Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Can’t Get Enough of Those ‘Top Ten’ Lists

I think I am addicted to reading “Top Ten Lists” and “The Best of …. Lists”, (type in any year you wish). I find at the end of the year I look forward to watching them roll off the presses, hit the newsstand and attract my attention. This goes for anything from Newsweek to Popular Mechanics. Education “Best of” lists are no exception, and I just discovered ASCD’s “Best of 2007” list of articles, studies and reports and want to pass them on to you.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development has been a treasured membership of mind for over two decades. As a classroom teacher interested in accelerating student learning, as a principal wanting to improve my instructional leadership skills, and as an assistant superintendent with the full responsibility of district Curriculum and Instruction, ASCD provided me with resources, ideas, and colleagues around the world to help me do a better job. I value their thinking and believe you will too.

Below is the “Best of 2007” list compiled by Susan Rush, ASCD SmartBrief Lead Editor. This top ten list touches on topics that hit very close to home like staph infections in our schools, effective classroom instruction for the young adolescent and elementary learner, and setting national standards. You may be able take some time over the holidays to peruse these ideas.

Top Ten List of Topics and Web Access:

1. Teacher's songs help second-graders learn math

2. Study: Oral reading tests may result in inappropriate placements

3. Report: Focus on children, not testing

4. Study: Too much reading, math in elementary classrooms

5. Drug-resistant staph infections hit some U.S. schools

6. Column: Newsweek's top schools offer rigorous education

7. Studies: Homework value uncertain; little change in dropout rate

8. The challenge of educating young adolescents

9. Study: Elementary school a better fit for sixth graders

10. Study: Some top states set standards low

Ask Yourself:

Do I have a “Top Ten” or “Best of …” list I can share with my colleagues?

What are the best ideas I learned this year to improve my teaching?

What are the best ideas I learned this year to improve student learning?

And Most Importantly: Can I find a way to “pay it forward”?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Does Every Minute Really Count?

School systems across the country are watching Massachusetts… the first state to adopt and fund longer days in multiple districts, reported the Boston Globe on November 30th (Tracy Jan, staff writer).

Ten Massachusetts public schools embarked on an experiment last fall that lengthen the school day by at least 25 percent, giving students extra doses of reading, writing, and math, and let teachers come up with creative ways to reinforce their lessons.

The state has spent approximately $1,300 per student, with a total cost of nearly $20 million to implement the program, which has grown to 18 schools in eight districts. Most are located in low-income, low-performing, urban schools. Thirty-three schools in 16 districts hope to convert to longer days in fall 2008. And more than 100 schools, including those in suburbs such as Andover and Winthrop, are in the pipeline for lengthening their days in the next two years.

And it seems to be doing exactly what teachers, principals and legislators hoped it would…

The data, shows longer days boosted students' MCAS scores in math, English, and science across all grade levels, according to a report to be presented at a national conference in Boston on expanded learning time. Students outpaced the state in increasing the percentage of students scoring in the two highest MCAS categories.
Writer Tracy Jan describes how schools typically converted from a six-hour day – “which some have written off as an antiquated schedule designed to meet the needs of farms and factories” - to an eight- or nine-hour day.

Read complete article:
“Longer school day appears to boost MCAS scores”


Related Article: “Saved by a (Later) Bell”

Ask Yourself:
Is our school day long enough?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Turns Out “Talking With Your Hands” Really Does Pay Off

Science Daily article Gesturing Helps Grade School Children Solve Math Problems (November 5, 2007) reported on a study in which psychologists at the University of Chicago discovered that gesturing can help kids add new strategies to their mathematical repertoires.

Students told to gesture are four times more likely to correctly express new ways to solve a math problem, according to the study of third- and fourth-graders by researchers. Children told to gesture who then received a lesson were able to solve 1.5 times more problems correctly than those told not to gesture. What's more, during future learning, these students were more likely to succeed on similar math problems.

Read more at:

It makes sense to me that gesturing may “prime kids brains” to learn more math just as many kinesthetic actions help our brain construct and organize information. I can remember a simple exercise I used with third graders to remember the 5 parts of a letter. It went like this:

Heading: touch top of your head with your hand
Greeting: touch your mouth with your hand
Body: rub your tummy as if something tastes good
Closing: clap your hands together real loud
Signature: write your name quickly in the air
(Repeat as fast as you can)

Many classroom veterans have discovered hundreds of these, what I might call, “kinesthetic memory pegs” on which thousands of us still hang interesting bits of learning. Wouldn’t it be great to collect a few dozen to add to our repertoire?

Ask Yourself:

  • Does is make sense to me that body movement can improve retention or problem solving?

  • Could I find out more about how the brain learns through movement?

  • Do I feel comfortable asking trusted colleagues for cleaver ideas that could be called “kinesthetic memory pegs” to add to my repertoire?

  • Where can I learn more?

Related Readings:

Hand Gestures Dramatically Improve Learning (Science Daily July 28, 2007)
Kids asked to physically gesture at math problems are nearly three times more likely than non-gesturers to remember what they've learned. In the journal Cognition, a University of Rochester scientist suggests it's possible to help children learn difficult concepts by providing gestures as an additional and potent avenue for taking in information.

