Before The Bell
Sep. 20, 2013

States tackle chronic absence in schools
School attendance is about more than figuring out who is playing hooky. Until recently, schools mostly looked at the student body's overall attendance rate and the truancy — or unexcused absences — of individual students. Now a growing number of states and school districts are increasing their focus on students who are "chronically absent" from school — whether the absences are excused or unexcused. States have different definitions of chronic absence, but it is often defined as missing at least 10 percent of the school year for any reason.More

US states still holding back on school spending
Reuters via Chicago Tribune
Public schools around the United States are still waiting to feel the recovery from an economic recession that officially ended four years ago, mostly because states have kept education spending low and property taxes remain depressed, according to a report released on Thursday. At least 34 states are providing less funding per student in the current school year than before the recession hit. Moreover, at least 15 have lower funding than a year ago, according to the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which closely tracks state spending.More

11 tips on teaching Common Core critical vocabulary
Teaching vocabulary within the Common Core State Standards is an essential component of standards-based curriculum alignment. Making the critical words second nature to our students will enhance achievement on assessments and will be useful in college and career. To process and store the academic vocabulary of the standards, our students' brains require an efficient automatic memory system. This system, also called nonmotor procedural memory, stores information that is repeated, such as multiplication tables, song lyrics, words and definitions.More

How can we make homework worthwhile?
Do American students have too much homework, or too little? We often hear passionate arguments for either side, but I believe that we ought to be asking a different question altogether. What should matter to parents and educators is this: How effectively do children's after-school assignments advance learning? The quantity of students' homework is a lot less important than its quality. And evidence suggests that as of now, homework isn't making the grade. Although surveys show that the amount of time our children spend on homework has risen over the last three decades, American students are mired in the middle of international academic rankings: 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math, according to the most recent results from the Program for International Student Assessment.More

MU study: Nontraditional mathematics curriculum results in higher standardized test scores
e! Science News
For many years, studies have shown that American students score significantly lower than students worldwide in mathematics achievement, ranking No. 25 among 34 countries. Now, researchers from the University of Missouri have found high school students in the United States achieve higher scores on a standardized mathematics test if they study from a curriculum known as integrated mathematics. More

The educational value of field trips
Education Next
The school field trip has a long history in American public education. For decades, students have piled into yellow buses to visit a variety of cultural institutions, including art, natural history, and science museums, as well as theaters, zoos and historical sites. Schools gladly endured the expense and disruption of providing field trips because they saw these experiences as central to their educational mission: schools exist not only to provide economically useful skills in numeracy and literacy, but also to produce civilized young men and women who would appreciate the arts and culture.More

Poor students need homework
The Atlantic (commentary)
Of all the well-intentioned but unhelpful things people have ever said about education, perhaps the least helpful was from the father of progressive education himself. "What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community," wrote John Dewey. "Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy." Karl Taro Greenfeld, a good and wise parent, wants less homework for his daughter. He laments that she is becoming "a sleep-deprived teen zombie." My daughter, too. It's a fashionable complaint, nearly a cliché among those whose children attend top schools: Do our kids really need to work this hard?More

Are digital badges the new 'disruptive' technology?
eSchool News
Over the last year, the concept of digital badges has been gaining momentum in states and school district initiatives across the country. But thanks to a new standard, emerging technology experts are calling digital badges the next "disruptive" technology — not only for students, but for teachers and administrators, as well. Digital badges are a digital credential that represents an individual's skills, interests, and achievements, and can convey academic content knowledge, as well as 21st century competencies that cannot be measured by traditional assessments. They have recently gained traction in state education, educator professional development, and initiatives, thanks to clearer definitions and more companies and nonprofits creating digital badge projects.More

iPads open doors for students in poor school districts
USA Today
For Alicia Silva, a single mother with three kids and three jobs, an iPad is out of reach. Silva works as a part-time art teacher, seamstress and home-care provider, and like many hard-working parents, can't afford a tablet computer. Sometime in the next few weeks, though, the Coachella Valley Unified School District will take care of that. It will issue an iPad to each of Silva's three children as part of a program that will provide them to all 19,000 students in the district, one of the state's poorest.More

4 lessons as a sophomore principal
Connected Principals Blog (commentary)
Ron Sherman, a contributor for Connected Principals Blog, writes: "This week, I've been asked to share a few thoughts with our newest principal hires, now that I'm a 'wily veteran' (having started my third year as a principal). Our Director of Student Learning has asked a few of us 'vets' to speak about our most important learning, which we think may help our novice administrators as they go along their path."More

School districts aim for age-appropriate bullying prevention
Sioux City Journal
Kristin Whitsel slips Slowdown Snail onto her hand and asks her kindergarten class why he's there. Without hesitation, a little girl answers that the puppet reminds them to slow down and not be so bouncy and talkative. Whitsel nods her head in agreement. "He reminds us to slow down and think, think, think about how we treat others," Whitsel said. In another wing at Sioux City's Spalding Park Elementary School, Tina Buhrman teaches her fifth-graders about supportive behavior through a scenario in which an aunt's playful teasing embarrasses her nephew in front of his friends. She shows her class a picture of a young boy placing a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder.More

