The Public School Insights Blog
The evidence is clear-and should be profoundly disturbing: we are failing to impart to today's students the information and skills they need to be responsible citizens. Yet only an educated citizenry can insist that our nation's commitment to liberty be upheld, and the promise of our Constitution fulfilled.
A recent survey by the National Constitution Center demonstrated that more American teenagers could name the Three Stooges than can name the three branches of government. Such statistics highlight a trend with troubling implications for the future. We must do a better job of educating young people to become active and informed participants in our democracy.
At least a partial answer lies in a paradigm shift in the way that civics is taught in our schools. A thorough civic education creates citizens who have a grasp of history and the fundamental processes of American democracy, an understanding and awareness of public and community issues, and the ability to think critically and enter into dialogue on those issues with others who have different perspectives.
Fixing How We Teach Civics: Assessing the Problems ...
Several commentators have worried that many state plans to achieve universal student proficiency by 2014--a requirement of No Child Left Behind--resemble balloon mortgages. Soon after the law passed in 2002, many states required relatively small student gains in the first years, demanding most of the gains after 2008. The predictable result: More and more schools are falling short of their targets as the 2014 deadline looms. We're told to brace ourselves for the Fannie Mae of NCLB. ...
Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Foundation thought he had a big scoop: "Obama campaign wants to dump NCLB testing, use portfolios instead." He draws his slender evidence for this claim from a comment by Obama spokeswoman Melody Barnes. Barnes mentions the promise of portfolios and "other forms of assessments that may be a little bit more expensive but...are allowing us to make sure children are getting the proper analytic kinds of tools." Petrilli's conclusion: "embracing portfolios is a clear signal of an intention to roll back accountability."
Dan Brown's riveting memoir of his first year teaching in the Bronx has just come out in paperback. The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle also includes a new foreward from AFT president Randi Weingarten, who writes:
The Great Expectations School is an honest account of what teachers-- especially new teachers-- face every day. Dan's story is a valuable one to share and analyze, because it is a story that is constantly replayed in various forms in classrooms all across America. Though new teachers like Dan bring optimism and the best of intentions to their work, they are also, alas, too often woefully unprepared for the experiences yet to come.
The NEA Foundation has just created an easy online application process for grants to support public school educators' innovative work to improve teaching and learning. Just apply here to have a shot at joining the distinguished list of grantees past.
One past grantee used her NEA Foundation money to send students aloft in hot-air balloons and deep into subterranean caverns--all in the name of science. Needless to say, many more students are signing up for her advanced mathematics courses. Read more about her story here. ...
CNN is reporting that the Dallas Independent School District has just laid off 375 teachers. The Dallas Morning News is broadcasting scenes of sobbing elementary school children embracing departing teachers: early and wrenching examples of fallout from the current economic crisis.
Update: In a message to Alexander Russo, Dallas Morning News reporter Kent Fisher attributes the firings to the district's math errors rather than to the lousy economy. ...
Editor's Note: Ambassador Akbar S. Ahmed, a distinguished professor at American University, first submitted this posting to Public School Insights in March 2008. Ambassador Ahmed's comments on education about Islam are particularly timely during this presidential election, which has stirred ugly anti-Muslim sentiment in some quarters. We're pleased to publish this contribution by a man the BBC described as "the world's leading authority on contemporary Islam."
As a Muslim professor teaching on campus, nothing is more important to me than the education of the young generation, who represent the future of this planet. In the United States, the world's only superpower, knowledge of the rest of the world is often startlingly lacking, and misperception, intolerance, and hatred against "others," especially Muslims, are far too common. Popular media conceptions of Muslims as evil or Islam as an inherently violent doctrine are widespread. Prominent media figures and government officials have referred to Muslims as "ragheads" and "satan-worshippers." Muslims have been the target of cross-burnings and widespread intimidation. An atmosphere of fear dominates life in America and rabid Islamophobia runs just below, or indeed often above, the surface. It is in this environment that thousands of young Americans out of high school are sent to places like Iraq to fight wars in cultures they don't understand. ...
Education figured more prominently in yesterday's presidential debate than in perhaps any other exchange between the candidates. You can read a brief analysis of Obama's and McCain's comments here and a full transcript here.
The candidates sparred over vouchers, but both professed a soft spot for early childhood education. ...
A growing chorus of voices is calling for federal education policies that support, rather than seek to prescribe, good practice. Groups like the Forum for Education and Democracy, the National Education Association and the "Broader, Bolder Approach" Coalition have published manifestos on the federal role in education. We at the Learning First Alliance joined that chorus on Monday, when we published our own statement on the federal role.
A common thread in these manifestos is that schools generally do their best work if given the capacity to succeed. Yesterday, I came across two vivid examples of this point. ...
Today, the Learning First Alliance (LFA), which sponsors Public School Insights, released a statement calling for a new federal role in supporting success for all American public school children. Transforming the Federal Role in America's Public Schools offers a framework to help a new president, administration, and Congress align federal policies with the needs of America's more than 50 million public school students.
The statement emphasizes support for students in need, as well as more effective and transparent accountability among key players in the system. The principles also call for greater collaboration among the federal government, states and districts. ...
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- Actress/Mathematician Danica McKellar on girls and math
- Best Selling Author Kenneth C. Davis on engaging with history
- Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Danielson on providing health care at school
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
Excellence is the Standard
At Pierce County High School in rural southeast Georgia, the graduation rate has gone up 31% in seven years. Teachers describe their collaboration as the unifying factor that drives the school’s improvement. Learn more...
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