Teaching Math Two Ways At The Same Time Boosts Learning (Science Daily February. 23, 2005) Researchers at the University of Chicago have come up with a technique for teachers to use that increases student understanding of mathematics: explain how to solve a problem in one way, and also provide an alternative approach through gesture.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I.D. Risk Factors Early!

Over the next several blog entries I will be sharing strategies from the book Designing Thriving Schools, authored by Daniel Burrus and myself. It was launched, as an eBook, on October 20, 2007 and you can find it on my website at DesigningThrivingSchools.com. DTS brings our empowering method of thinking, learning and planning to educators, with 45 strategies and more than 40 technology tools that have the power to accelerate learning and improve professional performance at every level. It is available for purchase on the homepage of my site.

Strategy # 15 from DTS

Have you watched students move from grade to grade, but never catch up?

As some students progress through the primary grades, their inability to make meaning or learn new concepts becomes more apparent. By then however, the child may have lost precious years of learning. The earlier we identify risk factors for students, and implement strategies to accelerate learning, the greater their chances for success.

Early childhood education is critical. It is far better to prevent failure in the first place than to remediate later. The consequences of failing to learn to read in the early grades are severe. As early as the end of first grade, students who have trouble reading begin to view school as punishing and demeaning. (Slavin, 1993) Effective early intervention programs help students maintain their enthusiasm, motivation and self-confidence. But, without intervention, failure to read in the early grades will almost assuredly guarantee failure in later schooling.

But, some students become “at risk” later in their school career. Others may come in and out of risk because of changing factors or personal issues. These students are often harder to spot, so staff must be able to recognize the warning signs.

The term “at risk” does not imply that the problem is with the learner.

Risk factors include anything and everything that is blocking learning. Today, the term takes on a broad connotation, as more and more children – from all classes and income levels – are “at risk” not only from school failure but from outside forces. Tragically, factors outside of school such as instability in families, abuse, neighborhood violence, homelessness, or the death of a loved one affect many children. Older students are increasingly drawn away from school by the magnetism and danger of the streets. Helping these students internalize and visualize being part of a classroom community can be an essential factor in making them feel like they belong.

Yes, many students need special attention – and fast. You can never do third grade again for the first time. Technologies like Data Warehousing can be of tremendous help in quickly identifying factors such as poor attendance, tardiness, falling grades, low test scores, and even students dropping out of activities. A comprehensive staff development program that includes training on how to recognize warning signs and initiate intervention will increase the chances for success. And don’t underestimate the willingness of parents to intervene and help their kids or support teacher policies.

Looking At the Research:

Educational Leadership highlights this topic in their October 2007 edition: “Early Intervention at Every Age”. They look at interventions that research and experience are validating as effective ways to reach out not just to students on the verge of crisis but also the many students who need an extra nudge to stay on the path toward success. The articles look at crucial crossroads in students’ lives and times when interventions can have an incredible payoff.

Take a look at what leaders in the field are saying:

“Changing the Odds”: by Susan B. Neuman How do we improve the academic prospects of the poor?

“Giving Interventions a Head Start”: A Conversation with Edward Zigler, by Deborah Perkins-Gough The founder of Head Start talks about its early days and its long-term potential.

“The Perils and Promise on Praise” by Carol S. Dweck Praising students' effort is more effective than praising inherent intelligence.

“Perspectives / Interventions That Work”, by Marge Scherer

Ask yourself:

  • Do we know our students well enough to know when they are “at risk?”

  • Can we really have early intervention at every age?

  • Could our staff benefit from professional development on identifying risk factors and implementing interventions?

  • Take action:

    Review the “at risk” factors you currently use to assess whether a student is in need of intervention. What additional information would be helpful?

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    “What, We have to take the test again?” Michigan Students Ask

    “What, We have to spend hundred of thousands of dollars?” State Asks

    There are lots of “unhappy campers” in fifth and sixth grade in Michigan where thousands of students must retake Michigan's standardized writing test after a community newspaper published two of the writing topics without realizing the implications. "The Department of Education had no choice but to make this extraordinary decision," said Department of Education spokesman Martin Ackley. "We have to maintain the integrity of the test, and we have to ensure fairness for every student in Michigan."

    Jennifer Mrozowski writer for the The Detroit News in her article “MEAP Leak Forces Retest for Thousands of Students” of October 12, 2007, reported “State officials don't know how many of the more than 250,000 fifth- and sixth-graders in Michigan have already taken the test, but all will be given the new writing section.

    Ackley said development and distribution of a new writing section could cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. But, the decision to retest students was made after the department learned a reporter was allowed into Jackson Public Schools during the administration of the test, a violation of Michigan's testing ethics.

    "It's not like we were going to find out the answers," Brooke Nemens, 10, a sixth-grader at L'Anse Creuse Middle School -- North, said after she heard the news. "I don't even read the newspaper." Brooke, who took the test earlier this week, reported it was easy but she doesn't want to take it again.

    Brenda Nemens, Brooke’s mother, said she would retake the test, "I think they should have to do that for the security of the answer," she said. "But they put way too much emphasis on the MEAPs. My kids get stressed out."

