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Newtown, Conn., massacre prompts more vigilance in schools and elsewhere
The New York Times
Every morning Sgt. Edward Weihe walks into his office here and sifts through the police blotter to see what calls came in overnight. An interesting shift for a town's police department can look blasé when reduced to paper forms: suspicious people outside buildings, vandalism, juvenile arrests. But one recent morning, Sergeant Weihe noticed a report that, a year ago, might not have been worth a second glance. A man was arrested in a domestic incident, and the couple had a child who was a student at one of the town's elementary schools. So he called the school to make them aware that they could get drawn into a potentially violent family dispute.
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Principal Ambassador Fellowship officially launched
ED.gov Blog
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan officially launched the Department of Education's Principal Ambassador Fellowship yesterday by naming three principals to serve as the inaugural class of Campus Principal Ambassador Fellows. They are: Sharif El-Mekki of Mastery Charter School — Shoemaker campus in Philadelphia; Jill Levine, principal of Normal Park Museum Magnet School in Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Rachel Skerritt at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, D.C.
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School districts face Common Core test tech requirements
U.S. News & World Report
If you're reading this, you're connected to the Internet. It's a connection many people take for granted in the age of tablets, smartphones and Wi-Fi-enabled televisions. Users expect Web pages to load swiftly and videos to stream seamlessly. A strong digital connection is a luxury not found in most high schools, though. In fact, 72 percent of U.S. public schools lack the broadband connection needed to sustain digital learning, according to EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit group.
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Students learn to code without computers
District Administration Magazine
Students enrolled at the Scholars Working Overtime program in Las Vegas have been learning how to write computer programming code in an unusual way — without computers. Throughout the fall, coding was practiced on pen and paper until the funds were raised to bring a computer lab to the program. SWOT co-founder Ben Salkowe says the organization has been teaching students coding skills to expose them to new career paths, as coding can be used to program computers, build websites and create mobile applications. "Our students feel like they have a superpower," Salkowe says. "They are going to walk out of SWOT with computer skills that will help them get into college and advance their career opportunities."
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Don't make these mistakes with flipped learning
eSchool News
Flipped learning has taken off in classrooms across the country, but what many educators are realizing is that the new toy feeling of videos as homework is wearing off. The reason: You can't re-package stale teaching techniques as something new. To get the most out of flipped learning, the trick is in the design. During a recent edWeb.net webinar on flipping the science classroom, Marc Seigel, a chemistry teacher at Middletown High School in Middletown, N.J., explained how four years ago, the concept of flipped learning was intriguing and just catching on.
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We need coding in schools, but where are the teachers?
EdSurge News (commentary)
Coding in K-12 schools has gained momentum over the last two years.But as we rush to bring coding to our schools, questions emerge: Do we need "coding" teachers? Who will teach computer programming to our students? Many believe that anyone can learn using the many "learn to code" startups that surround us. Programmers today are writing code — to teach coding! What, then, is the role of the teacher in this coding movement, especially for younger students? Can all kids learn using these "learn to code" sites without a teacher who understands coding? Will this work for all types of students?
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Report: How to grow a farm team for principals
Education Week
When a pitcher gets hurt and hampers a team's starting rotation, Major League baseball managers have robust minor league rosters to tap for a well-prepared replacement. What would it take for school districts to cultivate a similar bench of talent to draw from when they need new principals — especially principals to lead the most challenged public schools? Bain & Company, the global management-consulting firm based in Boston, takes on those questions and more in a new report on school leadership.
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Schools rely on staff to report criminal history
The Associated Press via The Reporter
Public schools across the state perform one-time criminal history checks for teachers and other school employees as required by Pennsylvania law, but crimes committed by school staff during their employment may easily go undetected. Why? Pennsylvania law doesn't require subsequent background checks after employees are hired and most local public school districts say they rely on the honor system. Essentially, it's up to employees to submit a form to report that they've been charged or convicted of criminal activity.
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5 tips to keep kids learning during the holidays
ED.gov Blog (commentary)
Holiday and winter breaks are just weeks away, and while students and teachers will get a well-deserved break from the classroom, it doesn't mean children need to stop learning. Here are a few tips to keep children's minds sharp and challenged during their break, and it might just prevent cabin fever: Ask your child's teacher or search online for worksheets or projects that can be done over the holidays. For 20 to 30 minutes a day, review with your child math concepts, spelling words, or sentence structure. You can also work together in starting a cool science project.
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Single-sex classrooms: Educators, students say the change makes a difference
Winston-Salem Journal
A change at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy has shaken up classroom dynamics, even pitting boys against girls in the school's lower grades. Don't worry, though, teachers say. It's all in the spirit of healthy competition, and it's leading to better classroom performance on all fronts. It started when the school adopted a single-gender classroom policy for its middle-school core classes. The change was approved in April and implemented this school year. When classes began in August, Winston-Salem Prep's sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders were divided into two classes of all boys and two classes of all girls for their math, science, language arts and social studies lessons.
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To get kids exercising, schools are becoming creative
NPR
Avery Stackhouse, age 7, of Lafayette, Calif., says he wishes he had more time for phys ed. "We just have it one day a week — on Monday." There's always lunch and recess, he says. "We play a couple of games, like football and soccer," he tells Shots. But at Happy Valley Elementary, where he goes to school, recess last only 15 minutes and lunch is 45. Between eating and mingling, he says, "there's only a few minutes left where we play games and all that." Fifty-six percent of parents say their elementary school kids are getting just one or two days of physical education a week, according to NPR conducted in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.
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TRENDING ARTICLES
Missed last week's issue? See which articles your colleagues read most.

