My view: Ten myths about gifted students and programs for gifted
November 14th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

My view: Ten myths about gifted students and programs for gifted

Courtesy Pieces of LearningBy Carolyn Coil, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Carolyn Coil is a speaker, educator and author. She works with teachers, administrators, parents and students, offering strategies for raising achievement, developing creative and critical thinking skills, motivating underachievers, differentiating curriculum and assessing student performance. She has taught graduate-level gifted endorsement courses for more than 20 years. You can follow her on Twitter, @CarolynCoil.

(CNN) – American educators have struggled for more than 40 years to define giftedness. Yet even now, there is no universally agreed upon definition of what it means to be gifted. U.S. federal law defines gifted students as those who perform or who show promise of performing at high levels in any one of five categories: general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership ability or visual/performing arts.

Beyond that definition, there are no specific national criteria for identifying gifted and talented students nor does federal law provide funding or mandates for identification of these students or programming for them. This definition is left to the states.

The result has been a wide variety of state definitions and methods for the identification of gifted children. Some states have specific definitions for giftedness, while others have none. Some states require programs for gifted students, while others do not.

In other words, the availability of programs and services for gifted students depends for the most part on where a student lives and what state, school district or school he or she is in.
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My View: Kindergarten redshirting different for each child
November 12th, 2012
03:51 AM ET

My View: Kindergarten redshirting different for each child

Courtesy Barbara McClintockBy Donna McClintock, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Donna McClintock is the chief operating officer of Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc. She has served in a leadership role in early childhood education for more than 29 years and has been in a senior executive leadership role for more than a decade. She has authored several books on the topic of early childhood education, including “The Heart Connector Series.”

I often read materials that approach a subject as if there were only one solution. Such is the case of “redshirting” children for kindergarten, which is the practice of holding a child back from school until he turns six. There is certainly a best answer for each child, and parents and educators must determine what that answer is by considering his individual needs and development and not by blindly following a trend.

No matter WHAT you decide to do, we know for sure that parents must understand that a child’s brain cannot be redshirted or held back. The child’s experiences during the fifth and sixth year of life are extremely important because the brain continues to develop and form synapses, and learning is at an all-time high.

It is the responsibility of parents and educators to challenge, nurture, inspire and ignite in our children a love of learning and exploration during this critical time. How do you do this when formal education in a school system begins as an individual choice for each child? There are several key factors to consider, but the child’s individual needs are the trump card in this decision.

Most research clearly shows that any gaps in levels of success between younger and older children are usually bridged by the third grade. This leaves parents to wonder if there is an advantage to holding their child back. I offer the position that the type of program your child is in during the first year of formal school is really the key to success.

Each child deserves a developmentally appropriate setting that understands how children 5 to 6 years of age learn, whether that is a formalized kindergarten program, the home environment provided by parents, or another alternative.
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My View: An open letter to George Lucas - we need your independent vision
November 8th, 2012
04:15 AM ET

My View: An open letter to George Lucas - we need your independent vision

Courtesy Anthony CodyBy Anthony Cody, Special to CNN

Editor’s note:Anthony Cody worked in schools in Oakland, California, for 24 years. He taught middle school science 18 of those years. He lives in Mendocino County, California, and leads workshops for teachers. He writes the Living in Dialogue blog, and you can follow him on Twitter, @AnthonyCody.

(CNN) - Dear Mr. Lucas,

I have recently read of the $4 billion that you will receive for selling your movie empire to Disney, and your plans to give most of this money to support education. This is wonderful news. I deeply appreciate this generosity. I am writing a letter to encourage you to think outside the box as you decide how to spend these funds. It is critical to consider where educators find ourselves in 2012.

The George Lucas Education Foundation already has made a substantial impact on our schools. Edutopia has been an amazing resource for years, sharing news and examples of project-based learning, authentic inquiry and other innovations. The emphasis is almost always on giving students rich challenges, with opportunities for creative expression.

This emphasis is decidedly at odds with the direction of the other giants of “education reform” such as the Gates Foundation. It also runs counter to the mainstream of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and other government-led reforms, which place their faith in standardized test data and curriculum aligned to standards and tests.

Students have suffered through an entire generation of test-centered reforms. The results are very poor. The National Academy of Sciences released a report last year that concluded a decade of ever-higher stakes attached to tests has yielded no growth.
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All eyes on Georgia, Washington as voters consider charter school initiatives
November 6th, 2012
04:10 AM ET

All eyes on Georgia, Washington as voters consider charter school initiatives

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) On Tuesday, voters in two states – Washington and Georgia – will be weighing in on charter schools.

Charter schools are independent public schools that have flexibility in certain aspects of education like curriculum and length of the school day. In return for this flexibility, they are held accountable for student performance.

