Articles in the Teachers category

Rudy Crew Speaks to CUBE

Dr. Rudy Crew, Miami-Dade’s superintendent, spoke to a packed room at CUBE‘s Issues Seminar this morning in Miami. As the country’s fourth largest district and the winner of last year’s CUBE Award for Excellence, Dr. Crew spent time discussing the innovative style he’s brought to Miami-Dade and the sometimes difficult choices that have to be made to benefit the children of the district. “We have to look at the way we look at children. It’s not about yesterday’s assumption base to define the children of today. It starts with belief,” he said.

The theme of CUBE’s Issues Seminar this year is Parent and Community Involvement. Miami-Dade’s Parent Academy devotes resources and a tremendous staff to helping parents and community leaders work with the schools to help children learn. Dr. Crew echoed the program’s mission by pushing those in attendance to use the community as an asset and to help build the relationships that are going to help students achieve. “It’s all about the kids and moving the energies of success to get to the end zone.”

With over 300,000 students, Miami-Dade has looked at new ways to work with students to improve their achievement and find answers to tough questions about how students learn, their reading and math scores, and alternatives to traditional schooling methods. Dr. Crew stressed the building of a community saying, “Build a bridge from your aspirations into practicality. That’s 21st century learning.”

His message today was primarily about his experience as superintendent in Miami-Dade and in New York City, but Dr. Crew was quick to point out that regardless of the size of the district, whether it was less than 5 or 10,000 all the way up to the largest districts in the county, “it’s all about keeping the conversation about children and achievement.” If it were that simple all the time, many of our educational woes would be behind us.

Erin Walsh|June 20th, 2008|Categories: Conferences and Events, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: |

Classroom technology: room for improvement

According to a study released last week by the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), educators are optimistic about the impact of technology on student achievement. However, the findings from the study show that technology is “woefully inadequate” in most classrooms.

1,934 public school educators participated in the survey, 90.4 percent of whom were classroom teachers (The margin of error on results was ±3 percent.) Educators participating in the survey consisted only of instructional personnel. The survey sample was randomly selected from members of the NEA and members of the AFT.

The key findings from the report:

Access to Technology and Support
Findings for technology access and support indicate that although schools had accumulated technology hardware for students’ use, it was not adequate in most schools to meet the demands of classroom instruction. Further, many teachers still believed that their access to instructional software and technical support was not adequate.

Finding 1.
The number of computers in public school classrooms was not adequate to use computers effectively for classroom instruction, and the classroom was not the main location in school where most students used computers. More than half of public school educators had no more than two computers available for students’ use in their classroom or primary work area, and that level of access was inadequate for educators to use computers effectively in classroom instruction. Educators in elementary schools had more computers inside the classrooms for students’ use, whereas secondary schools had more computers in the technology labs. Secondary schools had more laptops available for short-term use in the classroom when necessary.

Finding 2.
Most of the educators believed that their own access to technology at school was adequate to do their job, but they reported receiving little support for technology access outside of school. Whereas rural/small town educators were least likely to receive support for personal technology, urban educators were most likely to be provided with a laptop computer for work purposes inside and outside of school, and they were as likely as suburban educators to receive assistance to purchase a computer for home. Educators in secondary schools were less likely than those in elementary schools to believe that their own access to technology was sufficient to do their jobs effectively.

Finding 3.
Access to the Internet and instructional software at school was adequate for most educators, but technical assistance and support in using the equipment and software were often inadequate. The software and condition of the equipment in urban schools was likely to be less adequate, compared with suburban and rural/small town schools, and technical support for using the equipment and software was less adequate in urban schools. Elementary educators were less likely to be satisfied with the software for their students, and they were less likely to have access to high-speed Internet connections for their students.

Technology Training
Results show that the training educators receive on using technology has been more effective for administrative tasks than for instruction and that training has been more accessible to educators in certain demographic groups.

