NAESP Before the Bell
Sept. 7, 2010

US asks educators to reinvent student tests, and how they are given
The New York Times
Standardized exams — the multiple-choice, bubble tests in math and reading that have played a growing role in American public education in recent years — are being overhauled. Over the next four years, two groups of states, 44 in all, will get $330 million to work with hundreds of university professors and testing experts to design a series of new assessments that officials say will look very different from those in use today.More

Some i3 winners still scrambling for grant match
Education Week
Nonprofit groups and school districts that overcame fierce competition for a slice of the $650 million federal Investing in Innovation Fund — including some of the largest and best-known players in education reform — are racing to meet the deadline for the matching private funds grantees must have in hand to receive the money. A number of finalists for the "i3" aid had hoped to find help from a consortium of more than 40 funders, including such big names as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Some grant winners say they expected that one or more foundations would contact them to offer matching grants after they were picked for awards of up to $50 million from the U.S. Department of Education.More

Kindergarten dilemma: Hold kids back to get ahead?
MSNBC
As schools start back into session around the country, some parents of young children face a difficult question: Send their little ones to kindergarten as soon as they become age-eligible, or hold them back in hopes that an additional year of maturity will give them an academic boost? This voluntary kindergarten delay, dubbed "redshirting" after the practice of benching college athletes for a season to prolong their eligibility, is a source of much national and personal debate. As kindergarten programs have become more rigorous, redshirting proponents argue, kids need to be older to handle the curriculum. More

Green schoolyards as an element of reform
Education Week (commentary)
What motivates a child to learn? Children are active social beings who have an innate curiosity about the world around them. We should be using these attributes as a springboard into the vast and wonderful world of learning. One way to do this is through a "green schoolyard" that dispenses with the chairs, desks, walls, ceiling, chalkboards, and just about everything else found in an indoor classroom. It is an open, active space that is asymmetrical and sensory-rich, with things to touch, smell, hear, observe, and, yes, even taste. It is a patch of land surrounded by a real-world neighborhood. It teems with possibilities and beckons children to embark together on a journey of discovery.More

3-D equipment gives school lessons an added dimension
The Dallas Morning News
Vera Johnson's fifth-graders barely noticed as visitors walked into their classroom. They were far too focused on the disembodied head that seemed to float in the front of the room. Suddenly a human ear, with all its innards exposed, jumped out at them. "Whoa!" The kids were responding to a relatively new kind of technology just starting to filter into North Texas classrooms: a 3-D projection system, coupled with interactive, computer-driven content. More

Forget what you know about good study habits
The New York Times
There are effective approaches to learning, at least for those who are motivated. In recent years, cognitive scientists have shown that a few simple techniques can reliably improve what matters most: how much a student learns from studying. The findings can help anyone, from a fourth grader doing long division to a retiree taking on a new language. But they directly contradict much of the common wisdom about good study habits, and they have not caught on. For instance, instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. So does studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing. More

Cash-strapped schools turn to volunteers to fill budget gaps
CNN Money
As state and local funding for education dries up, schools around the nation are asking their communities to help them maintain their services and programming. Many are increasing their use of volunteers, while others are boosting their fundraising efforts. Some are even turning to online auctions to boost reserves.More

Feds push New York to overhaul school policy, become model for nation
The Business Review
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says New York public schools are entering scary territory as they develop new standards for students and for evaluating teachers. But the changes will serve as a model for the rest of the country by helping schools improve student performance, reduce the number of dropouts and rebuild the nation's economy, he said. New York education policy makers, teachers unions and lawmakers plan to link teacher evaluations to student test scores for the first time to better prepare students for college and an increasingly competitive job market.More

2 Oakland, Calif., schools extend school day to 9 hours
San Francisco Chronicle
School became a full-time job for sixth-graders at two Oakland middle schools where students clocked in on the first day of school at 8 a.m. and headed home at 5 p.m., about three hours later than other students in the district. The new nine-hour school day might sound like an adolescent nightmare, but district officials hope that more time in class will help boost the test scores of students at United for Success Academy and Elmhurst Community Preparatory School, both considered by the state to be among the 188 worst schools in California. More

Hearing opens in legal battle over Arizona English-language learners programs
Education Week
On the first day of a hearing in a closely watched federal court case over Arizona's programs for English-language learners, a single witness for the state department of education spent the entire day on the stand testifying on the success of the state's approach to teaching students who need to learn English. Meanwhile, news surfaced that federal civil rights officials took a slightly dimmer view of aspects of the Arizona's English-language learners programs. In letters sent to the state school superintendent, the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights said it had determined that two of the practices the state uses to identify which students require services, or for how long, violate federal law.More

Racing to conclusions on federal funds
Niagara Gazette
With New York state's receipt of nearly $700 million in federal education grants, so comes hopeful promises of widespread reform and proactive initiatives, which could potentially change the face of education. Right now, though, educators and policy experts agree there is still work to be done. New York's victory in the U.S Department of Education's Race to the Top competition means the state will have to make good on the ambitious pledges made and new initiatives it set forth in its application. Most notably the state agreed to raise the cap on charter schools, set new guidelines and increase the scrutiny on teacher evaluations, creating a statewide data-tracking system. New York will attempt to nationalize standards for curriculum and testing, among others.More

Texas Legislators push aid to middle schoolers
The Houston Chronicle
Texas Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, was stunned a few years ago when state auditors answered her request with a white surrender flag: They could not tell her which programs designed to help struggling, low-income students worked and which didn't. Billions of dollars flow into programs designed to boost poor students and to keep them in school. But there are too many variables to measure their impact. The Plano Republican, chair of the Senate Education Committee, plans to team up with Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, on legislation that gives more personalized attention to middle school students.More

Massachusetts school aid called uneven
The Boston Globe
While some local school officials are welcoming a pair of recent federal funding awards, several are contending that their districts were shortchanged. The state announced funding allocations from the $250 million that Massachusetts is receiving as one of 10 grant recipients in the second round of the federal Race to the Top competition. The local grants will go to communities that agreed to participate in the program and to spend the funds on school reforms.More

NAESP president talks about parent engagement on Lifetime TV
NAESP
Tune in to The Balancing Act on Wednesday, Sept. 8 at 7 a.m. (EST) on Lifetime TV to hear NAESP President Barbara Chester discuss how parents can get engaged with their child's school. Chester will also appear in segments this fall on preventing bullying and engaging students in reading in school and at home.More

Online auction starts Sept. 16
NAESP
The NAESP Foundation is holding an online auction from Sept. 16-30. Bidding on every item starts at $1 with no reserve. Preview some of the great items up for sale, and register today to receive $20 in bid bucks for every $10 you purchase!More