Students choose Obama in Scholastic mock election
Nearly 250,000 students participated in this year's Scholastic Student Vote.
October 17th, 2012
04:15 AM ET

Students choose Obama in Scholastic mock election

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) The votes are in – among kids – and Barack Obama has "won" a second term as president.

Every four years, Scholastic Classroom Magazines conducts its presidential mock election for students.  The Scholastic Student Vote launched its first contest in the presidential election of 1940.  The students have been wrong only twice:  In 1948, they picked Thomas E. Dewey over Harry S Truman, and in 1960, they “elected” Richard M. Nixon over John F. Kennedy.

The results of this year’s election: Barack Obama – 51%, Mitt Romney – 45%.  “Other” candidates (who gathered 4%) included write-ins like John McCain, Paul Ryan, Ron Paul and Hillary Clinton.

And, of course, write-ins included some votes for “my mom” and “my dad.”
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Anti-bullying ad sends gut-wrenching message to a different audience - adults
A new PSA titled "Break Bullying" appeals to adults by setting the stage for the conflict in an office.
October 16th, 2012
04:23 AM ET

Anti-bullying ad sends gut-wrenching message to a different audience - adults

By Donna Krache, CNN

Editor’s Note: Not In Our School offers resources to help adults empower students against bullying.  You may also want to check out The Stop Bullying Speak Up campaign, sponsored by Cartoon Network, CNN and Time Warner, a student-centered approach that also offers educator and parent materials.

(CNN) - It’s an anti-bullying message designed to hit home with a different audience - adults.  And it hits hard.

The set is an office breakroom. The office bully calls a coworker names, then pushes and threatens him, even as horrified colleagues pretend not to notice. One gets up from his table and scurries away.  The victim is humiliated. The bully revels in the power.

In the end, the boss intervenes, but not to bring justice - just to tell the bully and the victim to "get back to work."

Anyone who watches the public service announcement, “Break Bullying,” would  see no office would allow the scene to play out that way. In reality, it didn't: It was based on actual experiences from the producer's middle school years.

And that’s the point, according to the organization Not in Our School and Mike Nelson, the producer of the spot:  If we wouldn’t stand for bullying as adults, why do we allow it to happen in our schools?


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Education a focus on International Day of the Girl Child
Afghan schoolgirls study in an open air school in the outskirts of Jalalabad on September 11, 2012. Violence and abuse against women continues to be a major problem in Afghanistan a decade after US-led troops brought down the notorious Taliban regime.
October 11th, 2012
04:12 AM ET

Education a focus on International Day of the Girl Child

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) - The United Nations has designated October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child. 

The mission of the day is “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.”

One ingredient crucial to affording girls the opportunity to reach their full potential is education.

International Day of the Girl Child comes as the world reacts to the shooting of a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousufzai, who attends school and wrote online about the value of educating girls. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, which also injured two other classmates. The shooting has been called despicable and cowardly, and has drawn tremendous international interest.

"And why are they so afraid of Malala?" columnist Frida Ghitis wrote on CNN.com. "Mostly, because she is not afraid of them."

But many girls don't have the support Malala does.

The reality

In more than 100 countries, school is not free, and parents of limited resources choose to invest in their sons’ education, not their daughters’.  The high rate of child marriage in some cultures means that many girls in developing countries never even have the opportunity to go to school. Worldwide, only 30% of girls are enrolled in secondary school.

And when it comes to overall literacy, there is a gap between males and females worldwide.  Though there has been progress over the past decade, there is a 5.1% gap between male and female youth literacy, meaning that fewer young females are literate.

According to UNESCO,Despite progress, girls and women continue to be disproportionately excluded from education, especially at secondary education level and in the area of adult literacy.”
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Today is World Teachers' Day
October 5th, 2012
11:45 AM ET

Today is World Teachers' Day

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) - October 5 is World Teachers' Day.  Organized by UNESCO in 1994, the day aims to mobilize support for teachers around the world.

In the U.S. alone, there were about 3.7 million teachers working in elementary and secondary schools in 2011.

In a prepared statement, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that World Teachers' Day "gives us an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of teachers across the globe."

"In meeting with thousands of teachers, I am continually inspired by their vision and enthusiasm for what we can do to make the world’s most important profession also its most respected one. Education is essential to eliminating gender inequality, reducing poverty, creating a sustainable planet and fostering peace. In the knowledge economy, education is the new currency by which nations maintain economic competitiveness and global prosperity. On World Teachers’ Day we recognize that our great teachers make these goals possible," said Duncan.

