Monday, November 29, 2010

Shael Polakow-Suransky Appointed New York City Schools Deputy Chancellor

Last week, Cathie Black was denied the waiver that would allow her to take her place as the new chancellor of New York City Schools. In an effort to persuade David Steiner (State Education Commissioner) to sign the waiver, the mayor’s office announced the appointment of Shael Polakow-Suransky as deputy chancellor on Friday. Polakow-Suransky has worked as a teacher and principal and would be the “education” counterpart to Black’s business background.

To read more Click Here

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fighting for Students' Attention in a Digital World

Every day, students all across the globe are choosing between using their computers to find the most up-to-date information on their favorite topics and post status updates, pictures, and videos to their favorite social media sites or take the time to study the information in their school textbooks. In a battle for students’ attention it is easy to understand why, for some students, school has lost its interest and educators are trying to find a way to keep students focused. More technology in the classroom is one way schools have attempted to fight for a position at the forefront of students’ interests. What more can educators do to increase focus and learning in schools?

Read more about this dilemma at The New York Times

Friday, November 19, 2010

Administrators’ Role in Establishing Successful PLCs, Proficiency 1 of 5: Developing Instructional Expertise

This post if from guest blogger Amy Chamberlain, a content producer at School Improvement Network.

Note: This is part one of five in a series that discusses how administrators can support and sustain the growth of professional learning communities (PLCs) in their jurisdiction.

In my role as researcher and writer for School Improvement Network’s PD 360 content, I’ve been working with the talented educators from Sanger, California. This is an area of high diversity and rapid demographic change—and one that is experiencing a tremendous amount of student success. Much of this they credit to the widespread use of professional learning communities, or PLCs.

When they are well established, PLCs have a measurable and immediate effect on the quality of teaching and student success. Every educator I talked to in the Sanger Unified School District told me that their PLCs played a key role in the tremendous turn-around they and their students enjoyed (in seven years, the Sanger Unified School District went from a program improvement district to one of the top in the state; two of only thirty-five California Blue Ribbon Schools are located in SUSD).

While the day-to-day work of PLCs happens at the faculty level, administrators play a key role in creating an atmosphere where true collaboration can flourish. Sanger administrators developed five proficiencies that encouraged healthy PLCs throughout the district. These proficiencies are:

1) Develop instructional expertise
2) Model collaborative behavior
3) Hold PLC members accountable for good results
4) Create environments where trust is possible
5) Get—and stay—involved in faculty PLCs

1. Develop Instructional Expertise Marc Johnson, the superintendent of SUSD, notes that the days when a principal or administrator could just be a good manager are over. “I have to know as much or more about teaching as my faculty,” he notes, “because I may have expertise that [they] don’t, and neither of us will get better unless we share that expertise.” By changing his emphasis from managing people to sharing expertise, Marc demonstrated his commitment to sound instructional practice.

Stephanie Rodriguez, vice-principal of Washington Academic Middle School, also has a clear understanding of her job. “My role in the PLC is that of instructional leader,” she notes. “I really want to interact with the teachers and in order to do that, I have to know what it is that they’re doing. I have to be able to provide them with instructional tools and techniques that they may not have.”

John Hannigan, principal of Reagan Elementary School, notes that the Sanger district administrators provided support as he, too, shifted the focus of his work. They “constantly train and support, train and support,” he says. “The district leaders have put a big emphasis on capacity within their principals and setting up those principals as instructional leaders. We’re a support system to those teachers so that we have that knowledge to be able to support them, and help them grow. The admin team showed me how to take my own job from manager to teacher leader. ”

This shift from administration-as-manager to administration-as-instructional-leader is profound. It shrinks the distance between administration and faculty and gives them the shared goal of student success. Instructional leadership is more involved and challenging than a managerial role, but it is one of the crucial proficiencies in establishing a rich, effective PLC culture.

Part Two: The next blog entry in the series discusses Administration Proficiency 2: Model collaborative behavior.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A New Approach to Math Teaching

When any of us think of math we probably imagine worksheets and heavy books filled with math problems, but for Gail Iman's fifth-grade students math is more of an active adventure. With everything from paper money auctions to searching their surroundings for right angles, these students are learning math in a whole new way.

To learn more about Gail Iman's approach to math teaching Click Here

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Six New Members Named to the National Assessment Governing Board

Today, Education Secretary Arne Duncan named six members of the National Assessment Governing Board. David P. Driscoll, former commissioner of education for Massachusetts, will remain the chairman of the 26-member Board. Newcomers to the Board range from a governor to an award-winning middle-school science teacher.