    Dearborn Schools Superintendent John Artis said he “hopes the Jackson paper will consider paying for the costs of the "fiasco." Educators who would engage in a similar breach of security could have charges brought against them,” he said.

    Ask Yourself:

    • Does your school put “too much emphasis state testing?

    • Do you think students in Michigan should loose another day of instruction for the mistake of a reporter?

    • Should the paper pay for the cost of the “fiasco”?


    Monday, October 01, 2007

    “Sex, Drugs and Rock-n-Roll”: Keeping Kids Attention

    "At the end of class they didn't get up when the bell rang. They still had their hands in the air," says Duke University pharmacology professor Rochelle Schwartz-Bloom, in an article entitled 'Rusting' Also Describes How Methamphetamine Harms The Body, published in September 28th issue of the research journal Science.

    Schwartz-Bloom recalls how her own high school teacher taught her about oxidation by describing how iron and oxygen combine to create rust, "I'm not going to talk about rust," Schwartz-Bloom told the high school students. "I'm going to tell you how methamphetamines kill neurons. It's through oxidation, and it's the same reaction."

    These lessons sound interesting to me, as I believe they were to the students and it didn’t stop there. Schwartz-Bloom and her team taught high school teachers how to incorporate drug-related topics into biology and chemistry classes in a national experiment. Their research shows how they increased 7,210 students' science scores by 16% by incorporating drug-related topics into high school biology and chemistry classes, according to the study.

    Schwartz-Bloom describes another lesson this way. "I talked about the different formulations of cocaine if it's smoked or if it's snorted, Of course they were already street-savvy about the fact that you can get addicted more easily if you smoke crack. So I asked them, how can that be? It's the same chemical. We talked the whole hour about that.”

    "I call it 'stealth learning,'" said Schwartz-Bloom, who is a science-education expert. "The students are having fun picking up facts about things they're interested in. But at the same time they're actually learning basic principles about science."

    Read about the 11-year-old project funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in which Schwartz-Bloom's group has developed a Pharmacology Education Partnership (PEP) involving Duke faculty and high school science teachers from around the United States. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070927154841.h

    Ask Yourself:

    Would my students be more interested in science if it related to their life or interests?

    Could I do a better job of connecting content to the social context of my students life in every lesson?

    Related Reading:

    Posted on Science Daily site: Lessons About Drugs, Nerve Gas Teach Students Biology And Chemistry More Effectively, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031028055905.htm

    Check out the book review of: Wasted : A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher on the Science Daily site.

    Monday, September 17, 2007

    Are you looking for a Free and Easy way to keep up on your “digital news”?

    This could be it!

    In June, Education Week launched the premiere issue of Digital Directions, a magazine of practical advice for technology leaders. We have an invitation to subscribe to the email version for no cost. I believe this is a strong addition to Education Week’s list of publications including Education Week News and Teacher Magazine.

    Take this opportunity to explore the new issue, which is full of trends and practical advice for K-12 technology leaders.

    • Check out the article about how schools are scrambling to meet the new federal requirements for archiving your email and more. I believe this new requirement by the feds is outrageous in it’s expectations for local school districts. And the cost will steal funds from our classrooms. The author Michelle R. Davis explains; “Districts will need to develop policies and software systems for the storage of e-mail, instant messages, word processing documents, PowerPoint presentations, and any type of electronic file on a computer system. The new requirements have caught many districts by surprise, and school officials are now playing catch-up to adopt policies and make sure they have the needed software”.

    • Check out how educators are using wikis as collaborative learning tools in the article Wiki Wisdom: Lessons for Educators
      “Wiki” is an abbreviated version of the full name, wiki-wiki, which translates as “quick” in Hawaiian. Wiki’s have been around since the mid-1990s, Frey says, and were originally used by software engineers to collaborate on writing software and for other technical tasks. A wiki is a Web site that allows those with access the power to edit or add content, track who made changes, and allow revisions to previous versions if needed.” Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that was launched in 2001, is one of the largest and best-known wikis. www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2007/09/12/02wiki.h01.html

    • Find out about school districts that are turning to online training programs in the story by Katie Ash: Digital Training: Learning communities' are emerging to meet the professional-development needs of teachers.

    • Free Subscription of Digital Directions:

    Ask Yourself:
    Do we need another publication about current news in technology?
    Will I read it?
    Where do I receive up to date information on technology that I can use to do my daily work?

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    Stereotypes Still Keep Girls Out of Math and Science…

    Five common myths persist vis-a-vis girls' preferences and strengths when it comes to scientific subject matter, according to the National Science Foundation's Research on Gender in Science and Engineering program.

    In the article, “Stereotypes turn girls off to math, science: About as many girls as boys like the subjects at a young age” published August 27th in Live Science, the author reviewed the research. Sixty-six percent of girls and sixty-eight percent of boys report liking science in early grades. But, the persistence of the stereotypes start to turn girls off, and by eighth grade, boys are twice as interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers as girls are. The female attrition continues throughout high school, college and even the work force.


    Below are five myths about girls and science that still endure, according to the National Science Foundation's Research on Gender. A more complete explanation for each myth is given in the article.

    Myth 1: From the time they start school, most girls are less interested in science than boys are.