Finding 4.
School districts required professional development in technology for the majority of educators, but most educators believed that their training had been more effective for noninstructional tasks. Educators with the most job experience were more likely to participate in technology training and more likely to believe that their training was adequate, but less experienced educators were more satisfied with their knowledge of technology and its impact on their own jobs. Urban school educators were the least likely to receive adequate training to use technology, particularly in using administrative and instructional software and in designing individual lessons for students. Educators in middle schools were more satisfied with their technology training than educators at any other school level.

Use of Technology
Both educators’ and students’ use of technology for instruction has been limited in scope and
infrequent.

Finding 5.
Despite educators’ limited access to technology training, computers and the Internet were the leading technologies used in public schools, rendering certain other types of technology nearly obsolete. Educators in elementary schools were the most likely to have used other types of technologies at school recently (e.g., videos, compact discs, and cable and satellite television), and educators in urban schools were the least likely.

Finding 6.
Most educators used technology regularly at school for administrative tasks, but substantially fewer used it for instruction-related tasks. Educators with less experience were more likely than educators with more experience to use technology for instructional purposes. Urban school educators used computers much less frequently than did other educators for both administrative and instructional tasks.

Finding 7.
About half of the educators required their students to use technology at school for individual research and problem solving, but only a few educators reported that they required their students to use computers regularly. Only one-third of educators reported that they required their students to use computers at least a few times a week.

Perceptions of Technology
Most educators have positive perceptions about the value of technology for teaching and learning.

Finding 8.
Most educators surveyed were highly optimistic about the impact of technology on their jobs and on their students, and they considered technology essential to teaching and learning. Most believed that technology had improved students’ motivation for learning. Educators in suburban schools were the least positive about the impact of technology on teaching and learning. Educators in secondary schools were less likely than elementary educators to be satisfied with their students’ reliance on technology.

Finding 9.
Educators asserted that their unions or education associations should be more involved in advocacy for technology, particularly regarding increased funding and more equitable distribution of technology in schools. Educators displayed notable differences in their perspectives on their union’s or education association’s involvement based on their level of experience and certain school characteristics. Urban educators believed their union or education association should help advocate for more equitable technology across schools. Less experienced educators overwhelmingly believed that their Associations should advocate for more technology funding. Mid-career educators were not as optimistic about the effectiveness of their Associations’ advocacy in this area. Finally, secondary school educators were the least likely to want their Associations to advocate for technology.

The complete report, including demographics, discussions, and data can be downloaded in PDF format from the NEA website.

Erin Walsh|June 18th, 2008|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Teachers|

Young inventors

BoardBuzz is amazed at some projects inventors presented at the National Press Club on Friday, which included a football game for the blind, a tongue spray to change the taste of foods, and a new strategy for making bioplastics, but something else impressed us even more. All these innovative ideas came from groups of students who are all under 18 years-old!

That’s right, these young inventors, in grades K-12, met in Washington, D.C. for the 16th annual ExploraVision awards. The competition, run by Toshiba and the National Science Teachers Association, has had students working hard for months to create prototypes and Web sites to showcase their inventions.

BoardBuzz recommends taking a look at this article in USA Today to learn more about the competition.

Congratulations are definitely in order to all the students, who will take home laptops and DVD players for their schools. The first place winners also received a $10,000 savings bond. We are thrilled with their enthusiasm and applaud the teachers and executives who work hard to get students interested in science. Great job!

Erin Walsh|June 11th, 2008|Categories: Announcements, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

The Tale of Two Cities

Two articles in today’s Washington Post caught BoardBuzz’s attention on charter schools. We have discussed the matter here before, but today’s articles by Jay Matthews center themselves around two urban districts, New Orleans and Washington, DC. Neither district is unique in the struggle on charter schools, since many urban districts are facing the issue, but both have unconventional governance structures due to years of below-average performance.

In New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina hit, Paul Vallas took over the district (Recovery School District) as superintendent and new teachers came from varying backgrounds all over the country to help re-build the district. Today’s Post points out that this has led to ruthless tactics at times to keep good teachers but parents seem indifferent on the issue, not really picking a side. Are charter schools the solution for New Orleans? According to Matthews they seem to be helping, but the “regular” schools are still struggling, despite being encouraged to innovate as they get more autonomy from the superintendent.

