NAESP Before the Bell
Dec. 14, 2010

Arne Duncan open to additional school improvement models
Education Week
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in an interview that he is open to the idea of developing more models for turning around low-performing schools, other than those spelled out in the regulations for the School Improvement Grant program, which was financed at $3.5 billion in fiscal year 2010. Some folks consider the models to be too stringent and unworkable for rural schools. More

Poll: Education backed, but not new school taxes
The Associated Press via Yahoo! News
The public verdict is in and overwhelming: The better the education people get, the stronger the U.S. economy will be, a poll shows. But don't count on folks to support higher taxes to improve schools. Eighty-eight percent say a country's education system has a major effect on its economic health. Nearly as many — 79 percent — say the U.S. economy would improve if all Americans had at least a two-year college degree, according to an Associated Press-Stanford University poll. Yet when it comes to financing public school improvements, people tilt slightly against raising taxes to do so, with 47 percent opposing and 42 percent in support. More

To be young, gifted, and urban
Should urban schools continue to fund gifted and talented programs? The Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews thinks no. "Unfortunately public schools, including those in the suburbs, rarely have the resources or teaching expertise to challenge them much," he writes. "For urban schools, the standard gifted and talented system is often a waste of time." Mathews' objection stems from his belief that the gifted and talented label is often misused and that "most successful schools try to raise the achievement of all students, no matter how high or low they start the year."More

CIA director urges stronger focus on foreign languages
Education Week
At a national summit, Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta called for a strong national commitment to ensuring that Americans master foreign languages, saying the issue is vital to U.S. security and competitiveness. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also spoke at the event, which was jointly hosted by the CIA and the University of Maryland's Center for Advanced Study of Language. In his remarks, Duncan defended a plan to consolidate an existing federal foreign-language program into a broader, competitive fund. Panetta said that foreign-language skills offer an important window into other peoples and cultures.More

Meeting the needs of special needs students virtually
THE Journal
A student at A.J. West Elementary School in Aberdeen, Wash., did not speak. Ever. She was a selective mute, and no one in the area, located more than 100 miles from Seattle, knew how to treat a child who simply refused to talk. The school's technology coordinator suggested a video conference with professionals who had experience with selective mutes in order to collaborate on an individualized education plan. A.J. West Principal, Bill O'Donnell, explained to the Northwest Educational Technology Consortium: "We were just grasping at what to do. And when we sat down as a group to try and develop an IEP, we were just pooling our ignorance, and so this was a chance, and we just jumped at it."More

What works in the classroom? Ask the students
The New York Times
How useful are the views of public school students about their teachers? Quite useful, according to preliminary results released from a $45 million research project that is intended to find new ways of distinguishing good teachers from bad. Teachers whose students described them as skillful at maintaining classroom order, at focusing their instruction and at helping their charges learn from their mistakes are often the same teachers whose students learn the most in the course of a year, as measured by gains on standardized test scores, according to a progress report on the research. More

Websites add sparkle to Christmas in the classroom
The Guardian
Teacher Alex Wilson, who blogs at Alex's Class, explains how his students are using a variety of creative media tools to help celebrate Christmas. It's been a very busy few weeks in class for these students. The class had a discussion about which kinds of work we would like to do for Christmas and the children decided they would like to make a song, read a poem and make a tree for the class. Composing and recording a Christmas song was quite a challenge. After listening to various different examples and after a vote the students decided that they would like to make a pop/rock song. First, the class worked on the lyrics and thought of lots of different words relating to Christmas. More

Data mining gains traction in education
Education Week
The new and rapidly growing field of educational data mining is using the chaff from data collected through normal school activities to explore learning in more detail than ever before, and researchers say the day when educators can make use of Amazon-like feedback on student learning behaviors may be closer than most people think. Educational data mining uses some of the typical data included in state longitudinal databases, such as test scores and attendance, but researchers often spend more time analyzing the detritus cast off during normal classroom data-collection practices, such as student interactions in a chat log or the length of responses to homework assignments — information that researchers call "data exhaust."More

School of One revolutionizes traditional classroom model
So imagine this: A student arrives in school in the morning and answers five questions that will be calculated in a customized algorithm to figure out what she’ll be doing that day. That algorithm will decide which teacher she'll work with, her level of learning based on what she learned the previous day, and her specific activities. The system completely subverts the traditional classroom model of one teacher for 25-30 students per classroom. And each student learns in different modalities throughout the day: Individually with computer software, with groups, with a virtual tutor, with a live tutor, and so on.More

