Before The Bell
Oct. 31, 2014

Robots move from clubs to classrooms
District Administrator Magazine
Many districts are charging up their K-12 STEM courses with the use of robotics. At the St. Vrain Valley School District in Colorado, robotics has expanded from after-school clubs to their K-12 curriculum. This was due in part to the new STEM academy that opened at Skyline High School in 2009, says Axel Reitzig, St. Vrain's STEM coordinator.More

Holidays vs. standards: Which curriculum rules your school?
By: Thomas Van Soelen
I remember that in elementary schools 30 years ago, the year was chronologically marked by holidays. We started with a summer story, then a scarecrow or scary story, followed by a turkey story and ending the year with something about a snowman. The new year would offer a change of pace with nonfiction text, then it was back to narratives: Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and Easter bunnies. But in the age of Common Core and far more rigorous standards, are we still allowing the hidden curriculum of holidays and seasons to run the show?More

Study: Teachers a key source of Common Core curricula
Education Week
As schools and districts struggle to find good-quality curriculum aligned to the Common Core, they're turning most often to their own teachers for those instructional materials, a new survey shows. A report by the Center on Education Policy provides one of the first early glimpses of how districts are solving one of the most difficult problems of putting the Common Core State Standards into practice. Overwhelmingly, they're creating their curricula locally.More

Should schools mandate computer-coding classes?
National Journal
It's happening in Chicago. Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Chicago Public Schools will include an introductory computer-science class in every high school. These classes are supposed to be in place by the end of next year. Over the next three years, the district also is expected to implement a K-8 computer-science pathway for younger students. Earlier this month, Emanuel told techies at the Internet World of Things Forum that Chicago's high school students will soon be required to take a computer class in order to graduate.More

What makes a good Common Core math question?
The Hechinger Report
Both the math and English Common Core standards have their share of critics but it's math that gets special condemnation, as the new problem worksheets land on kitchen tables across the country. Parents are taking to the Internet to air their frustrations by posting puzzling problems from the new standards. And even writers of the Common Core — a set of standards in math and English adopted by over 40 states — have agreed some of the questions were a bit bizarre and say teachers should also send home traditional problems.More

Fusing language acquisition with approaches to teaching music
By: Beth Crumpler
Most language teachers will agree that songs and chants help students master another language. In addition, language teachers will agree that using movement and hands-on learning experiences, such as in total physical response strategies, also help students acquire language. Just like language teaching, music teaching includes approaches the utilize movement and communication. The two most common approaches to music instruction are the Kodaly and Orff methods, they have similarities to language instructional approaches. More

Why I'm a principal, not a statistic
Home Room (commentary)
Sharif El-Mekki, the principal of Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus in Philadelphia, writes: "As October, National Principals Month, comes to an end, I cannot help but to reflect upon what led me into the principalship. As a twenty-one year old African American male, I could have very easily become a statistic. Five months after graduating from IUP in rural Pennsylvania, I was shot and left for dead on a football field in Philadelphia. Many people struggle to recover from such an experience and I am blessed to have a community that rallied around me and refused to let me succumb to the trauma that could have easily overwhelmed me."More

How schools can mitigate data risks
EdTech Magazine
Security controls have evolved over time, becoming easier to use and more effective at stopping a wide variety of threats. Of course, threats continue to evolve and strengthen as well, with an ever-sharpening focus on stealing valuable data. Despite the precautions and products available to help IT departments curb data security risks, there are frequent accounts in the news of major data breaches involving education. How can school districts better manage risk?More

Prevention is key to stopping bullying, several experts say
The Oklahoman
Some psychologists and child development experts are concluding that many efforts to thwart bullying in schools and online have failed. New approaches are needed, they say, and the key to reducing bullying is instilling emotional intelligence in children early, as a preventative measure against becoming a bully or being victimized by one.More

5 ways to make progress with student data
eSchool News
Transparency is one of the first, and most important, steps in ensuring that conversations about student data use–and keeping that data secure and private–remain open and productive. Collecting and using student data is a hotly-debated topic in today's school, and a panel of education experts and stakeholders outlined a handful of steps that can help school leaders, educators, and parents better understand exactly how student data privacy and security are handled.More

What is your district's biggest impediment to learning?
Scholastic Administrator
Mike Looney: "Our biggest impediment is lack of time," says Looney, superintendent of Williamson County Schools in Tennessee. "We're asking students and teachers to accomplish more and to master more content than ever before." What we're doing is being creative and trying to find ways to expand opportunities for kids. We're doing before- and after-school programming. Some of our schools are actually piloting extending the school day.More

Older adults to tutor struggling students
The Arizona Republic
This school season brought the first day of school for an unusual crowd: adults 50 and older. About 70 of them are hitting the books at 10 Phoenix elementary schools to help bring first-, second- and third-graders up to speed in reading. Organizers hope to expand the program to 20 more schools by 2020. The volunteers are part of a nationwide AARP program that sends trained tutors to inner-city schools to help struggling kids catch up to their grade level.More

Teacher leadership and the Common Core State Standards?
Teacher leadership has officially come into vogue in the education sphere. Everyone from central districts and federal offices to teachers unions and universities is either partnering with teacher-centered groups or creating their own. Among many of the education reform ideas, teacher leadership has had a billion definitions, which few people agree upon, but it's not a silver bullet — it's James Bond's Golden Gun. With the right elements in place and the right people making sure these elements are working, any other initiative can easily work with teachers at the fore.More

5 ways to make the most of the new E-rate
THE Journal
Now that the FCC has adopted the E-rate Modernization Order, you may be wondering what it means for your district and what you should do to prepare. While there is no substitute for reading the 176-page order, you can read the FCC's official summary of the order, which comes in at a much more manageable 10 pages, here. No matter which reading assignment you choose, there are a few high-level things you can expect as you plan for upgrading broadband and Wi-Fi connections over the next five years.More

How Kentucky became a rare Common Core success story
It hasn't been a good year for the Common Core. Onetime Common Core allies ranging from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, have backed away from the initiative. Public support is dropping, and even Common Core supporters acknowledge it's become a politically toxic brand. But one state has become a Common Core poster child: Kentucky. More

School branding chat highlights
One key theme of NAESP's Oct. 28 school branding tweetchat: it's up to principals to shape their schools' stories online. Or, as Houston principal Sanee Bell put it: "If not you, then who? If not now, then when?" Bell and dozens of principals from around the country gathered on Twitter for the discussion, which was sponsored by NAESP and the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association. Here are the chat's highlights.More

Policymakers walk in principals' shoes for a day
This week, officials from the U.S. Department of Education shadowed pre-K-12 principals in the Washington, D.C. area. The goal of the shadowing program is to give policymakers a better understanding of the principal's role and the resources educators need to succeed. The shadow visits mark a continued celebration of National Principals Month in October.More