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September 12, 2008
Sunday: Brooklyn Book Festival with Paul Tough, readings for kids
Book Festival crowd by ##http://flickr.com/photos/mtkr/##mtkr## Now in its third year, the Brooklyn Book Festival is offering up a packed schedule of book-related readings,…
September 12, 2008
It’s Friday, just show a video: Nurse-Family Partnership
Here’s a clip from CBS about the Nurse-Family Partnership mentioned in Paul Tough’s recent New York Times Magazine article, 24/7 School Reform. Learn more…
September 12, 2008
NPR: How much homework is too much?
Yesterday, NPR's Day to Day interviewed Harris M. Cooper, a professor at Duke University and author of The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents. How much homework is appropriate? they asked. Cooper provided a simple rule: Essentially what the guideline boils down to is what I refer to as the 10-minute rule, which means 10 minutes per night, per grade: first graders, 10 minutes, second graders, 20 minutes, third graders, 30 minutes, and so on. We do have research that shows that when middle school kids are doing between 60 to 90 minutes of homework a night they’re doing as well as kids who claim to be doing more. If parents feel that their children are getting too much homework, Cooper says, they should begin by observing what really happens during homework time. Are the children focused solely on homework, or are distractions like text-messaging or television getting in the way? He provides tips for talking with teachers about homework, advising parents to take a non-confrontational teamwork approach. Some homework opponents would do away with it altogether. Alfie Kohn argued in The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing and in a 2006 Q&A with Philissa at Insideschools.org that homework "dampen[s] children's curiosity about the world," and that research shows no benefit to homework. One math teacher says on his blog that he doesn't assign homework because his students who need extra practice most are least likely to complete homework. But Cooper makes a case for small amounts of homework: it helps children learn to study on their own and outside the classroom, important preparation for the demands of college, where most learning happens in the dorm room, library, or coffeehouse. As a teacher, I encountered more parents worried that their children weren't doing enough homework than that they were assigned too much.
September 10, 2008
The International Baccalaureate program for more city middle schools?
Houston may not be alone in seeing an increase in schools using International Baccalaureate programs. New York's Blueprint for Middle School Success, which identifies "key elements" of successful middle school programs, briefly mentions International Baccalaureate (IB), along with America's Choice and Project Grad, as "protocols, programs, and/or school reform models" that school leaders should consider when developing a college prep curriculum. According to the IB website, few city schools use IB at the moment — Mott Hall Bronx High School, Manhattan's Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change, Staten Island's Curtis High School, and Queens' Baccalaureate School for Global Education — and only Thurgood Marshall and the Baccalaureate School have the IB Middle Years Program. Central themes unite 8 subject areas in the Middle Years Program curriculum. What stands out about the Middle Years Program is not the range of subjects taught nor the five themes which unite the student's learning experience, as shown in the diagram above, but the personal project, an in-depth study undertaken by each child, and other innovative approaches to assessment. Teachers develop their own course assignments and assessments, ranging from projects to exams and including opportunities for self-assessment and peer-assessment. Final assessments are not standardized tests or even standardized projects. Rather, teachers administer appropriate sets of assessment tasks and rigorously apply the prescribed assessment criteria defined for each subject group. The type of assessment tools available to teachers include all forms of oral work, written work, and practical work. A school can request that the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) validate students' grades, a review process in which external moderators apply IB standards to samples of student work and compare their grades to the teachers' grades, which helps maintain standards from school to school.
