Pew report: Record numbers of Latinos in U.S. colleges, public schools
A Pew Hispanic Center report says the faces of public schools and colleges are changing.
August 20th, 2012
02:47 PM ET

Pew report: Record numbers of Latinos in U.S. colleges, public schools

By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN

(CNN) - Latino student populations have been on an upward trajectory in the U.S. for decades, and a report released Monday says the group’s growth reached record levels last year, both in public schools and colleges.

The number of 18- to 24-year-old Latinos in college topped 2 million in 2011, accounting for 16.5% of all enrollments, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center. The number means Latino representation in U.S. colleges and universities is on par with the percentage of Latinos among the U.S. population, also 16.5%.

Record numbers of Latinos are also finishing college, with 112,000 earning associate degrees and 140,000 earning bachelor’s degrees. Pew states both statistics are new highs, yet Latinos still lag behind whites (1.2 million bachelor’s degrees and 553,000 associates) and blacks (165,000 bachelor’s and 114,000 associates) in degree attainment.

“Some of the growth in Hispanic college enrollments simply reflects continued growth in the nation’s Hispanic population - since 1972, the number of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds has grown nearly five-fold, rising from 1.3 million then to 6 million in 2011,” the report said.

However, population alone cannot explain the numbers, as eligibility to attend college also is a factor. In 2011, 76% of Latinos age 18 to 24 had completed high school, another record and a 3.5% improvement over 2010 numbers.

At the pre-kindergarten-through-12th-grade level, Latinos made up 23.9% of students in 2011, another record, according to the report from the nonpartisan Washington-based think tank.

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August 17th, 2012
04:16 AM ET

How to shoulder a backpack

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) – Pediatric orthopedist Dr. David Marshall is concerned about the weight that students shoulder from their backpacks.

"We're starting to see more and more back pain complaints in the doctors' and the sports medicine offices, and the question is:  Is there a correlation between backpacks and back pain?"

It's true that they're a campus standard when it comes to carrying books, notebooks, computers, papers and pencils around.  But experts say a backpack's weight should be limited to about 10 – 15% of a student's body weight.

If a traditional backpack exceeds that, you may want to consider a rolling backpack (the kind that looks like luggage).

Those who do carry their school supplies on their shoulders can take a few steps to better distribute the weight.
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Filed under: College • Elementary school • High school • Middle school • Safety
The last Weekly Reader?
Weekly Reader, now owned by Scholastic, will cease independent publication this school year.
July 25th, 2012
06:15 AM ET

The last Weekly Reader?

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) The Weekly Reader title may hold fond memories for you, but it won’t be around the way you remember it for your kids.

The magazine that brought us all kinds of kid-appropriate stories, from presidential elections to fuzzy animals, is ceasing independent publication after more than a century in classrooms.

Scholastic, which started as a classroom magazine in 1920, purchased Weekly Reader this past February from Readers Digest Association, Inc.  In recent months, Scholastic says that its editors, along with those from Weekly Reader, met with teachers to determine which features of each publication would serve their audiences in different grades and subject areas.

Beginning this school year, Scholastic Classroom Magazines will offer what the company hopes is the best of both worlds in print and digital formats.  The magazines will be co-branded with titles such as Junior Scholastic/Current Events and Scholastic News/Weekly Reader.

Representatives from Scholastic would not comment on reported layoffs at Weekly Reader, saying only that some Weekly Reader staff are working for Scholastic, while others are “in consideration for jobs” or not interested in commuting to the Scholastic offices in New York City.

In an email statement to CNN, Cathy Lasiewicz, Senior Director at Scholastic Corporate Communications, said “We are confident that the combined Scholastic News/Weekly Reader team will now offer an even better news and information experience in print and digital formats for teachers and students.” 

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Filed under: Early childhood • Elementary school • Practice • Publications
My View: Grading art in a standardized-test world
June 25th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

My View: Grading art in a standardized-test world

Courtesy Dunbar LylesBy Katie Lyles, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Katie Lyles has been teaching art in Jefferson County, Colorado, for seven years. In addition to her classroom duties, Katie has been part of her school’s cabinet, the Jefferson County Strategic Compensation Steering Committee, and the Leadership Academy for the Colorado Education Association. She was also a member of TURN and a delegate representative for JCEA.  Katie is part of the steering committee for the Center for Teaching Quality’s New Millennium Initiative.

It takes a thick skin to be an elementary art teacher. And it’s not because of the clothes ruined by paint, the challenge of finding storage space for over 500 sculpture projects, or the glitter that sneaks into the most unlikely places.

