a touch of celebrity — basketball player Lebron James, actress Jennifer Garner, and what amounted to a family reunion with former Gov. Jeb Bush and First Lady Laura Bush participating in sessions — but in this case, it fit the overall tone.

The key word here is balance. Last year’s programming was flawed because it exhorted simple antidotes to complex problems. This year, silver bullets were nowhere to be found, but calls for more effective teaching and improvements to early education were.

You can watch many of the sessions online at www.educationnation.com, but here is my list of highlights:

• Start with “Brain Power: Why Early Learning Matters,” a fascinating hour-long session featuring Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor, and three university professors. Held on Monday morning, it was the best, most concise presentation I’ve seen yet on why we need to reach children much, much earlier than we do.

• The dramatic rise in poverty rates was a focus throughout, especially in the session “What’s in a Zip Code?” moderated by Brian Williams. Poverty is reality for many people in today’s economy — Clinton was eloquent on this topic in the closing session — and communities must come together to do more.

• Education Secretary Arne Duncan was everywhere this year, participating in interviews with Tom Brokaw and responding to questions during various panels (a nice touch).

• We saw an entertaining back and forth between Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Diane Ravitch, author and professor of education at New York University. Their approaches are so different, but both made excellent points. Canada and Sal Khan, another Education Nation speaker, are scheduled to keynote NSBA’s 2012 Annual Conference.

• Teacher and student accountability, as you might expect, was a recurring theme. Michelle Shearer, the current National Teacher of the Year from Maryland’s Urbana High School, said teachers “want to be evaluated on things that really matter.”

“There are all sorts of different ways of looking at student growth,” she said. “Whatever evaluation looks like in the end, it has to be a system of multiple measures, because often what’s most important are those intangibles … that are tough to put on a check list.”

• At the same session, Khaatim El, a former member of the Atlanta school board, addressed the cheating scandal that has plagued the district he served for almost a decade. “We wanted to be the hype,” he said of the allegations, which are based on the state assessments. “We wanted to be the first to get it right so bad.”

But El noted the district also made huge gains in NAEP scores during that time, an achievement untouched but overshadowed by the scandal. “I would be remiss if I didn’t point to the hard work that many educators put in,” he said. “We focused on the basics. Literacy instruction in elementary school. Autonomy for principals. We invested in professional development. Those things were overshadowed by the cheating scandal. And they were good things for kids.”

The setting for Education Nation was not perfect — the big tent in Rockefeller Plaza is a good idea in theory, but the humidity and poor audio were ever-present distractions. And while this year’s session was far more substantive, future years should stop belaboring the problems and focus instead on how to solve them. Panels featuring districts that have been successful at “what works,” with ideas and content that are easily imitated and replicated, would be a valuable start.

Chances are good that will happen. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) had a strong presence in the planning and execution of the meeting. Anne L. Bryant, our executive director, met with NBC officials about the content and answered audience questions in a video Q&A format prior to the event. Mary Broderick, NSBA’s president, was featured in a panel session with the mayors of Albuquerque, Baltimore, and Newark.

“What we’ve heard from the last two days of this conference is that we need to come together around a sense of urgency,” Broderick said during her session, noting that it takes a shared vision between the school board, the mayor’s office, and the community. “The vision needs to be of excellence. If that cohesive message can be carried through our schools … there’s nothing off the table.”

Obama warns that cutting education funding is irresponsible

President Barack Obama was at TechBoston Academy in Boston yesterday and warned that cutting funds for education is irresponsible and harmful to our nation’s long-term economy noting, “There’s nothing responsible about cutting back on our investment in these young people.”

View the video of Obama’s speech:

Alexis Rice|March 9th, 2011|Categories: Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, High Schools, Middle Schools, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

“Let’s Move!” initiative workout event planned

The National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation has announced that it is spearheading a “Let’s Move! Flash Workout” featuring 16-time Grammy Award winner Beyoncé to demonstrate support for First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative aimed at curbing childhood obesity.

The event, produced in partnership with the National School Boards Association, National Middle School Association, and the American Association of School Administrators, calls for middle school students across the country to participate in a pre-choreographed “Let’s Move!” dance exercise routine at an identical time — Tuesday, May 3, at 1:42 p.m. Eastern Time.

Beyoncé will be the exclusive featured performer for the “Let’s Move! Flash Workout.” She has re-written and re-recorded one of her songs and is providing an instruction video demonstrating the dance/exercise routine. The Beyoncé video will then be distributed to participating schools.

