Justice Sandra Day O'Connor seeks to reverse America's decline in civics
Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is crusading to reverse what she says is an alarming decline in knowledge of civics.
May 3rd, 2012
06:12 PM ET

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor seeks to reverse America's decline in civics

By Michael Martinez, CNN

San Diego (CNN) - Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who holds the distinction of being the first woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, is crusading to reverse what she says is an alarming decline in America's knowledge of democracy and is scheduled Wednesday to announce a initiative to educate children across the country.

Asserting that democracy is not inherited at birth but rather learned in school, O'Connor founded the educational nonprofit group iCivics in 2009 to secure America's governance and prepare the next generation of citizens and leaders.

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Filed under: Curriculum • Policy • Practice
May 1st, 2012
01:16 PM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:

Thomas B. Fordham Institute: Is there anything “common” left in Common Core?
Kathleen Porter-Magee says that the debate over the Common Core standards has very little to do with the content of the standards, and more to do with the politics of education reform.

Stltoday.com: Illinois considers charging kids for riding school buses
Illinois education officials are considering allowing the state's school districts to charge students to ride the school bus. Local officials across the state are queasy about the measure, saying it hurts low-income students.

WHOtv.com: IOWA PRIDE: Conference To Confront Bullying
Two weeks after a bullied teen committed suicide, 150 other homosexual teens gathered for the Iowa Pride Conference. The Iowa Pride Network says that schools should set up gay straight alliances in high schools, which the group claims can reduce verbal and physical harassment of gay teens.

KSLA12: Students ordered to cut, dye "gang related" hair styles
School officials said that a reddish dyed streak in some students' hair could be a symbol of gang activity and have ordered students with the hair style to cut or dye their hair. Some parents reluctantly obeyed the order, while Tameka Brooks pulled her two sons out of school, claiming that the district was engaging in racial profiling.

Edutopia: Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement
Heather Wolpert-Gawron asked her 220 eighth graders "What engages students?" Working with peers, using technology and connecting projects to the real world topped the list.

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Filed under: Bullying • Curriculum • Economy • Issues • Policy • Practice • Technology • Today's Reading List
April 25th, 2012
03:15 PM ET

National Teacher of the Year's "business model"

2012 Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki shares how she used lessons from her business background in the classroom.

Watch part two of the interview:

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Filed under: Curriculum • On air • Practice • Teachers • video
April 25th, 2012
02:00 PM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:

CBS4 Denver: Bill Would Give Tax Break On School Supplies
The average American family spends an estimated $500 to $600 a year on school supplies and children's clothing. The Colorado legislature is considering a bill that would waive taxes on school supplies and clothing for three days in August, a waiver that already exists in about 16 other states.

CBS Philly: Philadelphia School District Could Close 40 Schools Next Year
Philadelphia's school district says its budget deficit could balloon to more than a billion dollars in the next five years if it doesn't take some drastic action. The district is looking at closing dozens of schools and trimming hundreds of positions from its central office staff.

NPR: Can A Computer Grade Essays As Well As A Human? Maybe Even Better, Study Says
A new study suggests that computer software may be able to grade essays more consistently and faster than humans – if the grades are based on language mechanics. What the software doesn't check for is facts, and it has a hard time with poetry and highly stylized writing.

CBSChicago: ‘Flipped Classroom’ Getting A Tryout At Suburban High Schools
In a flipped classroom in Chicago, students are watching 20 minute lectures at home. Then the students work on assignments in class.

Nanny.net: 10 Ways to Teach Young Kids to Write Computer Programs
Computer programming skills could help children gain the analytical skills to solve complex problems. The author offers up ten ways to teach young kids, even as young as 7, to learn programming.

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Filed under: Curriculum • Economy • Policy • Practice • Technology • Testing • Today's Reading List
April 11th, 2012
01:02 PM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:

22News WWLP.com: Teacher fired for Trayvon support?
A former Michigan teacher claims she was fired for organizing a fundraiser to support Trayvon Martin's family. The district's superintendent say she can't comment on the rationale behind the firing, but says that the teacher's claim isn't true.

SFGate: Demystifying math could ease anxiety
A Stanford study on brain activity suggests that the fear of math may be as real as other phobias. The researchers say phobias are treatable, so math teachers could incorporate techniques that help students understand the reasoning behind calculations to reduce anxiety.

Education Week: UConn's Academic Appeal Denied, Now Ineligible for 2013 Postseason
The NCAA's stricter graduation standards for teams to play in the postseason could leave the University of Connecticut, the 2011 men's basketball national champion, off of next year's March Madness brackets.

Sun Sentinel: Florida colleges fear boost in high-tech cheating
College officials in Florida are finding that students aren't just using new technologies to learn – they are using smartphones and the Internet to cheat.

AZFamily.com: Alice Cooper rocks Paradise Valley School Board meeting
Alice Cooper didn't appear in front of his local school board to explain the lyrics to his song "School's Out"; instead he announced a much-needed grant for musical instruments through the The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation.

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Filed under: College • Curriculum • Issues • Music • Policy • Practice • Technology • Today's Reading List
April 4th, 2012
07:01 AM ET

My View: How to bridge racial differences in the classroom

Courtesy Matt Manson

By Dan Brown, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Dan Brown is the author of “The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle,” a memoir of his first year teaching in the Bronx. He now teaches English at a charter school in Washington and blogs on education at TransformEd. Dan Brown did not write “The Da Vinci Code,” and he is OK with that. Follow him on Twitter @danbrownteacherTune in to AC360 at 8 and 10 p.m. ET for the special series "Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture”.