    Myth 2: Classroom interventions that work to increase girls' interest in STEM run the risk of turning off the boys.

    Myth 3: Science and math teachers are no longer biased toward their male students.

    Myth 4: When girls just aren't interested in science, parents can't do much to motivate them.

    Myth 5: At the college level, changing the STEM curriculum runs the risk of watering down important "sink or swim" coursework.

    The study offers strategies and interventions to help our female students view science and math as a viable career. One of the most effective interventions to help young women choose and sustain a STEM educational path and subsequent STEM career is mentoring, according to the NSF.

    "There are helpful strategies for teachers and for families to attract girls to science and keep them engaged in it," says Jolene Kay Jesse, GSE program director. "And, by the way, these strategies are helpful in keeping students of both genders engaged."

    The program seeks to broaden the participation of girls and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education fields by supporting research, research-based innovations and education add-ons that will lead to a larger and more diverse domestic science and engineering workforce.

    Ask Yourself:

    • Does our science, technology and math curriculum encourage strong participation from our girls?

    • How do we know? What are we doing proactively?

    • Should we actually ASK the girls about the “vibes” they get from their school or home culture?

    Other Interesting Articles:
    “A Math Makeover
    OMG! Actress and mathematician Danica McKellar wants girls to know that being good at numbers is cool.
    By Peg Tyre, Newsweek, Aug. 6, 2007 issue

    “Girls Much Quicker than Boys at Timed Tasks”
    By Robert Roy Britt, LiveScience Managing Editor
    25 April 2006

    “Are Men Smarter?”
    Posted: Thursday, September 07, 2006 6:57 PM by Alan Boyle
    Cosmic Log posting on MSNBC

    Monday, August 27, 2007

    “Questions Clarify Our Thinking”: A Great Little “Find”

    “The process of deciding what is relevant, what is of interest,
    what is legitimate, what is authentic ,and what requires further
    investigation demands the ability to ask questions. “ -Sally Godinho

    We have known for a long time that asking the right question can spark deep thinking on a subject or idea. Designing powerful questions is a skill that does not come easily to many educators. I have discovered a little “Gem” of a publication, completely available on line, that may help teachers to design and ask better questions of their students, and educational leader or lead teachers to ask better reflective questions of themselves and their colleagues.

    “Out of the Question”, written by Sally Godinho and Jeni Wilson, offers many starting points for guiding students to critically evaluate what they read, see, hear, and do. It includes 19 practical activities and strategies plus an assessment rubric. And you can browse the entire flipchart online:

    The classroom culture needs to encourage students to be both question-askers
    and question-answerers. Students were asked to write statements about their beliefs and values about what a question-friendly classroom is and is not… here are their remards:

    A question-friendly classroom is a place where

    • different responses to a question are encouraged

    • students build on each other’s responses

    • students are prepared to challenge or contest a response

    • students generate questions for discussions

    A question-friendly classroom is not a place where

    • student responses to questions are put down

    • teachers are seen as the question-askers and students as the question-answerers

    • students recite a response to a question rather than discuss it

    Ask Yourself:

    How are my skills at writing thoughtful questions which engage thinking?
    How can I make your classroom more "question-friendly"?
    What can I do this year to deepen student understanding?


    Monday, August 06, 2007

    “Do You Know the Graduation-rate Goals Set by Your State? Should We Know?”

    Under No Child Left Behind’s accountability provision, high schools must meet graduation-rate goals set by their states. But the law allows states to set their own goals, and the range of these goals varies widely according to a study released by the Education Trust in Washington.

    “Because the law allowed states wide latitude, the goals for graduation rates vary widely. Nevada, for example, says its goal is to graduate 50 percent of its students; Iowa sets a target of 95 percent”, said Jennifer Medina of the New York Times, in her article, “A Study Finds Some States Lagging on Graduation Rates” published August 2, 2007.


    This is the New York Times map “Setting the Bar” which illustrates the differences in state goals for graduation-rates. How does your state stack up?

    Daria Hall, the author of the report, that criticizes states for not doing enough, said “We need targets that provoke action on behalf of the students, not ones that condone the status quo.” while representative George Miller, chairman of the House Education Committee and an architect of the original No Child Left Behind legislation, said “reauthorization of that law should include changes so that graduation rates were used as a key measure of performance”.

    Ask Yourself:
    Could just the awareness of the graduation-rate goals for your state, whether high or low, create a reflective dialogue that educators should have?
    Do you believe raising the goal would improve graduation rates?
    Have you and your colleagues had this discussion?
    Were you just as surprised as I was?

    Monday, July 30, 2007

    You Mean, All Those Math Classes are Helping My Science Grade?

    According to a new study of 8,474 students, taking introductory science at 63 U.S. Colleges and Universities, students who took more math in high school did better in all types of college science. Students who took high school science courses such as chemistry or physics improved college performance only in those specific subject areas.

    Randolph E. Schmid, AP Science Writer, said in his Thursday, July 26, 2007 article “Want to Be Good at Science? Math Is Key”, describes the report published by Philip M. Sadler of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Robert H. Tai of the University of Virginia in July’s edition of Science Journal.

