NAESP Before the Bell
Jan. 4, 2011

Arne Duncan: School reform's next test
The Washington Post (commentary)
With a new Congress set to begin, key members on both sides of the aisle are poised to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). In fact, the work has been underway for much of the past year, and few areas are more suited for bipartisan action than education reform. On many issues, Democrats and Republicans agree, starting with the fact that no one likes how NCLB labels schools as failures, even when they are making broad gains. Parents, teachers, and lawmakers want a system that measures not just an arbitrary level of proficiency, but student growth and school progress in ways that better reflect the impact of a school and its teachers on student learning.More

Jeb Bush's influence on education policy spreads
Education Week
Jeb Bush left the Florida governor's office with a legacy of having brought sweeping changes to his state's education system, through hard-edged policies that gave parents and students more choices and demanded more of schools. Today, that legacy seems poised to grow — and well beyond Florida. In state capitals across the country, numerous lawmakers and officeholders say they are determined to follow the ambitious and often polarizing education blueprint fashioned by Bush, a Republican, during his two terms as Florida's governor.More

Page-turning progress
The Washington Post
In a Graysonville, Md., school letters were becoming sounds, sounds were becoming words as first-graders were becoming readers through a program that has won a major grant from one of President Obama's signature education initiatives. The money will help Success for All, as the program is known, expand across the country.More

Sixth-graders aren't too young to save a life
The Boston Globe
The sixth-grade students at Blanchard Memorial School in Boxborough, Mass., weren't just taking their regular math and English classes — they were learning how to save lives. The CPR curriculum has been significantly simplified in an effort to train as many people as possible. He said students are typically certified in the emergency resuscitation techniques in ninth grade, but he decided to try working with the sixth-graders this year. The students spent parts of two days with Fire Department staff, first learning why CPR is used and how it's done, and then practicing with dummies. More

In reforming schools, quality of teaching often overlooked
The Los Angeles Times
Years-long efforts to improve Markham Middle School in Watts, Calif., included changing the curriculum, reducing class sizes and requiring uniforms. But real progress occurred when more effective teachers were brought into the school.More

What is the most effective classroom technology?
If there is one technology that North Vista Primary School in Singapore can invest in, it will be interactive whiteboards, Phua Kia Wang, principal at North Vista Primary School said. Phua said research showed that most students preferred concrete manipulatives as a preferred teaching tool, followed closely by visual aids. According to Phua, 100 percent of students studied indicated that they preferred the use of physical objects, for example in teaching the concept of fractions in a mathematics class. More than 90 percent said the use of graphics or other visual aids helped in learning. Results dipped to 20 percent if words alone were used to explain the concept.More

Some Connecticut children have mentors in high places
The Associated Press via The Boston Globe
Stratford, Conn.'s, in-school mentor program allows mentors to set expectations for students and encourages them to make good decisions and understand right from wrong. Principal Jamie Palladino said, "The hope is that this mentor travels with the student as they move up through the school system." Some students are placed in the program due to behavioral problems, a social worker noted, while others join for its many benefits: Students often earn better grades and attend school more often after joining the program. Each child is paired with a same-sex mentor based on their interests and compatibility.More

Court to rehear case on elementary students' speech rights
Education Week
A full federal appeals court has agreed to hear fresh arguments in a case weighing whether elementary school students have First Amendment rights to distribute items with religious messages to their classmates. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, announced that it would rehear Morgan v. Swanson, a case involving the scope of free speech rights of elementary school students. More

Alaska parents can be charged for child's absences
The Associated Press via Juneau Empire
Teachers and school administrators in Northwest Alaska have warned the parents of frequently truant children that they can be charged with a misdemeanor if the students continue to miss class. Northwest Arctic Borough School District Superintendent Norman Eck said the district is trying to lift its sagging attendance numbers. The district has about 88 percent average attendance. Eck said a successful school usually has at least 95 percent attendance. More

Legislative fight looms on class-size limit in elementary schools in Texas
The Dallas Morning News
A quarter-century-old law that has held most elementary school classes in Texas to no more than 22 students is on the endangered list as the Legislature looks for solutions to the state's massive budget deficit. Legislative leaders and Comptroller Susan Combs are moving to ease the requirement, arguing that it will save hundreds of millions of dollars while giving school districts more flexibility in educating their students.More

Utah to reevaluate who pays for school supplies
The Associated Press via Deseret News
Utah's elementary school children are guaranteed a free education in the state constitution, but a state lawmaker wants to make it clear that doesn't necessarily include items such as glue, scissors and notebooks. Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, is sponsoring a resolution that would amend the constitution so schools could ask students to voluntarily provide their own school supplies. State law prohibits elementary schools from charging anything resembling a fee. Courts have ruled that means teachers can ask students to bring school supplies they might have at home, but they can't ask them to bring specific items.More

Education research seeks a faster pace
Education Week
Education futurists predict massive shifts in the way children will learn as a result of new technologies and the global job market. Yet policymakers worry that education research is not moving fast enough to provide a foundation for truly effective innovations. "We need to set up better facilities for doing (education research) pilots quickly and well," Bror Saxberg, Kaplan Inc.'s chief learning officer, said. More

Want to get kids into college? Let them play
Every day you see young students struggling with the transition from home to school. They're all wonderful kids, but some can't share easily or listen in a group. Some have impulse control problems and have trouble keeping their hands to themselves; others don't always see that actions have consequences; a few suffer terribly from separation anxiety.More

Teacher takeover?
There's a concept being tested in districts around the country to open teacher-run schools. Instead of a building principal in charge of the intricacies of leading a school, the teachers work together to address instruction, budgets, discipline, and other traditional aspects of a principal's job. Consequently, the My Two Cents question for the January/February issue of Principal is: What do you think are the risks of teacher-run schools? More

Participate in Community Service Day at the 2011 Convention
NAESP's Annual Convention & Exposition kicks off on Thursday, April 7, with a day of volunteer service at Booker T. Washington Elementary School, a K-5 school in Tampa, Fla. Community Service Day is a powerful demonstration of commitment during the NAESP convention that raises awareness of the importance of volunteerism and of principals helping each other. Volunteers will complete hands-on projects such as planting and installing playground equipment to make B.T. Washington a better and brighter place to educate students.More