No, what requires a thick skin is continually battling public perception that art—especially at the elementary level—is an “easy break in the day” for students. When I tell people that I’m an art teacher, I’m often greeted with a patronizing response that goes something like this: “Awwww! It must be fun to color all day!” That’s usually followed up with a stimulating question such as, “Do you have any students who eat glue?”

Truth be told, I do have fun coloring all day…while teaching color theory, elements of landscape, how to create visual interest through patterns, and the difference between a portrait and a still-life—and this is just with my second graders (who, by the way, have never attempted to eat the glue!).

Sadly, most people’s perceptions about art education come from their personal experience as students. Art classes look a lot different from a seven-year-old’s perspective than from a teacher’s perspective.
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Filed under: Art • Curriculum • Elementary school • Practice • Teachers • Voices
June 14th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

District's 'Teacher of the Year' laid off

by John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - As many as 33,500 teaching jobs nationwide have been lost since September, according to a recent analysis by the Washington Post. Sutterville Elementary School 6th grade teacher Michelle Apperson joined the ranks of those unemployed educators when she was laid off by the Sacramento City Unified School District.

Apperson isn't a new teacher, and she's not considered the bottom of the barrel. She taught at Sutterville for nine years, and was selected as this year's Teacher of the Year for the entire district. That distinction did not prevent Apperson's pink slip.

The district was facing a $43 million budget shortfall, which it addressed in part through cuts in its workforce – including teachers. A district spokesperson said the way teacher layoffs are handled is mandated by state law, and that the layoffs were based on seniority. Gabe Ross, the district's spokesman, called the situation "awful" and said, "It's another sign of how education's funding really needs an overhaul."

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Filed under: Economy • Elementary school • Policy • Teachers • video
June 7th, 2012
11:30 AM ET

Keeping students sharp through summer

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN)  Call it the summer slide, the seasonal slump, the brain drain or the summer slowdown.  Just don’t call it new:  The two-month period when students lose some of their academic edge has been observed for over a century.  The good news here is that experts and parents have come up with a number of ways to keep kids sharp through the summer, and we’re sharing some of them with you here.

Learn something new

“We would all expect an athlete’s or a musician’s performance to suffer if they took a long break from practice, and the same is true for our nation’s young people,” says Ron Fairchild, founder of the Smarter Learning Group.

One way to keep your student’s brain in shape is to keep the learning going.  It doesn’t have to be out of a textbook.  Swimming or SCUBA or horseback riding lessons, practicing a language while driving to your vacation destination – it all counts.

In a summer camp – particularly an outdoor one – kids take part in activities they might not otherwise do.  Some learn how to build a fire; some learn to paddle a canoe; some team up to complete a rope course.  (And even if students learn they can’t actually trust others in a “trust fall,” they’ve still learned something, right?)

Picking up a new instrument can also help keep kids engaged with learning, and there are many studies linking music with mathematics.  So if your child has always wanted to play guitar or drums (heaven help you), summer may be the perfect time to do it.
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My View: What standardized testing can learn from baseball
June 7th, 2012
06:12 AM ET

My View: What standardized testing can learn from baseball

Courtesy Wendi PillarsBy Wendi Pillars, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Wendi Pillars is a teacher with National Board Certification in English-language learning and a member of the Center for Teaching Quality’s Teacher Leaders Network. She has 15 years of teaching experience, overseas and stateside, and has been coaching Little League Baseball for three years.

It's that time of year again: Baseball season - and standardized testing season. As I donned my dangly earrings etched with the word "believe" on our first mathematics testing day, my heart raced at the thought of the day's outcomes. You see, wearing the earrings on test days reminds my nervous self that I believe my students will do their absolute best. This got me thinking about how I was inadvertently partaking in the time-honored athlete's tradition of the good luck talisman.

As a Little League Baseball coach and an elementary school teacher, I now connect standardized testing and baseball in more ways than one.

What do baseball and testing have in common?

Baseball is, simply, a time-consuming game. Players practice the same skills over and over.

Baseball relies heavily on stats, which have evolved from simple metrics to more complex ones.

Players rely on coaches to ascertain areas of improvement and how to improve.

Individual effort, support and practice at home can make tremendous differences in game-day performance.

The performance of a couple of players can make or break the entire team and the outcome of any given game. This, in turn, can affect finances and morale.

In Little League, as in the classroom, if your team is saddled with an unruly player, you can’t make trades.

