National PTA President Otha Thornton discusses why his organization supports the Common Core, dispelling myths and sharing resources to help parents learn more and support successful implementation of the standards.
21st Century Skills
Yesterday, the Commerce Department released a broadband access report based on Census data. The conclusion? While broadband use among all American increased sevenfold between 2001 and 2009, the U.S. faces a significant gap in residential broadband use that breaks down along incomes, education levels, and other socio-economic factors. For example, 94.1 percent of households with income over $100,000 had access to broadband in 2009, while just 35.8 percent of households with income of less than $25,000 did. And 65.9 percent of urban households, compared to 51 percent of rural ones, subscribed to broadband in 2009.
One surprising finding: African-Americans and Hispanics lag behind in broadband access even when controlling for factors such as income and education. A possible reason: “Internet usage relies on networks. ... If the people around you don’t use the internet, you will be less likely to use the internet, too.”
In looking at this data, I make the assumption that children who have access to the internet have someone teaching them how to use. And so data like this remind me that in developing our education reform strategies, we have to look beyond just the teacher, school governance and the other currently hot topics. If we believe that technological literacy (including knowledge of how to best utilize the resources that the internet offers) is a critical component of future success, and if we want all students to have access to the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly complex society, we cannot ignore disparities in ...
The news has been getting me down recently. And not just the news itself (depressing enough to those who share my views on a number of issues), but what people are saying about it.
Like most people these days, I get most of my news online. And as you know, most newspapers allow comments on the articles they post. In theory, this is great. It allows those who read them to gauge public opinion on the issue at hand. But too often these comments seem counterproductive to me. So many essentially tell the author or another commenter that he or she wrong, dumb, and a terrible, awful person who (in the case of education news) cares only about adults and not about children. I miss productive conversations between people who disagree respectfully and then work to see the other’s position and find common ground.
So I was delighted to see Bill Ferriter’s post on The Tempered Radical yesterday. It appears he shares my views on the potential of this type of web-based communication. As he pointed out:
Web 2.0 tools have given us the opportunity to join together in public forums----electronic versions of the ancient Roman marketplaces----and to think across borders. We've got amazing opportunities to ...
Now that everyone is knee-deep in post-election analysis, I want to call attention to…Tom Friedman.
Friedman’s last couple of posts have been from New Delhi, the capital of India. In one, he quotes from a piece by Nayan Chanda, the editor of YaleGlobal Online, in the Indian magazine Businessworld:
It is the Silicon Valley revolution which enabled the massive rise in tradable services and the U.S.-built telecommunication networks that allowed creation of the virtual office. … But the US seems sadly unprepared to take advantage of the revolution it has spawned. The country’s worn-out infrastructure, failing education system and lack of political consensus have prevent it from riding a new way to prosperity.
In another, Friedman asks:
What if – for all the hype about China, India and globalization – they’re actually underhyped? What if these sleeping giants are just finishing a 20-year process of getting the basic technological and educational infrastructure in place to become innovation hubs and that we haven’t seen anything yet?
In both of these pieces addressing America’s place in the world, Friedman mentions education. In one, America’s failing ...
A recent Slate article asked, “What do the best classrooms in the world look like?” Their answer: Surprisingly low-tech.
To find these classrooms, the author looked to Finland and South Korea, both of which perform better than the United States on international standardized assessments without really utilizing technology in the classroom. She points to KIPP charter schools, claiming them among the most effective in the nation, and explains how one KIPP school uses technology--to make teachers' lives easier, not to engage students.
It’s not that this piece is wrong, exactly. Having never been to South Korea, Finland or the KIPP school featured here, I can’t speak to their use of technology in education. But I have problems with the assumption on which the author seems to rely: That these schools are the best in the world, and the ideal model for reform efforts.
Actually, what she claims, after mentioning how these classrooms look like those of 1989 or 1959, is that “the most innovative schools around the world do not tend to be the ones with the most innovative technology inside them.” Now, I agree that innovative doesn't need to mean technology, but ...
As promised, last week the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology released their strategy to improve STEM education in America’s elementary and secondary schools. It has two prongs, focusing on both preparing students (improving STEM education itself) and inspiring students so they are motivated to study STEM subjects and have careers in STEM fields in the future. The report divided recommendations into five general priorities for the federal government: improving federal coordination and leadership, supporting the state-led movement to establish a baseline for what students should learn in STEM courses, cultivating/recruiting/rewarding STEM teachers, creating STEM-related experiences that excite and interest students, and supporting the transformation of schools into STEM learning centers.
As I said last week, I was anxious to see the strategy proposed for motivating students in STEM. As a science and remedial math high school teacher in a low-income community, I found that getting students excited about STEM subjects was one of my biggest challenges. And if students weren’t excited, they were not going to learn it. Plain as that. I suggested that doing more to ...
Back in 1965, UNESCO proclaimed September 8 to be International Literacy Day. The goal? To highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and society. I’ll try to link to some of the reports being released today as they come out.
Just learning this occasion exists reminded me of a post of Robert Pondiscio’s that I saw recently on the Core Knowledge Blog, which referred to a post on Mark Bauerlein’s blog at The Chronicle of Higher Education that commented on an article that Pondiscio wrote with E.D. Hirsch earlier this year. (You’ve got to love the internet.)
The article doesn’t necessary embrace the international spirit of today, but it hits literacy on the head.
To be fully literate is to have the communicative power of language at your command—to read, write, listen and speak with understanding.
