My View: What a 21st-century science classroom should look like
July 9th, 2012
04:10 PM ET

My View: What a 21st-century science classroom should look like

Courtesy From the Partnership for 21st Century SkillsBy Tim Magner, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Tim Magner is the executive director of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), a national organization that advocates for 21st-century readiness for every student. He has had an extensive career in education, serving most recently as the vice president of Keystone for KC Distance Learning (KCDL) as well as the director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education.

(CNN) – Whether it’s technology, the global economy or the changing nature of work itself, we are tasked with preparing our children for success in college, career and citizenship in a world that looks very different from the one we grew up in.  I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with P21’s members, partners and leadership states to help educators embed key 21st-century skills – like the four Cs of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking – into the educational experiences of all children.

Our children need these 21st-century skills not simply because employers are looking for them (they are), or because they are essential for success in college (they are), or because other nations are also recognizing this skills gap (they are), but because we want our children to not just survive in this new millennium, but to truly thrive. 

21st-century readiness – having the knowledge and skills to pursue further education, compete in the global economy and contribute to society – demands much more of all of our students, and our education system must change to meet these demands. Recognizing this fundamental shift, the ongoing Common Core State Standards initiatives are embedding these skills into the new standards frameworks.

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Filed under: Common Core • Curriculum • education • Practice • STEM
June 15th, 2012
03:57 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Readers debate unions, seniority after Teacher of Year's ouster

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Thousands of teaching positions have reportedly been lost in the last month, but one of those layoffs has sparked a lively dialogue among CNN.com's readers.

In May, the Sacramento City Unified School District in California handed a pink slip to Michelle Apperson, a sixth-grade teacher at Sutterville Elementary. Apperson was gracious about the job loss, telling CNN affiliate KXTV, "It hurts on a personal level because I really love what I do ... But professionally, politically, I get why it happens."

Many were not so accepting of the decision. Why? Because Apperson was not a newbie, nor had her performance been called into question. In fact, she had taught at Sutterville for nine years and recently was selected Teacher of the Year for the entire district.

After her ouster, one student wrote a letter, according to KXTV, that began: "Dear Ms. Apperson, I will miss you dearly. I will never forget you! You are the best teacher ever. I am very lucky that you are my teacher!"

The district's decision came amid a $43 million budget shortfall, which forced Sacramento schools to slash its workforce. The layoffs were based on seniority, per state law, and a district spokesman said that while the situation was unfortunate, "It's another sign of how education's funding really needs an overhaul."

A woman identifying herself as the ousted teacher commented that she sympathized with district's plight:

Apperson: Wow! I am glad that this article stirred emotion from people. In my hometown, I did the original interview to bring awareness to two main topics – children are affected when we cut education, and in CA we can make a difference as citizens to vote for education. 25 percent of my school's staff got pink slips. They are good people who work hard for kids. I have taught for 13 years, 9 in this district. My district is trying hard to make ends meet, they do not want to hurt kids. The union is trying hard to protect good teachers at school doing what's right. My perspective and that of the reporter was to shed light on the subject and stir awareness. Thank you, for talking about education and kids. I do not know the answer to any of it, but I do know that being named Teacher of the Year in my school district is a great honor and I am humbled.

One reader said the reason for the firings was simple and compared the situation to that faced by many business during the economic crisis:

BD: The fact that we are firing teachers rather than hiring them as a means to deal with the current economic climate is the saddest fact of all. It's no different than a bankrupt business selling off its physical assets.

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Filed under: education • Issues • Policy • Politics • Resources • teacher unions • Teachers
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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