Before The Bell
Sep. 3, 2013

Debate: Do we need the Common Core State Standards in public schools?
Back to school for millions of American children this year means a new set of academic standards. Called the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the new national benchmarks will help U.S. students compete with their peers internationally and leave them better prepared for college and work, proponents say. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia adopted the Common Core in 2010, enticed by Obama administration waivers to federal accountability rules as well as billions in Race to the Top funds. But a number of states, including Indiana, Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania, are having second thoughts about the standards. Critics contend they're too expensive and too intrusive on state prerogatives.More

Safe schools for everyone
Education Week (commentary)
Inclusion, acceptance and empathy are three attributes fundamental to the establishment of safe schools. Intolerance for anything less is essential. We have a responsibility to lead environments in which all children feel safe and are accepted. The challenge arises when we are courageous enough to admit to feeling the most comfort in what is familiar and label it as normal. offers the following as synonyms for the word normal: average, common, commonplace, cut-and-dried, everyday, garden-variety, ordinary, prosaic, routine, run-of-the-mill, standard, standard-issue, unexceptional, unremarkable, usual, workaday.More

Not your grandmother's gym class
Physical education in the United States has come a long way since the one-size-fits-all regimen of jumping jacks and rope climbing that was the bane of the baby boomer generation. Today, where children learn can determine the type of fitness lessons they receive. "We have schools with rock climbing walls, Zumba classes, inline skating — amazing stuff that I would have loved to have when I was a kid," said Carly Braxton, senior program manager for advocacy at the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, a nonprofit group that promotes physical activity and education.More

New guide to help states commonly define English learners
Education Week
Can Florida agree with California on who an English-language learner is? Can Texas and Illinois move closer to using the same criteria for deciding when a student is no longer an ELL? Will all, or at least most, states be able to share a more consistent way of defining different levels of English proficiency? Those questions may soon be answered. With a just-released set of recommendations from the Council of Chief State School Officers to help guide them, most states are now set to embark on an effort to bring much more uniformity to identifying who English learners are and when those students are no longer in need of language instruction. The goal is to move all states to a more consistent playing field over the next four to five years.More

6 ways to motivate students to learn
Scientific research has provided us with a number of ways to get the learning juices flowing, none of which involve paying money for good grades. And most smart educators know this, even without scientific proof.More

Young students against bad science
The New York Times
Your parents may have had to walk uphill, both ways, to get to school. But as ideological warfare threatens the teaching of climate science and evolution in many schools, it is clear that today's students face their own obstacles on the road to a respectable science education — and some are speaking out.More

Math anxiety gets fresh look, different twist in new research
Education Week
Considerable research suggests that girls are more anxious about math than boys, but a new study dives deeper to distinguish the general anxiety young people report about the subject from what they may be feeling in math class or at test time. It turns out the latter, "real-time" anxiety is about the same for boys and girls, the study finds. Math anxiety among females has long been of concern because, as the new research points out, prior studies have shown that it "negatively predicts" course enrollment, career choices and lifelong learning in math fields. More

With Common Core, fewer topics covered more rigorously
The New York Times
If the new mathematics standards adopted by New York and 44 other states work as intended, then children, especially in the lower elementary grades, will learn less math this year. But by cutting back on a hodgepodge of topics and delving deeper into central concepts, the hope is that the children will understand it better. So, for Mayra Baldi, a kindergarten teacher at P.S. 169 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, that will mean focusing on numbers. "You have to deepen their understanding," she said. "You have to get them to think more."More

Say what? 5 ways to get students to listen
Edutopia (commentary)
Rebecca Alber, a contributor for Edutopia, writes: "Ah, listening, the neglected literacy skill. I know when I was a high school English teacher this was not necessarily a primary focus; I was too busy honing the more measurable literacy skills — reading, writing, and speaking. But when we think about career and college readiness, listening skills are just as important. This is evidenced by the listening standards found in the Common Core and also the integral role listening plays in collaboration and communication, two of the four Cs of 21st century learning."More

How many hours do educators actually work?
EdTech Magazine
If you were offered a job that paid an average annual salary of $49,000 and required you to work 12- to 16-hour days, would you take it? Sounds like a lot of work for not much pay. But, as a new infographic shows, that's about what the average U.S. teacher can expect when walking into a classroom. Despite the conventional wisdom that K–12 teachers work shorter days (the average U.S. school day is 6.7 hours, according to the National Center for Education Statistics), the graphic, from, shows that the average teacher workday is much longer than that. More

Guesses and hype give way to data in study of education
The New York Times
What works in science and math education? Until recently, there had been few solid answers — just guesses and hunches, marketing hype and extrapolations from small pilot studies. But now, a little-known office in the Education Department is starting to get some real data, using a method that has transformed medicine: the randomized clinical trial, in which groups of subjects are randomly assigned to get either an experimental therapy, the standard therapy, a placebo or nothing. The findings could be transformative, researchers say. More

'Heat days' in schools becoming more common
The Associated Press via The Huffington Post
When city students arrived for the first day of school under the blazing temperatures of a Midwest heat wave, staff greeted them with some unusual school supplies: water bottles, fans and wet towels to drape around their necks. What they couldn't always offer was air conditioning. "It's kind of hard to focus because everyone was sweating," said Deniyah Jones, a 12-year-old 7th-grader at Nash Elementary School on Chicago's West Side, which has just a few window units for the entire fortress-like brick and stone building.More

The courage to teach
Connected Principals Blog (commentary)
Shira Leibowitz, a contributor for Connected Principals Blog, writes: "Beginning my position as a new Head of School, I opened our first full staff professional learning session with the above quote from educator Parker Palmer. Determined to shift from my voice to our voices as quickly as possible, I moved almost immediately to a learning activity modified from one Palmer describes later in his book."More

