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The Public School Insights Blog

Earlier today, teacher/blogger Ken Bernstein offered his perspective of the current financial crisis, its impact on the nation's schools, and Congressional debate over the stimulus package that, after several iterations, seems to speeding towards adoption.

Now, Anthony Cody offers his account of the financial meltdown's effects on a single state, district and school.

Cody is a National Board Certified Teacher and secondary science coach in the Oakland CA city schools. He writes about education policy regularly at his blog “Living in Dialogue,” hosted at the Teacher Magazine website.

Anthony is a member of the Teacher Leaders Network and co-organizer of Accomplished California Teachers (ACT), a virtual network aimed at developing teacher leadership and influencing educational policy locally and at the state level.

When we hear about budget crises these days, the numbers are so immense that we lose track of their meaning where it counts, in the classrooms. California’s budget is up in the air, but the latest proposals from the ...

Veteran teacher Kenneth Bernstein teaches government at Eleanor Roosevelt High in Greenbelt MD and writes regularly (as “teacherken”) on education, national policy and other topics for the popular political blog DailyKos.

A member of the Teacher Leaders Network, Ken achieved National Board Certification (social studies/history) in 2005. Last fall, he was among a small group of teachers selected by the New York Times to contribute to the group blog Lesson Plans.

This is the first in a series of four guest blogs on schools and the financial crisis that we will publish in the coming days. Stay tuned later today for a contribution from National Board Certified teacher Anthony Cody.

I teach Government. I am also a political junkie. Thus I spend a lot of time reading, talking, thinking and writing about politics, the economy and, lately, the stimulus. I teach in one state (Maryland), live in another where I am political active (Virginia), and spend too much time around politicians on Capitol Hill. And here’s what I think. ...

vonzastrowc's picture

Hope for Common Ground?

For some time, the newspapers were full of stories about battles between education "reformers" and the education "establishment."  President Obama would have to choose sides, pundits declared.  We at Public School insights had some problems with this reductive story line.

The Hope Foundation was apparently equally skeptical.  The Foundation recently convened leaders from both sides of this supposed schism to create a single set of education recommendations for President Obama. (Three Learning First Alliance leaders were in this group.)   The report that emerged from their work is available here. ...

In less than 5 short years, "Teachers TV" has grown from an idea harbored by a British Schools Minister into a popular and influential British television channel devoted solely to education. Now, there are efforts afoot to help something similar take root in American soil.

We recently spoke with Andrew Bethell, Teachers TV's CEO and creative director. Bethell described the accomplishments of the television channel, which has broadcast thousands of often riveting mini-documentaries about what's happening in British schools.

The documentaries offer authentic accounts of successful practice and real-life struggles to improve. They also feature broad education reform strategies--without ever losing sight of those strategies' impact on actual schools and students. As Bethell is careful to point out, Teachers TV focuses on more than just teachers: It highlights the work of ...

A new report released by the Harvard School of Public Health assesses the educational and economic benefits of the School Breakfast Program. This work is especially timely as we face a perfect storm of rising hunger and declining budgets.

Hunger has clear costs to education attainment. Hungry students miss school more often. Even when they are in school, their cognitive abilities slacken. Not surprisingly, students who receive breakfast do better academically, enjoy better health and have fewer discipline problems than their peers who go without.

The Harvard report also lays out the economic costs of student hunger: "When schools do not provide breakfast to children, the loss of return on educational investment becomes a hidden tax paid by the local district and community." By eradicating student hunger, the authors estimate, the nation could increase its return on educational investment by billions every year.

Stimulus, indeed. ...

The National Staff Development Council (NSDC) just released a report reviewing the the status of teacher professional development in the United States. Their conclusion: We're making incremental progress in teacher induction and mentoring programs, but we lag woefully behind other nations in providing the kinds of professional development that improve student learning.

Surveys of teachers reveal that disjointed, one-time, "drive-by" professional development workshops remain the norm for large majorities of American teachers. This, despite strong research demonstrating the benefits of intensive, on-going professional development that is tied closely to teacher practice, focuses on student learning, supports school improvement priorities and forges strong working relationships among teachers. NSDC's findings could have profound implications for how schools allocate teachers' time and structure the school day.

The report describes the striking differences between teacher professional development practices here and abroad. NSDC's press release sums up these differences:

The United States is far behind [other nations] in providing public school teachers with opportunities to ...

vonzastrowc's picture

Stimulus Circus

It seems everyone's weighing in on education spending in the stimulus package, but much current criticism of this spending is generating more heat than light:

  • Some seem to think education spending is inherently un-stimulative--as if job losses and drastic district spending cuts in a half-trillion dollar industry were somehow irrelevant to the national economy.
  • Some would like to tie the stimulus money to hard-hitting reforms such as national standards and changes to teacher compensation. (Important topics for debate, no doubt, but stimulative?)
  • Some cherish the odd notion that there's nothing like a wrenching economic recession to improve

Walter Dean Myers understands second chances. A high school dropout by age 17, he enlisted in the army and worked odd jobs as a young adult. It was his lifelong relationship with books that put him on a path to becoming one of the nation's most celebrated young adult authors. Five Coretta Scott King Awards and two Newbery Honors later, Myers is sharing the lesson of second chances with a new generation of at-risk youth.

Last week, Myers spoke with us about the central themes of his new novel, Dope Sick: personal responsibility and redemption. The novel tells the story of a young man facing the consequences of a drug deal gone wrong who has an opportunity to review and revise his life choices. This story line reflects a belief Myers avowed throughout our interview: We must empower teens to take greater control of their lives.

Dope Sick has become the centerpiece of an effort to do just that. Myers is collaborating with and the NEA on the Second Chance Initiative, which aims to help youth make better choices. As part of this initiative, the novel will be available for free on HarperCollins' website from February 10th through 24th. The initiative also offers Dope Sick reading guides and writing activities along with resources on preventing high school dropout, teen pregnancy and substance abuse.

Underlying this effort is Myers' long-standing faith that reading can offer hope to teens who need it most.

Listen to highlights from our interview with Walter Dean Myers here (16 minutes), or read a transcript below:


PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: You're releasing your new novel, Dope Sick, very soon. What's the novel about?

MYERS: It's about a young man who has reached a point of crisis in his life. He goes into a building, running from the police, and he meets another young man his own age. The new young man is a somewhat fantastic creature who can call up ...

vonzastrowc's picture

Stimulus Lowdown

The National Education Association has assembled some mighty helpful documents spelling out funding levels proposed in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill.  They've even broken out funding by state and congressional district. Check out their resources here. ...

There's something about the nation's education challenges that inspires a need for villains--and that's a shame. Many think tank dwellers cast teachers and administrators in that role: slothful, self-serving adults who value bureaucracy over children. (Please.)

Former big businessman and current Nevada university chancellor James Rogers is also on the hunt for villains in the education morality play, but he reserves his venom for "the public." Blogger Robert Pondiscio unearthed a Youtube video of Rogers exempting educators from blame: "The majority of educators work very hard, are much smarter than their critics, and are far more organized and efficient than their critics."

Rogers spends most of his time laying the blame for an education "disaster" at ...

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