To learn more about the new members Click Here

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Saving American Education is "The Cool Thing to Do"

In an article published by the Atlantic, Peter Osnos presented the idea that saving American education has become “the cool thing to do.” Revolving mostly around the appointment of Cathie Black as chancellor of New York City’s schools, Osnos also mentions the documentary Waiting for Superman, Teach for America, and Mark Zuckerberg’s, the co-founder of Facebook, $100 million donation to Newark Public Schools.

Has saving American education really become “the cool thing to do?” If so, will it help improve American education long term?

To read the full article Click Here

Monday, November 15, 2010

Parent Portal Keeping Parents Connected

What if parents knew exactly what grades their children were getting in school just by logging on to the internet? In Aberdeen, South Dakota parents are doing just that through a system called Parent Portal. By logging on to Parent Portal, parents can monitor their child’s attendance, grades, and behavior. At first, the district questioned if using the online technology would cause a decrease in parent attendance at parent-teacher conferences, but statistics show that parent attendance is still very high. The Parent Portal has created a greater level of communication between teachers and parents.

To learn more Click Here

Friday, November 12, 2010

'Grading' Utah Public Schools

Schools all across the country are implementing measurements for schools and teachers. Now, Utah public schools may be asked to ‘make the grade.’ A positive initiative already in place in Florida, State Superintendent Larry Shumway said he is impressed with Florida’s results. The grading system would be based on a number of factors including, public input on specific subjects, math, reading, and other topics. Shumway believes it is a cost effective approach to education reform in the state of Utah.

To learn more Click Here

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Larger Achievement Gap for Black Males

For years, there has been a debate over the achievement gap that exists in America’s schools—whether there is one and how to close it. Although the debate continues, especially on how to close it, it is easy to brush aside how truly daunting the gap may be in today’s schools. In a recent article published by the New York Times, researchers discovered the low proficiency of black males may be greater than previously thought. Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys. The article seems to suggest the achievement gap has to do with more than poverty alone.

Full article: New York Times

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

History Teacher Connecting Students from Immigrant Families to American History

Some might question the importance of teaching history in school compared to English or math, but Tim Bailey, the 2009 Preserve America National History Teacher of the Year, is showing the importance of educating young people about the history of America through creating an "emotional connection." Instructing at a school with nearly 70% poverty and an 86% minority population, Bailey felt it his duty to teach all of his students how to be an American citizen.

To learn more or if you can't view the video below, Click Here

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cathleen P. Black to Replace Joel I. Klein as Chancellor of New York City Schools

Today Cathleen P. Black was named the New York City schools chancellor, replacing Joel I. Klein. When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made the announcement this afternoon Department of Education officials were surprised, especially since many of them were not notified until just before the announcement. While Black was praised by Bloomberg for being a “superstar manager” in the past, she looks forward to a future with the “incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people.”

To read more: New York Times

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Rubik's Cube in the Classroom

Although some may say the Rubik's Cube is just a toy, teachers across the nation are finding the 3-dimensional block to be a useful classroom tool. Three years ago the company that makes the cube began working with educators to create downloadable lesson plans that help to teach critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity.

To learn more Click Here

Friday, November 5, 2010

Elementary Students Using Technology to Report Progress

In Arizona, teachers are helping students do more than learn about technology; they are helping them use that technology to report their own progress. First graders at Kyrene de la Esperanza Elementary are using tools like Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel, and other programs to build a presentation they will show at the end of the year.

To learn more Click Here

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Second Chance for High School Dropouts

It’s safe to say that every child deserves an education. Whether or not they take advantage of the opportunity to receive one is an entirely different story. Every year high school students all across the nation drop out of high school. Whether it be because they need to work more to help support their family, or because of teen pregnancy, or just because they are bored at school and feel they can use their time better elsewhere, these students forfeit the education they deserve. However, although it might be delayed, some of those who drop out want to come back and receive their diploma, but is it too late? At Indianapolis’ Excel Center, high school dropouts are getting a second chance to earn that diploma they so greatly desire. With a waiting list of about 800 students, this charter school is only the beginning of a second chance for high school dropouts.

To learn more Click Here

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Is Amplification Improving Classroom Learning?

In Janesville Wisconsin teachers are testing how amplification affects learning in their classrooms. Purchased with extra federal funds at the end of last year, the equipment (microphones and speakers) has yet to prove its positive or negative effects. Some teachers claim amplification systems help to increase focus among students, while others say it isn’t always practical for every classroom.

To read the full article Click Here

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mobile Technology in the Classroom?

Are mobile devices in the classroom the next big thing? Last week, Project Tomorrow’s annual Speak Up survey revealed that 62 percent of responding parents would purchase mobile devices for their children if used for educational purposes in school. More and more schools are looking at utilizing mobile technology in the classroom, especially considering the money districts would save if students used their own mobile devices.

Find out more about the survey HERE