Thursday, December 18, 2008

Change is Coming to Education, and None to Soon: Relevant Matriculation

Bringing you up to date on recent education headlines:

  • President elect Obama has just announced his selection of Chicago superintendent of schools, Arne Duncan, for Secretary of Education. His selection is viewed as a good choice to balance the calls of opposing forces in the education debate, having established a track record of tough school standards, as well as a productive and respectful relationship with the powerful teachers' unions.
  • Part of Obama's education agenda includes a strategic $10 billion investment in early childhood education. "Mr. Obama’s platform, which Mr. Duncan helped write, emphasizes extending care to infants and toddlers as well, and it makes helping poor children a priority. It would also provide new federal financing for states rolling out programs to serve young children of all incomes."
  • As public schools continue to struggle, and the rates of homeschool instruction increase, some look to the charter school program as a model that may address the inadequacies of the system. Washington D.C.'s charter school program is steadily making gains and maybe a model that the administration and legislators will take a close look at when considering overhauls to the system. The article is long, but well worth reading through for the nuts and bolts of a system that has changed education on a larger scale and looks to be bearing fruit.
  • The quality of teachers has always been a hot button issue in the education debate. And the process and requirements for certification are a particularly thorny issue. Keeping the labor pool restricted, with more cumbersome requirements for entry benefits the unions that need to keep supply and demand in check to maintain their bargaining leverage. But this is not always in the best interest of the children, especially in areas that are not a desirable to teach in. In areas of the country that have instituted alternative pathways to teaching, metrics have indicated improved performance, and some feel merits real consideration in prospective solutions for education.
  • Meanwhile others are finding alternative modes of learning delivery...YouTube. Math and science are particularly hot views, and the "YouTube tutorial on calculus integrals has been watched almost 50,000 times in the past year. Others on angular velocity and harmonic motion have gotten more than 10,000 views each."
  • Speaking of math, the news isn't all bad. We've actually improved, although the results are still mixed, and the improvements have some in the lowest 10th percentile. Some systems have made the improvements by focusing on the basics:

Minnesota is perhaps the best example of what can happen when a state narrows
the number of topics taught at a given grade level to allow teachers to
concentrate on fundamental concepts. Since 1995, its fourth-graders made gains
three times the size of the overall US gains in math. The state's eighth-graders
outperformed their US peers as well. Minnesota is now "on the edge of
world-class performance," says William Schmidt, a professor at Michigan State
University who has studied international math curriculum. "Everybody always
wants to know, is it possible we could ever perform like those top-achieving
countries? And I think the answer is, yes we can," Professor Schmidt says.

  • Some modes of alternative teaching, however, are not as well received. A teacher in White Plains, NY, offended several students and parents when teaching a lesson on slavery, when the teacher bound two black students hands and feet to illustrate points of the lesson.
  • In other news, the Newberry Medal award is traditionally awarded for excellence in young reader writing, a long a go-to list for teachers and parents seeking quality reading materials for their children that will encourage a love of reading for a lifetime. But some are leveling the criticism recently that the award is losing touch with what children actually like to read.

Photo courtesy of

1 comment:

growingupartists said...

Couldn't have thought of a better title.

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