NAESP Before the Bell
Jan. 14, 2011

Momentum building on ESEA renewal?
Education Week
Rumor has it that the president is going to make a big push for renewing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in his State of the Union address to the newly divided Congress, slated for Jan. 25. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, is aiming for the panel to consider a bill by Easter, and then bring the measure to the floor in late spring or early summer, according to Justine Sessions, a spokeswoman for the committee. The current version of the ESEA law, the No Child Left Behind Act, was up for renewal four years ago, and so far neither committee has introduced a reauthorization bill, so obviously this isn't easy.More

Book project turns pupils into authors
The Times-Picayune
Laughter filled the hallways of Metairie Academy for Advanced Studies as Stephanie Hosch slowly opened the book "Magic Socks," which was written by her daughter, Allison Hosch. "Magic Socks," a 17-page work of fiction, tells the story of a pair of socks that enables people to do magical things when they are put on. Hosch, a fourth-grader at Metairie Academy, wrote the book and also drew the pictures to illustrate the story. More

Curricula all over the map for 'blended' classes
Education Week
Although hybrid learning, which combines face-to-face instruction with online-learning components, has begun to take hold in K-12 education, the curriculum for such courses varies significantly from program to program. Most hybrid educators use modified versions of fully online courses or cobble together a curriculum from various online resources, prompting a push for digital curricula that are broken down into modules, rather than comprehensive, fully packaged courses. "That's one of the fundamental things about this industry that's going to reshape publishing — this idea that schools are going to need to be able to access curricula at a higher level of granularity," said John Danner, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Rocketship Education, an elementary charter school that serves more than 1,000 students at three different campuses in San Jose, Calif.More

High-tech help
The New York Times
Students with severe reading disabilities may benefit from computer programs that can scan words and "read" them aloud via synthesized voices, some of which sound uncannily human. One is the Intel Reader, a device that can plug into a laptop for reading on-screen texts and also takes snapshots of, say, a newspaper page to be read aloud. Another is the ReadingPen Advanced, a pen-shaped scanner that glides over printed words and pronounces them through a built-in speaker.More

60 first-graders, 4 teachers, 1 loud new way to learn
The New York Times
Instead of assigning one teacher to roughly 25 children, the New American Academy began the school year with four teachers in large, open classrooms of 60 students. The school stresses student independence over teacher-led lessons, scientific inquiry over rote memorization and freedom, and self-expression over strict structure and discipline. The founder, Shimon Waronker, developed the idea with several other graduate students at Harvard.More

Obama aims to revise No Child Left Behind
The Washington Post
President Obama will mount a fresh attempt this year to rewrite the No Child Left Behind education law, a top administration official said, and key congressional Republicans said they are ready to deal. "The president is ready to move on this," Education Secretary Arne Duncan told The Washington Post. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of a subcommittee on elementary and secondary education, said there is bipartisan consensus that the 2002 law should be overhauled. More

Finding efficiencies in special education programs
Education Week
Educating students with disabilities — a federally mandated responsibility — is seen as one of the costliest services school districts must provide, and one of the last that can be cut. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provides a set of protections for 6.6 million students — about 13 percent of total student enrollment — who have dyslexia, autism, intellectual disabilities, blindness, or other impairments that affect educational performance. Those students are entitled to a "free, appropriate public education" in the least-restrictive environment that meets their needs. Fail to provide such services, and parents can sue in federal court. Those guidelines have led to the perception that special education is an untouchable expense, even in lean economic times. More

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie eyeing teacher tenure
The Wall Street Journal
Thanks to tenure, many believe that teachers' jobs are basically guaranteed, no matter how students do. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to change that: He is seeking to end tenure and said he would support switching to a system that gives individual teachers five-year contracts, which districts could renew based on merit. He said he believes that if the worst 5 percent of teachers were churned, there would be a "quantum effect" on performance. More

Schools transitioning to new core English, math standards
The Newnan Times-Herald
States such as Georgia that have signed onto common core state standards in English language arts and math are moving forward with little resistance, though full implementation is several years away for most of them, a new report from the Center on Education Policy released finds. According to Karen Barker, Ph.D., director of elementary education for the Coweta County School System, the school system is trying to ensure that it's part of that transition process as the state moves forward with adoption of the new standards. A "precision review committee" is being formed at the state level to review the common core standards, Barker said. More

Higher math standard planned for NY kindergartens
The Associated Press via The Wall Street Journal
More requirements for math as early as kindergarten and teaching a greater understanding of literature are among new standards for New York's public schools to be in place by the 2011-12 school year. The state Board of Regents on approved changes in the statewide curriculum and testing to enforce the requirements, which include the higher standard for math in kindergarten and first grade. Another will require students to be taught how to better interpret literature from a wide variety of genres and a spectrum of American and world cultures. More

The big squeeze is on in California classes
San Jose Mercury News
left As California crams more kids into classrooms, students are sitting in aisles and on windowsills. Fewer are paying attention and more are certain to be left behind. Teachers are spending more time lecturing and less time leading experiments and devising creative lessons. Caught in a budget meltdown, the state is forcing schools to abandon one of the most popular education reforms — smaller class sizes.More

Florida agriculture chief sees nutrition war as hot potato
The Palm Beach Post (commentary)
Now that the Florida Office of Drug Control has been abolished, it's on to the next quixotic struggle: The war on unhealthy eating. Adam Putnam, the newly elected Florida commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, is promising to devise a "nutrition improvement plan" for the state's children. So far, the only thing Putnam has done is to stop the Florida Board of Education from doing the no-brainer first step of banning sugary drinks in the state's public schools. Putnam explained that he is looking toward a more comprehensive plan, rather than singling out beverages.More

Recognize your students
Order your materials now for the President's Education Awards Program and the American Citizenship Award. It's your chance to say, "Well done!"More

Focus on your own learning too
During a busy school day, you probably don't take much time to focus on your own professional development. However, there's an upcoming opportunity you won't want to miss — the NAESP 2011 Annual Convention & Exposition in Tampa, Fla., April 7-10. More