    Redefining the writing process with iPads (Edutopia)
Supporting mental health (Principal)
How an iPad can overcome 'print disabled' curriculum (eSchool News)
K-12 leaders choose the most effective products of the year (District Administration Magazine)
Age of distraction: Why it's crucial for students to learn to focus (MindShift)

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Teacher and principal evaluation for improvement or a score?
Education Week (commentary)
New principal and teacher evaluation systems are being implemented. Their intention is to guarantee that the best educators are in the profession and are continually improving. They do this by clarifying high standards of performance and the steps necessary to get there. Products developed by professional consultants and researchers in the areas of leadership and teaching had their products vetted and then approved for use. The evaluation tools are in checklist or rubric format, on paper and/or in digital format. Whichever the design, the intention is the same, to improve teaching, learning and leading.
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Are teachers being set up for failure? You decide
eSchool News
Teacher preparation programs are leaving teachers to fend for themselves and to discover their own path to classroom management instead of relying on "proven" strategies based on research, according to a new report. And this philosophy, says one group, that will lead to classroom inefficiency at best and lack of student achievement at worst. The report, "Training Our Future Teachers: Classroom Management," was conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a research and policy group often criticized by teacher colleges as "methodologically flawed" and "ideologically based." NCTQ is a Gates-funded initiative that is part of the "corporate school reform" movement, and it advocates for tougher teacher evaluation practices and methods.
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School embrace 'mindful' blend of neuroscience and meditation
The Daily Breeze
Sometimes, Ryan Whalen's little brothers drive him nuts. But now, thanks to an elective class the sixth-grader is taking at Hermosa Valley School, instead of yelling at his brothers when they get loud and or overly silly, he walks into his room, shuts the door and focuses on his breathing. Called "mastermind," the class is a new elective for sixth-graders that blends some of the tenets of yoga and meditation with the science of the brain. The idea is to teach students to manage stress, improve focus, build empathy, be optimistic — above all, to live in the moment. The umbrella term used to describe these concepts is "mindfulness."
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Here's why we absolutely need education technology
eSchool News
Education technology remains critical to K-12 education, especially when it comes to student success and engagement. A survey of public school teachers and administrators sheds light on why and how ed-tech implementation isn't reaching its full potential. Ed-tech increases student engagement in learning, and 96 percent of surveyed teachers agree with this. When students are engaged in their learning, they learn more naturally and willingly, meaning that lessons have a real impact.
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Budget deal could offer school districts relief from sequestration
Education Week
School districts would get some relief from the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration under an agreement announced Tuesday by a bipartisan pair of House and Senate negotiators. The plan would roll back most of the so-called sequester cuts for the next two years, leaving the door open for federal lawmakers to boost spending on disadvantaged children and students in special education.
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A poverty, not education, crisis in U.S.
USA Today (commentary)
The latest results of the Program for International Student Assessment — which measures the knowledge and skills of 15-year-old students in math, reading and science, and once again Finland is near the top. True, this time students in Asia claimed many of the top spots. But Finland's system remains one of the world's highest-performing, with its universal preschool program, site-based management and dislike of standardized testing often cited for its success. By comparison, U.S. student scores remained in the middle of the pack. But the most telling difference between Finns and Americans when it comes to education is child poverty.
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Don't make these mistakes with flipped learning
eSchool News
Flipped learning has taken off in classrooms across the country, but what many educators are realizing is that the new toy feeling of videos as homework is wearing off. The reason: You can't re-package stale teaching techniques as something new.

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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. The resources, housed on Activate Instruction, are part of an open platform where educators can browse, search, rate, add, share and organize their favorite Common Core-aligned resources, and put them together in personalized playlists for students.