September 9, 2008
Teachers, classroom practice in the spotlight at NYTimes.com
After a two-year hiatus, the New York Times this week revived its Lesson Plans blog, featuring the voices of six teachers from different…
September 9, 2008
Challenges in assessing the effectiveness of the Core Knowledge Reading Program
Yesterday, Michael Shaughnessy of EdNews interviewed Dr. Matthew Davis, who is leading the implementation of the Core Knowledge Reading Program pilot in New York City. Much of the interview covers basics of the program which we've discussed here already, including the two-strand approach to teaching reading and comprehension and the body of research supporting this method. What the interview highlighted for me are the contradictions of researching a program while trying to decide whether to continue using it, especially when real children are the subjects. Davis says that the pilot will begin this year in kindergarten classes at 10 high-needs schools, then add grade 1 next year and grade 2 in 2010-11. But the continuation of the pilot "will be contingent on success in year one and a continuation of funding," he says. Sounds fair: a program should prove itself before people (in this case, the Fund for Public Schools) invest further. Davis describes the plan for assessing the program: Within the next several weeks, students in both sets of schools will be administered nationally standardized reading assessments in order to establish a baseline performance. These same tests will be administered again at the end of the kindergarten. In addition, there will be formal observation of all teachers in the pilot classrooms to ascertain any possible correlation between the level of implementation of the Core Knowledge program and the level of student achievement. In addition, specific case studies will be conducted by the NYCDOE in three pilot schools to provide additional qualitative information. As far as the test are concerned, we hope to see a significant difference in word attack, word reading, decoding skills, and spelling by the end of the kindergarten year -- because the program has what we think is a very strong way of teaching the mechanics of reading. Background knowledge and vocabulary take a bit longer to build, and gains don't start to show up on some tests until later, but, by the end of the three-year period, we hope to see the front end of what we think will eventually be a very significant difference in vocabulary, oral comprehension, and reading comprehension. So although the survival of the program may rest on a single year's results, the promised impact of the program — increased vocabulary and content knowledge — may take three years to show up. At least three years:
September 8, 2008
Six steps to explicit vocabulary development
Discussion of reading instruction — which started with a look at the Core Knowledge Reading Program (CKRP) being piloted in NYC this year — has really taken off, with commenters raising important questions: How does the content in CKRP differ from what's being read now? What about helping children understand syntax? Does vocabulary development in Science differ from other subject areas? While I look into those issues, here's a technique one Queens teacher uses to help her students learn new words. Katie Kurjakovic, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at P.S. 11 in Queens, illustrates the problem with an anecdote: A second-grade teacher was preparing to read a story about George Washington's wife, Martha, to her class. She anticipated all the unfamiliar vocabulary she thought they would encounter. She told them what colonies and colonists were. She spoke of the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. Then, shortly after she began reading, a girl raised her hand with a puzzled look on her face. "What's a wife?" she asked. Kurjakovic uses a six-step process to explicitly teach vocabulary to her English Language Learners. Before reading a text, she identifies and introduces ("previews") new vocabulary for her students, then she reads the text, uses the words in the context of the text and then in a new context, and finally gives her students an opportunity to use the words.
September 5, 2008
It’s Friday, just show a video: Math embedded in real-life in a Moroccan school
Marrakesh - olives, <em>by ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/goofball/497059788/##goofball12##</em>. From average to perimeter to speed, students at a school in Morocco practice mathematics in the context of…
September 5, 2008
How’d your first week go, teachers?
<em>Photo by ##http://flickr.com/photos/wencheung/417851981/##wendelling##</em> Four days into the new school year, I thought I'd check in with the city's teacher-bloggers, who give us a unique look at everyday life in schools. Alicia, a midwesterner new to the city, but not new to teaching, experienced a little culture shock — uniforms, unpronounceable names, mice?! — and reflected on another teacher's advice not to be too nice: I am torn and a little sad at the thought that these students cannot handle me being me as a teacher. They've had strict disciplinarians in the past, and it's probably the best way to ensure for a successful school year. It's just a bit more intense than I had hoped or planned. When would I have ever imagined that being called "nice" would backfire on me?! Hopefully in the next few months I can be nice again, but for now, I'm all business, and I'm going to start making sure that a few particular boys are aware of this... Starting at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow. Jose Vilson also feels like his teaching self is a "persona," but finds that kids react well to his "incredible swagger" and strict expectations for order and productivity. "If I thoroughly believe in that persona, then that’s exactly what I’m going to get … and sometimes to a fault," he says.
