April 9th, 2012
12:32 PM ET

Today's Reading List

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

Scathing Purple Musings: The LA Times Critical Take on Parent Trigger Shows Why It's Wrong for Florida
Blogger Bob Sikes uses a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed to back up his argument against the parent trigger for Florida.

Forbes: The (Fat) Envelope Please: College Admission Tougher Than Ever
The Ivy League universities became just a little bit more exclusive as they admitted a lower percentage of students in next year's class. The colleges say they are looking for diversity, and that could mean more well-rounded, high-achieving white females should look to their safety schools, according to the article.

The Inspired Classroom: 5 Reasons to Add Technology to Your Classroom
It can take a leap of faith and a pot of money to bring technology into the modern classroom. But knowing how to use technology is a skill that will benefit students personally and professionally.

The Chronicle of Higher Education: 3 Major Publishers Sue Open-Education Textbook Start-Up
Boundless Learning is trying a new model for textbooks, using freely available material found on the Internet to produce a cheaper textbook. Several traditional publishers have sued Boundless over copyright violations before the start-up has opened its doors to the public.

Seacoastonline.com: Elementary homework seen as effective tool of education
There is a debate over the value of elementary school homework. Some Maine administrators contend that this homework helps develop effective study habits and parents are split on the issue.

March 14th, 2012
11:59 AM ET

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G: Girl, 6, becomes youngest eligible for Scripps Spelling Bee

Can you say extraordinary?

I suspect that 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison can spell it – and it's one of the best words to describe her.

The young girl from Prince William County, Virginia, has just become the youngest speller eligible to participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, according to the event's record books, which date to 1993. Mike Hickerson, the bee's communications manager, said there have been four spellers since 1993 who were 8 years old.

Lori Anne, who is home-schooled, beat out 21 other kids in the county to win the bee, which enters her into the national bee.

The word that thrust her into the spotlight? "Vaquero," the Spanish translation of "cowboy," which is often used in Spanish-speaking parts of the South such as Texas, according to InsideNova.

The paper reported that after one of the last spellers missed her word, Lori Anne stepped up to the microphone, was given her word and without hesitation rattled off the spelling correctly.

Read the full story from This Just In
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Filed under: Elementary school • Practice • Spelling • Students
March 9th, 2012
11:36 AM ET

Today's Reading List

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

NYR: Opinion – Flunking Arne Duncan
Diane Ravitch argues that if U.S. Secretary of Education likes to evaluate teachers, then the public should be able to rate Secretary Duncan's progress. Ravitch offers her report card on the education secretary, and it doesn't include any As for effort.

The Atlantic: Opinion – Why Great Teachers Are Also Learners
Vicki Davis encourages teachers to love learning, because when students see enthusiasm for learning, she says, they are inspired and will want to learn.

NBC4.com: CCS' Unpaid School Lunch Accounts Go Into Collection
Columbus City Schools says it is short a million dollars – from parents who owe the school lunch fund. The district says thousands of parents who owe more than $50 could be hearing from a collection agency if their lunch accounts aren't settled by the end of the month.

KESQ.com: Palm Desert High School Designated 'Cuss-Free Zone'
The staff at California's Palm Desert High School is challenging its students to stop cussing. Each classroom has a "swear jar" and more than 80 students have joined the school's "no cussing" club.

9News.com: Girl handcuffed in school for being 'extremely rude'
A Colorado 11-year-old student was handcuffed and transported to a juvenile holding facility for being rude to school officials. Her mother admits her daughter was wrong, but thinks that being arrested was too severe a punishment, while school officials say the incident was handled appropriately.

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Filed under: Behavior • Elementary school • High school • Issues • NCLB • Policy • Practice • Today's Reading List
My View: How to help students cope with change
When students return to Miramonte Elementary School on Thursday, they will be met by a new staff.
February 9th, 2012
07:02 AM ET

My View: How to help students cope with change

Courtesy National PTA By Betsy Landers, Special to CNN

Editor’s note:  Betsy Landers is president of the National PTA.

There is no excuse for the child abuse that the police say happened at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles. The National PTA joins parents everywhere in shock and outrage, especially those families directly affected.

The protection of children in all school settings is a fundamental right and of the utmost priority for the National PTA. A safe environment is crucial to learning, and every child in every city deserves to feel safe in school.

Miramonte administrators have replaced the faculty and staff, a move they believe will keep children safe. Students will return Thursday to new teachers and the presence of social workers. While promoting a safer environment, this move also creates a tremendous amount of change, which can interrupt the learning process.

Students will have to adjust. As with many experiences, parents can and should play a key role in helping the children cope with the change. What can parents do?

