Monday, August 29, 2011

CA Superintendent Takes $800,000 Pay Cut to Save School Programs

“Where will the money come from?” That’s the question every superintendent and other school officials are asking as they try to find a way to keep the programs and jobs that are near extinction. While many school leaders might be looking within their already shrinking budgets, Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell is taking matters into his own hands . . . and out of his own pocket.

Until his term expires in 2015, Powell will run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students, all for less than a starting California teacher earns. He asked his board to allow him to return $288,241 in salary and benefits for the next three and a half years of his term, equaling a total of $800,000. He technically retired, then agreed to be hired back to work for $31,000 a year — $10,000 less than a first-year teacher — and with no benefits.

To read the full article, click here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

How Is Your District Saving Money?

For years, states and school districts have spent hundreds of hours struggling to redistribute and make calculated cuts to school budgets in an attempt to provide a quality education in spite of the lack of funding. While the decrease in funding has caused the cutting of teacher positions and even classes like music and physical education, many schools have resorted to even bigger cuts—cuts like eliminating an entire day of instruction.

The Irene-Wakonda School District in South Dakota is among the latest to adopt a four-day school week as the best option for reducing costs. The four-school week is an increasingly visible example of the impact of state budget problems on rural education. This fall, fully one-fourth of South Dakota's districts will have moved to some form of the abbreviated schedule. Only Colorado and Wyoming have a larger proportion of schools using a shortened week. According to one study, more than 120 school districts in 20 states, most in the west, now use four-day weeks.

Larry Johnke, the superintendent of the district, said the district will add 30 minutes to each day and shorten the lunch break to provide more class time Monday through Thursday. In elementary school, recess and physical education classes will be shortened.

What is your district doing to save money this school year?

To read the full article, click here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Standardized Tests: Are They Helping or Hindering?

This week in EducationNews, Julie Steiny compared punitive testing models to educational bullying. While she isn't directly blaming the tests, she says, “We’ve crossed a none-too-fine line between accountability—which we all want, without question—to bullying, plain and simple.”

She affirms, “Tests are not the problem. Achievement results are just information. Reliable data is great. It shows us where successful innovation might be underway. It raises red flags, confirms good work, and anchors hunches that our latest strategies are working, or not. We’ll never improve education without hard information, and plenty of it.”

“No, the problem is the bullying. Bullying has become a unique characteristic of America’s education culture. Comply or be punished. Get your students to meet federal and state proficiency standards — or else. Failure can bring public humiliation, wholesale staff dismissals, or schools being closed down entirely. States lean on districts; districts on their administrators. The public and pundits snarl at teachers. Teachers try hard not to take it out on their students.”

Tests are more than measurements for teacher effectiveness. Tests provide large amounts of valuable data, but it’s what we do with the data that makes a difference, how we better help the students understand the curriculum. As Steiny puts it, “The tests are a red flag, not a diagnosis. Test scores are just measurements until digested and interpreted by human judgment.

To read the full article from Julie Steiny, click here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Declining Economy Hinders Student Learning in the Classroom

Unemployment and foreclosure are affecting the ability for students to learn in the classroom. Recently, an annual Kids Count Report estimated that 56,000 Utah children who lived in mortgaged households have been disrupted by foreclosure since 2007. Utah is just one of many places where the poor economy is becoming one more hindrance to children’s learning.

Midvale Elementary school teacher Leandra Stromberg says, "I've had students who tell me they can't come to school because they don't have gas for their cars or it is broken or there's too much snow." She said children from the nearby homeless shelter often join her third-grade class halfway through the year or whenever they move to the community.

"The economy has gotten worse since I started teaching," Stromberg said. "I've seen many of my students, who used to come to school in cleaner clothes, brand new outfits and backpacks, come back the next year with the same stuff. They're lacking supplies because the economy has gotten worse."

Have you seen the effects of a declining economy in the lives of your students?

To read the full article click here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Exercise Increases Students' Ability to Focus in Class

Keeping students focused and engaged in the classroom can be more work than covering the actual lesson material at times. According to an article in the New York Times, one aid in attention retention is exercise. A new study of 138 schoolchildren ages 8 to 11 living in Rome demonstrated that students’ performed better academically after physical activity, specifically endurance exercise (results based on students’ performance on a written test widely accepted as a good indicator of a person’s attention and ability to concentrate).

