A Texas high school offers students support and an array of rigorous learning opportunities; student achievement scores show their efforts are paying off.
“Making Geeks Cool Could Reform Education.” That’s the title of the latest national article to oversimplify school reform. Author Daniel Roth of Wired magazine offers the seeds of a good idea, but like so many other national commentators he doesn't add much to the conversation.
Roth’s general argument does appeal to me. I was a high school nerd long before Bill Gates and Sergei Brin made nerds cool. Perhaps nerds can help unravel the anti-intellectual marketing culture that makes academic achievement seem positively un-cool.
Roth also wins points for his healthy skepticism about the power of “disruptive” technological innovation. He describes a meeting of education entrepreneurs:
The businesspeople in the room represented a world in which innovation requires disruption. But [former teacher Alex] Grodd knew their ideas would test poorly with real disrupters: kids in a classroom. "The driving force in the life of a child, starting much earlier than ...
A roundup of success stories recently published by Public School Insights is far overdue. Here's a list of eleven inspiring new stories we've posted in the past few months:
- Working together, parents and teachers help students thrive at a Delaware middle school. 8/13/2009
- An Idaho middle school gives students a second chance at success. 8/6/2009
- The relentless pursuit of excellence pays off at a Texas middle school. 7/30/3009
- A personalized approach helps turn around a Washington high school. 7/24/2009
- An Alabama middle school is beating the demographic odds. 7/16/2009
- A Texas high school turns nonreaders to readers. 7/7/2009
- Small academics help students make the grade at a New Jersey high school. 6/9/2009
- Access to college becomes a reality for every student in a Texas school district. 5/19/2009
- A commitment to character education supports school improvement in a Missouri school district. 5/7/2009
- A Washington school district brings college to the high school. 4/30/2009
- Teacher collaboration leads to student success at a Pennsylvania middle school. 4/17/2009 ...
A couple of weeks ago, I threw a hissy fit over the influence of marketing and the media on young people’s academic habits. Afterwards, I received a couple of emails laying the blame for poor academic habits at parents’ feet. If parents weren’t missing in action, the argument went, young people would be less disruptive and more invested in school. I’m not sure it’s as simple as that.
A new British study of parenting is suggestive. It found that parents are more likely to spend time with their children and monitor their children’s activities that they were twenty years ago. The researchers speculate that that youth behavior problems in the UK reflect--you guessed it--“the influence of youth culture.”
Yes, this is a study of British families. Yet I wonder if we would find similar trends in the United States. American author Michael Chabon recently went so far as to lament the encroachment of adults on the time-honored freedoms of childhood:
The Wilderness of Childhood is gone; the days of adventure are past. The land ruled by children, to which a kid might exile himself for at least some portion of every day from the neighboring kingdom of adulthood, has in large part been taken over, co-opted, colonized, and finally absorbed by the neighbors.
Surely Chabon has a point. Thirty years ago, I made a daily ten-block trek--alone and on foot--to my elementary school. Try to do that now, even in the nation’s most well-heeled suburbs, and your parents will probably get a visit from child protective services. Many children seem to have little time away from adults. This ...
In Defense of Field Trips: A Conversation with Educators from an Extraordinary Alabama Public School
People looking for a public school Cinderella story need look no further than George Hall Elementary in Mobile, Alabama. The once struggling school, which serves mostly low-income children, now boasts state math and reading test scores most wealthy suburban schools would be proud of. (See our story about George Hall's Success).
George Hall did not have to sacrifice all but the basics to get there. Instead, the school's staff courageously focused on what some would consider frills in an era of high-stakes accountability: innovative technologies; rich vocabulary and content knowledge; even field trips.
We recently spoke with George Hall principal Terri Tomlinson and teachers Elizabeth Reints and Melissa Mitchell.
Hear highlights from our interview (5 minutes)
We hear a lot of debate these days about the merits of business involvement in education. Few of these debates ever touch on a critical element of big business’s influence on schools: the impact of advertising on youth culture.
There are all sorts of forces out there, cultural and corporate, that undermine educators' efforts. There is a multi-billion dollar industry whose primary products are apathy, ignorance and stupidity.
As the father of a two-month-old girl, I've started paying much closer attention to all the media that will compete for her attention over the next 20 years. I do not like what I see: Sexualization of children. Junk food. Vacuous summer movies. Fatuous music. Violent video games. Ads that openly disparage study. Even pink cigarettes for girls. And the list goes on.
Changing the Graduation Equation in a Texas District: A Conversation with Superintendent Daniel P. King
When Daniel P. King came to the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district in 2007, the district’s dropout rate was double the Texas state average. Now, it is half the state average.
