For her leadership in the areas of teacher quality and educational equity and reform, the Learning First Alliance has named Stanford professor and accomplished author Linda Darling-Hammond as our 2013 Education Visionary Award winner.
The Teacher Leaders Network just hosted a fascinating discussion on creativity in the classroom. A number of teachers involved in the discussion zeroed in on a matter that has again been looming large in debates about national standards: The tension between standardization and personalization. They wrote about the challenge of teaching basic information all students need to know "whether they find it creative or not" while engaging students' individual interests.
In other venues, similar discussions have drawn extremists like flies to honey. In the comments section of one top blog, for example, a privatization zealot credited the lack of common standards in private schools with those schools' alleged success: "No one argues that private schools are failing," Of course, we don't exactly have common measures for determining a private school's success or failure. And comparisons of private and public school NAEP scores show essentially no difference between private and public school performance. By why let data cloud ideology?
On the other side, the most immoderate critics of ...
The argument about 21st-century skills is heating up, with critics issuing a volley of op-eds and press releases warning against a disastrous retreat from academic content knowledge. In the hands of the national media, this debate might well amplify the phony opposition between knowledge and skills--and that's bad news for everyone.
The debate itself is substantive and complex. After all, the relationship between knowledge and skills is hardly simple, and that fact has profound implications for teaching and learning.
Unfortunately, many national commentators on education don't have much stomach for nuance, so we should probably brace ourselves for some well-worn caricatures. Any defender of content knowledge will be a soulless drone who traffics in facts the way a hardware salesman traffics in bolts or hinges. Any 21st-century skills proponent will be a wild-eyed revolutionary who yearns to toss centuries of human knowledge onto the bonfires.
Some of these caricatures are already appearing in editorial pages of major newspapers. That's too bad, because they risk derailing important ...
NEA's Read Across America is less than a week away. What better occasion to republish our interview with leading children's author (and former teacher) Jon Scieszka, the nation's first "National Ambassador for Young People's Literature?" We first published this interview on March 6, 2008.
Even with a name that's murder to spell and downright painful to type, Jon Scieszka has become one of the nation's most celebrated and beloved children's book authors--and he has recently added a new honor to his store: In January, the Library of Congress named him the nation's first Ambassador for Children's Literature. But with honor comes great responsibility. Scieszka, who has sold more than 11 million books worldwide, will spend his term reaching out to children, parents and teachers as a missionary for reading.
As part of our celebration of NEA's Read Across America, we were lucky enough to speak with Jon about his ambassadorial duties, his long-term efforts to encourage more children to read, and some of his forthcoming projects.
The man who wrote The Stinky Cheese Man and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs (as told from the Wolf's perspective) focused on his concern that boys in particular are becoming ever more reluctant readers.
He offered several thoughts for turning boys on to reading:
- Give them greater choice in what they read--Reading shouldn't be a bitter pill;
- Give them more male role models who read for pleasure;
- Don't demonize electronic media. Use those media to support boys' reading;
Scieszka has been actively promoting this agenda through Guys Read, a literacy program and website that aims to "motivate boys to read by connecting them with materials they will want to read, in ways they like to read."
By the way, it rhymes with "Fresca".
[Listen to about four minutes of highlights from this interview - you can read a transcript of those highlights below. You can also click here for the full 17-minute version.]
Or, if you'd like, you can choose ...
Last week, we caught up with Richard Norton Smith, former director of five presidential libraries, author of celebrated American biographies and a frequent commentator on the American Presidency.
Smith spoke with us about the state of civics and history education in the wake of an historic presidential election.
Like many, Smith hopes that record youth turnout in the recent election will herald a time of greater public engagement in our shared history and our common civic responsibilities. But he cautions us against complacency.
Even now, he reminds us, educators must compete with a popular culture that erodes our common heritage and consigns history to a cable channel. History risks becoming little more than a consumer choice on equal footing with Brittney Spears or Entertainment Tonight. Smith believes the education community can play a vital role in restoring history and civics as a “common language” that reveals unity amid the nation’s growing diversity.
He offers ample food for thought as we inaugurate a president whose election marks a critical chapter in the nation’s long struggle towards its founding ideals. Here’s hoping that the story of that struggle remains part of our children’s common inheritance.