The study also revealed that when students were asked to learn new drills with a ball in their gym class versus the endurance exercise class, the test scores increased, but not as much as with endurance-focused exercise. The second session, which was “geared toward the development of both motor control and perceptual-motor adaptation abilities,” required more thought than the endurance class, the researchers wrote. The same researchers speculated that asking the students to both think and move was too much, inducing “an excessive stress load” on their brains.

To read the full article click here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cincinnati Closing Achievement Gap and Increasing Graduation Rates

For years, leaders in education have worked hard to close the achievement gap between white students and African American students. While many schools and districts are still pushing forward in this effort, Cincinnati, Ohio Public Schools (CPS) has managed to close the gap with their high school graduation rates.

For over a decade, CPS has involved coordinated, research-based strategies towards closing the gap, but without the creative and courageous work by those actually in the schools, such an ambitious goal could not have been realized. So how did they do it? Is there a way other districts can repeat such success?

Cincinnati, Ohio Public Schools used several strategies including:

• Focusing on just a few goals (increasing overall graduation rates and reducing the high school graduation gap).

• Taking educators, parents, community leaders and students to visit some of the nation’s most effective urban district and charter public schools.

• Focusing staff development on a few key areas: literacy, numeracy and learning to work more effectively with today’s urban youth.

• Increasing youth/community service so students learned they are capable of more than they thought.

• Positive ongoing leadership from the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers

• Holding principals accountable and replacing some in schools where there was not much progress.

To read the full article and see the full list of strategies, click here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

How Technology is Changing Classroom Instruction

Yesterday, in a San Diego Newspaper, author Jeffrey Taekman claimed that 30 years ago MTV rewired our brains for learning. Now, you can decide whether that is true or not, but Taekman was using MTV’s introduction of the music video in the 80s to support his statement that today, “educational methods that embrace technological advances are needed to enhance the learning experience.”

He goes on to say, “despite numerous advances in technology and the science of learning, the majority of our teaching remains lecture-based, for no better reason than it is the easiest approach.

It is time for a change.

Taekman goes on to discuss the responsibilities of educators to adapt new roles as guides or facilitators, rather than “end-all, be-all oracles spewing forth knowledge.”

To read the full article click here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lesson Learned: How a Teacher Was Changed Forever

Every day, teachers are asked to instruct anywhere from 15 to 40 students in their classrooms. Whether big or small, it seems there are always those stories of the kid who throws a fit or gets completely out of control. In fact, most teachers could probably name the top five horror stories of students misbehaving in their classes off the top of their head. Marilyn Rhames was no different. Within her first six months of student teaching she fled an elementary school on the West Side of Chicago, hoping her perception of teaching would not be too tarnished after such a negative experience.

One day, in the teacher’s lounge of her second school, she, along with other teachers, were spurting out their horror stories to each other. That is, until a middle school social studies teacher spoke up and said, “It happened to them” —the four words that shut her and the other teachers up. “It happened to them, not to you. You tell the stories like it's some kind of entertainment, but it happened to them—the kids. They are the ones who 30 years from now will remember these stories with tears in their eyes.”

Have you had similar experiences? Let us know what you think.

To read the full article click here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dear Student: Advice for the New School Year

If you could give any advice to students returning to school this fall, what would it be? Phrases such as “pay more attention in class, study harder, or try to make new friends” might come to mind, but Jeff Thredgold went far beyond that when he published a letter to his children seventeen years ago. Recently, he republished the letter as a reminder to his children and grandchildren of what to keep in mind as the new school year begins, and perhaps a reminder for us all:

· Recognize that the only limits you face are those you set for yourself.

· Be the BEST that you can be.

· Recognize that YOU are responsible for your successes and failures.

· You must earn your way.

· Strive for excellence—not perfection.

· See the glass as half full, rather than seeing it as half empty.

· Focus on positives, rather than on negatives.

· Look to praise, rather than to criticize.

To read the entire letter, click here.