The research is mixed on whether students in charters perform better than their traditional public school counterparts. Some cite the CREDO study from Stanford University, which found that “17% of charter schools provide superior education opportunities for their students.” According to this study, about half the charters did not fare any better or worse than their traditional school counterparts, and about 37% of the charters fared worse.

Others cite research like that found in the “Informing the Debate” study from the Boston Foundation,  which “found large positive effects for Charter Schools at both the middle and high school levels.”

Currently, 41 states and the District of Columbia have charter schools.

The topic of charter schools, including how they are established and who gets to attend them, stirs up a lot of emotion among parents, educators and policymakers.  Because it’s relatively new territory, shaping legislation on charters has become a public tug-of-war. The states of Washington and Georgia have charter school initiatives on their ballots.

Washington’s Initiative 1240

Washington has put ballot measures on charters in front of voters three times before, each one rejected – most recently in 2004, when the measure failed by 16 percentage points.  There are no charter schools in Washington.

The latest attempt is Initiative 1240, which would allow for the establishment of eight charter schools in the state per year – 40 over five years. At the end of that period, the charter system would be up for review. The state-approved charter schools would be free and open to all students and be independently operated.
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George Lucas: Disney money will go toward education
November 2nd, 2012
10:44 AM ET

George Lucas: Disney money will go toward education

From the Marquee blog, CNN

(CNN)–George Lucas knows exactly what he's going to do with the payout from Disney's $4 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm, and it's not going to get funneled back into Hollywood.

Instead, the filmmaker said in a statement, the majority will go toward helping – and educating – others.

“For 41 years, the majority of my time and money has been put into the company," he said. "As I start a new chapter in my life, it is gratifying that I have the opportunity to devote more time and resources to philanthropy."

And, more specifically, to improving education, an effort he committed himself to back in 2010 by participating in The Giving Pledge. He explained in a letter dated July, 2010 that his belief in growing and developing young minds was the reason why he created the organizations Edutopia and the George Lucas Educational Foundation, the latter of which focuses on innovations in the field.

Now that he has a windfall from Lucasfilm – according to CNN Money, Disney is paying for the company with $2 billion in cash and around 40 million shares of its stock – Lucas plans to put the proceeds into his philanthropic passion.

“I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education. It is the key to the survival of the human race," Lucas said in a statement. "We have to plan for our collective future—and the first step begins with social, emotional, and intellectual tools we provide to our children. As humans, our greatest tool for survival is our ability to think and to adapt—as educators, storytellers, and communicators our responsibility is to continue to do so.”

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Superstorm Sandy impacts education
Students gather in the only building at the New School that has electricity after Superstorm Sandy struck New York City.
October 31st, 2012
12:01 PM ET

Superstorm Sandy impacts education

By John Martin, CNN

(CNN) – Even in its aftermath, Superstorm Sandy is having a major impact on education. Schools in New York City and much of the state of New Jersey, among other areas, were closed for the third straight day on Wednesday. NYC Schools is the nation’s largest school system, with more than one million students attending about 1,700 schools in the city.

CNN scanned a variety of local news sites and found weather-related school closings from as far south as South Carolina to as far north as Maine on Tuesday. By Wednesday, there were fewer closings along the coastal states, but significant closings in inland states like Ohio and West Virginia. Some schools, both public and private, still had no power Wednesday morning.

Colleges and universities have also shut down due to this disaster.
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October 31st, 2012
04:28 AM ET

Free resources to help teach about elections

by Donna Krache, CNN

For civics teachers (and former civics teachers like me), the presidential election is our equivalent of the Olympics.  We prepare for months and pour all our energy into teaching all about the electoral process, looking for ways to make it fun and interesting for students.

If you’re a teacher or a parent who is teaching your students about elections, there are free resources from CNN.com that can really help you bring your curriculum to life.

You can find all these resources at the CNN Election Center, but we’ll also highlight each one separately here:

Probably the most useful for teachers of civics/government, U.S. history and general social studies is the CNN Electoral Map Calculator.  It shows CNN’s estimates of who will win which states, as well as states that may be leaning toward a candidate and battleground states.  But you and your students can create your own picks and scenarios for this year's race, and you can use the pull-down menu on the right to look at the last two presidential contests.  These are great ways to promote geography skills and basic math skills and illustrate to your students the strategy behind political campaigns.

How much time and money are the candidates spending in each state?  Now that your students understand the importance of winning Electoral College votes, they can understand why voters in states like Ohio and Florida are seeing lots of political ads, compared to their fellow voters in many other states.  Point students to the CNN Campaign Explorer to learn more about the concentration of ads, money and travel in each state.

