Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Building a Better Education System in the United States

According to the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, the United States ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in mathematics. Ranking the knowledge of 15-year-olds in 70 countries, the report demonstrates the need for the U.S. to make improvements in how it's educating its students.

The new report from The National Center on Education and Economy (NCEE), an organization that researches education systems around the world, says that America can solve this educational crisis by looking at it like it looked at manufacturing at the turn of the 20th century.

"We took the best ideas in steelmaking, industrial chemicals and many other fields from England and Germany and others and put them to work here on a scale that Europe could only imagine," the report says. By using the educational strategies of successful nations, NCEE says, the U.S. can catch up.

"The most effective way to greatly improve student performance in the United States is to figure out how the countries with top student performance are doing it, build on their achievements and then, by building on our unique strengths, figure out how to do it even better," Marc Tucker, NCEE's CEO, said in a statement.

Read the full article here.

How do you think we can build a better education system in the United States? 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Documentary Zeros In on the Realities of Teacher Life

In an advanced screening on Tuesday in Washington D.C., Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other government officials previewed a new documentary titled, “American Teacher,” produced by Dave Eggers and Nínive Clements Calegari. The documentary follows five K-12 educators from different parts of the country as they navigate the life of being a teacher. 

At the heart of “American Teacher,”  lies the question, “Why are teachers in the United States so undervalued and lately even disparaged?” Narrated by Matt Damon, the film seeks to counteract popular misconceptions about the teaching profession and present a picture of what teachers actually do and what their lives are really like.

Read more about “American Teacher” here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Using Blogs to Teach Writing in the Classroom

The art of writing instruction has never been simple. Teaching a student when to use a comma or the definition of a metaphor is one thing, but facilitating expression through words is a much more complex undertaking. In an interview with Michael F. Shaughnessy, Education News.org Senior Columnist, Jon Schwartz, a teacher at Garrison Elementary School in Oceanside Unified School District, CA, explained why using blogs can be such a powerful tool in teaching his students to write.

One key element to motivating students to express themselves through writing is giving them a topic they care about personally. Schwartz relates a story where a college professor of his gave him a specific book to read for a book report after assessing his personal interests and it made all the difference to Schwartz’s interest in writing the report. In addition to the personal nature of writing assignments making a difference, Schwartz also addresses other elements of using student blogs, such as confidentiality, parent and principal support, and tailoring the entire blog writing experience to the particular grade level teachers are instructing.

Read the full interview here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Is the Professional Development in Your District Preparing You to Teach Today's Students?

"If you try to teach students today in the way they were taught before, you’re going to have disengaged students. Dropouts today are not because students aren’t interested in learning; it’s because schooling has not changed to fit the needs of today’s students," said Curtis Linton in his interview with Ken Royal on the topic of on-demand professional development. 

In today’s episode of The Royal Treatment, Ken Royal discussed Tablet-Age Professional Development with Curtis Linton, Vice President at School Improvement Network. Curtis shared insights into the need for a type of professional development (PD) that demonstrates best practices accessible at the exact moment when the PD is needed, not only at a designated time in the future. Here are more highlights: 

On-demand professional development really requires that we support teachers in the way we know good teaching of students also occurs:

What does the teacher need to know?
How do we know if the teacher knows it or not?
How do we support the teacher if they don’t know it?

The support provided to a teacher in terms of professional development needs to happen at the moment, not be pushed off until later on.

Listen to the entire interview here or download the podcast for free on iTunes here.

Has your professional development changed to fit the needs of today's students? 

Monday, May 16, 2011

President Obama Delivers Commencement Speech at Booker T. Washington High School

Today, President Obama delivered the commencement speech at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee. Competing against schools across the country, Booker T. Washington High School demonstrated an incredible increase of graduating students from 4% in 2005 to 70% in 2010, and was selected based on their entry video. Here are some highlights from the president’s speech:

“Well, we are here today because every single one of you stood up and said, ‘Yes we can.’ Yes we can learn. Yes we can succeed. You decided that you weren’t going to be defined by where you came from, but by where you want to go – by what you want to achieve, by the dreams you hope to fulfill.”

“Today BTW is a place that has proven why we can’t accept any excuses when it comes to education; that in the United States of America, we should never accept anything less than the best our children have to offer. As your teacher Steve McKinney, a.k.a. Big Mac, said in the local paper, ‘[W]e need everyone to broaden their ideas about what is possible. We need parents, politicians, and the media to see how success is possible, how success is happening every day…’”

“Education also teaches you the value of discipline – that the greatest rewards come not from instant gratification, but from sustained effort and hard work. It’s a lesson that’s especially important today, in a culture that prizes flash over substance, that tells us the goal in life is to be entertained, that says you can be famous just for being famous.”

