Friday, April 29, 2011

Experimental Teaching Method Improves Instruction at Ohio High School

At Marion Harding High School in Marion, Ohio two teachers are experimenting with "inclusion" teaching, designed to educate students with learning disabilities in a regular classroom.

Math teacher Paula Thomas and Phil Carr, an intervention specialist, are co-teaching an Algebra I class in which traditional students and students with disabilities are taught alongside each other. The teachers share duties, including instruction and grading, and offer extra help to struggling students, regardless of whether they are among students with individual education plans.

Among the benefits to such an arrangement, Thomas said, is that they can double up in in-class intervention and plan lessons together. Carr said there are times when one of them would observe while the other would instruct.

Read the full story at The Marion Star

Could a similar method of “inclusion” teaching be effective in your school or district?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Classroom Blogging for Beginners

In recent years, blogs have become more than just an online hub for great cooking recipes and elaborate how-to lists. As teachers work to integrate technology into the classroom, blogging has taken its place as an effective teaching tool for instructing students. Initially, educators might be nervous or hesitant to implement the use of blogs, but with a few guidelines, a classroom blog can be a powerful teaching resource.

Yesterday, Marsha Ratzel, a National Board-certified teacher in the Blue Valley School District in Kansas, presented eight tips for teachers just beginning the classroom blog process. With everything from choosing a blog platform to monitoring comments and assuring parent cooperation, we are excited to share Ratzel’s helpful tips with you, our readers.

Marsha Ratzel's 8 Tips for Blogging in the Classroom

Monday, April 25, 2011

Will the Common Core Be the Key to School Improvement?

Recently, The New York Times published an article about schools that have begun implementing the Common Core Standards. Whether it’s through using more technology or instructing the students to “watch the movie” before they “read the book” for a change, adapting the Common Core suggests a curriculum that is more relatable, therefore helping the students to internalize what is being taught in the classroom versus rote learning of facts. Changing instructional strategies is an attempt to alter what teachers have “always done” to ensure students are even more prepared for college than they have been in the past.

One teacher at Hillcrest High School in Queens, New York, Ms. Giannousis, explained her experience with implementing the Common Core Standards, “It wasn’t about making things easier for the students, but about challenging them to experience a classic in a different way.”

How do you think the Common Core Standards will affect education in the U.S.?

Read the full article at The New York Times

Friday, April 22, 2011

PD 360 is a "Positive Tool for Principals" in Petersburg, Virginia

“PD 360 is a positive tool for principals. They feel empowered because they now have the tools they need to lead teacher focus and they are able to be PD directors themselves.” Gail Wade Staff Development Coordinator Petersburg City public Schools, VA

Petersburg City Public Schools (PCPS) is located in Petersburg, Virginia, along the eastern seaboard just 23 miles south of the state capital, Richmond. It is a small district with a student population of 4,630 in seven schools.

PCPS, like many districts, has experienced difficulties:

• PCPS did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the 2009-2010 school year and had four Title I schools.
• PCPS did not meet full Standards of Learning (SOL) accreditation.
• PCPS had the highest dropout rate in central Virginia, with 19.2 percent of the Class of 2010 not making it to graduation. However, that number marked a sharp drop from 2008 when 31.1 percent of potential graduates dropped out.

PCPS Staff Development Coordinator, Gail Wade, was anxious to assist struggling teachers and thereby benefit students. She wanted a cost-effective single source that would provide many avenues of professional development (PD) for all educators. After sampling a free PD 360 trial, she quickly realized it was a perfect answer for the district’s PD.

Learn more about Petersburg's PD 360 Experience

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Collaborative Learning Improves Students' Reading Skills

It’s no secret that children learn at different rates and levels, and that’s without the racial achievement gap and learning disabilities. While districts across the country have implemented various practices to remedy the unevenness of learning in classrooms, two schools in Denver are using a technique called collaborative strategic reading to better understand reading—in particular for those learning English and students with learning disabilities.

With a student body of 40 percent English-language learners and 12 percent with learning disabilities, this technique is being put to good use at Merrill Middle School and Martin Luther King Jr. Early College. The strategy was developed by Janette Klingner, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She started the work in 1993 at the University of Miami, while working on the dissertation for her Ph.D.

"We really did develop it with English-language learners and students with learning disabilities in mind, and we've made changes to make it even more appropriate for them, but we've seen it helps anyone," Klingner said.