BoardBuzz  commends the “Let’s Move” initiative and this workout event to combat widespread childhood obesity.

Alexis Rice|March 7th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, Middle Schools, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Wellness|

Obama’s budget plan focuses on education

This morning, President Barack Obama traveled to Parkville Middle School and Center for Technology in Maryland’s Baltimore County to unveil his budget plan and disscussed the need to invest in education.

See the video from the Associated Press:

 

Alexis Rice|February 14th, 2011|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Technology, Federal Programs, Middle Schools, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools|

Former U.S. President wants to “transform and improve” America’s middle schools

The George W. Bush Institute today announced a plan to “transform and improve” American’s middle schools. Read the press release below:

HOUSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nearly one-third of America’s young people fail to graduate from high school in four years.


“Middle School Matters will dramatically transform our partner middle schools and create an environment where students enter high school ready to do the work.”


To address that need, the George W. Bush Institute today announced Middle School Matters, a landmark education initiative to increase the number of children who complete middle school at grade level and go on to graduate from high school ready for college or a good job.


Former first lady Mrs. Laura W. Bush announced the program at Stovall Middle School of the Aldine Independent School District in Houston.


“Middle school is the last and best chance to prepare students for a successful high school career,” Mrs. Bush said to a crowd of 400 students, teachers, parents, education policy experts and city and school leaders. “Research shows with systematic, intensive interventions that students who started middle school behind can catch up.”


Middle School Matters is the most comprehensive research-based program to be applied to middle schools. The Institute has partnered with the nation’s top researchers to integrate, for the first time, proven practices that yield significant advances in middle school student achievement and readiness for high school. Implemented as a total package, Middle School Matters provides the proven mix of interventions to guarantee success.


Researchers developing Middle School Matters have identified 11 elements as critical for middle school success. These elements include concepts such as “school leadership” and “reading and reading interventions.” Middle School Matters incorporates key benchmarks, such as the ability to read for learning, write to communicate and perform complex math equations at grade level. Under each of the 11 elements, a research team convened by the Bush Institute prescribes five to eight data-driven specifications that include practical examples of how to best implement the research in the classroom.


“At the Bush Institute, we think big, work together, and get results,” said James K. Glassman, executive director of the Bush Institute. “Middle School Matters will dramatically transform our partner middle schools and create an environment where students enter high school ready to do the work.”


Middle School Matters will be implemented in three phases. The program is currently in Phase One, which includes building the platform and ensuring that all components work together cohesively. Phase Two will pilot the program in 10-15 schools. Each pilot school will undergo a tailored needs assessment and will be matched with a support team to assist in the implementation of the Middle School Matters specifications over two years. Phase Three will evaluate the pilot programs and scale the initiative to engage more schools.


Initial funding for Middle School Matters has been generously provided by a $500,000 donation from the Meadows Foundation.


“The Meadows Foundation has long believed that middle school is a critical transition period for young people and we must provide special attention to these students to ensure their academic success,” said Bruce Esterline, vice president for grants at the Meadows Foundation. “We applaud the Bush Institute for taking the lead to develop effective strategies to improve middle school students’ outcomes and appreciate the opportunity to partner with them to focus on this effort.”


Other collaborators include America’s Promise, Civic Enterprises, Southern Regional Education Board, Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas, Dallas, and Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University.


“America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University are excited about partnering with the Bush Institute,” said John Bridgeland, president and CEO of Civic Enterprises. “Middle School Matters is addressing a very critical part of the pipeline in helping students stay in school and be successful once they leave. The Institute’s focus on research-based strategies is an excellent one and we look forward to working in tandem with this initiative.”


For more information on Middle School Matters, and to learn more about the education reform initiatives at the George W. Bush Institute, please visit www.georgewbushcenter.com.


About the George W. Bush Institute:


The George W. Bush Institute’s mission is to unleash human potential around the world through expanding human freedom, educational reform, global health, and economic growth. In all its programming, the Institute seeks to empower women and social entrepreneurs as proven agents of change in society. The Institute is part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which includes the Presidential library, located on the campus of SMU in Dallas. For more information, please visit www.georgewbushcenter.com.


For more information about the George W. Bush Presidential Center, visit: www.georgewbushcenter.com.

Let us what you think of this plan.

Alexis Rice|February 9th, 2011|Categories: High Schools, Middle Schools, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|
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