    Click Here To Read The Article

    Science educators often take joy in debating the effect of the order in which students take science courses throughout their high school career. Some science teachers argue that physics should be taught earlier because it will help students understand the other two science areas; other teachers say having chemistry first will help in learning biology. But, the 1890’s biology tends to come first, followed by chemistry and then physics.

    Ask Yourself: Which of these arguments would I support?

    Then read the article and find out…neither was the case.

    Schmid quotes the researchers: "I was surprised," Sadler said in a telephone interview. "I had a very open mind about whether this kind of early preparation would pay off." "The most important thing for high school science teachers is to make sure there is lots of math in whatever science course they teach," Sadler said. "Math is so important in college science."

    I believe the real “informational nugget” here is the idea that science teachers purposefully integrate math into their content and likewise, math teachers view their content with a critical eye on science. Here is where acceleration of learning could take place in both subject areas.

    Ask Yourself: Could we create an opportunity for a team of science and math teachers to develop “team teaching” episodes, lessons, or full units of study, which would help our students learn to integrate their knowledge of science and math?

    Do you believe students would learn more? Would we?


    Related stories on Math studies:


    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    School Integration is Still a Hot Button

    In a nation where housing patterns are largely segregated, efforts to integrate schools have been a hot button in education for more than a half-century, and the Supreme Court pushed that button again this week.
    Tamar Lewin, of the New York Times shares information and her thoughts in her article on June 29, 2007: Across U.S., a New Look at School Integration Efforts

    Lewin writes, “After a deeply divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to strike down two districts' racial integration plans, schools across the country wondered whether they must drastically change their own desegregation efforts. Although the court's four most conservative members sought to make all race-based decisions unconstitutional, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who cast the tie-breaking vote, narrowed their reach for now, saying race may sometimes be used to achieve diversity.”

    Lawyers quoted in her article said the 5-to-4 ruling would not end litigation over school desegregation and may reignite it, as many school districts will have to turn to alternative methods for achieving diversity.

    “The decision leaves unanswered questions about when race may be considered, and unanswered questions lead to more litigation,” said Sally Scott, a Chicago lawyer whose firm, Franczek Sullivan, represents dozens of Illinois school districts, some of which use assignment plans that consider race.

    Education lawyers seem to agree that the decision most likely will lead to the consideration of income as a neutral means of achieving school diversity.

    “Sharon Browne, a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative group that supported the parents suing Seattle and Louisville, said at a news conference yesterday that in addition to the foundation’s current litigation against policies in Los Angeles and Berkeley, Calif., schools, her group has identified several other districts, including Lynn, Mass., and Rochester, whose policies now seem ripe for challenge.”

    Lewin describes how, “Justices disagreed bluntly with each other in 169 pages of written opinions on whether the decision supports or betrays the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling that led to the end of state-sponsored school segregation in the United States.”

    Ask Yourself:

    • Lewin believes the 5-4 decision, the 24th such split this term, displayed the new dominance of the court's aggressive conservative majority because the four liberal justices dissented.
    Do You?

    • Beginning in the 1990’s, court orders were lifted in many districts and Supreme Court judges have ruled as if the effects of past segregation had been remedied.
    Do you believe the effects of past segregation have been remedied?

    • Will the new Supreme Court ruling drastically change your school’s desegregation or diversity efforts?

    New York Times Article, June 29, 2007

    “Experts Fear Increasing Segregation in Wake of Supreme Court Decision”

    Other related Stories from ASCD

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    It Breaks Your Heart to Read: “The Regrets of a School Dropout”

    "It was like it wasn't a big deal to anybody, so it wasn't a big deal to me," he said. Because there were no consequences, quitting was easy.”

    This is a quote from Larue Campbell who was feeling profound loss as he visited Largo High School, where he dropped out a several years ago.

    In my May 7th Blog article, I wrote about the importance of developing a “Don’t Give Up Attitude” for students who are disenfranchised. Yet, I felt compelled to revisit the topic and share this article with you in this season of graduation celebrations.

    Avis Thomas-Lester, a Washington Post Staff Writer (Friday, June 15, 2007; Page B01), gives us a clear glimpse into Larue’s world. This is also the world of thousands of our nations students pondering dropping outs.

    Thomas-Lester says, “In dropping out, Campbell became part of a disturbing trend -- black male students who walk out on their own education. Statistics show that more than 50 percent of black male students fail to graduate with their class each year. In some urban jurisdictions such as New York and Chicago, upwards of two-thirds of them leave high school before graduation, according to a study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education.”

    Larue spent his high school years living first with his grandmother then in his aunt’s home, where he now spends time studying for his GED. As we hear his words we can see how long his road was.

    “When I started hooking, my grandmother got mad," he said. "She went up to my school and told them, 'He don't want to be here. He lives in Maryland, anyway.' They put me out."

    After reading the article, Ask Yourself:
    When is it early enough to start looking for signs of alienation?

    I believe, as does Alvin Thornton of Howard University, that something called the “forth grade syndrome” could be one (one of many) important place to focus a “don’t give up strategy”. Elementary educators are familiar with this critical time, when boys can become lost and alienated. As the elementary curriculum moves from “learning to read”, in grades kindergarten through third grade… to “reading to learn” in forth grade, reading and comprehension problems become evident. With out the ability to “read to learn” on their own textbooks are useless.