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The state of the Common Core
Edutopia
Millions of teachers and thousands of districts in 45 states are currently undergoing a sea change in the way that they teach and assess students. The new Common Core Standards for learning have been phased into states and districts since 2010, and the digitized Common Core Assessments are scheduled to deploy in states that have adopted them as early as the 2014-2015 school year.

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11 foreign education policies that could transform American schools
The Huffington Post
We learned the results of the latest PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), and American students performed the same on the well-regarded international exam as they have for the past ten years — completely stagnant, smack dab in the middle of the spectrum. They scored slightly above average in reading, average in science and below average in math. Meanwhile, students in the Chinese province, Shanghai, dominated the exam, earning the top spot in all three categories.
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Texas legislator touts new law protecting Christmas in schools
The Associated Press via Dallas Morning News
Merry Christmas, bah humbug? Not in Texas. Just in time for the holidays, Texas is making sure everyone remembers that wishing someone "Merry Christmas" is now protected by law in its public schools — and conservatives are hoping similar measures will gain momentum across America. Garnering national attention when it was approved by the state Legislature this summer, the bipartisan law removes legal risks from exchanging holiday greetings in classrooms. It also protects symbols such as Christmas trees, menorahs or nativity scenes, as long as more than one religion is represented and a secular symbol such as a snowman is displayed.
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Chicago Public Schools to make computer science a core subject
Chicago Sun-Times
Touted as a trailblazing move, computer science is to be elevated from elective to core curriculum in all public high schools and be offered at elementaries — the latter unprecedented elsewhere — the Chicago Public Schools announced. In the next three years, every high school will offer a foundational computer science course, and within five years, CPS plans to be the first urban district offering kindergarten through eighth-grade computer courses, officials said.
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Maine education committee hopes to introduce school funding reform bill
Press Herald
Despite a short time line and a potentially big price tag, several lawmakers on the Legislature's Education and Cultural Affairs Committee said they plan to introduce an education reform measure in the upcoming session that will incorporate recommendations from a $450,000 outside analysis of how the state funds local schools. "We have before us this report that is research-based and evidence-based on a national scale and offers us some ways of improving where we're at in education," said Rep. Bruce MacDonald, D-Boothbay, House chairman of the committee. "I realize the price tag is pretty rich, ... but I'd like to see us take a big swipe at some of the recommendations."
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SchoolsAlive! uses exercise to give youngsters' brains a boost
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead
Two hours into Friday's classes at Freedom Elementary School, Shannon Bartnick sees some of her fourth-graders yawning during math. It's time for a brain break. "Eyes on me, and voices are off," she declares, before telling her students to pair up. Bartnick starts them high-fiving, low-fiving, and five-on-the-siding with their partners to help stretch and warm-up. Then they split into four groups, with each group standing by a number taped to the wall in the corners of the room. Mixing math with movement, the students have to figure out whether their group's number is one of the factors of the numbers Bartnick tosses at them.
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Students learn simple computer programming
Concord Monitor
In Room 145 at Beaver Meadow Elementary in Concord, N.H., a fifth-grade classroom, a poster of the cursive alphabet lines the top of one wall, buckets of young-adult books sit crammed on a shelf and the day's activities are scrawled out in green marker on a giant paper pad. It could be a fifth-grade classroom from 10 years ago. But a glance to the front of the room Monday revealed how much classrooms are changing. On top of each desk sat an iPad, face down ("Apple up," as the teachers say), while 15 students waited for instructions. At the front of the room stood technology integrator Melisa Scott, and she was about to teach these students how to write computer code.
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Invest in the future: Become a mentor
NAESP
Being a principal is a tough job, especially with today's increasing demands on school leaders. Mentoring can provide crucial support to new principals. The NAESP National Mentor Program is designed to engage retired and experienced principals to give back to their profession by supporting new, newly assigned, or even experienced principals through mentoring. Ready to dive in? The next mentor training session is this January in Phoenix, Ariz.
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Twitter tools from connected principals
NAESP
Principal Rosie O'Brien Vojtek says connected principals are great multi-taskers. "Tweet-chatting involves multi-tasking: following a conversation while exploring links, or even juggling parental responsibilities or cooking dinner," she writes. Here, she shares her favorite tools for managing Twitter chats and exploring new concepts online, along with dozens of ideas she picked up from fellow principals online.
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Before the Bell is a digest of the most important news selected for NAESP from thousands of sources by the editors of MultiBriefs, an independent organization that also manages and sells advertising. The presence of such advertising does not endorse, or imply endorsement of, any products or services by NAESP. Neither NAESP nor Multiview is liable for the use of or reliance on any information contained in this briefing.

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