How did the district do it? Dr. King and his colleagues created a College, Career and Technology Academy to steer dropouts--some as old as 25--back onto a path towards graduation. Not only do those students gain the skills and course credits they need to graduate, they also gain college credit along the way. (See a story about the Academy in our success stories section).
King recently spoke with us about the district’s remarkable success.
Public School Insights: What prompted you to create the College, Career & Technology Academy in the first place?
King: I was entering new into the district. I was moving from a small district to a large district, and I was overwhelmed when I saw that the district had a dropout rate that was twice the state average. The prior year had seen approximately 500 dropouts.
When I asked for an analysis of the 500 dropouts from the previous year I found that not only was there the typical freshman bubble (where students don't make it past the ninth grade, get stuck there and ultimately drop out), but there was [also] a relatively new phenomenon that I call the “twelfth grade bubble, ” [caused by] exit testing and rising standards.
In a small district I had dealt with [the dropout problem] very successfully, simply through ...
Things are happening in Mobile.
The Alabama district mounted an innovative public engagement campaign early this decade, and student performance has been rising ever since.
Though the district has a larger share of low-income students than does Alabama as a whole, it boasts higher scores on state assessments. We recently profiled two very successful Mobile County public elementary schools—George Hall and Mary B. Austin—on our Success Stories Page.
Last week, we caught up with Mary B. Austin principal Jacquelyn Zeigler, who has worked with dedicated staff and parents to narrow achievement gaps dramatically. She described the ingredients of her success:
Public School Insights: We've heard a lot about Mary B. Austin School, but I thought I'd give you an opportunity to say in your own words what kind of a school it is. Describe the sort of students you serve.
Jacquelyn Zeigler: There are no -- or very few -- new families coming in. So to keep my doors open, 80 percent of the children are on transfer. We get them from all over Mobile County. And because of that, we are right at 50/50 boy/girl, 50/50 black/white, and about 34 percent free and reduced [lunch program]. We have a wonderful cross-section of society.
Right across the street is Springfield College, and then just down the street is the University of South Alabama, so I'm very fortunate because I am able to get their student teachers and their interns; a lot of the volunteers to come and work with my ...
Recent calls for stronger regulation of charter schools have raised the ire of some charter school movement True Believers. Their over-the-top response says more about the limits of their ideology than it does about the dangers of regulation.
Secretary Duncan, hardly an enemy of the charter movement, called for measures to hold low-performing charter schools accountable for their performance. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools followed suit with recommendations to strengthen oversight of new charter schools.
“Blasphemy!” cried the True Believers.
Free marketeer John Stossel tarred the Charter Alliance people as “bureaucrats” for even entertaining the idea:
National Alliance bureaucrats weeding out bad schools will fail as government bureaucrats failed….
Sure, some charter schools are lousy. But failure is part of innovation. Parents will quickly figure out if their kids’ school is lousy, and if they are allowed other choices, they’ll pull their kids out. The weak schools will die from lack of customers. The best schools will grow, and help more kids.
Of course, Stossel has long cherished sublime free market theories untainted by supporting evidence. He's not so concerned about recent findings that traditional public schools perform as well as or better than 83 percent of ...
Editor’s note: Our series of guest blogs in which accomplished teachers offer ideas for how to spend stimulus funds concludes with Susan Graham's thoughts. The opinions she expresses are, of course, her own and do not necessarily represent those of LFA or its member organizations.
Bob Woodruff, the ABC news correspondent who suffered traumatic brain injury in Iraq, didn’t plan to be a journalist. In a recent address to students he recalled that he took a pay cut when he went into journalism, but he went on to say, "I really believe in doing what you want to do. Especially at a young age, do what your heart tells you to do."
What does this have to do with innovative efforts in public school? Before stumbling into journalism, Woodruff spent four years in college and four years in law school. The vast majority of ...
Editor’s note: This week, we’re running a series of guest blogs in which accomplished teachers offer ideas for how to spend stimulus funds. Today, California teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron offers her contribution. The opinions she expresses are of course her own and do not necessarily represent those of LFA or its member organizations.
A knock at my door signals its arrival. “Sign here,” mumbles the delivery guy. At last. My stimulus package has arrived, and I know just how to spend it. My mythical program will solve everything, increasing both morale and teaching quality, and in so doing, increase student achievement. What is this magic bullet of which I boast? The Tapping Teachers Interests Program.
MY PROPOSED STIMULUS INVESTMENT: TTIP (tee-tip) is a teacher-driven elective program that provides funding for each teacher to have one period a day to teach the subject of his or her choice. There is a tangible difference between teachers who teach just because they are credentialed to do so, and those who truly love what they ...
A VISION FOR GREAT SCHOOLS
On this website, educators, parents and policymakers from coast to coast are sharing what's already working in public schools--and sparking a national conversation about how to make it work for children in every school. Join the conversation!