Preparing STEM Teachers: The Key to Global Competitiveness

Sean Cavanaugh 884K PDF:

The document, produced by the Washington-based American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, provides descriptions of 50 teacher-education programs around the country. Although the report does not identify any single program or approach as most effective in swelling the ranks of math and science teachers, it says that more institutions are establishing stronger ties between colleges of education, which focus on teacher preparation, and academic programs, which are devoted to training undergraduates in specific academic subjects.
Barriers between those academic departments sometimes prevent talented math and science undergraduates from considering teaching careers, advocates for improved teaching have argued. Those intrauniversity divides also make it more difficult for aspiring teachers to obtain vital content knowl-edge in math and science before entering the classroom, some say.

Idaho Evaluating Math Ed

Joshua Palmer:

In an effort to prepare students for the rigors of increasing math requirements, the Idaho State Department of Education is re-evaluating the way schools teach and assess student proficiency in mathematics.
The Idaho Legislature approved $350,000 in research funding earlier this year, which paid for the development of a task force to examine issues such as various assessment methods, teacher training and remedial opportunities for students who struggle in mathematics.
The department will ask lawmakers in the 2008 legislative session to approve funding for the changes it will likely propose in math education and assessment.
Cindy Johnstone, mathematics coordinator for the state department, said the changes are part of the state’s math initiative, which was implemented to improve student proficiency in mathematics.
In Idaho and throughout the nation, math scores are steadily falling in elementary and middle schools – a problem that has forced high schools to devote more resources to math remediation.

Much more on math, here.

“Candidates vying to be teachers’ pet”: Obama Endorses Merit Pay

Thomas Fitzgerald:

Fifteen minutes before Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was scheduled to speak yesterday, teachers in the audience were crawling across the floor, trying to get closer to the lectern for a better camera angle.
When the Democratic presidential candidate finally took the stage, cheers from the delegates to the National Education Association were deafening, and nobody booed or hissed when, near the end of a 40-minute appearance, Obama endorsed the idea of merit pay for teachers.
Merit pay is a no-go for most in the teachers union – members say they are concerned it would not be implemented fairly – but Obama softened the blow by promising he would not propose “arbitrary measures” to link pay to performance.
“I want to work with teachers. I’m not going to do it to you, I’m going to do it with you,” the Illinois Democrat told the crowd of 9,000 at the Convention Center. As he spoke, cameras flashed around the hall.

Joanne has more.

Tutor Vista

Our mission is to provide world-class tutoring and high-quality content to students around the world. is the premier online destination for affordable education – anytime, anywhere and in any subject. Students can access our service from the convenience of their home or school. They use our comprehensive and thorough lessons and question bank to master any subject and have access to a live tutor around the clock. TutorVista helps students excel in school and in competitive examinations.

The Economist:

but TutorVista, an online tuition service, is aimed squarely at customers in the developed world. Mr Ganesh founded the company in late 2005 after spotting that personal tutoring for American schoolchildren was unaffordable for most parents. His solution is to use tutors in India to teach Western students over the internet. The teachers all work from home, which means that the company is better able to avoid India’s high-wage employment hotspots. TutorVista further hammers home its labour-cost advantage through its pricing model. It offers unlimited tuition in a range of subjects for a subscription fee of $100 per month in America (and £50 a month in Britain, where the service launched earlier this year) rather than charging by the hour. Tutors are available around the clock; appointments can be made with only 12 hours’ notice.
It is too early to gauge the impact of the service on educational outcomes, says Mr Ganesh, but take-up is brisk. TutorVista has 2,200 paying subscribers at the moment (most of them in America) and hopes to boost that figure to 10,000 by the end of the year. The company is expected to become profitable in 2008. Even cheaper pricing packages are on the way. Launches of the service are planned for Australia and Canada. Mr Ganesh is also investigating the potential of offering tuition in English as a second language to students in South Korea, where high rates of broadband penetration make the market attractive. Get that right, and China looms as an even bigger prize.

TutorVista, along with Rosetta Stone and other online tools offer practical options for families who seek new learning opportunities unavailable via traditional models. The nearby Oregon school district may add languages to their elementary programs. CyraKnow offers handy “phrase books” for the iPod.

