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Today, the New York Times published Jennifer Medina's story about the success of the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice, a small school that sends almost all of its students--the large majority of them poor--to college. The school's inspiring success is a testament to the passion and unrelenting hard work of its staff and students.

Still, an aspect of the Times story left me distinctly uneasy. "To hear the tales of the new graduates is to understand the enormous effort and amount of resources it takes to make a school succeed," Medina writes. "Teachers and other staff members routinely work 60 hours a week....  [School Principal Elana] Karopkin said it would be unfair to say she was burned out, but admitted she was nothing less than 'exhausted,' both physically and emotionally."  Asked about her staff's workload, she replied that "nobody should be forced to choose between educating other people's children and having their own." ...

Alexander Russo's recent blog posting about the French film that received the Palme d'Or at Cannes last week caught my attention. The Class (Entre les Murs), which depicts a year in a junior high school that serves one of Paris's poorest neighborhoods, won nearly unanimous praise at Cannes--which is no mean feat.  Here's hoping that the film crosses the pond soon and finds a large American audience. ...

In the first installment of our interview with best-selling author Dave Eggers, Eggers told us about 826 National, the network of community-based centers he co-founded to help students with their expository and creative writing skills.

In this second installment, Eggers describes his strategies for motivating reluctant writers. These strategies include:Eggers2.jpg ...

Dave Eggers found sudden and early fame when his 2000 Memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, quite nearly won the Pulitzer Prize. Since then, he has produced a prodigious body of work in both fiction and non-fiction, cementing his position as one of the nation's best young writers.

Eggers has also made a name for himself among public educators by founding and promoting 826 National, aeggers.jpg network of 8 urban writing programs that offer tutoring to thousands of American students.

Recently, while fighting off a nasty infection, Eggers generously made time to tell me about the program, his strategy for motivating reluctant writers, and his plan to advocate for public school teachers.

Over the next week, Public School Insights will publish the interview in several installments. In today's installment, Eggers describes 826 National, its use of community resources, and its collaboration with public schools in the San Francisco Bay area. ...

NewsomeTamalaweb.jpgRounding out Public School Insights' three-week celebration of Earth Day is our interview with Milken Award-winning educator Tamala Newsome, principal of the revolutionary Rosa Parks Elementary School in Portland, Oregon.  The Rosa Parks School has garnered national attention for its eco-friendly building, its thoughtful incorporation of environmental science into the curriculum, and its integral place in the low-income Portland community it serves. ...

mckinleyweb.jpgAs 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. ...

LastChildinWoods.jpg 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.” ...

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. ...

haugercarblog.jpgI recently interviewed Simon Hauger, a math teacher at West Philadelphia High School's Academy of Applied and Technical Sciences. Hauger and his students in the Academy have grabbed headlines over the past few years by building the world's first high-performance, environmentally-friendly cars. Their cars consistently win top honors at the Tour de Sol, a prestigious national green car competition. In fact, Hauger and his urban students have repeatedly bested teams from universities like MIT. Their story is incredibly inspiring. (Click here for PublicSchoolInsights.org's account about the Academy's program.)

In the interview, Hauger offers a ringing endorsement of programs that bring hands-on learning into the school day. He describes his own program's genesis, some of the obstacles it has faced, his work with community partners, and lessons he and his students have learned along the way. It's truly worth a listen.

Hauger also poses a very interesting question: If a bunch of high school students in impoverished West Philly can create a high-performance car that gets over 50 miles to the gallon, why won't the major car companies? ...

WeightLoss.jpgRichard Simmons should feel vindicated by a new studies that demonstrate the importance of health and physical education. 

Today's on-line edition of Education Week reports that five elementary schools in Philadelphia have managed to control obesity rates among their students by keeping sodas and candy out of vending machines, trimming back snack foods, encouraging physical education and educating parents, teachers and children about healthy nutrition.

According to a study of these schools published today in Pediatrics, students in schools that followed these steps for two years were half as likely to become fat as students in schools that did not. ...

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