Finally, if your class is focusing on the topic of public opinion, or if you are interested in helping students improve their skill at interpreting charts and graphs, go to the CNN Poll of Polls interactive.  The CNN Poll of Polls is calculated by using three approved polls to arrive at the numbers you see on the charts on different dates.  You can quiz students on candidates’ percentages on different dates in national polls as well as in battleground states, and you can ask them what factors might account for changes in the polling results.

Share these resources with your colleagues, and share any tips you have for teaching the election in the comments section below.

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October 29th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

California teacher holds secret class

By Sonya Hamasaki, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) – On a brisk, spring-like day in March, Diana Rivera walked into a classroom at Centinela Valley Adult School, just like she’d done everyday for nearly the past two months. She was eager to hear a lecture in her “medical assistant” class, a course she believed would be key to successfully starting a career in the medical field. Getting there had been a struggle.

“I searched and searched for so long,” she said. “I tried to get in three years ago, but there was a waiting list.”

The medical assistant course was started 12 years ago, and over the years, it grew to become one of the most popular on campus. But on that day, just as Rivera was settling into her coursework, everything changed.

“They just came in, gave us notice that school was over, and took us out," she said.

And just like that, her dreams vanished. The class and its instructor were suddenly eliminated due to cuts in state funding.

“It was devastating,” Rivera said. “I was let down.”

But as she was escorted off campus that morning, what she didn’t know was that her teacher was also about to become her champion.

Educator Cristina Chiappe, who created the course and has taught it since its inception, suddenly found herself unemployed. And while she no longer had a physical location to teach, she never once thought to stop the class.

“I didn’t want to leave my students with nothing. They cut the money back. This is not all about money, it’s about education,” she said.

So Chiappe came up with an idea – one that her students and onlookers have described as “brave”, “risky” and “heroic.”

She decided to continue teaching her group of displaced students, and open her own school.
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My View: Who says there is no solution to bullying?
October 26th, 2012
04:20 AM ET

My View: Who says there is no solution to bullying?

Courtesy Becki Cohn-VargasBy Becki Cohn-Vargas, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note:  Becki Cohn-Vargas, Ed.D., has spent more than 35 years as a teacher, principal, curriculum director and superintendent. Currently, she is the director of Not In Our School, part of the national nonprofit Not In Our Town.  She is building a network of educators taking action to stop bullying and create safe, accepting and inclusive schools.

All of us have experienced cruel behavior, either as a participant, victim or witness. The Not In Our School “Break Bullying”public service announcement, donated by the MAKE ad agency, appears to bring back those bad memories. The announcement depicts adults in a professional environment re-enacting the personal middle school bullying experience of the director, Mike Nelson. His point: If we would not stand for this at work, why do we stand for it happening to kids in schools? The purpose of the PSA is to make us want to do something - to intervene, unlike the co-workers who watch their colleague pushed to the floor.

Not In Our School focuses on solutions.  It provides positive films and resources to networks of schools, so when MAKE first presented the video, we weren’t sure we could use it. But then we saw what happened when people viewed it. They started talking about how it looked when adults felt the kind of pain children experience every day. We launched the PSA for Bullying Prevention Month as a wake-up call. Our goal was to reach as many people as possible (55,000 to date) and spark conversation about taking bullying seriously. Then, we would talk about ways to successfully combat bullying in our schools.

When the CNN Schools of Thought blog postedBreak Bullying,” it received more than 500 comments from viewers. Some were heartening; many were not. Well-meaning comments posed possible solutions to bullying: Some were practical and others were outright scary. One man proudly admitted to paying $50 to a man he found on the street to beat up the bully, who ended up “in a hospital for a month.” One person even stated that bullying is a necessary rite of passage based on animal instinct, echoing others who felt that no matter what we do, bullying will never change.
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Tuition at public colleges rises 4.8%
October 24th, 2012
04:24 PM ET

Tuition at public colleges rises 4.8%

By Kim Clark @CNNMoney

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - Tuition hikes, stagnant federal aid and increases in other expenses have pushed public college costs to new heights yet again this year, according to a College Board report out Wednesday.

To attend an in-state public college for the 2012-13 academic year, the average overall cost (or "sticker price") for students who don't receive any financial aid rose 3.8% to a record $22,261, according to the report.

Tuition accounted for about half of that increase. Public university tuition and fees alone rose 4.8% to $8,655. In addition, higher dorm, cafeteria, books and other expenses added significantly to the overall increase.

While about two-thirds of full-time students receive grants or federal tax breaks, many are likely to have to foot more of the bill themselves this year. The College Board's economists estimate that financial aid budgets stayed flat, leaving students less money to cover rising college costs.

Read the full story from CNNMoney
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