By Sally Holland, CNN
Washington (CNN) - A new study from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project found cell phones, tablets, Google and Wikipedia are at the center of how educators teach and how students learn - but they bring new challenges, too.
Almost three-quarters of teachers surveyed said cell phones are used in their classrooms to complete assignments, while 45% use e-readers and 43% use tablet computers.
Many teachers - 99% - themselves rely on online research, but they believe digital technologies make it harder for students to “find and use credible sources of information.”
The Pew study said 76% of teachers surveyed strongly agree that “search engines have conditioned students to expect to be able to find information quickly and easily,” and 83% agree that the amount of information is overwhelming.
The survey of about 2,400 middle school and high school teachers from across the United States asked how they use technology in their classrooms and at home. The teachers were all Advanced Placement teachers or from the National Writing Project, so all their students are considered academically advanced.
“Several teachers noted that if a student looks for a particular piece of information online for a few minutes and can’t find it, they will often not interpret that to mean they have to search differently or go to a different resource,” said Kristen Purcell, the main author of the report.
Students will assume “that information is not out there to be found," she said. "If it were, the search engine would find it quickly."
Washington (CNN) - Changing the way schools are funded would help to close the achievement gap between students who live in affluent neighborhoods and those in high poverty areas, according to a report released Tuesday by a congressionally-mandated education committee.
"There is disagreement about exactly how to change the system, but there is complete agreement that achieving equity and excellence requires sufficient resources that are distributed based on student need and that are efficiently used," says "For Each and Every Child," a report by the Equity and Excellence Commission.
A primary source of funding for public schools is local property taxes. The problem: If the school is in a high poverty area, the property taxes tend to be low, and that means less money for the school, and less money to pay teachers.
“Whether a state uses property taxes or not is no excuse for the responsibility a state has to deliver more equitable financing,” said Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, co-chairman of the commission and a professor at Stanford Law School.
The report cites spending disparities as wide as $7,306 per pupil in Tennessee to $19,520 in Wyoming, with adjustment for student poverty, regional wage variation, school district size and density. There are disparities across districts, too - excluding the top 5% of districts in California, spending ranged from $6,032 to $18,025 per pupil there in 2009.
Washington (CNN) - Republicans and Democrats in the Senate agreed Thursday that they would prefer a reauthorized education bill that updates school standards, instead of allowing more waivers for states to bypass No Child Left Behind.
The 2001 No Child Left Behind act required that all students meet ambitious reading and math standards by 2014; schools that didn't would be subject to reforms or slashed funding. The standards have gotten tougher over the years and schools are struggling to keep up, or failing entirely. A reauthorized bill would set goals states see as more attainable.
“The bottom line is that it expired in 2007 except for a provision that says if Congress didn’t act, it would continue," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. "Congress didn’t act so it’s continuing. That’s our fault. That’s on us."
In 2011, the White House announced states could apply for waivers that would relieve them from provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or No Child Left Behind, while still giving them access to federal education funding. To get a waiver, they would have to meet standards laid out by the U.S. Department of Education.
The waivers have been controversial among Republicans who object to the stipulations the Obama administration puts onto many states before they're awarded.
"This simple waiver authority has turned into a conditional waiver with the secretary basically having more authority to make decisions that, in my view, should be made locally by state and local governments," Alexander said.
Washington (CNN) - Congressional Republicans are seeking more details on President Barack Obama's plan to reduce gun violence in schools.
In letters to members of Obama's Cabinet, they requested information about the president's time frame and funding plans for the implementation of 23 executive actions on gun control enacted in mid-January in response to the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, in December.
Additionally, they want to know how the president's Congressional proposals will relate to mental health programs currently in place for students.
The leaders of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce sent letters to Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Housing and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
"While we agree we cannot stop every senseless act of violence, we share the president's commitment to reviewing the facts and evaluating proposed and existing policies and programs intended to help teachers, principals, and parents protect their children," the letter to Holder says.
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Washington (CNN) - American students can successfully conduct simple science experiments at school, but aren't able to explain the results, a new report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows.
Results released today reveal that America's fourth-, eighth-, and 12th-graders struggled when investigations had more variables to manipulate or required strategic decision-making while collecting data. Many weren't able to explain why certain results were correct.
It's the first time the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation's Report Card, measured how students performed on hands-on and interactive computer tasks like a professional scientist might. While traditional standardized tests grade students on what they know, people in the workforce are measured on how they apply what they've learned in school. This analysis moves away from "paper and pencil" tests and should allow for a different type of analysis by education experts.
by Sally Holland, CNN
Alice Springs, Australia (CNN) - In 9-year-old Georgia Auricht's classroom in the rural Australian bush town of Kulgera, there's only one other student - her older brother, Jake - and their teacher is 170 miles away.