    Ask Yourself:
    Are our boys, entering fourth grade in the fall able to “read to learn” on their own?


    Monday, June 04, 2007

    A New Opportunity to Act

    ASCD has launched a new public engagement and advocacy campaign and we want you to be a part of it. WholeChildEducation.org is a Web site that calls on parents, educators, policymakers, and communities to join forces to ensure our children become productive, engaged citizens. I believe this is an opportunity for each of us to make a difference in how schools and communities work together to ensure each student has access to a challenging curriculum in a healthy and supportive climate.

    You can visit their Web site to find out how well your school and community are doing with our Grade Your School and Community tool. You can also share what's working and what's not working in your school in our Share Your Story section. Find materials to share with your friends and neighbors in the Resource Clearinghouse. ASCD 's Policy Blackboard highlights policymakers who are speaking up for the whole child and fighting for change. But they need your help: as caring educators I believe it is important to Spread the Word about these efforts.

    ASCD believes children deserve an education that emphasizes academic rigor as well as the essential 21st-century skills of critical thinking and creativity.

    You may wish to pass this on to other colleagues or interested community members.

    Ask Yourself:

    Am I doing all I gan to educate the whole child in my classroom or school?
    How can I do more?

    » Visit WholeChildEducation.org today.

    Friday, May 25, 2007

    “Combining High Tech with High Touch”

    Nationally Recognized EAST Program: Demonstrates How Students Can Provide Community Service Using Very Sophisticated Technology Tools

    Far from the outdated, stereotypical picture of technology as cold and impersonal… take a look at how students are reaching out to their communities, with technology, and making a powerful contribution.

    James Boardman, writer for eSchool News, describes how one high school program won the 2007 Founders Award:

    May 1, 2007—Exciting things are happening in Star City, Arkansas. This small town of a little more than 2,000 people just learned that its high school Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) program was named the 2007 recipient of the Timothy R. Stephenson Founder's Award by the EAST Initiative, an educational nonprofit that oversees EAST programs nationally.

    How did a small, rural school stand out from the field of more than 170 programs nationally? The school merely motivated its students to outperform anyone's expectations in providing community service using very sophisticated technology tools.

    All students, regardless of past experience or previous expectations, are encouraged, expected, and required to work in teams that tackle self-selected community service projects. In the context of these projects, EAST students often move beyond being "merely" volunteers and begin assuming roles of responsibility for solving local issues.

    Students in this program have access to a wide variety of technologies to help them in their projects--from GIS/GPS applications, computer-aided drafting tools, and digital film tools, to high-end animation and web design tools, computer programming tools, virtual reality design tools, and so on. The EAST classroom is equipped with more than 65 different software applications in a student-maintained network of servers, workstations, and peripherals.

    Read more about the EAST Project, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education, National Technology in Education Plan. Find out how you could receive grant money for instituting this innovative program.

    Then… Ask Yourself:

    Could we do a better job of combining High Tech and High Touch?


    EAST Initiative
    Star City Schools

    Friday, May 18, 2007

    "Take that to the bank and smoke it!” Technology Offers Teachers the Ability to Give Students Instant Feedback to Correct Errors… Midstream

    Have you ever “mixed your metaphors” or “confused your cliché” and wanted to instantly correct the error before someone heard the words come out of your mouth?

    I was not able to stop silly phrases like, "It's not rocket science!” or "I'm looking for it like cats and dogs!" from escaping my lips, but using Texas Instruments new wireless calculator, teachers can now correct student errors midstream, even before the final calculation of a math problem.

    The new Texas Instruments calculator sends wireless signals from pupils' handheld calculators to a desktop PC that lets teachers analyze and correct student errors before they can even complete the problem. According to the Texas Instruments Web site, the TI-Navigator system also lets instructors "get answers from every student, not just the vocal ones,"

    USA Today interviewed TI Chief Executive Rich Templeton on May 15, 2007 at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York.

    “Texas Instruments, whose calculators helped make the company a household name, has found a way to help teachers quickly identify students who may be failing math”. "The teacher can understand who's not getting it" by assessing which functions students keyed into their calculators, Templeton said.

    The so-called TI-Navigator sends wireless signals from pupils' handheld calculators to a personal-computer screen that lets instructors correct and analyze errors in real time.

    “But calculators, a long time fixture in college mathematics and engineering classrooms, are more profitable than the semiconductors and cell phone chips we produce, and the company sees them as a core part of the business”, Templeton said.

    With TI-Navigator, even shy students get a say in the classroom as teachers can review their calculations streamed wirelessly, and quietly, to the instructor's monitor, according to the company's website.

    The system lets teachers "get answers from every student, not just the vocal ones," says TI's website. Instructors also can identify and correct common mistakes as they occur and, if necessary, adjust lessons as they go along.

    Templeton was quick to note that the system, introduced about two years ago, is not designed to spy on students, but is meant to be used as a learning tool.

    "It's about helping teachers understand the effectiveness of how they are teaching lessons and how their students are following along," Templeton said.