Download our full, 16-minute interview here, or read the interview transcript below.
[Listen to about 6 minutes of interview highlights]
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: You've been the director of five presidential libraries and have presumably devoted a lot of thought to their educational mission. Do you think American students are getting enough civic and history education?
SMITH: Oh god... (Laughing).
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: That doesn't sound like yes.
SMITH: (laughing). No. They are not. And the moment I say that, I qualify it with an expression of sympathy for any teacher, at any level, who is competing with a mass culture that encourages historical and civic illiteracy, if indeed not ...
Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher reminds us today that school improvement does not necessarily require a death-match between high-profile "reformers" and the education "establishment."
Fisher tells the story of a once struggling elementary school that has dramatically raised the achievement of its overwhelmingly disadvantaged student body: "Broad Acres did this without Rhee's reform tactics: no young recruits from Teach for America, no cash for students who come to class, no linkage of teacher pay to test scores."
In other words, Broad Acres made great strides without any of the capital "R" reforms that dominate national discussion about education. Nor did they make their gains over the dead bodies of recalcitrant teachers, administrators or community members.
What did Broad Acres do? The school fostered on-going faculty collaboration, gave strugging students individual attention, offered engaging out-of-school enrichment activities, and supported students' physical and mental well-being.
This is not to argue that we should abandon important discussions about those capital "R" reforms, which focus mainly on incentives and ...
As people ponder the scope and content of the proposed economic recovery package, teacher-blogger Ariel Sacks offers food for thought:
I may plan a lesson that involves students researching something on the Internet, only to find that a good number of the computers on the laptop cart I have signed out won’t connect or won’t even turn on. We have no technician on staff to maintain the computers, and we likely never will, because we spend our limited funds on more pressing things. I can either stop using computers completely, which seems like a disservice to my students, or I can take my chances every time.
Such facilities problems plague public schools--particularly poor schools--across the country, and they will likely grow worse as the economy continues to sour. They offer a good starting point for economic recovery and stimulus plans. ...
Public School Insights recently caught up with Hugh Price, former President of the National Urban League and current chair of ASCD's Whole Child Initiative. In an expansive telephone interview, Price told us about his new book, Mobilizing the Community to Help Students Succeed, which describes how educators and communities can work together to improve student motivation in school, celebrate academic success, and foster stronger student achievement. ...
I recently interviewed Houston about the state of public schools, the state of school reform, his vision for the future of public education, and his own legacy after 14 years at the helm of the American Association of School Administrators. (My tribute to Warlene Gary will appear in this space next week.)
In the interview, Houston describes the failure of too many recent reform efforts to address 21st-century challenges, the danger of looking to China for guidance on education policy, the American education system's abiding faith in second chances, the evolving role of the superintendent, and the reasons for his famous bloody-mindedness on matters of school reform. ...
Yesterday, we posted the beginnings of a civil--though keen--debate on the value of technology in the classroom between Bill Ferriter and Nancy Flanagan, two distinguished teachers and bloggers in the Center for Teaching Quality's Teacher Leaders Network. Today, Nancy and Bill rebut each others' statements and sharpen their own positions.
Where do you stand on technology and teaching? Weigh in by posting a comment, below.
Nancy's Reply: Tools don't have a conscience
Speaking of cultural realities, Bill says "digital tools are playing an increasingly important role in the work of successful individuals primarily because they make evaluating, inventing, creating and collaborating more efficient. Without a fluency in using technology to facilitate productive endeavors, students truly are unprepared for the future." ...
Our friends at the Teacher Leaders Network, which connects accomplished teacher leaders from across the country, hooked us up with two of their dazzling teacher/bloggers: Nancy Flanagan and Bill Ferriter, two award-winning teachers who have built national reputations as both thought leaders and practitioners.
What resulted was a pointed but always respectful debate on the promise and perils of teaching with technology. In guest postings today and tomorrow, Nancy and Bill will sketch out the contours of this debate.
Nancy Flanagan: Brave New Curriculum - or More of the Same? ...
A VISION FOR GREAT SCHOOLS
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