New York pulls plans to ban words from standardized tests
NYC had initially sought to keep words like "dinosaur" and "Halloween" off standardized school tests.
April 3rd, 2012
02:58 PM ET

New York pulls plans to ban words from standardized tests

By Brian Vitagliano, CNN

New York (CNN) – One week after New York's Department of Education drew controversy with a request to ban 50 words and references from the city's standardized tests – including “dinosaur,” “birthday” and "religion" – the department announced Tuesday that it is abandoning the plan.

"After reconsidering our message to test publishers and the reaction from parents, we will revise our guidance and eliminate the list of words to avoid on tests,” New York Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said in a statement.

“We will continue to advise companies to be sensitive to student backgrounds and avoid unnecessary distractions that could invalidate test scores and give an inaccurate assessment of how students are doing," the statement continued.

The list of words New York hoped to ban from tests was made public when the city’s education department released this year’s "request for proposal" for test publishers across the country. The city is looking for vendors to revamp math and English tests for its students.

The list of words, which included “divorce,” “Halloween,” “Christmas” and “television,” attracted considerable criticism, with many alleging it was political correctness gone too far.

Read the full story from CNN's Belief Blog
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Filed under: Policy • Testing
April 3rd, 2012
02:03 PM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today: Flunking the Test
Paul Farhi argues that America's education system isn't as broken as news coverage would have the public believe. Farhi also says that news stories highlight the efforts of education reformers while ignoring what he believes is the real story – the effect of poverty on student achievement.

This Week in Education: Media: Flunking Paul Farhi's Education Journalism Critique
Alexander Russo critiques Paul Farhi's criticism of education reporting in the American Journalism Review. Russo says Farhi missed about a dozen examples of education reporters doing excellent work in the field and that he didn't talk to prominent education experts.

U.S. Department of Education: ED Celebrates National Financial Literacy Month
April is National Financial Literacy Month. The U.S. Department of Education office of Federal Student Aid plans to offer daily financial advice through Twitter.

L.A. Times: Low-income students struggle with AP exam fee waiver cuts
The College Board estimates that a federal budget cut to an Advanced Placement exam waiver program will result in 29,000 low-income students skipping the exam due to cost.

JSOnline: Ready for prom? Don't have alcohol on your breath
At some Wisconsin high school dances, it won't just be chaperones checking students at the door as schools implement portable breath alcohol screeners.

April 3rd, 2012
01:28 PM ET

Review: 'Bully' is eye-opening

By Owen Gleiberman,

( - Harvey Weinstein never met a ratings controversy that he couldn't massage into a publicity campaign.

He did it in the '90s, when he turned up the heat on the teensploitation psychodrama "Kids," all because the film received a rating of NC-17 (which it probably deserved). He did it two years ago, when the downbeat-sexy "Blue Valentine" got slapped with the same scarlet letter (which it didn't deserve at all).

But in the case of "Bully," Weinstein isn't just mounting a PR blitz - he's fighting the good fight. The movie is a sensitive and eye-opening documentary about the epidemic of bullying in American public schools. It's a film that would do well to be seen by as many teenagers as possible, and Weinstein had wanted to show it in schools. Yet "Bully" received an R rating, all because the F-word is used in it a handful of times. The Weinstein Co. has now decided to release "Bully" unrated. This doesn't solve the problem, since some theaters refuse to show unrated movies. So the very audience that Bully was made for still might have a hard time getting near it.

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Filed under: Behavior • • Issues • On air • Policy • video
Famed 'fiddler' pulls strings for music education
Violinist Mark O’Connor wants to build interest in American music -- and music education in general.
April 3rd, 2012
06:20 AM ET

Famed 'fiddler' pulls strings for music education

by Todd Leopold, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) – Mark O’Connor is comfortable with mixing it up.

The Grammy-winning violinist - or “fiddler,” as he prefers - first gained fame as a teenage prodigy, learning at the elbows of Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson and French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. He’s played with rock groups, blues bands, symphony orchestras and bluegrass artists, jumping from genre to genre with assurance and joy.

Now he wants to add “educator” to his list of activities. His “O’Connor Method” of string playing builds on his interest in American music, deliberately veering away from the classical pieces emphasized in other programs.

“This kind of cross-cultural approach to music learning could have only happened here,” says O’Connor in an interview at CNN Center. “We, by nature, are curious about being Americans. We generally are interested in what other cultures and other ethnicities offer our country. And music is the perfect vehicle to express these positive attributes.”

Music teachers couldn’t agree more.

“Students are coming to us in American classrooms from around the world, and it makes sense that musical styles are going to reflect the students whom we’re teaching,” says Kirk D. Moss, president of the American String Teachers Association.  He notes that the group celebrates a wide variety of music, even hosting an “eclectic styles” festival as part of its yearly conference.

“I think we’re seeing a lot of different kinds of music and music groups,” he adds. “That whole door is more open now than in the past.”

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Filed under: Issues • Music • Practice