    I don’t often comment about a specific product, but this reminds me of the individual student chalkboards we used (very effective, I might add) in the 1970’s. Students would hold up their boards for the teacher to see, and after four or five math problems we knew which students could continue with independent practice and which ones needed to “move to the round table” and receive different or additional instruction. I liked the idea then and I like it now that it has grown, through technology, to leverage teacher time and accommodate higher-level calculations.

    Ask Yourself:
    Do you believe wireless calculators can help teachers identify and help struggling math students more quickly?
    Would you like to use them?
    Do you have any really good Cliché “goof up” to share with us?

    Monday, May 07, 2007

    Keep Kids in School: Develop a “Don’t Give Up” Attitude

    Do you know students who were silently labeled “hopeless” and eventually left school?

    Based on calculations per school day (189 school days at seven hours each day), one high school student drops out every nine seconds. (National Dropout Prevention Center) www.dropoutprevention.org

    While certain factors may place students at an increased risk, overall students who dropout are by no means a homogeneous group. Low grades are only one reason; boredom, alienation, low personal expectations, schools’ propensity for suspension, full-time work, pregnancy, and marriage are all possible contributors.

    It is imperative that schools have a good grasp on why their students are leaving.

    • Are they “stepping out” to pursue other alternatives? Do our own programs (such as work release) encourage this by making them feel as though they are no longer a part of our school community when they leave the building?

    • Are they being “pushed out” because we have given them few reasons to stay? It’s easy to continually suspend students for misbehaving, or let low achievers go prior to high stakes testing to keep scores high.

    • Or they “zone out” because they find little relevance in the curriculum or the activities available to them. Content must be engaging, and the context needs to reflect what is important in their social environment.

    Some good news from Connecticut: Ordering children out of school is a longstanding and widely used form of punishment across the U.S., but that could change soon in Connecticut. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would permit out-of-school suspensions only for students deemed too dangerous or disruptive to be in school. Staff writers Robert Frahm and Matthew Kauffman of the The Courant, published by University of Phoenix, write about a new Bill that would put limits on schools ability to suspend students.

    “A Punishing School Debate”, May 2, 2007

    I believe kids want to succeed and feel valued. Always keep in mind, dropping out is usually the outcome of a long process of disengagement, and students who seem relatively stable can get suddenly shaky.

    Take time to assess which students in your school are at risk of dropping out, stepping out, zoning out, or being pushed out before it happens. Be proactive in discussing strategies to keep them in school and learning.

    Ask Yourself:

    • Do I believe out-of-school suspension is counter-productive?

    • Could I demonstrate a better “don’t give up” attitude for our students?

    • Could creative use of technology help us keep some kids in school?

    • Could we better utilize data (attendance, grades, suspension rates etc.) to identify and track possible student disengagement?

    Let us hear your ideas!

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    Teachers’ Unions Finally Take a Unified Position on No Child Left Behind

    After five years of following separate paths, the two national teachers’ unions are now taking a unified position on accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act, and are trying to influence it’s eminent reauthorization.

    The National Education Association has been a staunch critic of the 5-year-old law, maintaining that it is an unfunded mandate with unattainable student-achievement goals. The American Federation of Teachers has argued that the law’s goals of raising achievement were sound, but that its policies need revising.

    The two Education Week articles below have addressed this issue in recent weeks. From these authors we can reflect on the views of each union and how and why they are thinking more alike.

    “Views of AFT, NEA on Reauthorization Getting Closer”
    By: David J. Hoff


    “Changing NCLB Is Top Topic at NEA Convention”
    By: Vaishali Honawa


    Ask Yourself:
    What is the Unions' Role in Reauthorization of NCLB?

    Do you believe the unification of efforts, by these two powerful unions, can help shape the direction of the reauthorization of NCLB?

    If so, what impact could such changes have on teacher unions, and ultimately student learning, across the country?

    Tuesday, April 24, 2007

    Deaths at Virginia Tech University Have Educators Weighing How to Handle Students’ Violent Writing

    Across the country, high school and college writing teachers regularly must weigh whether violent student writings are just creative outlets or signs of something darker.

    Amanda Van Benschoten writes in her article for the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Schools eye student writing, Teachers address disturbing material” Quotes’ Melissa Fry, a community college professor, this way “You shouldn't assume anything: If you notice something in an essay, you should pull the student aside and take it from there,"

    We walk a fine line when reading student writings. I believe it is critical we make the effort “to get into the writers mind”, to clarify intent. There have been a plethora of newspaper articles written about this subject since the killings on the Virginia Tech Campus. Here are a few of those thoughts, from professionals who write for a living.

    The Cincinnati Enquirer : “Schools eye student writing Teachers address disturbing material”


    San Francisco Chronicle: ”Predicting risk tough, despite warning signs”


    The Boston Hearld: “Educators say VT shootings highlight problems dealing with troubled students”


    The Baltimore Sun: “Drawing a line between danger and creativity”


    Ask yourself:

    How closely do we monitor the writings of our students for intent?

    Would a watchful eye and deeper concern better serve the writer, and other students as well?

    Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    Help Students Find the Passion

    Career-Oriented Education can help Keep Kids Motivated

    School officials in some Baltimore High Schools are overwhelmed by demand for career-track programs in fields such as sports medicine and pre-engineering. Their hope is that career-oriented education can help keep potential dropouts in school by motivating students who might otherwise see little link between class work and the real world.
    Article, Baltimore Sun 4.4.07

    Career and technical education is more salient than ever, and integrating academics with a career-focused curriculum helps students understand the purpose behind their learning. Our goal should be to provide students with a broad vision so that they can find their passion and wrap a career around it.

    Telling students, “You can do anything” seems like a positive, encouraging statement, but without a clear vision of what they would like to do, students can easily get drawn into an unfulfilling, uninspiring career

    As teachers, we can act as “lamplighters” to help students identify and maximize their strengths, understand their weaknesses, and channel their interests toward promising career pathways. For example, a middle school in Michigan instituted an after-school program in which 8th grade students toured local businesses in vans provided by a local car dealer. They identified the skills needed for certain jobs and measured them against their own abilities and enthusiasm for the work. In this way, students were able to begin formulating ideas about the types of jobs for which they would be well suited, as well as what types of jobs would be exciting to them. As we strive to point out the correlation between current achievement and future earning power, it is important to acknowledge that college is not the only (or even the most important) goal of primary and secondary education.

    Ask Yourself:

    •Would our students be more likely to discover promising careers if we helped them define their strengths and find their passions?

    •How can we broaden student awareness of new career opportunities?

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    “President Bush Tries Another Push for Vouchers”

    President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address last night highlighted a plan to give children with greater economic needs private school vouchers -- something key Democrats in Congress already have signaled they will reject. The administration tried unsuccessfully to include a voucher program in the No Child Left Behind law when it was first approved by Congress five years ago.

    In an article in the today’s Mississippi Sun Herald, entitled “Bush reintroduces school voucher plan”, Nancy Zuckerbrod of the Associated Press writes: “White House officials say a private school voucher program makes sense for students in schools that are consistently failing to meet progress goals under the No Child Left Behind law.”

    "This is not for every kid in America," White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joel Kaplan said. "This is for those kids who are trapped in the absolute worst schools that just don't seem to be capable, or willing, to make the changes necessary to serve those students well." www.sunherald.com/mld/sunherald/16528972.htm

    Let’s hear what you think of another push for vouchers by this administration.
    Good Idea…?
    Crummy Idea…?


    Bloomberg Report January 6, 2007:
    “Bush Says He and Democrats Can Find Common Ground This Year”

    Education Week December 19, 2006:
    “Democratic Congress to Step up Department Oversight”

    United Press International January 6, 2007
    “Bush Plugs Education Legislation”

    Friday, January 05, 2007

    “From Cradle to Career”

    Education Week Publishes 2007 Quality Counts Report With Mixed Reviews

    “Parents in Michigan are Upset by Study on Kids’ Success” was the headline in the Local Section of the January 4th Detroit Free Press. Chastity Pratt ,Free Press education writer, went on to describe a study released Wednesday which said Michigan’s students, on average, are destined to be… average.

    The study was Education Weeks 2007 Quality Counts Report which ranked Michigan 25th among the 50 states when it comes to a child’s chance for success, taking into account categories such as the unemployment rate, the number of residents who graduate with a diploma and income.

    Ms. Pratt writes, “It concluded that the state’s children have an average chance for educational and career success largely because Michigan’s adults fall in line with national averages”. Some parents she interviewed complained that the study seems too defeatist. They believe success for students cannot be measured so easily by looking at the accomplishments of parents. “That’s too much stereotyping for me,” said Shaton Berry of Detroit, a regional representative in the Michigan Parent Teacher Student Association.

    The state that ranked highest on the chance-for-success index was Virginia. The state that ranked lowest on the chance-for-success was New Mexico.

    Has Education Week chosen the correct measures for student success?
    What do you think?
    How did your state rank?

    View the report and let me know what you are thinking or feeling about the validity of their assumptions. Being from Michigan, or not, I certainly do not feel “average”.


    Wednesday, January 03, 2007

    Look for “Greener” Pastures in 2007…

    Grant Awards for Environmental Engineering and Green Product Design

    After your usual holiday spending spree “depression” dissipates, the start of a new year can bring renewed excitement in the search for funding to support your district, school or classroom science and technology goals.

    eSchool News has identified several grants available to educators at all levels that are looking for funds to support the use of innovative technology with a “greener” side.

    The Hewlett-Packard Company’s 2007 Technology for Teaching Grants will award approximately $10 million in cash and equipment to schools through the HP Technology for Teaching Program. This year extra consideration is being given to proposals related to environmental engineering and green product design. You can begin your application process Monday, January 8th and the deadline is Thursday, February 15th.


    For science teachers looking to challenge their students’ writing and scientific thinking skills, the “DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition” could be the ticket, offering more than $20,000 for science-oriented student essays. Students compete by writing a 700 to 1,000-word essay discussing a scientific discovery, theory, event, or technology application that has captured their interest. And, the teacher sponsoring the winning student also receives a prize. The deadline is Monday, February 12th. Previous winning essays can be found at the site: http://www.glcomm.com/dupont/index.htm