Review Finds Nutrition Education Failing

Martha Mendoza:

– The federal government will spend more than $1 billion this year on nutrition education – fresh carrot and celery snacks, videos of dancing fruit, hundreds of hours of lively lessons about how great you will feel if you eat well.
But an Associated Press review of scientific studies examining 57 such programs found mostly failure. Just four showed any real success in changing the way kids eat – or any promise as weapons against the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.

Extending what schools do risks diluting their core purpose

The Economist:

REJIGGING government departments is an easy way for a new leader to signal a break with the past. And this is exactly what Gordon Brown has done in his first week as prime minister, with a good deal of reshuffling of ministerial duties and two departmental eviscerations.
The most eyecatching of these divided the education department down the middle. The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) inherits most responsibilities for under-19s, including some taken over from other departments, such as youth justice and the “Respect agenda” (cracking down on anti-social behaviour) from the Home Office. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) takes up where DCSF leaves off, overseeing further and higher education and doling out research funding, much of which previously came from Mr Brown’s other main casualty, the now-deceased Department of Trade and Industry.

Many school libraries open so… Beat the Heat – Read!

Madison Metropolitan School District:

This summer the Madison School District is again running a summer library access project. The project’s primary goal is to ensure that Madison elementary-age school children, from both public and private schools, have easy access to library materials during their summer break.
By providing such access, the district hopes to minimize reading achievement loss during the summer months for students who might not otherwise have ready access to reading materials. Some studies suggest that 80% of the achievement difference between high income and low income students may be attributable to summer reading loss.

Northfield has a heroin problem


Police in this upscale college town say they’re fighting an unusual heroin epidemic among high school kids.
More than 150 kids are hooked on the drug, Northfield Police Chief Gary Smith said Tuesday. He decided to publicize the problem with a news conference, where he said that as many as 250 current and former Northfield High School students could be involved – some feeding heroin habits of as much as $800 a day.
The epidemic has increased crime and caused consternation in Northfield, one of the most educated and affluent cities in Minnesota, and home to both Carleton and St. Olaf colleges.
“This is affecting our ability to deal with other community concerns,” Smith said. “We find ourselves more often reacting to crimes than preventing them.”
Smith said investigators first caught wind of the problem when crime started spiking, including a doubling in burglaries and tripling in thefts from autos from 2005 to 2006. It led them to the informal heroin ring at the high school of about 1,300 students.

With rise in autism, programs strained

Carey Goldberg:

A decade ago, it took a few months to get a child into Melmark New England, a special school largely for children with autism. Now, the wait can be five years
Boston-area parents, worried their child may be autistic, routinely face delays as long as nine months to confirm the diagnosis — even though current wisdom holds that treatment should begin as early as possible.
And LADDERS, a Wellesley autism clinic, has all but closed its doors to new patients: “We’re backed up well over a year here, and other clinics are struggling the same way,” said Dr. Margaret Bauman, its director.
Statewide, the number of schoolchildren diagnosed with autism has nearly doubled over the last five years, from 4,080 to 7,521, according to soon-to-be-published data from the Department of Education.

Hoping to Retain Graduates, Maine Helps With Loan Costs

Katie Zezima:

Seeking to discourage Maine college graduates from leaving the state, Gov. John Baldacci signed a bill Monday giving tax credits to lower the cost of student loans for those who stay in the state.
The program, called Opportunity Maine, starts in January and will apply only to new loans. The tax credit will last 10 years, or until the recipient moves out of state.
“This is about our generation helping the next one,” Mr. Baldacci, a Democrat, said in a statement. “We’re telling our students, If you live, work and pay taxes in Maine, you’re not going to have this student debt hanging around your neck.”
The tax credits will be capped at $2,100 a year, about the cost of taking 10 credits at the Orono campus of the University of Maine, not including fees.

In School Takeover, Newark Union Tries to Prove It’s Part of the Solution

Winnie Hu:

When teachers are removed from their schools here, their first phone call is often to the powerful Newark Teachers Union. But now the union is telling as many as a dozen teachers at the troubled Newton Street School that they have to leave because they do not fit in with a plan to improve the school.
“It was probably the hardest thing that I’ve had to do,” said Joseph Del Grosso, the longtime union president, who helped push through raises for teachers this spring during a state budget crisis, and went to jail for nearly three months in 1971 for taking part in a teachers’ strike.
The 5,000-member teachers’ union, the largest in New Jersey, is part of a takeover team at Newton, one of the city’s worst-performing public schools. For the past six years, it has failed to demonstrate “adequate yearly progress” on state achievement tests, the standard required by the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Oregon may teach foreign languages in grade school