Students can send e-cards to their teachers by visiting the UNESCO World Teachers' Day site.

How have teachers contributed to who you are and how you see the world? Share in the comments!

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September 28th, 2012
03:23 PM ET

Pictures inspire school lunch boycott

By the Schools of Thought Editors

(CNN) New federal guidelines are requiring school lunches to be healthier, but many kids say something is missing: Quantity, and more importantly, taste.

In this video from CNN affiliate WDIV, a student's pictures of unappetizing school lunches have led to a brown bag movement in his school.

CNN Student News asked its audience of middle- and high-school students and teachers if they've noticed changes in their school lunches this year, and if those changes were for the better or worse. Here's a sampling of their responses:

Jonas: I have seen a huge difference in my school's food this year. I don't have enough food to eat and as an athlete, I need all the energy I can get. I feel sluggish and tired. I feel I was better off with the old food. Don't get me wrong, people do need to change their eating habits, but the government doesn't have to tell us how to eat.

Maddie: I completely agree with limiting school lunch calories. People are consuming calories, but not working them off. This can cause obesity... and I cringe at the percentage of American obesity be 2030.

Alivia: At our school we have to take fruit and milk even if we don't eat or drink them and just throw them away. This is partially a waste because some people just throw them away, but on the other hand it is good to tempt kids to try fruit and get that in their system for the day.

Ryan: Our school lunches have changed for the worse. Do they really think that one piece of pizza and an orange plus milk would feed us? Well it didn't feed me; I would still be hungry right after lunch was over, so now I bring my own lunch. That way I won't be starving at my football practice.

Mr. Hartrick's 2nd period class: We think that school food is not enough to eat because sometimes the school food is not very appetizing and some children will throw their food away and be hungry later. Most students bring their lunches nowadays because they don't like the food that the school serves. In a way the school is losing money because less kids are getting school food.
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Five buzzwords you’re likely to hear in education this school year
September 26th, 2012
04:17 AM ET

Five buzzwords you’re likely to hear in education this school year

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Education, like any other profession, has a language all its own.  We’ve compiled a short list of some of the words and phrases you are likely to come across this academic year.  It’s by no means all-inclusive, and some of these terms are not new, but it gives you a sense of some of education’s priorities as we start a new school year.

Common Core State Standards, or CCSS or Common Core – a set of educational expectations, or benchmarks that was created by state leaders in education and government.  According to the Common Core website: “These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs.”  Most students will begin testing based on the Common Core Standards starting in 2014, but some districts are already beginning to assess students based on the new benchmarks. Opponents of the Common Core say this initiative is the first step toward a “nationalized curriculum” and national standardized testing. So far the standards have been adopted by 45 states and three U.S. territories. You can see if your state has adopted the standards here.

Flipped classes – Remember the struggles with geometry homework and that lost feeling when no one was around to help?  What if students could learn the lesson at home, then do their “homework” in class with the help of their teacher?  That’s the idea behind flipped classes, not a new concept but one that is gaining popularity. The practice caught on in part because of the success of websites like Khan Academy, which was started by former hedge fund manager Sal Khan, who devised a way to tutor his cousin remotely in math. Students learn the processes after school, watching videos or online explanations that they can pause and replay.  When they come to school, students then demonstrate their understanding of the material by doing their homework under the watchful eye of their teacher.  Some schools have reported higher attendance rates and test scores as a result of flipping.  But some say the practice doesn’t work for all subjects and that student accessibility to technology at home should be considered before instruction is built on flipping.

Gamification – is “the use of game-like thinking and elements in places that aren’t traditionally games,” according to GamifyingEducation.org. For example, teachers might incorporate online badges or leader boards into lessons to motivate students or use gaming techniques and applications to engage students in learning content. Proponents of gamification argue that it’s unrealistic to expect the video game generation to sit quietly in class and absorb information; the old “chalk and talk” method doesn’t work for these students. One way to engage students and help them learn, say gamification advocates, is to deliver the content in a game format. But there are questions about gamification: Is it a student achievement game-changer (no pun intended) or does it undermine intrinsic motivation?
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September 19th, 2012
04:17 PM ET

School district bans father-daughter, mother-son events

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) - The Cranston, Rhode Island, school district banned father-daughter dances and other similar parent-child events after a parent complained to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The parent said her daughter felt left out of a father-daughter dance because she does not have a father or a father figure in her life.

Cranston's superintendent responded by banning parent-child activities, including father-daughter and mother-son events.