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Filed under: Elementary school • Teachers • Testing • Voices
Sweet 'spell' of success
Sukanya Roy of South Abington Township, Pennsylvania reacts after winning the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee competition June 2, 2011 in National Harbor, Maryland.
May 30th, 2012
12:02 PM ET

Sweet 'spell' of success

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) It’s not always easy to watch: young people given increasingly difficult words to spell, standing uncomfortably under lights and cameras, their faces strained or frozen under pressure, their parents watching helplessly from their seats in the audience… They’re all components of the tournament that crowns America’s best speller.

If you look back at the National Spelling Bee’s winning words of the 1930s and 40s, you’ll see quite a few you can handle: fracas, knack, torsion, initials, psychiatry. In more recent years, with many more students competing with far more intensity, most of us need a dictionary – not just for the spellings, but for the definitions of the words themselves.

When was the last time you used Ursprache, appoggiatura, Laodicean or cymotrichous in a sentence? (When was the last time you even saw them anywhere?)

Words like these will be either the stumbling blocks or victory laps for the 278 spellers in this year’s Scripps bee. They’re from all over the map, representing ages from 6 to 15. And while they may not be able to drive, buy lottery tickets, vote, or get a beer after the event, they’re all better spellers than we are.

In fact, most of these students are scholars in other areas. Take 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison. She’s been in spelling bees since age 3, but she’s also won awards in mythology and math events. Arvind Mahankali, who’s 12 and came in third place last year, has received an honors award from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth. And 14-year-old Nabeel Rahman came in first place in the middle school National Geographic Bee.

Of course, spelling on its own is hard enough. Everywhere you look, there are misspellings – even the very word looks like it has too many consonants. Whenever Germanic, Old Norse, Latin, French, and Old English got together, two things were inevitable: confusion and compromise.

And those are evident across our lexicon. Remember the “i before e” rule? It had a plethora of exceptions, so spelling tipsters added “or when sounded like ‘ay’, as in neighbor and weigh.” But that isn’t enough to go on because words like height and efficient pop up and throw us further off the tracks. So a better, overall summary might be “i before e, except after c…or whenever.”

As anyone who’s ever written anything in English can tell you, there are a lot of exceptions to our rules of spelling, not to mention differences in British and American spellings (see colour, humour, etc.). The bad news is that sometimes, you just have to memorize words on a case-by-case basis.
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Filed under: At Home • Carl Azuz • Elementary school • Practice • Reading • Spelling
Maurice Sendak, author of 'Where the Wild Things Are,' dead at 83
May 8th, 2012
10:32 AM ET

Maurice Sendak, author of 'Where the Wild Things Are,' dead at 83

Maurice Sendak, author of the classic children's book "Where the Wild Things Are," died from complications after a stroke on Tuesday, said Erin Crum, a spokeswoman for HarperCollins Publishers.

Sendak illustrated nearly 100 books during a 60-year career, winning dozens of accolades as he endeared himself to generations of children reared on his fanciful stories. One critic called him "the Picasso of children's literature." Former President Bill Clinton called him the "king of dreams."

Born in Brooklyn the son of Polish immigrants, Sendak grew up to take a few night classes but largely taught himself as an artist.

He is best known for his book, "Where the Wild Things Are." It tells the story of a boy named Max, who dresses in a white wolf costume and escapes his life at home by sailing to a remote land, where he discovers wild things who roar their terrible roars and gnash their terrible teeth.

FULL STORY
April 17th, 2012
01:45 PM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:

Al.com: Atlanta newspaper's report on school cheating left out key details, USA professor says
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution conducted a nationwide study on cheating on America's high-stakes tests. Mobile, Alabama's school district, which was mentioned in the report for statistically improbable test scores, says the AJC's data doesn't tell the whole story.

Wired: Flipping the Classroom Requires More Than Video
In a flipped classroom, students watch online video lectures at home, then work on "homework" in class. The article points out that the content still needs to be relevant to a student in order to facilitate learning.

Larry Cuban: Connecting School Reform to Online Instruction in K-12 Classrooms: The Next New Thing
Studies show that achievement through online learning isn't where it needs to be. Larry Cuban says, "If you want to understand what happens to technological innovations when they are adopted and end up in classrooms, know what occurred to major school reforms that succeeded and failed."

SunSentinel: Students asked to sign honesty pledge before FCAT
Last year, Florida school officials invalidated thousands of students' scores on the state's standardized test, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. The students' answer sheets were flagged when they were too similar to other students' answers. Students are being asked to take an honesty pledge before taking this year's FCATs.

KansasCity.com: Schools take on hunger, even after school
About 10% of Kansas City, Missouri's elementary students are receiving a third daily meal in their after school programs. School officials fear that the district's cafeterias are providing the only source of nutrients for some lower-income students.

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