National PTA's Sherri Wilson shares resources to engage families in minimizing summer learning loss.
In his March 10th speech before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, President Obama repeated his campaign pledge to help states expand and improve early learning programs.
In defiance of skeptics who question the value or feasibility of early childhood education, the National Association of State Boards of Education points to Obama's home state of Illinois. The Illinois program can boast both strong acadmic results and cost-effectiveness, NASBE argues in a recent policy brief:
Illinois met nine of its 10 benchmarks for pre-k quality, ranked... 12th in access for 4-year-olds and first in the nation for 3-year-olds, while spending slightly more than ...
The 146-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer is the latest newspaper to run its own obituary. It followed closely on the heels of the Rocky Mountain News, which bid adieu to its Denver readers after 160 years. More newspapers and journals are sure to follow. Just this morning, I received an alarming email solicitation from The Nation, ominously titled "1865-??", requesting donations to forestall its own demise.
The implications of this situation for education are not hard to grasp.
For one, it reflects and exacerbates the erosion of civic education in this country. As Kathleen Parker notes in a recent Washington Post editorial, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press recently "found that just 27 percent of Americans born since 1977 read a newspaper the previous day." Young people don't seem to have much appetite for serious newspapers. Many educators feel they don't have much time to whet that appetite.
Yes, young people get some news on line, but ...
All the recent talk about 21st-century learning has sparked heated debate about curriculum and instruction. The broader implications of this debate are important. The way we describe 21st-century demands on schools and youth can have a profound impact on the fate of the liberal arts in our schools.
The skepticism about recent 21st-century talk isn’t surprising. I suspect many educators who champion the liberal arts see them as a bulwark against the 21st century’s worst influences. I know I did when I taught literature and philosophy. Thoreau offers a healthy antidote to rampant consumerism. Langston Hughes’s poems aren’t trying to sell you anything. James Joyce’s novels demand the kind of sustained attention required by few blog postings and no Twitter messages. Mary Cassat’s women have no place in an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue.
We value such work for its timelessness, but also because it stands against so much that disappoints or outrages us about current times. It reinforces certain decidedly nineteenth-century (and older) values, habits and skills that can fortify young people against the worst 21st-century dangers: dangers like shrinking attention spans, growing consumerism, the sexualization of children, etc. People understandably recoil from the slightest suggestion that pre-21st-century skills are passé or unequal to the demands of a new century.
Still, schools cannot wall students off from the technologies and media that amplify both the best and the worst the 21st century has to offer. They face an important challenge: How do they help students use technology and new media responsibly? How do they acknowledge and incorporate 21st-century influences while helping students master a long intellectual tradition? How do they use that tradition ...
The share of U.S. public elementary schools teaching foreign language has fallen by almost 40% over the last decade. You know--the decade when 9/11, globalization, and growing diversity at home fueled calls for greater knowledge of other languages and cultures.
The EdWeek article lays out some of the decline's more sobering implications:
The decline of foreign-language instruction at the elementary level could make it harder for the United States to create a pool of language specialists who can speak both English and those languages deemed critical to the country’s economic success or national security, such as Chinese and Arabic.
CAL's data reflect the state of elementary foreign language instruction in 2008, before the nation's economy went from bad to worse. I shudder to imagine ...
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 ...
Linda Darling-Hammond remains a convenient bogeyman for too many education commentators looking to score cheap political points. That's unfortunate, because they make constructive debates about important education issues all but impossible.
Most recently, Kathleen Madigan cast Darling-Hammond as the chief vice in her education reform morality play: "A debate is raging about the future of academic standards in American public education," she writes: ...
The Honorable Lee Hamilton represented Indiana’s 9th congressional district for over three decades. After leaving Congress, he co-chaired the Iraq Study Group and served as Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission.
Now president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and director of Indiana University's Center on Congress, he sits or has sat on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the President's Homeland Security Advisory Council, the FBI Director’s Advisory Board, the CIA Director’s Economic Intelligence Advisory Panel, and the Defense Secretary’s National Security Study Group.
A life of public service has fueled Representative Hamilton's commitment to civics education, a commitment he honors as co-chair of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools. Representative Hamilton recently sat down with us for an interview on the significance of civic education at a time of political change and economic upheaval.
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: I've heard you say--or rather, write--that you have found a lot of young Americans don't necessarily know what it means to be American. They haven't really thought it over. I was wondering if you could describe the implications of what that means and what schools might be able to do about it.
HAMILTON: I think a representative democracy depends on an educated citizenry. It's very important that not only homes--parents--but also schools take on the responsibility of assuring that young people know how to become good citizens and they learn the attributes of good citizenship: Involvement in their community, listening to their friends and neighbors, trying to solve problems, reach a consensus, discuss, and to get a sense of democracy into their bones. So that they recognize that the question that Lincoln asked, whether this nation, so conceived and so dedicated, could long endure, is answered affirmatively.
I'm very concerned about what's happening today in our schools. You see so much emphasis upon math and science, and I'm certainly not opposed to that. We need that emphasis. But in many respects I think the emphasis there, in part because of the requirements of federal law, are reducing--diminishing--the amount of time that is spent on ...
Schools across the country departed from their routines yesterday to observe the inauguration of President Obama. In newspaper articles describing schools' Inauguration Day activities, teachers and students alike observed--quite rightly--that they had a chance to be a part of history.
Robert Pondiscio at the Core Knowledge Blog raised some important follow-up questions: Just how many students are actually familiar with the history whose culmination they witnessed? How many understood the historical references in President Obama's inauguration speech? Pondiscio writes:
If our children do not know the events and phrases to which Obama referred, they cannot fully appreciate the significance of this moment or even what this President is asking of them. How is it possible for them to be “the keepers of this legacy” — why should they value it and seek to keep it at all? — unless they understand the thing they are being asked to keep?
Without a doubt, the history of the nation's struggle towards equality might seem less exalted to students of color who still face daunting social and economic disadvantages. But ignorance of the nation's history and civic traditions will surely compound those disadvantages. If anything, the President's words should inspire educators, communities and policy makers to ...
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 ...
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!