Before The Bell
Feb. 28, 2012

Report examines 'school to home' communications
eSchool News
A new report has identified key trends and issues when it comes to how teachers, parents and students communicate, and it indicates that the growing prevalence of mobile devices could help improve communication among these stakeholder groups. "Connecting in the 21st Century," a report from Project Tomorrow and Blackboard Inc., based on data from Project Tomorrow's 2010 Speak Up survey, reveals new information about the way parents, students, and teachers communicate with one another. It identifies as a key trend the "growing need for more effective, timely, and targeted communication between the school and home." More

'Bake sale ban' rhetoric swells over Obama school snacks rules
Special-education students at Tooele High School in northwest Utah who rely on weekly bake sales to pay for field trips and supplies may have to go without. Federal regulators, fresh off a contentious nutritional overhaul of U.S. school meals that replaced fried chicken patties with chef salads, are now preparing the first standards for snacks, sodas and other foods sold outside of regularly scheduled lunch and breakfast. That means vending machines, concession stands and some types of PTA fundraisers during school hours may be forced to cut back the calories. More

A flawed approach to reading in the Common-Core Standards
Education Week (commentary)
As written by Joanne Yatvin: "In reading the recently proposed Common Core State Standards already accepted by all but three states, I could not see many elementary school children of any background or ability meeting the standards at the grades designated. In my view, as a former elementary teacher and principal, the standards overestimate the intellectual, physiological and emotional development of young children, asking them to think analytically as they read or write, extract subtle meanings from a text, and make fine distinctions within and across texts. Such deliberative and intensive behaviors are not supported by the research on child development, nor are they expected anywhere else in children's lives today."More

Concordia University study: Investment in school technology is money well spent
The Montreal Gazette
Concordia University researchers set out to answer a "big picture" question: Does computer technology have a positive effect overall on learning in the classroom? "There have been lots of arguments both pro and con regarding this issue, (like) is it worth the investment," said professor Richard Schmid, chairman of Concordia's education department. Their literature review involved looking at thousands of studies and comparing achievement in classrooms that used computer technology with those that used little or none. The 40-year retrospective study, published in the Review of Educational Research journal, concluded that in classrooms where computer technology was used to support teaching, it had a "small to moderate positive" impact on learning and attitude.More

If school is not relevant
KQED (commentary)
Imagine if schools were judged not by how well students achieved while they were in school, but in how well they achieved once they left. If schools saw their worth not in how many kids got accepted to college, but in how many kids went on to live meaningful and engaged lives and who would point back to their school years as the point of relevancy that was the foundation of it all. If schools gauged themselves not by how many kids passed a test, but in how well it prepared those kids who did not pass the test to see themselves as worthy of respect and ready to take on the challenges of life.More

Disadvantaged children get prepared for the rigors of kindergarten when they attend preschools
Medical News Today
Preschools help children prepare for the rigors of grade school — especially children who come from a minority family, a poor family or whose parents don't provide high-quality interactions. The results of a new study of over 1,000 identical and fraternal twins, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, confirm that preschool programs are a good idea.More

Educators sound off on 3-D in the classroom
eSchool News
As educators grapple with school reform, many agree that schools must update their practices and technology to better engage students and prepare them for 21st century careers. Some educators believe 3-D technology could hold a key: after all, if it works for the movies, it can work for schools, too. But others aren't so sure. To gauge educators' opinions on 3-D technology in the classroom, eSchool News recently asked readers: "Has your classroom/school/district begun thinking of 3-D? Have you implemented any 3-D technology or checked out some 3-D curriculum content? What do you think of the 3-D movement?"More

Can the scent of rosemary make you smarter?
WebMD Health News
Can a whiff of rosemary boost your performance at work or school? It's possible. A new study suggests that the pungent and pine-like scent of rosemary oil may improve speed and accuracy when performing certain mental tasks. Twenty people were asked to perform subtraction exercises and a task to see how quickly they could process new information before and after being exposed to the scent of rosemary in their work stations. Researchers measured participants' blood levels of 1, 8-cineole, rosemary's main chemical component, after the experiment.More