Superintendent Judith Lundsten said, “I truly believe that no one intended to hurt anyone’s feelings with this, that they wanted to be inclusive, but they also liked these traditional-type activities.”

In an interview with CNN affiliate WPRI , Lundsten acknowledged that finding that balance might be “tricky.”

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Nation's Report Card:  Writing test shows gender gap
September 17th, 2012
04:32 AM ET

Nation's Report Card: Writing test shows gender gap

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) When it comes to writing, girls are better than boys.

That’s a generalization, but it’s one that is supported by the latest writing test from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), better known as the Nation’s Report Card.

The test, taken by 24,100 eighth-graders and 28,100 students in the 12th grade, was administered in early 2011. NAEP tests in different subjects have been given to students in the U.S. since 1969.  This year, however, marked the first time that the writing test was computer-based.  Students were able to take advantage of editing software and other writing tools, such as spell check and a thesaurus, as they crafted their writing samples.

Since this was the first large-scale writing assessment designed to be taken on a computer, the National Assessment Governing Board, which administers the NAEP, said that it could not make comparisons to previous “paper and pencil” writing tests.

Students were asked to perform writing tasks in three areas:  To persuade, trying to change the reader’s point of view; to explain, trying to broaden a reader’s understanding of a topic; and to convey experience, trying to provide an account of a real or imaginary experience to a reader.

The NAEP writing test is a scaled test with a range of 0-300, and a mean score of 150.  “Achievement levels” were set along that scale for the categories Below Basic, Basic, Proficient and Advanced.

Among eighth-graders, about 3% scored advanced, 24% scored proficient or above, 54% basic, and 20% below basic.  (Because the numbers were rounded, they do not add up to 100%).

Among 12th-graders, about 3% scored advanced, 24% scored proficient or above, 52% basic and 21% below basic.

According to the board, performances varied by race, ethnicity, gender, school location and other factors, such as parents’ educational attainment.  But the most notable achievement gap was between males and females in both eighth and 12th grades.
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Sandra Day O’Connor champions civics education
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor meets with students at an iCivics event in Washington, D.C.
September 17th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Sandra Day O’Connor champions civics education

by Donna Krache, CNN

Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Schools of Thought on July 19th, 2012. We're bringing it back for Constitution Day.

(CNN) - The retired Supreme Court justice is all business as she walks into our meeting room.

But inside, she’s got the heart of an educator.

Of course, Sandra Day O’Connor will always be associated with her historic “first,” as the first woman justice to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Prior to that appointment by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, she also served as a judge and a state senator.

Since her retirement from the high court in 2006, she has found a new passion – civics education.

How did she decide to become a champion of that cause?  O’Connor says that in her last year on the bench, she was “very much aware of the major issues and debates” being brought before the high court.  There were lots of complaints about the decisions, she says, and many were directed at the judicial branch – with some blaming the justices for certain outcomes.

“As you analyzed it, it appeared to show in many cases that the concerns were misdirected:  There was a tendency to blame the courts for things that were really not a judicial matter,” she told CNN.

The solution to that misunderstanding, she believes, is civics education – a subject she notes has changed through the years.  She remembers her own schooling in El Paso, Texas, and how she learned about Texas government.  Civics knowledge was helpful to her later in life, O’Connor says, and she’s disappointed that today, many schools have stopped teaching the subject.

But she believes young people do have a desire to learn civics because they want to participate in their government, to change things and better their lives. “There is an increasing appreciation that we do need to know how our government works:  national, state and local,” says O’Connor. “And that this is part and parcel of the things that every young person wants to know because they want to have an effect.”
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Study: School vouchers have positive effect on college enrollment for African-Americans
August 27th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Study: School vouchers have positive effect on college enrollment for African-Americans

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) – A recently released study by the Brookings Institution at Harvard has stirred up the debate over school choice and vouchers.

In some districts and states, parents can get vouchers to pay for their children’s education.  Parents may choose to send their children to religious or private schools using the vouchers as payment for tuition.  Much of the research surrounding the effectiveness of vouchers centers on more immediate outcomes, such as test scores.

The Brookings study was based on data collected on students who were recipients of vouchers from the privately funded New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation program.  In 1997, the foundation offered three-year scholarships of up to $1,400 per year to 1,000 low-income families whose children were either entering first grade or were already in public schools in second through fifth grades.  The Brookings study claims to be the first that used “a randomized experiment to measure the impact of school vouchers on college enrollment.”  It also claims to be one of only a few studies to track longer-term outcomes, years after students received their first vouchers.

Overall, the study found no effect on college enrollment, except among African-Americans, where there was significant impact.

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