The charter schools in DC have a different story to tell. In the Post’s Metro section, Matthews discusses the charter school that is set to close due to low achievement. DC has had charter schools for 12 years with mixed results. Some charters have done well, others have not, some have closed due to poor academic scores, others have not. The ‘regular’ schools are in the same situation, if you’re keeping score. DC is unique because Mayor Fenty appointed Michelle Rhee as the chancellor last year and although there is a charter school board in DC, Ms. Rhee has the authority to act as the policy maker in the district as well as the superintendent.

Matthews points out that many studies have concluded, well, inconclusive data. “Nationally, research shows little difference between average test scores for charters and for regular public schools. Experts say the quality of charter schools varies as much as the quality of regular schools.”

So there you have it. Charters will solve all the problems in large, urban districts. We apologize for the sarcasm, but these articles are indicative of the debate at large. Charters don’t play by the same rules as the “regular” schools and are allowed to be more selective in their staff and the students they serve, yet they are often compared as if they are equals in the statistics and the media. Let’s imagine a system where everyone was trained to be innovative, thoughtful, and focused on the students and their successes and get away from the labels so we can work together on solutions–then we have a chance at helping our schools. After all, our future is depending on it.

Erin Walsh|June 9th, 2008|Categories: Crisis Management, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Coming to a theatre near you?

What’s your favorite education-themed movie?
A) Mr. Holland’s Opus
B) Stand and Deliver
C) Lean on Me
D) Dead Poet’s Society
E) All of the Above

Now there’s a new one to add to the list. The Class (Entre les murs), a French film, recently won the Palme d’Or (the top prize) at the Cannes Film Festival. Sean Penn called it an “an amazing, amazing film.” But why should BoardBuzz (and you) care? The movie covers a year in the life of a Paris junior high school and grapples with many of the same issues American schools face. While urban districts are often used as punching bags by the media, there are good students and success stories that are often missed.

Reviewers say that The Class gets away from the stereotypical school movies and shows more of the human element of the students and their challenges. While a French film, it shows many of the same issues Americans face in urban districts. Let’s hope that the film’s critical acclaim is shared among the masses when it is released later this year (hopefully before election day) and perhaps the topic of education will be seriously discussed in the U.S., as well.

Don’t believe us? Check out what our friends at Public School Insights had to say about this film.

Erin Walsh|June 2nd, 2008|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, School Security, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Putting some energy into getting fit

This week, the Washington Post highlighted students from the Spark M. Matsunaga Elementary School in Maryland who worked with teacher Cindy Lins on a fun way to stay fit.

Students were given a pedometer and the spent the hour in constant motion working out and jumping around to tunes like “Cotton Eyed Joe” for an aerobic workout. The school uses this innovative class, so that the focus can be on fitness, not competitive sports.

BoardBuzz supports the school’s health and fitness initiative, but the National Association for Sport and Physical Education reminds us that elementary schools should provide at least 150 minutes of exercise in a five-day week.

This fun fitness class only takes place once a week , but teacher Cindy Lins notes its importance in the health of children saying, “To truly have an impact in skill development, you need a minimum of three times a week.”

Erin Walsh|May 22nd, 2008|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers, Wellness|

Parental (over)involvement?

The term “helicopter parents” isn’t new, but are teachers reaching a breaking point in dealing with, dare we say it, too much involvement on the part of some parents? (Hat tip: Eduwonk). Virginia schoolteacher Steven Rothman‘s commentary is well worth your read.

Let me be clear: The vast majority of parents with whom we deal are wonderful and supportive. However, a rapidly growing minority is having a real, negative impact on schools, and the teaching profession, by being too involved in their children’s lives.

Erin Walsh|May 19th, 2008|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Teachers|

Seeing the “sites” (again)

BoardBuzz told you before about the TLN Site Visits. Well, they’ve wrapped up for the spring, with the final one in Batavia City School District in New York last week, which was, by all accounts, a rousing success.