I’m white; 99% of my students are black. There are many other classrooms like mine across the country. According to the most recent census data, 84% of teachers in America are white and around 45% of students are not.

My students and I are coming from different places. I grew up in an affluent Philadelphia suburb; most of my students, born and raised in Washington, qualify for free or reduced meals. Both of my parents hold postgraduate degrees; many of my students, growing up in single-parent homes, are attempting to be the first in their families to complete college.

How do I bridge this gap between my students and me?

My high school English classroom in Southeast Washington is a place where my students and I investigate the concept of identity. Since race is a part of our identity, we explore it.

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Filed under: Curriculum • Practice • Voices
New York city schools want to ban 'loaded words' from tests
March 29th, 2012
10:47 AM ET

New York city schools want to ban 'loaded words' from tests

By Brian Vitagliano, CNN

New York (CNN) – Divorce. Dinosaurs, Birthdays. Religion. Halloween. Christmas. Television. These are a few of the 50-plus words and references the New York City Department of Education is hoping to ban from the city’s standardized tests.

The banned word list was made public – and attracted considerable criticism – when the city’s education department recently released this year’s "request for proposal" The request for proposal is sent to test publishers around the country trying to get the job of revamping math and English tests for the City of New York.

The Department of Education's says that avoiding sensitive words on tests is nothing new, and that New York City is not the only locale to do so. California avoids the use of the word "weed" on tests and Florida avoids the phrases that use "Hurricane" or "Wildfires," according to a statement by the New York City Department of Education.

In its request for proposal, the NYC Department of Education explained it wanted to avoid certain words if the "the topic is controversial among the adult population and might not be acceptable in a state-mandated testing situation; the topic has been overused in standardized tests or textbooks and is thus overly familiar and/or boring to students; the topic appears biased against (or toward) some group of people."

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Filed under: Curriculum • Policy • Testing
Utah lawmakers vote for abstinence-only sex education
March 13th, 2012
06:09 AM ET

Utah lawmakers vote for abstinence-only sex education

by John Martin, CNN

(CNN) – When I was a senior in the late 1980s, my high school brought in a woman from Planned Parenthood to talk to my health class. I remember her because she had props a condom and a banana. Utah may outlaw lessons like that one very soon. The state's legislature passed a bill mandating that when it comes to sex education, public schools must teach about abstinence, and almost nothing else.

If the bill is signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, Utah's teachers will not be allowed to inform students about contraceptives, "the intricacies of intercourse," homosexuality, or sexual activity outside of marriage. The bill says teachers would have to inform students that, "abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as the only sure methods for preventing certain communicable diseases." Teachers would still be allowed to provide instruction on male and female physiology and anatomy, as well as health issues like AIDS/HIV. The proposed law does allow schools one other option: not to teach anything about sex at all.

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Filed under: Curriculum • Kids' health • Policy • Politics
February 16th, 2012
12:32 PM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:

NSTA: NSTA Legislative Update: February 2012
The National Science Teacher's Association is tracking the progress of reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). A Senate committee has approved a bipartisan bill, but it won't come up for a full Senate vote until the House passes a bipartisan bill as well. The House is pushing their version in small chunks, but only one bill, to reauthorize and streamline charter schools, has the support of both parties.

NPR: R.I. Student Draws Ire Over School Prayer Challenge
A federal judge has sided with a 16-year-old atheist who sued over a school prayer banner that has hung in her school since the 1960s. School officials have covered the banner in plywood and an American flag as they decide whether to appeal the ruling.

Arizona Daily Star: Classroom sex talk, insults not enough to get some TUSD employees fired
A public records request yielded 250 pages of documents related to incidents involving Tucson Unified School District teachers and staff during the first 9 months of 2011. While the district did fire some staff over violations, no teachers were terminated in that time, even though the district's superintendent admits that some of the misbehaviors should have resulted in dismissal.

Carolina Journal Online: Preschooler’s Homemade Lunch Replaced with Cafeteria “Nuggets”
A preschooler's mother packs a lunch that her preschool daughter will eat, including a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips and juice. Officials replaced the homemade meal with one that meets USDA guidelines, but the four-year-old would only eat the chicken nuggets in the new meal.

Gazette.com: D-49 teacher selected for Holocaust workshop
Twenty teachers will attend a workshop next month at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Horizon Middle School teacher Liz Dalzell-Wagers says that she will use the experience to teach her students about the impact of the Holocaust on America.

February 13th, 2012
11:35 AM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:

KFYR-TV: Audit Reveals Trouble at DSU
An internal audit of Dickinson State University's special international program revealed problems involving more than 90% of its foreign students. More than 500 international students received diplomas or certificates that are now considered invalid.

NY Times: Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say
A Stanford sociologist's study suggests that while the achievement gap between black and white students is narrowing, the gap between poor and rich students is widening. One possible reason: in the last several decades, the gap between what poor families spend on their children and what rich families spend has almost doubled.

AL.COM: Alabama immigration law has hurt children and teaching, educators tell conference
At a forum on Alabama's new immigration law, principals express fears that many students have fled the state, while those who remain may experience harassment.

WSBTV: Cobb Co. student suspended after being attacked at school
A Georgia teen's mother says she notified school officials when her daughter was threatened online. When the girl was attacked, she defended herself, and both students were suspended for ten days under the district's "zero tolerance" policy.

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