Gena Kittner:

Even as they are first taught to read, kindergartners here could be learning to say hello, goodbye and much more in Japanese, German, Spanish, Arabic or another foreign language.
The Oregon School District is considering teaching a different language at each of the district’s three elementary schools, starting in kindergarten and continuing through fourth grade.
It’s an idea that has been tried in the Menasha School District for about 14 years and one that’s getting more interest from districts around the state.
“Our hope is that in fall of 2008 we will get this up and running,” said Courtney Odorico, Oregon School Board member. “The idea is the kids don’t learn to be (just) Spanish speakers; they learn to be language learners. Kids are going to need to learn a second language.”
The program, which needs board approval, integrates the foreign language into lessons on science, math and language arts — in addition to a dedicated class just for language instruction every other day. It could be phased in over several years, continuing to the middle school and high school.

Smart. Great to see some public districts increasing academic opportunities (Virtual language learning is also on offer in some local schools).

So Much Paperwork, So Little Time to Teach

Samuel Freedman:

Allison Rabenau celebrated an inauspicious milestone on the otherwise unremarkable day of Oct. 18, 2004. Six weeks into her first year as a teacher, she finally taught a class.
Ms. Rabenau had left a long career as a stage manager in the commercial theater to learn how to teach English as a second language to immigrant children in New York’s public schools. The only problem, she quickly discovered, was that the avalanche of paperwork and other assignments meant she actually got to teach only sporadically.
In a perfect, if dispiriting bit of symmetry, her initial year at Public School 123 in Harlem ended the same way it began. Ms. Rabenau lost the last six weeks of the spring term to prepare, administer, then score a standardized test for English fluency.
Essentially, her teaching year, and her students’ learning year, had run only from mid-October to mid-April, with numerous interruptions even then. During the time when the students were entitled to instruction in English, they were sitting in other courses that they may or may not have understood.

Jefferson on Public Education: Defying Conventional Wisdom

Tom Shuford:

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson
The Fourth of July is fireworks, festivities and images of a gathering of remarkable men determined “to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.”
For me the Fourth of July is those things and a question: What sort of education produced these men? What schools might produce their like again? There are clues. The author of the Declaration of Independence had much to say about educating the very young.
Thomas Jefferson lobbied the Virginia General Assembly to implement a system of publicly-funded schools. He failed. It would be sixty years before Horace Mann traveled the state of Massachusetts on horseback advocating a system of “common schools” and decades more before most states would follow Massachusetts’ lead.
Jefferson’s vision for public education is, nonetheless, illuminating and provocative. The main source is his Notes on the State of Virginia, first published in 1785. Here are some of the key features of his plan — in the original spelling, where quoted:

  1. Attendance is voluntary. “It is better to tolerate that rare instance of a parent’s refusing to let his child be educated, than to shock the common feelings by a forcible transportation and education of the infant against the will of his father.” (1)
  2. Every child is entitled to three years of instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic.
  3. The reading for the primary school years is mainly history. “The first stage of this education . . . wherein the great mass of the people will receive their instruction, the principal foundations of future order will be laid here. Instead therefore of putting the Bible and Testament into the hands of the children, at an age when their judgments are not sufficiently matured for religious enquiries, their memories may here be stored with the most useful facts from Grecian, Roman, European, and American history.”
    And later in the text, Jefferson writes that “of all the views of this law, none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the safe, as they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty. For this purpose the reading in the first stage, where they will receive their whole education, is proposed, as has been said, to be chiefly historical. History by apprising them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.”

  4. The “best genius in the school of those whose parents are too poor to give them further education” is entitled to a fourth and fifth year at a “grammar school.”
  5. Students at grammar schools study “Greek, Latin, geography, and the higher branches of numerical arithmetic.”
  6. After a trial period of one or two years, the best student at each grammar school is selected for six years of further instruction. “By this means . . . the best geniusses will be raked from the rubbish annually, and be instructed, at the public expense, so far as the grammar schools go.”
  7. After the sixth year, the best half of these go to college. “At the end of six years instruction, one half are to be discontinued (from among whom the grammar schools will probably be supplied with future masters); and the other half, who are to be chosen for the superiority of their parts and disposition, are to be sent and continued three years in the study of such sciences as they shall chuse, at William and Mary college.