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Filed under: Elementary school • Issues • Policy • Practice • Voices
Access to unhealthy snacks at school unchanged
February 6th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Access to unhealthy snacks at school unchanged

by Georgiann Caruso – CNN Medical
(CNN) – About half of public and private elementary students could buy unhealthy snacks at school during the 2009-2010 school year from stores, vending machines and snack bars according to survey results released Monday. The survey was part of a report published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

"Given increasing attention in recent years to the problem of childhood obesity, we would have hoped to see decreases in the availability of junk food in schools over time," said study author Lindsey Turner, health psychologist at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Our research demonstrates the continued need for changes to make schools healthier," she added.

The data represents no change in the ability to get the snacks like cookies, candy and chips throughout the four years of the study; the study began in the 2006-2007 school year.

Full Post
When classmates let the secret out of the sleigh bag
Other kids can spoil the whimsy of Santa Claus for your child.
December 12th, 2011
07:02 AM ET

When classmates let the secret out of the sleigh bag

By Sarah LeTrent, CNN
(CNN) - When out on the playground, there arose such a clatter - because little Tommy told all his classmates there was no such thing as Santa Claus.

It's an uncomfortable scenario both the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny know all too well, and has the potential to leave parents caught like reindeer in headlights.

It typically involves distraught kids cornering their parents after school with widened eyes, blurting out: "Tommy told me there isn't a Santa Claus!" (or Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle or Babbo Natale, respectively).

Heather Barranco knows the awkward affair all too well; her own child recently told a number of the kids in kindergarten that Santa didn't exist. For spiritual reasons, Barranco's family forgoes the Santa tradition.

Homework: How much, how often?
December 9th, 2011
01:20 PM ET

Homework: How much, how often?

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) – Much has changed in classrooms over the decades, but homework is a constant in every generation’s education experience. As a result, the debate over what constitutes meaningful take-home work and how much of it to give continues.

The superintendent of the Swampscott School District in Massachusetts has recently nixed homework one night a month. Dr. Lynne Celli and her leadership team issued the order for monthly homework free nights after watching the documentary "Race to Nowhere."  The film profiles the culture of achievement and stress on students that some believe is destroying students' love of learning and burning out both students and teachers. Reactions to the no homework night policy at Swampscott High School are mixed, with some students appreciative, while others say one night off doesn’t make much of a difference.


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Filed under: At Home • Elementary school • High school • Issues • Policy • Practice
December 7th, 2011
06:25 AM ET

Does class size matter?

Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series on overcrowding and undercrowding in schools. You can see Part 1 here.

By Rose Arce, CNN

Weybridge, Vermont (CNN) – The sun climbs the steely gray sky, and tiny Weybridge Elementary lights up to greet its young.

At Weybridge, four full-time teachers work with just 52 students.

Black and white cows that look like Oreo cookies sometimes give birth in the playground. The closest neighbor is a cemetery shadowed by towering maple trees.

“We like having small schools and a sense of community in a bucolic setting, but it comes at a great cost when birth rates are falling, and the cost per pupil and property taxes keep rising,” said Spencer Putnam, who runs the town meetings that decide most things in the 250-year-old town, population 800. Just a single child entered Weybridge’s kindergarten this year, and a quarter of the 52 students will graduate from this school in the spring. There just aren’t enough darn kids.

Vermont has the highest per pupil spending in the nation at $15,000, yet Weybridge spends even more than that, an eye-popping $18,000 per pupil. The national average is just under $10,000.


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Filed under: Elementary school • High school • Issues • Policy • Practice
Gardening with class
November 29th, 2011
07:38 AM ET

School garden cultivates more than vegetables

By Paul Frysh, CNN

Arugula, radishes, kale, pomegranates, persimmons, figs and quince - these are just some of the varieties of produce tended by students at Burgess-Peterson Elementary school, an urban school on the east side of Atlanta.

When the garden started three years ago, students hadn't even heard of - much less grown and eaten - a lot of the food now grown on school grounds.

And yet on the day CNN visited the school, fifth-graders ate quiche made with fresh spinach from the school garden, and fourth-graders chomped happily on slices of persimmon, an unusual orange-colored fruit, harvested from the school's fruit orchard.

You'd be surprised, said fifth-grade teacher Megan Kiser, what foods students are willing to try if they grow it themselves.

In the school's courtyard in November, students tended their plants - each class is responsible for a particular section of a particular bed. The students look in on their plants a few times a week, watering them as needed and harvesting them when the time is right. Each class from first to fifth grade weighs the produce for a friendly contest. The class that harvests the most weight by the end of the season wins a cooking demonstration from a local chef.

The garden is not just for looks: Eight pounds of produce from Friday alone went home with teachers for the Thanksgiving holiday.


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Filed under: Elementary school • Lunch • Practice
November 18th, 2011
07:00 AM ET

A 'gentlemen's club' for the classroom

It’s not just about being polite. Principal Ronnie Sims tells CNN’s Christine Romans that his school’s ‘gentlemen’s club’ helps students focus and achieve better grades.

The 6-year-old program at Detroit’s Brenda Scott Academy teaches boys to overcome distractions and gain confidence. Two weeks ago, Sims started a ‘ladies’ club’, which has received 120 signups.

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