Read the full story at The Denver Post

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Students See the Benefits of a Community Effort in Indiana

There’s an old proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Educators at the K-8 Lincoln School in Evansville, Indiana couldn’t agree more. Lincoln is a “community school” that relies on ties between its district—the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation—and churches, social service agencies, nonprofit community groups, and other local organizations that have built a web of support to nurture schoolchildren across the entire district from “diaper to diploma.”

The school and community partners have also benefited from some unusual arrangements, such as a joint-purchasing agreement forged by Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel and district Superintendent Vince M. Bertram, who was hired in 2007. Through the agreement, the city government and the school district have streamlined the purchase of such disparate but essential products as toilet paper, gasoline, rock salt, and copy paper, saving both parties hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Partnerships have also helped the district meet the needs of some of its most vulnerable families.

With funding filtering in from the federal Full-Service Community Schools Program, other federal grants, and the occasional private donation, Lincoln has sustained itself as 1 of only 50 schools with a systemic community school strategy.

Read the full article at Education Week

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Educational Innovation: What does it look like?

“The ‘innovation’ that has happened in classrooms—mostly in the form of gizmos and gadgets—is not sufficient to produce the student learning required in the 21st century.” –Randy Shumway

In his article earlier this week, Randy Shumway (CEO of the Cicero Group) asserted that the school reform that has been taking place in classrooms across the country, is in fact, not reform at all. He states that, “Even big policy ideas, heralded as innovative by some reformers (including changes in the ways teachers are evaluated and compensated or the way students are assessed), remain largely "in the box" because they do little to rethink and restructure our schools.”

So the question remains, what does innovation look like? Is innovation necessary?

Read the full article in the Deseret News

Friday, April 8, 2011

From One Teacher to Another

Yesterday, Ryan Bretag, an administrator in Northbrook, Illinois and former teacher, wrote a letter to new teachers. Bursting with words of wisdom, Bretag’s letter is filled with advice ranging from keeping your door open, letting the world into your classroom, to growing as a leader in your school, district, and beyond. Although his letter may have been addressed to new teachers, it could be said that Bretag’s advice applies to all educators.

Read the letter

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Motivating Chicago Students Through Sports

Motivating students to learn is sometimes the greatest struggle a teacher can face in the classroom. While the curriculum can be interesting and integrate all the technology in the world, if it doesn’t capture the attention of the student, how much information will the student actually retain?

In Chicago, United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) is using an interest-based approach to academics by opening a soccer academy this fall for 575 kindergartners through eighth-graders.

With soccer the No. 1 sport in the Hispanic community, UNO organizers figured it could be a good hook to inspire kids otherwise prone to dropping out or not being interested in school, perhaps getting some on track for college sports scholarships.

"We have a tremendous amount of soccer talent within our community," said Juan Rangel, CEO of UNO. "Unfortunately, a lot of kids may have the soccer skills, but they do not have the academic background."

Learn more about the soccer academy at the Chicago Tribune

Is it effective to use external modes of motivation, such as athletics, to increase academic performance?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Growing Concerns Over Oklahoma's New Exit Exams

In the year 2012, high school seniors in Oklahoma will be required to pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams. While this requirement is causing anxiety among the class of 2012, Oklahoma isn’t the first state to require one or more exit exams in order for students to graduate from high school. In the 2009-10 school year, seven states withheld diplomas from students based on exit exams.

Another concern is how these exit exams will affect students of color and students from low-income families.

Read the full story at NewsOK

Do you think exit exams are a good idea? Are they effective for ensuring high school students are prepared for post-secondary education?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Crim Buddy Program Teaches Leadership and Integrates Students with Disabilities

Five years ago, Mark Staudt, physical education teacher at Crim Primary School in New Jersey, was teaching a class for students with severe disabilities and autism. While he was looking for a better way to connect with these students, he remembered a program he had heard of five years prior that paired older students with special needs kids, and he created the Crim Buddy Program.

Since the implementation of the program, students with disabilities have been able to be in classrooms with fewer restrictions and they feel more comfortable being around larger groups of kids. In the meantime, the older “buddies” have had the opportunity to learn more about leadership and empathy. Staudt may not have realized the impact of his experiment when he began, but it is evident that the program he started is improving the learning environment at Crim Primary School.

Learn more about the Crim Buddy Program