Jefferson believed in selection by merit from an early age: “By that part of our plan which prescribes the selection of youths of genius from the classes of the poor, we hope to avail the state of those talents which nature has sown as liberally among the poor as the rich, but which perish without use, if not sought and cultivated.”

Related: Jefferson’s last letter, written on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Superintendent Credentials

The Doyle Report:

Announced two days ago by Mayor Adrian Fenty, Michelle’s appointment is part of two trends. The first is mayoral control of schools; the second is appointing “uncredentialed” or “unlicensed” leaders to fill the post of superintendent (or in the case of DC and NYC, chancellor).
The nightmare of credentialing is ordinarily thought of in terms of teachers, a challenge that reformers like Michelle and Wendy Kopp have taken on in their respective spheres; in their earliest incarnation, credentials were meant to be a floor beneath which teachers would not fall. In their modern incarnation they have become a ceiling through which they may not pass. For example, the head of the Sidwell Friends math program, a trained mathematician with 30 years experience of superlative high school teaching couldn’t get a job in a public school. Nor could Einstein.
By way of contrast, the most ordinary time-server could muddle through a college of teacher education and “earn” a credential. So too administrative credentials. Most important, the credentialitis that afflicts public K-12 education, while originally well intentioned, is not linked to performance.

How about private funding for public education? How about private funding for public education?

Milwaukee Teacher Thomas Biel:

The 2008 budget for a cash-strapped Milwaukee Public Schools comes in at $1.2 billion. What is so staggering about that amount is that the amount turns out to be minimal operating cost.
Throwing more money into the pot does not guarantee improved cooking. As long as a reasonable amount of money is made available, good management, excellent leadership, skillful workers and societal support are still the keys to success.
However, if we are in the business of improving the product, more financial resources are essential.
If the public is tapped out, then public education needs to tap into the private sector. The private sector of society should be asked to kick in more money. Basically, public education needs to do more to build bridges to private business and the private sector needs to do more to fund public education.
Why? Because it’s good business.

Milwaukee Public School’s Spending Rush Questioned

Alan Borsuk:

As the end of its budget year approached last week, Milwaukee Public Schools had not spent more than $50 million slated to be used for the 2006-’07 school year.
Administrators say that if they hadn’t spent the money by June 30, it would have hurt MPS in the future because of state school aid rules – with Milwaukee property taxes rising as a result. So they unloaded some big payments at the last moment, including $37.8 million to prepay costs such as debt service expected in 2007-’08.
This was routine – and good – practice in the eyes of Superintendent William Andrekopoulos and Chief Financial Officer Michelle Nate.
But it set off alarms with others, particularly Michael Bonds, chairman of the School Board’s Finance Committee, who said board members were not given straight information from administrators and did not have a chance to deal with the issue effectively. Bonds wondered if there were ways the money could have been used to increase programs for children.
He said he met Sunday afternoon with Andrekopoulos and Nate to talk about the issue, but he refused to accept what he called “a party line document” that suggested to board members what they should say to anyone who asked them about what was going on.

Ten Ways to Reduce College Application Stress

Jay Matthews:

Three of America’s smartest and most experienced college admissions officers, Sarah D. Donahue, William R. Fitzsimmons and Marlyn McGrath Lewis of Harvard, had a piece in the Harvard Crimson recently saying, among other things, that they planned to “work with secondary schools in a renewed effort to make applying to college less complicated and stressful than it is today.”
I am not certain how that is going to happen in their case. They rejected a record 91.03 percent of applicants to Harvard this year. It seems to me the only way to reduce stress in their process is to franchise the brand name so we can have McHarvards in Beltsville, Md., Kankakee, Ill., Pismo Beach, Calif., and other deserving locales.

Race in Schools

Tom Ashbrook, Luke Massie, Michael Steel, ,Gary Orfield and Lani Gunier:

Across the country today, American schools and educators are still trying to figure out the full implications of last week’s big Supreme Court ruling on race and school assignments.
A half century after the court declared that “separate but equal” does not work in education, the Roberts court seemed to point straight back to separate but equal. Or maybe forward to some new effort at colorblind equality.
This is bedrock stuff. Critics are shouting “resegregation.” Supporters say “So what?”
This hour On Point: the surprising range of response to the court’s big new message on race and schools.

20mb mp3 audio.