Survey: How students prefer to use tablets in schools
Not just for games and movies, tablets are becoming more common in educational settings. A recent Neilsen survey found that 71 percent of students who use tablets are interested in accessing textbooks.More

Time to ask for more E-Rate funding
eSchool News (commentary)
This fall, the new school year arrives with exceptional promise, as it brings a rare opportunity to increase funding for the E-Rate — the only federal program focused on K-12 education technology. The Federal Communications Commission has launched a rulemaking process to examine the E-Rate's structure, the services it supports, and the adequacy of its funding. Educators need to speak up — and loudly — to make the case that our classrooms need greater E-Rate support to meet 21st century needs.More

Increasing access through US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Blog (commentary)
Sue Swenson, the deputy assistant secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, writes: "I spend a lot of time thinking about students with disabilities, their families and their schools. In fact, I believe the disability topic is a natural part of most of our work here at the U.S. Department of Education. I really like finding the connection. Last week, I had the opportunity to travel with U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Director Andrea Falken to visit honorees in southeast Wisconsin, where I learned that disability is, indeed, a real part of the whole ED-GRS initiative."More

Survey: How students prefer to use tablets in schools
Not just for games and movies, tablets are becoming more common in educational settings. A recent Neilsen survey found that 71 percent of students who use tablets are interested in accessing textbooks.More

New Common Core resources for educators
eClassroom News
New resources released this month link Common Core-aligned curriculum with any school system's assessment data, and what's more, these resources for educators are also 100 percent free. More

8 principal leadership tips for the new year
Connected Principals Blog
Justin Tarte, a contributor for Connected Principals Blog, writes: "I recently had the opportunity to hear Andy Greene, Middle School Principal from New York, speak to us about collaboration and the PLC process."More

States offered more time to ignore education law
The Associated Press via Chicago Sun-Times
States can request permission to ignore parts of the No Child Left Behind education law through the spring of 2016, the U.S. Education Department said. The long-term offer underscores the intensive work states have already undertaken on school reforms in exchange for flexibility from Washington, as well as a dour outlook that Congress will take action to replace the outdated goals of No Child Left Behind. The law expired in 2007 and included goals now seen as overly ambitious.More

States worried about Common Core tests
eClassroom News
States, superintendents nervous about Common Core pass rates. A new study highlights an interesting trend happening in states across the country: backtracking on Common Core State Standards. States say issues with development, as well as worries about students' pass rates, are making implementing Common Core tests difficult. The report "Year 3 of Implementing the Common Core State Standards: States Prepare for the Common Core Assessments," is based on a survey of state deputy superintendents in 40 of the 46 states that have adopted the CCSS in math or English/language arts or both subjects, and was conducted by the Center on Education Policy.More

An iPad for every student? What Los Angeles school district is thinking
The Christian Science Monitor
America's second largest school district will be giving all its students iPads, a move that is eliciting a great range of reactions — delight from kids, excitement from teachers, and debate and concern from education analysts. Two elementary schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District were the first to distribute iPads to students. Forty-five more campuses (kindergarten through high school) will roll them out to all the district's 650,000 students during the next two weeks. Pre-loaded with educational software, each costs $678, more than in stores. A wireless network must be installed on every campus, as well.More

Without paperwork, school lunch free in Boston
The Boston Globe
Boston public schools will begin serving free lunches to all students this school year even if families have the financial means to pay, school officials are expected to announce soon. The meal program, more than a year in the making, is part of an experimental federal initiative that aims to make it easier for students from low-income families to receive free meals by eliminating the need to fill out paperwork, including potentially invasive questions about income. Cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, and Chicago have been or will be participating in the free-meal program. Starting next school year, the program will be open to any school district across the country with high concentrations of students from low-income families. The cost of the free meals will be covered by the federal government.More

More online schools on way
Boston Herald
Massachusetts is poised to open two more cyber public schools by this time next year, and districts statewide are clamoring to establish their own virtual academies — despite the failing test scores at the one online school we already have. A new state law allows a total of 10 cyber schools to open by the year 2020 as the latest trend in education — virtual schooling — sweeps the nation, with mixed results.More

New York law allows schools to discipline cyberbullies
The Buffalo News
It's not your father's bully anymore. Instead of the 6-foot-tall, slimy loser pushing the nerdy kid with glasses and braces into a locker, your child's bully today may be a 92-pound beauty with polished fingernails who types nasty innuendos on her smartphone and posts ruinous rumors in the cybersphere. And while schools are used to dealing with kids' getting into trouble, now they must address electronic harassment and bullying, including events that occur off school grounds when school is not in session. Principals say they have been looking into issues resulting from cellphones and posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media for some time, because their effect often spills over into school.More

Boosting school attendance: Tips for parents
To succeed in school, students need to be present every day. Missing 18 or more days of school in a year puts a child's high school graduation at risk. This month's Report to Parents, "Make Every Day Count: Boost School Attendance," offers parents attendance strategies to keep their kids on track. Report to Parents is NAESP's a family-friendly bulletin that you can post on your school website, forward to your teachers or parents, or distribute at your next school event.More

Ready to be a mentor? Sign up now for trainings in October and November
The NAESP National Mentor Program is designed to engage experienced or retired principals to give back to the profession by supporting new, newly assigned or even experienced principals through mentoring. Ready to dive in? The next training sessions are in October in Alexandria, Va., and November in Savannah, Ga. Visit the mentor program page to register or to see dates for other upcoming trainings.More