The Public School Insights Blog
On this 25th anniversary of Nation at Risk, a chorus of education commentators has lamented that serious problems persist even after a quarter century of education reform. Rather than allow such gloomy assessments to stifle faith in reform, we should consider this oddly reassuring point: We've sooner pantomimed than truly enacted the most promising reforms. Many of our best systemic reform ideas have yet to be thoroughly tested on a large scale. ...
Just last week, the Forum for Education and Democracy issued an important report on the federal role in K-12 education: Democracy at Risk: The Need for a New Federal Policy in Education. With its obvious nod to Nation at Risk, the publication joins a long line of reports that raise the alarm over American students' declining standing in international assessments. Unlike many of those reports, however, Democracy at Risk strongly criticizes recent reform efforts' almost exclusive focus on "mandates and sanctions." ...
As a third-year Interactive Media teacher at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, DC, I've learned an essential lesson: Students will do boring old math, and will even learn math on their own, if they do it for a purpose they find meaningful--such as creating a computer game, computer graphics or computer animation.
First, about our program: McKinley Technology High school is a public magnet school that aims to provide the best technology education to high school students in Washington DC. We have a Career and Technical Education program that allows students to take technical courses in addition to their core course work. One area where students can take extra course work is in Interactive Media, where students gain a mix of experience in 3-dimensional modeling, 3-d animation, and programming, using professional software. ...
In a few days, a new and expanded edition of Richard Louv’s best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods, will hit bookstores around the country. Louv’s book has fueled an international movement to combat what he calls “nature deficit disorder,” children’s growing alienation from the natural world. (Louv’s term for the disorder is quickly catching on, turning up in major newspapers, on television, and even in a February cartoon by Bloom County creator Berke Breathed.)
A quotation from our recent telephone interview with Louv elegantly captures the thrust of his argument: “[T]he message we’re sending kids is that nature is in the past and probably doesn’t count anymore, the future’s in electronics, the boogeyman lives in the woods, and playing outdoors is probably illicit and possibly illegal.” ...
In observance of Earth Day 2008, veteran science teacher Kenny Luna cooked up a clever way to get young students thinking about the impact they have on the environment every day. In a few short months, he has managed to get thousands of school children in schools across the country to take on the "Great Copy Machine Epidemic of 2008."
In his own words:
When more than 23,000 school kids at 30 schools in 13 U.S. States and the Island of Curacao participated in The Great Copy Machine Epidemic of 2008, they took a step towards reducing both deforestation and global warming by going without photocopies in classes for a day.
But they also had fun while "diagnosing" which contagious disease they believe has been causing school photocopy machines everywhere to chew up trees and spit them out at such an amazing rate. They dressed copiers up with the disease of their choice to create awareness of the problem among students, teachers, parents and staff throughout the day. ...
Stephanie Hirsh and Joellen Killion of the National Staff Development Council have written a must-read Education Week Commentary calling for far greater national commitment to professional learning. Already in their first paragraph, they drive home a point Public School Insights has been harping on lately: namely, that recent education reform efforts have squandered much of their promise by focusing more on incentives (or disincentives) than on continuous support for excellent instruction. Hirsh and Killion write: ...
Gary Swick has become something of a legend--not only at the Illinois high school where he teaches science, but also among environmental educators nationwide. A winner of the prestigious Milken Educator Award, Swick regularly gets his students into the field, where they actually help protect the environment while they learn science. In one case, his students' careful observation of conditions at a nearby river prompted a City Council to adopt a construction site erosion control ordinance.
In our interview, Swick listed many benefits of environmental education. Among them: Students become better stewards of the world they inhabit; Reluctant or struggling students become much more engaged in science when they can do authentic work in the field.
Perhaps most important, Swick has turned his high school students into evangelists for the environment. They put on "energy fairs" to carry their message of energy conservation and green living to elementary school children and others across their state. He and his students travel to these fairs in a school bus (they call it a "cool bus") they have reengineered to run on biofuels--which can include grease and other waste from the school kitchen. ...
We've received and published five new public school and district success stories in the past two weeks. Check them out:
- Garrett County Public Schools, Maryland: Elementary students repair the environment, April 16
- Parma City Schools, Ohio: Building Boat Models Aids Math, Science Learning in Ohio, April 14
- Walled Lake, Michigan: Electives Help Struggling Math Students Close the Gap, , April 10
- Vail School District, Arizona: A Wake-Up Call Sparks Action in Arizona, April 8
- Independence School District, Missouri:School/Community Connections Benefit Both in Missouri, April 4
Where There's a Will, There's a Way
If you haven't heard of Will Steger, you should have.
He mounted the first unsupported dogsled expedition to the North Pole, the longest unsupported dogsled trek in history (1,600 miles through Greenland), the first dogsled expedition across Antarctica (all 3,471 miles) and the first Antarctic crossing on foot (!). Along the way, he has witnessed at close hand the dramatic effects of rapid climate change in some of the world's remotest places. He recently spoke with Public School Insights about his ongoing work to share the impact of climate change with K-12 teachers and students nationwide. ...
Last week, Education Sector's Elena Silva published an excellent report on the success of formerly low-performing elementary schools in Hamilton County (Chattanooga), Tennessee. With generous support from the Public Education Fund and the Benwood Foundation in Chattanooga, these "Benwood schools" used a combination of incentives, embedded professional support and strong leadership teams to fuel consistent, long-term improvements in student learning. (See Public School Insights' story about the Benwood schools here.)
The report advances a very important argument:
It seems that what the Benwood teachers needed most were not new peers or extra pay--although both were helpful. Rather, they needed support and recognition from the whole community, resources and tools to improve as professionals, and school leaders who could help them help their students. ...
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- 2013 Digital Principal Ryan Imbriale
- Best Selling Author Dan Ariely
- Family Engagement Expert Dr. Maria C. Paredes
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...
- Transforming Learning
- The EDifier
- School Board News Today
- Legal Clips
- Learning Forward’s PD Watch
- NAESP's Principals' Office
- NASSP's Principal's Policy Blog
- The Principal Difference
- ASCA Scene
- PDK Blog
- Always Something
- NSPRA: Social School Public Relations
- AACTE's President's Perspective
- AASA's The Leading Edge
- AASA Connects (formerly AASA's School Street)
- NEA Today
- Angles on Education
- Lily's Blackboard
- PTA's One Voice
- ISTE Connects
What Else We're Reading
- Advancing the Teaching Profession
- The Answer Sheet
- Edutopia's Blogs
- Politics K-12
- U.S. Department of Education Blog
- John Wilson Unleashed
- The Core Knowledge Blog
- This Week in Education
- Inside School Research
- Teacher Leadership Today
- On the Shoulders of Giants
- Teacher in a Strange Land
- Teach Moore
- The Tempered Radical
- The Educated Reporter
- Taking Note
- Character Education Partnership Blog
- Why I Teach