Ann Flynn, NSBA’s director of Education Technology Programs, who attended the visit, had this to say

I couldn’t agree more with Tom Lambeth of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation who said “the path to economic development begins at the schoolhouse door.” He could have been talking our most recent Technology Leadership Network site visit host, the Batavia City School District in western New York.

In driving around the community, I noticed that new commercial development was underway and after meeting the students, teachers, district staff, and board members, it was clear how the quality of the district’s schools must surely contribute to that growth. Sixty-seven educators from 10 states joined me last week to gain a deeper understanding about how Batavia developed its vision and found the funding to create student-centered classrooms. A great example was seen during the visit to a middle school social studies class that had students working in three areas of the room: one group completing work sheets by listening to pre-assigned segments of campaign speeches on iPods; another group using an interactive white board with the instructor; and the remaining students working in pairs on a WebQuest with computers located in the rear of the room.

Throughout the visit, we saw excited, engaged students focused on their assigned tasks that encouraged them to think rather than simply recite facts. Although many factors impact an area’s economic well being, the visit to Batavia, reminded me how critical it is for school board members to understand the role public schools play in a community’s long-term economic health. It is evident that the city of Batavia is now reaping the benefits from years of thoughtful planning by school leaders.

To get an inside look at what it takes to put all the pieces together, consider participating in an upcoming visit. A one-day site visit is planned to the Lake Washington School District in conjunction with NSBA’s T+L Conference in Seattle on Monday, October 27, and longer visits are planned in Missouri, Alabama, and Louisiana next spring. Check the TLN website at www.nsba.org/tln for the most up-to-date information.

Erin Walsh|May 13th, 2008|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|

The Super Bowl of science

BoardBuzz was excited to see this story of some high school students who really know their stuff. This team of four high school students placed first in the National Science Bowl by correctly answering six graduate-level questions.

The event, sponsored by the Department of Energy, is a “competition among teams of high school students who attend science seminars and compete in a verbal forum to solve technical problems and answer questions in all branches of science and math.” Like the spelling bee, but with science questions instead.

The winning team, from Santa Monica High School in California, beat out 66 other schools.

“They did not crack under pressure,” said Coach Ingo Gaida, a science teacher at the school. “I’d been telling them all year long they had the potential to do this. This was the strongest team we’ve ever had.”

The team began preparing for the bowl in September, and since January had been practicing daily in the fields of math, earth science, astronomy, biology, chemistry and geology. The level of difficulty of some questions in the final round was equivalent to graduate school, Gaida said.

The question that clinched the win: “For the Maclaurin series of the function e2x, what is the coefficient for the x4, in the simplest form?” Answer: 2/3.

“There were some close games, but I always felt like we had a good chance to win,” said Dimitry Petrenko, 18, a senior who has been on the team for three years. “I feel satisfied, almost relieved like I’ve done my job and can graduate.”

The other team members are Alexandre Boulgakov, 16, Marino Di Franco, 16, and Ian Scheffler, 17. The team won a trip to the International Youth Science Forum in London this summer, $1,000 for the school’s science department and a 6-foot-high trophy.

To say that BoardBuzz is impressed would be a gross understatement! Congrats to the team. We can’t wait to see what you’re up to next!

Erin Walsh|May 7th, 2008|Categories: Announcements, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Get your learnin’ on

October will be here before you know it and along with that comes NSBA’s T+L Conference. Registration opened today for what promises to be a conference chock full of great learning opportunities.

Held in Seattle from October 28-30, this year’s conference boasts an impressive lineup, including keynote addresses from Stanford University professor and futurist Paul Saffo; education “revolutionary” Joe Caruso; and educator David Warlick.

You can read all about it on the T+L web site and in NSBA’s press release.

We’re also looking for leaders in education technology to be recognized as the latest group of “20 to Watch”. You can learn more about it and submit an application here. Check out last year’s group here.

Erin Walsh|May 6th, 2008|Categories: Announcements, Conferences and Events, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Teachers|
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