Rethinking the library to improve information literacy
Edutopia (commentary)
Many schools that have adopted a 1:1 program have made the mistake of forgetting the library. The library is the cornerstone of every school and is in a current state of flux. No one knows what to make of the library and some feel it is a relic in the context of schools. New information technologies emerge and the library is soon forgotten or pushed to the side, however, the library has never been more important.More

President Obama signs child nutrition bill, a priority for first lady
The Washington Post
Michelle Obama can check off a top priority on her to-do list: The child nutrition bill was signed into law by her husband, capping months of advocacy by the first lady as part of her efforts to reduce childhood obesity. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will expand the number of children in school lunch programs by 115,000, increase the reimbursement rate to school districts for meals by six cents and replace the junk food available outside the cafeteria, such as in vending machines, with more healthful options. More

Low-performing schools move ahead with replacing staff
The Washington Post
Education officials across the country have replaced the principals and at least half of the staff in about 150 struggling schools to obtain federal aid, the Obama administration disclosed. In several hundred other cases, principals have been replaced and other major steps taken as part of the administration's unprecedented $3.5 billion campaign to rejuvenate thousands of the nation's lowest-performing schools. The initiative, which reflects President Obama's get-tough policy on school reform, is likely to be central to the coming debate in Congress over revision of the No Child Left Behind law. More

With DREAM Act shelved, immigrants look to 2012
The Associated Press via FOX News
The illegal immigrants who more than a decade ago were just teens hoping to forge a legal path to citizenship are vowing to make the DREAM Act a campaign issue come 2012, even though they'll likely be too old to benefit if the law ever passes. The measure that passed in the House is unlikely go anywhere in the Senate, and the House is unlikely to revisit the issue once the new Republican leadership takes over. More

730 US schools trying to reinvent themselves
The Associated Press via The Washington Post
The federal government has enticed 730 schools across the nation to reinvent themselves this school year, and nearly a third have chosen the most difficult paths to get a piece of the more than $500 million set aside for transforming schools where too many children are failing to learn. "This is tough, tough work, but it's desperately needed," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. Most of the schools fired their principals and changed their entire approach to learning this school year, while others replaced much of the staff. More

House GOP to elevate Kline to head education, labor panel
The Associated Press via Minnesota Public Radio
Rep. John Kline of Minnesota is getting promoted to head the House Education and Labor Committee. Kline's elevation to committee chairman is part of a slate of recommendations set for a vote from the House GOP conference. The new Republican majority will be sworn in January. Kline says he hopes the panel's work will help improve the economic climate and lead to more jobs. He says he also hopes to simplify federal law. More

Study backs community schools
Tulsa World
Curt Adams, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Oklahoma, found that students in six fully developed community schools in the Tulsa and Union school districts "significantly outperformed" students from low socioeconomic households who attend schools with more affluent student enrollments overall. Community schools provide a web of support and resources to improve the academic, emotional, physical and social development of children. "This shows that community schools are indeed having an effect on the achievement gap attributable to poverty," said Adams.More

Task force focuses on early childhood learning
On Nov. 12-13, the NAESP Foundation's Task Force on Building an Aligned System of Pre-K to 3rd Grade Early Learning convened for the second time to continue discussions on how to best align early learning systems from pre-K to grade 3. The task force joined together to create a vision of how to better connect the worlds of early learning and elementary education, and how NAESP can be a facilitator and support in the process.More

Douglas Reeves joins featured speaker roster at NAESP's convention
Douglas Reeves, who has worked with education, business, nonprofit, and government organizations throughout the world, will speak in an added plenary session at the NAESP Annual Convention & Exposition in Tampa, Fla., April 7-10. Founder of The Leadership and Learning Center, Reeves is the author of more than 20 books and many articles on leadership and organizational effectiveness. His most recent book is "Finding Your Leadership Focus: What Matters Most for Student Results." Reeves has twice been named to the Harvard University Distinguished Authors Series and the Brock International Laureate for his contributions to education. He also received the Parents Choice Award for his writing for children and parents. Register here. More