Odd pairings on teacher evaluation in ESEA fight
Education Week
The always contentious subject of teacher evaluation is creating some unusual divisions on Capitol Hill, as members of Congress debate approaches for the long-delayed renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Two proposals for renewing the law — a measure that passed the Senate education committee last fall and a pair of House bills slated for committee consideration in the coming weeks — represent dueling visions of the federal role in shaping teacher evaluation, an issue that continues to roil state legislatures as well. The House bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, would require districts to devise new teacher-evaluation systems, mirroring the Obama administration's priorities.More

Amid a federal education inquiry, an unsettling sight
The New York Times
What was Arne Duncan doing sharing the stage with Michelle Rhee at a recent education conference? Duncan is the education secretary. Rhee was the chancellor of schools in Washington from 2007 to 2010. Since last summer, the Office of the Inspector General in Duncan's department has been investigating whether Washington school officials cheated to raise test scores during Rhee's tenure. You would think Duncan would want to keep Rhee at arm's length during the investigation. And yet there they were, sitting side by side last month, two of four featured panelists at a conference in Washington about the use of education data. More

States seek to boost K-12 aid as revenue recovers
Education Week
Buoyed by gradual increases in tax revenues, many states are looking to devote more money to schools in the coming year, after having held the line or made significant reductions during the Great Recession and its aftermath. Yet even accounting for those proposed increases in spending, budget analysts and local officials predict that states and districts will be coping for years to come with the effects of deep cuts they've made to K-12 personnel, programs and services. More

Florida schools brace for tougher new grading system
Orlando Sentinel
Like students assigned to a tough new teacher, Florida's public-schools administrators are jittery and looking for a schedule change as the state gets ready to revamp its A-to-F school-grading system. They fear the planned overhaul of the grading formula will unfairly label too many campuses as failures. The State Board of Education is poised to make significant changes to Florida's school report card, issued annually since 1999.More

Georgia Senate passes virtual learning mandate
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Online learning would become a requirement for graduation in schools across Georgia under a bill passed by the Senate, despite objections from some lawmakers who said it chipped away at local control. Starting next year, Senate Bill 289 would require school systems to allow all students access to online instruction from kindergarten to 12th-grade. Ninth-grade students starting in 2014 would have to take at least one online course before graduation, according to SB 289. The bill would also require schools to give all end-of-course assessments online starting in 2015.More

Study: Voucher students improve on reading
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A sample of students in Milwaukee's private voucher schools made gains in reading in 2010-2011 that were significantly higher than those of a matched sample of peers in Milwaukee Public Schools, but math achievement remained the same last school year, according to the results of a multi-year study tracking students in both sectors. The results of the study are being released in Milwaukee as the final installment of an examination of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, or voucher program.More

Virginia, Maryland and DC seek to opt out of key parts of No Child Left Behind law
The Washington Post
For the past decade, public schools nationwide have aimed for a target fixed in federal law: that 100 percent of students should pass reading and math tests by 2014. Now Virginia wants to lower the goal to 75 percent for reading and 70 percent for math. Maryland and the District also want to revise expectations for student achievement, part of a national movement to seek federal approval to opt out of key parts of the 2002 No Child Left Behind law. Many educators say the law saddles schools with unrealistic goals and unfair penalties.More

Teacher quality widely diffused, ratings indicate
The New York Times
The controversial ratings of roughly 18,000 New York City teachers released showed that teachers who were most and least successful in improving their students' test scores could be found all around — in the poorest corners of the Bronx, like Tremont and Soundview, and in middle-class neighborhoods of Queens, like Bayside and Forest Hills. They taught in schools in wealthy swaths of Manhattan, but also in immigrant enclaves. They were in similar proportions in successful and struggling schools, and they were just as likely to have taught the most challenging of students and the most accomplished. More

Make your housing reservations for NAESP Annual Conference and Expo today
Feb. 28 is the last day to take advantage of special conference rates for the NAESP Annual Conference and Expo — BEST PRACTICES FOR BETTER SCHOOLS™. With engaging speakers, an exciting location, and ample opportunities for learning and networking, it's the most enriching national event for K-8 principals. Register and finalize your housing reservations today. More

Deadline March 1 for Children's Book Award
Calling all aspiring authors. Submissions for National Children's Book Award Contest are due Thursday, March 1. Prospective authors may submit a picture or chapter book written for children ages 3-16. Judging will be based on content, originality and age-appropriateness. Winners will receive a contract with Charlesbridge Publishing. Click here to read Frequently Asked Questions.More