National PTA's Sherri Wilson shares resources to engage families in minimizing summer learning loss.
21st Century Skills
“Although U.S. students in grade four score among the best in the world [on international literacy comparisons], those in grade eight score much lower. By grade ten, U.S. students score among the lowest in the world.” (emphasis in original)
A bit concerning, to say the least…
In response, the Carnegie Council for Advancing Adolescent Literacy has issued a call to action. Driven by the vision of comprehensive literacy for all, their new report Time to Act: An Agenda for Advancing Adolescent Literacy for College and Career Success argues that we need to re-engineer schools for adolescent learners. To prepare our students for success in the global economy, we must focus on their literacy.
This report paints a detailed picture of what literacy instruction in an ideal secondary school should look like. It goes in-depth on two vital, but often ignored, keys to making that image a reality: teacher preparation, support and professional development, and the collection and careful use of data. The report also ...
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 ...
Yesterday, we published our conversation with Christopher Cross about the Broader, Bolder Approach (BBA) Campaign’s new accountability recommendations. Today, we’re releasing an interview with another member of BBA’s Accountability Committee: Diane Ravitch, who followed Cross as Assistant Secretary of OERI during the administration of George H.W. Bush.
Like Cross, Ravitch requires no introduction. A long-time supporter of standards-based reform, she has become one of the nation’s most vocal critics of No Child Left Behind. Here are her thoughts on the BBA recommendations:
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: You have argued that "a few tweaks here and a little tinkering there cannot fix" No Child Left Behind. How do BBA's accountability recommendations depart from the NCLB model?
RAVITCH: NCLB is a punitive approach to school improvement. It mandates that test scores must increase or else! If they don't go higher, schools will be sanctioned, and the sanctions will get more onerous with each year that the schools fail to meet their targets. Each year, the targets get higher, and the number of schools that slip over the precipice increases. As schools fail, they are threatened with closure, restructuring, staff firings, or other consequences that may or may not improve the school.
In contrast, BBA suggests accountability that goes far beyond test scores. Test scores matter, but so does student engagement in a broad range of academic subjects, as well as students' health, well-being and civic behavior. Where NCLB is punitive, BBA seeks constructive ways to measure the condition and progress of ...
Editor's Note: Yesterday, Hollywood producer turned Montana educator Peter Rosten sent us the following remarks about his school's innovative filmmaking program:
Greetings from Montana!
A friend of mine, Jan Lombardi, is the education policy advisor for Montana’s Governor, Brian Schweitzer. Recently Jan forwarded me a “Learning First” newsletter and pointed to an article titled “Learning in the Community: Teen Filmmakers Talk About Their Work and Its Impact on Their Lives”.
After reading this inspiring story, I reached out to Claus von Zastrow. Perhaps he’d be interested in a pretty cool media program here in the Bitterroot Valley in rural Western, Montana.
Last week, teen filmmaker Jasmine Britton told us about the impact of her filmmaking on her life plans and academic prospects. Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, a Brooklyn-based non-profit organization, has reinforced Britton's academic skills and strengthened her motivation to go to college.
This week, we're sharing our recent conversation with Reelworks filmmaker Isaac Schrem, who expands on themes introduced by Britton. Shrem describes how his school's arts programs, together with filmmaking opportunities through Reel Works, shaped his professional aspirations.
Listen to approximately 5 minutes of highlights from our interview (or read through the transcript below):
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: Tell me about the film you made, The Other Side of the Picture.
ISAAC: I was always interested in filmmaking, but I didn't know exactly what I wanted to with it. I went with the phrase, "Write what you know." The one thing that I knew or wanted to understand, at least, at the time, was the situation with my parents, and my father leaving us and going away to Paris. So I went with that story.
It was a very rough topic for me to tackle because I still ...
Jasmine Britton is one of a small but growing group of talented teen documentary filmmakers whose work is winning accolades from educators and critics alike. I recently had the chance to chat with her about her documentary work and its impact on her education and life. Jasmine, who attends high school in Brooklyn, is quite outspoken in her opinion that more schools should offer students opportunities similar to those she has enjoyed.
Together with her peers at Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, Jasmine is working on a new documentary about U.S. national parks that will serve as a companion piece to Ken Burns's forthcoming documentary on the same subject. Reel Works is a Brooklyn-based non-profit organization that helps over 150 teens each year conceive, plan, film, edit and promote original documentaries. Last year, Over Here--a Reel Works documentary about the World War II homefront--aired on New York public television station Channel Thirteen.
In our interview, Jasmine describes her first documentary, a tribute to her mother entitled A Message to Marlene. She also credits her experience at Reel Works with motivating her to think much more earnestly about college. Finally, she urges educators to make the Reel Works experience much more accessible in schools.
Listen to highlights from our interview (5 minutes):
Read a transcript of these highlights below, and stay tuned next week for an interview with Reel Works filmmaker Isaac Shrem.
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: Tell me about your film.
JASMINE: My film was called "A Message to Marlene," and it was basically a tribute [to] my mother. At the time, ...
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 ...
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!