“No Child Left Behind” in the Crosshairs

Washington Post Editorial:

Nor can some of his arguments about the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind be denied. For example, the law’s requirement that states test students annually and show progress toward proficiency has caused some states to lower standards and water down assessments. It’s difficult, though, to see how giving states even more flexibility will solve this problem. Wasn’t the trouble caused by letting states decide what’s good enough?
We’ve been unequivocal in our support of standards that have rigor and meaning. It’s encouraging that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), a proponent of No Child Left Behind who chairs the education committee, has identified this as one of his priorities. Some promising ideas come from the nonprofit advocacy group Education Trust. One is to encourage states to raise their standards to a “college-and-career-ready level” with the trade-off of getting more time to reach more realistic goals of proficiency. The law’s original goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014, while laudatory, may be unrealistic.

NY Governor Spitzer on School Choice

Eliot Spitzer:

In a 30-minute presentation entitled “Unfinished Business,” given to more than 400 of the state’s most powerful and influential television and radio professionals, Gov. Spitzer made the case his administration has much to be proud of since he took office in January.
Among the educational accomplishments touted in his talk was the doubling of charter school choices across New York. “The more you get alternative models out there, the better,” he remarked. “Even if charter schools never have more than a small piece of the market share, they nonetheless provide an alternative example people can look to for learning.”

The New Age of Ignorance

Tim Adams:

Fifty years on, and exponential scientific advance later, it seems unlikely that the response of dinner guests would be much different. I was reminded of Snow’s test when reading the new book by Natalie Angier, science editor of the New York Times. Angier’s book is called The Canon, and subtitled ‘A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science’. It is not a long book and it contains, as the title suggests, a breathless Baedeker of the fundamental scientific knowledge Angier believes is the minimum requirement of an educated person.
In many places, I found myself cringeing all over again. I’ve read a fair amount of popular science, tried to follow the technical arguments that underpin debates about global warming, say, or bird flu, listened religiously to Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time, but still I discovered large black holes in my elementary understanding of how our world works. Angier divides her book into basic disciplines – biology, chemistry, geology, physics and so on – and each chapter offers an animated essay on the current established thinking.
The result is the kind of science book you wish someone had placed in front of you at school – full of aphorisms that help everything fall into place. For geology: ‘This is what our world is about: there is heat inside and it wants to get out.’ For physics: ‘Almost everything we’ve come to understand about the universe we have learned by studying light.’ Along the way there are all sorts of facts that stick: ‘You would have to fly on a commercial aircraft every day for 18,000 years before your chances of being in a crash exceeded 50 per cent’, for example; or, if you imagined the history of our planet as a single 75-year human life span: ‘The first ape did not arrive until May or June of the final year… and Neil Armstrong muddied up the Moon at 20 seconds to midnight.’

Excerpt: The Two Cultures by CP Snow.

New Hampshire Begins to Define an “Adequate Education”

Norma Love:

New Hampshire will be responsible to pay for more than the three Rs under a new law defining a constitutionally adequate education but taxpayers won’t get the bill for months.
Gov. John Lynch signed the law yesterday, the first step in the state’s effort to answer a court ruling that it define its responsibility for education and pay for it.
“With this new law, we are fulfilling our responsibility to define an adequate education,” said Lynch. “The broad educational opportunities outlined in this law will ensure our children have the skills and knowledge they need to compete in today’s world.”
Lynch noted that the definition includes kindergarten — not currently mandated in New Hampshire.
The next step facing lawmakers is to put a price to the broadly worded definition, then craft a new aid distribution system. Lawmakers have insisted for months they won’t wait to do that.

Text of HB 0927-FN:

AN ACT relative to the specific criteria and substantive educational program that define an adequate education, the resources required to provide an adequate education, and the establishment of a timetable for costing an adequate education.

A More Global Approach to Education

Jon Boone:

Two of the world’s most buccaneering education entrepreneurs have teamed up to build 60 multimillion-dollar schools in big cities across the world.
The network of high-end international schools will cater to the children of bankers, diplomats and executives who have to regularly uproot their families.
With annual fees between $15,000 and $40,000, depending on the city, the plan marks a serious departure for Chris Whittle, famous for starting the Edison Schools company, which runs facilities in some of America’s most deprived areas.
His new venture, Nations Academy, has been set up with Sunny Varkey, chairman of Dubai-based Global Education Management Systems, which runs private schools around the world.