Read the full speech

Booker T. Washington Entry Video

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

And the Winner Is . . .

iPad 2 Winner - Valerie Kirklin
In the month of April, School Improvement Network asked PD 360 users to participate in a survey to help us improve their experience with PD 360 and all of our professional development products. Thank you for your honest feedback and for assisting us to produce tailored professional development to help all students succeed. Congratulations to Valerie Kirklin from Oak Park Elementary School in Pine Bluff, AR for winning the iPad 2!

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Learning Community of 700,000 Educators

Today, best practices and effective teaching methods are constantly changing and advancing. As educators search for ways to stay up to date with new innovations in education, PD 360 provides a central, secure location to not only learn best practices from leading educational experts, but also to learn from and collaborate with a community of 700,000 other educators.

Community participants have the ability to create their very own forums with links to content they have found most useful in their everyday practices and upload files from external resources, all in a place where their peers can comment and discuss. With the ability to search by topic, teachers can easily find answers to their questions such as “What is the best way to deal with misbehavior in the classroom?” or “What are some methods of differentiation that have worked for you?”

The PD 360 Learning Community really is that—a community. Collaboration has never been so powerful and far reaching. Even outside of the actual community forums, users can create profiles in PD 360 and connect and share directly to other users through the Colleagues feature. Once teachers and administrators join the community they will have access for life, whether or not they decide to continue utilizing the rich PD 360 resources after the 30-day trial.

Click Here to Join the PD 360 Learning Community

As Teacher Appreciation Week concludes we just want say, “thank you” for continually learning so that you can continue to enlighten the minds of the students in your schools!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

President Obama Honors State and National Teachers of the Year

In a ceremony outside the White House this morning, President Obama honored the National Teacher of the Year, Michelle Shearer, and the State Teachers of the Year. In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Day, we thought we would share some of the president’s comments and highlight a few of the characteristics that we can all honor in the teachers around us:

“What people I think don’t realize is just how much work and how much sacrifice it takes to make that connection. My sister is a teacher, and so I’ve had the occasion of just watching her preparing lesson plans and then going out of her way to call that student who she thinks has potential but is slipping away, and working with parents who maybe don’t know how to support their kids. And it’s tiring work, but how incredibly gratifying it must be.”

“Because in the end, the most effective teachers are the ones who are constantly striving to get better and help their students get better. Those teachers who stay up late grading papers. The teachers who give up their afternoons and free periods to give that student a little bit of extra one-on-one help, and spend evenings and weekends developing lesson plans and activities that don’t just teach the material, but make it come alive. And the teachers who see the potential in students even when the students themselves don’t see that potential.”

“In the words of one of my favorite poets, William Butler Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Teachers here today, and thousands like them, are surrounded every day by young people who will shape our future. But it takes a special person to recognize that. It takes a special person to light that fire, to raise our children’s expectations for themselves, and never give up on them no matter how challenging it might be.”
In addition to the president’s comments, Michelle Shearer affirmed the positive and necessary impact teachers can have on their students in the classroom when she said, “My students will tell you that I love to give pep talks, and Friday was their last one before their AP chemistry exam. And among other things, I said, you are problem-solvers. No matter how challenging the questions, have confidence, forge ahead, and make progress toward solutions.”

“Likewise in education, no matter how challenging the issues, we must be problem-solvers. And as we continue to debate ideas, allocate resources, and implement change, we must make progress in a positive direction and always -- always -- see the faces of our students.”

To read the full transcript from the ceremony Click Here

Monday, May 2, 2011

National Teacher of the Year Committed to Helping Underrepresented Students

We all remember those teachers. The ones who made us believe we could do more than we ever thought we could. While we wish we could honor all of those teachers, one teacher in Maryland is receiving one of the highest honors a teacher can receive—National Teacher of the Year.

Michelle Shearer is a chemistry teacher at Urbana High School. With over 14 years of experience, Shearer believes “there is an aspiring scientist in all of us.” She said she captures students’ attention by making real-life connections to scientific concepts.

Before teaching at Urbana, Shearer taught at the Maryland School for the Deaf where she offered, in American Sign Language, a course in advanced placement chemistry for the first time in the institution’s 135-year history. She wrote on her contest application that when she suggested to her students that they also take AP calculus, they asked, “Why?” She signed back, “Because you can.”

Shearer said she is committed to helping children who have traditionally been underrepresented in science, including those with special needs and minorities. She has worked with students with poor vision, dyslexia, dysgraphia, attention deficit disorder and Asperger’s syndrome in her AP chemistry classes.

Read more about Michelle Shearer at The Washington Post