"I love learning. I enjoy the math a lot and sometimes I like my times tables and I like a little bit of language too," said Georgia.
From the wide expanse of scrub bushes to the cows that wander onto the dusty roads, there's not much civilization in this part of Australia. Those who choose to live in the outback adapt to the isolation. Yet the community of a local school still brings them together, even from a distance.
The small School of the Air building in Alice Springs, Australia, caters to elementary and middle school students as much as 800 miles away, covering an area twice the size of Texas or ten times the size of England.
Georgia's father, Owen Auricht, is the officer in charge of Kulgera police station. His territory is so expansive and remote that it can take him five hours to get to a car accident in his jurisdiction.
Growth of the Internet has made distance learning much more common now than just a few decades ago, when he took classes at the School of the Air.
"Basically it was a radio the size of a six-pack of beer," said Auricht. "It was a little metal box that was linked up to an aerial on top of a schoolroom."
Auricht received all of his books via mail, generally from air drop, at the beginning of the school year. Every few weeks, he would mail his written work and tests to his teacher in Alice Springs to be graded.
Today's School of the Air students receive a complete IT setup including a satellite dish, computer, printer and scanner. They can see their teacher and the other students on the screen during classes, leading to more classroom interaction.
Washington (CNN) - The number of "dropout factory" high schools in the United States is decreasing, according to a report from the Building a Grad Nation Summit being held this week in Washington.
Between 2009 and 2010, the number of "dropout factories" - the term used in the report for those high schools that graduate 60% or less of the number of freshmen who reported for class four years earlier - dropped from 1,634 to 1,550, continuing a trend that has accelerated in recent years, the report says.
It is estimated that around one-quarter of students in the United States do not complete high school. The Grad Nation campaign has a goal of attaining a 90% graduation rate by the year 2020.
Only the state of Wisconsin currently reaches that benchmark, although Vermont is less than half a percentage point away, the report says.
"The good news is that some states have made improvements in their graduation rates, showing it can be done," said Robert Balfanz, one of the report's authors. "But the data also indicate that if we are to meet our national goals by 2020, we will have to accelerate our rate of progress, particularly in the states that have shown little progress."
Over the past decade, the report says, the number of high schools considered "dropout factories" has declined by 457, with the largest decrease coming since 2008.
(CNN) African-American boys and girls have higher suspension rates than their white or Hispanic peers, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights on Tuesday. The report looks at race, educational equity and opportunities of U.S.students.
"Perhaps the most alarming findings involve the topic of discipline," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "The sad fact is that minority students across America face much harsher discipline than nonminorities, even within the same school. Some examples - African American students, particularly males, are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their peers."
"We cannot suspend, expel and arrest our way out of our nation's education problems," said John Payton of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in response to the report.
"In fact, relying upon exclusionary discipline policies actually fuels academic failure and drives achievement gaps," he added.
According to the report, African American students are more than three and a half times likely to be suspended or expelled than their white counterparts.
By Sally Holland, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Thirty years ago, many students began their school science projects with a visit to the World Book Encyclopedia, the 22-volume set found in many homes and most school libraries covering topics from A to Z.
Now, the Encyclopedia of Life website provides students with much more information on living beings than those 22 volumes could ever hold.
"Knowledge of all biodiversity is scattered all around the world in databases and drawers and people's heads," Encyclopedia of Life director Bob Corrigan said. "If it flies, crawls, grows, spores, if it is life, we want to have one place to bring it all together."
The Encyclopedia of Life, found at www.eol.org, is less than 5 years old but is approaching 1 million species pages that include everything from the names of animals (the Atlantic cod has more than 100 of them in the English language) to information about their habitats (the common wasp's natural habitat is grasslands and woodlands, but it easily adapts to urban habitats) to reproduction habits (the eggs of the longnose sawshark hatch before the young are released from the mother's body). FULL POST
Washington (CNN) – House Republicans released draft legislation on Friday that they claim will address some of the weaknesses in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA); shifting the responsibility for student achievement to states, school districts and parents, and removing the system of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under which students are currently assessed.
Sunday, January 8, is the tenth anniversary of the latest version of the ESEA, also known as the No Child Left Behind Act. It has been in need for re-authorization since 2007. Last summer, Democrats in the Senate released their draft of re-authorization legislation.
CNN’s Schools of Thought blog is a place for parents, educators and students to learn about and discuss what's happening in education. We're curious about what's happening before kindergarten, through college and beyond. Have a story to tell? Contact us at email@example.com