Study: Giving a boring food a cool name helps children make healthier meal choices
Star Gazette
Cornell University experts have found ways to get America's school kids to eat healthier school lunches. They say their techniques are low cost, even no cost, and nudge students to more nutritious offerings by manipulating the lunchroom environment. "A lot of our work is experimental. We will actually go out in the field and run experiments in schools to see what will happen," said David Just, associate professor and co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs.More

With tablets in schools, K-12 teachers must learn new techniques
Digital Book World
As the 2013 school year begins, some of the newest members of the classroom are digital. Tablets are now part of the instructional landscape in more schools than ever across the United States. One-third of K-12 students said they used a tablet for school during the 2012-13 academic year. This fall, the number is rising. How well these new electronic classroom buddies will be integrated into the learning process rests mostly on the shoulders of individual classroom teachers. Today, more than ever, professional development for teachers is vital for K-12 schools.More

E-Rate advocates: More funding for internet connections
eSchool News
As the deadline to submit comments to the Federal Communications Commission on ways to improve the federal E-Rate program wrapped up on Sept. 16, ed-tech advocacy groups and associations made final attempts to emphasize how crucial adequate high-speed broadband connections are for teaching and learning. Coinciding with the comment deadline is the release of a Consortium for School Networking study revealing that 99 percent of the 450 K-12 districts surveyed need greater internet bandwidth within the next 36 months, and 93 percent of districts believe the current E-Rate program does not meet their needs.More

Special education spending declines
Disability Scoop
Funding for special education has fallen in recent years, according to a new report which finds that many school districts are spending less per student today than they did in 2008. The analysis from the the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicates that federal spending on students with disabilities is down 11 percent since 2010. The decline is at least partly due to sequestration — the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that took effect earlier this year — the report said. This comes as many states also reduced their total education spending. At least 34 states will spend less per student this year than they did before the recession began, the analysis found. In 13 states, such cuts amounted to more than 10 percent.More

US Education Department issues guidance on 'double-testing' flexibility
Education Week
In a new guidance issued, the U.S. Department of Education offered states the chance to suspend their current tests this spring, as long as they administer field tests being designed by the two common-assessment consortia in math and English/language arts. States that use that option will not have to report the results of the field tests, according to the federal guidance on statewide testing. In a letter to state schools superintendents, Deborah S. Delisle, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, explained the options for states as they transition their testing regimens to reflect the Common Core State Standards. More

How can we make homework worthwhile?
MindShift (commentary)
Do American students have too much homework, or too little? We often hear passionate arguments for either side, but I believe that we ought to be asking a different question altogether. What should matter to parents and educators is this: How effectively do children's after-school assignments advance 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. More

From the principal's office: 6 steps for curbing email miscommunication
How many times have you sent an email and immediately regretted doing so after pushing the send button? How many times have you sent an email, and the receiver of that email got it all wrong about what you meant to say?More

GAO: Race to Top states have mixed record on teacher evaluation
Education Week
Race to the Top states are having differing degrees of success with what has turned out to be one of the toughest tasks required by the Obama administration's marquee competitive-grant program: crafting new teacher evaluations that take student performance into account, according to a report released today by the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm. Sustaining the new evaluation systems is going to be a tall order, nearly all Race to the Top states report released Wednesday. But overall, most Race to the Top states are happy with the level of support they're getting from the U.S. Department of Education. More

School funding report: Wisconsin dealt with recession impact later than most states
Wisconsin Reporter
So the sky didn't fall after all. Wisconsin school spending grew in 2011, the year Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-led Legislature cut deeply to cure a $3.6 billion budget shortfall, according to a new study by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. What remains unknown, given a federal data lag, is how Wisconsin will compare to other states beginning in 2012, the first full year of the cuts to state aid to public education. Through 2011, the Badger State stacks up pretty well.More

US education policy tests states' patience
Chicago Sun-Times (commentary)
California and Texas are the Red Sox and Yankees of interstate rivalries. The biggest blue state and the big, bad red state love to hate each other, but they are fighting on the same side against the expensive and useless burden of over-testing. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has made it clear that the testing will continue until the scores improve, even when they already have improved or they tell us nothing.More

Lawmakers question education research's usefulness
Education Week
Federal education research has gotten more scientifically rigorous, but in a time of shrinking agency budgets, Congress is debating whether it is practically useful. The first reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act — six years overdue and counting — gained some Hill traction last week, as the latest attempt to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act limps in the Senate. More

Elementary school finds a way to get all parents involved in school
The Oregonian
It was a sauna in the Chehalem Elementary School gym for back-to-school night, but hundreds of parents fanned themselves and listened. It was a testament to the renewed importance Chehalem's parents place on education. Just two years ago, it was a struggle to pull in 25 percent of the families, said Principal Debbie Nicolai. Now, she gets 100 percent participation — even if she has to go to their homes.More

5 steps to parent volunteer success
As the school year ramps up, teachers and parent-teacher groups will be busy recruiting parent volunteers. But, educators say they need volunteers to go beyond chaperoning field trips and organizing parties, according to a new survey by WeAreTeachers and VolunteerSpot. Here are five ways principals can help parents and teachers work together to build a stronger school community.More

Sharing the Dream grant due today, Sept. 20
NAESP has again partnered with the MetLife Foundation to offer the Sharing the Dream grant program. Schools have an opportunity to win $5,000 grants to support global learning projects that engage children in transformative, multidisciplinary learning experiences. The deadline for submitting a proposal is 11:59 p.m. (Eastern) tonight.More