The Pondiscio/Hirsch article argues that reading is not a transferable skill, at least not entirely. A child may be able to master “decoding” but needs domain-specific content knowledge to fully comprehend what he or she is reading. And it argues that our current testing and accountability system for our public schools results in time wasted on reading strategies rather than imparting the knowledge that will allow our children to become truly literate, especially in low-income schools where children don't always get background knowledge from ...
Last week we looked at the state of public schools, as viewed by the American public. Today we’ll look at the state of the American student, as viewed by students themselves.
In creating the recent report Youth Readiness for the Future, Gallup polled students age 10-18 on their hope, engagement and well-being. Why those variables? A number of reasons, including that they are indicators of future success, with links to attendance, grades, achievement scores, retention and employment. And they are malleable—so even if a student is not hopeful now, he or she might be in the future.
The results? Over half of students—53%—are hopeful about the future, while 31% are “stuck” and 16% are discouraged. Over two-thirds of students—70%—are thriving, with about 30% struggling or suffering. And nearly two-thirds—63%—are engaged, while 23% are not engaged (just going through the motions) and 14% are actively disengaged (likely undermining the teaching and learning process for themselves and others). Engagement peaks during elementary school, then decreases through middle school and ...
A Partnership Between the Military and Education: A Conversation with Lieutenant General Benjamin Freakley
Lieutenant General Benjamin C. Freakley is the commanding general of the United States Army Accessions Command (USAAC) and oversees recruiting for the U.S. Army's officer, warrant officer and enlisted forces. USAAC has joined forces with the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) to support young people and boost graduation rates. (We wrote about this partnership in a blog posting several months ago. NASBE is a member of LFA.)
LTG Freakley recently spoke with us about the promise of greater collaboration between the military and schools.
Education: A National Security Issue
Public School Insights: Why do you think the military is getting involved in K-12 education?
LTG Freakley: I believe that the preparedness of our youth through education, health and conduct is a national security issue. Right now our young people, regardless of the tact they take for postsecondary, are limiting themselves. They are limiting themselves because they are not getting a good foundational education in K-12. They are not as healthy as they should be, with childhood obesity becoming an epidemic. And they get off track in their conduct, limiting what might be brilliant careers because they chose to get involved with gang violence, drugs, teenage pregnancy, etc.
It is disheartening to see all of this potential being limited. We believe that we have got to help our youth to achieve success through supporting our educators who, I believe, are undervalued in America—not recognized like they should be or supported like they should be. We ought to be as close to education as we can so we can sustain our all volunteer force and also so we can have an economically ...
Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson recently penned a Newsweek cover story called "The Creativity Crisis." They cite new evidence that American creativity is on the decline, but they also suggest that we can turn things around.
Regular readers of this blog may recall our earlier interview with Merryman about Nurture Shock, the best-selling book she and Bronson published last year. That book argued that many of our most cherished strategies for nurturing children are failing because we overlook key lessons from science.
In their Newsweek piece, Merryman and Bronson find themselves on similar ground. There is a science of creativity, they write, and we ignore that fact at our peril. We can't just pin our hopes on a vague sense of American ingenuity. Nor can we simply enjoin students to let their inner creativity out.
But science can point us toward concrete strategies to boost creativity, Merryman and Bronson write. In an interview last Friday, Merryman told us more.
Is American Creativity on the Decline?
Public School Insights: You and Po Bronson write that measures of creativity in the United States are falling. How bad do you think the situation is?
Merryman: Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) were developed in 1958 by E. Paul Torrance. He and a colleague tracked kids for 40 and 50 years. They found the TTCT predicts lifetime creative achievement more effectively than IQ. It is a three-time stronger correlation.
These tests are continually re-normed because scores are based on, what answer is most original? In 1970, if someone had drawn an iPod, they would've scored off the charts. But a kid who drew something as an iPod today might not be considered original. So the tests are constantly reevaluated in terms of what kids understand and are familiar with.
Kyung Hee Kim, a researcher at the College of William and Mary, is one of the people responsible for re-norming these tests. In May, when analyzing over 300,000 scores, she found a pattern that showed a decline in scores since 1990. Before 1990, scores were going up, but they've been going down since. The decline is the steepest for young children, specifically school-age children. They are still working on the data, so I cannot say “It has declined X percentage.” But what we can say is that the decline is significant, and Kim considers the ...
Most people believe we can't be a prosperous nation if we're not a creative nation. But can we teach creativity without giving in to the gauzy, shallow, I'm OK, You're OK creativity exercises that drive traditionalists round the bend?
A recent Newsweek cover story by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman suggests that we can. In fact, its authors say we must, because our young people have been getting less creative over the past twenty years. What's worse, they claim, we don't seem to have any national strategy to tackle the problem.
In this country, we tend to believe that our Edisons and Gateses will come to us as naturally as the leaves to a tree. Our children's math scores may not always top the international charts, but darn it, we're a naturally ingenious bunch.
But new research is starting to shake that confidence, Bronson and Merryman report. Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary reviewed some 300,000 Torrance scores from the past half century and found that they have been declining since 1990. (Torrance tests are a common measure of creativity. They correlate strongly with "lifetime creative accomplishment," Bronson and Merryman report.) The decline is worst in young children.
But it won't do just to get in touch with our inner poets or to move all our mental furniture into our right brains. Creativity depends on steady commerce between the left and right ...
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!