September 5, 2008
“Good air” is oxygen: first teach concepts, then add vocab, study says
<em>Screenshot originally posted at the ##http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2008/august20/teachsci-082008.html##Stanford News Service##</em>. <em>Screenshot originally posted at the ##http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2008/august20/teachsci-082008.html##Stanford News Service##</em>. Photosynthesis, glucose, chloroplasts: the language of science…
September 4, 2008
How “the rich get richer” in reading for understanding
In response to yesterday's post about the Core Knowledge Reading Program, reader Smith asks, Is he saying their is a core set of content that would prepare a student to understand a randomly selected reading passage on a standardized test? Could someone explain this idea to a non-ELA teacher? I’ve always assumed those reading passages could range from “The Mysteries of Ancient Egpyt” to “Sally’s Bad Day at School” to “Roger’s Time Machine Adventure”. How is content selected? Great question. It's true that the content of test reading passages varies, and I don't think anyone believes that a child can be prepared with content knowledge specific to every possible topic. Rather, some children enter school knowing thousands more words than others, and this difference compounds over years of schooling in a "rich get richer" scenario called the "Matthew Effect" by researchers. (Don't take my word for it: this study, one of many, found that by age 3, children of parents with smaller vocabularies not only knew fewer words, used fewer words per hour, and used a smaller variety of words per hour, "but they were also adding words more slowly.") Hirsch summarized this effect in a 2006 article in American Educator: Many specialists estimate that a child (or an adult) needs to understand a minimum of 90 percent of the words in a passage in order to understand the passage and thus begin to learn the other 10 percent of the words. Moreover, it’s not just the words that the student has to grasp the meaning of—it’s also the kind of reality that the words are referring to.... When a child doesn’t understand those word meanings and those referred-to realities, being good at sounding out words is a dead end. Reading becomes a kind of Catch-22: In order to become better at reading with understanding, you already have to be able to read with understanding.
September 3, 2008
E.D. Hirsch: Content knowledge “terribly important for social justice”
A week after Sol Stern argued in City Journal that New York City should create an office of reading improvement and provide low class sizes and scientifically-based reading instruction in high-poverty, low-scoring schools, the DOE announced a new reading initiative: teachers at 10 pilot schools will implement the new Core Knowledge Reading Program (CKRP) in grades K-2. Education historian Diane Ravitch wrote in favor of the program in the Post on Monday, saying it's a smarter choice than the "unproven" Balanced Literacy curriculum that Klein introduced in 2003. "Balanced Literacy doesn't stress content knowledge, vocabulary or phonics. And we now know that it didn't work," she says, citing flat reading scores on the 4th and 8th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). What will the new reading program look like?
September 3, 2008
Reading, writing, and riding: Getting to school in an era of fear
The award for most sensational start-of-school headline goes to the Associated Press, which asks, "Back-to-school, but how? Parents fear walking, bus." Photo courtesy of ##http://www.livablestreets.com/streetswiki##Streetswiki## Compared with all of the stresses of returning to school — making friends, encountering a new teacher, getting more homework — walking doesn't seem like too serious of a problem. Still, decisions about how to get to school are major ones in many families, and they can be fraught with fear. The AP article describes how parents across the country eschew walking or biking for their children because they fear abduction and unsafe streets. Even here in New York, where kids learn how to navigate public transportation from an early age, many parents are apprehensive about putting their kids on a city bus alone each morning. Last year, New York Sun columnist Lenore Skenazy made waves when she let her then-9-year-old son find his way home alone from Midtown Manhattan, with only a Metrocard and subway map for guidance; some critics even accused her of child abuse. Skenazy appears at the end of the AP article, explaining that her son usually walks home from school on his own both out of necessity — his parents are at work when school lets out — and because she wants to take a stand against the culture of fear that has permeated parenting.
September 2, 2008
A snapshot of Brooklyn Tech on the first day of school
Scenes this morning from around the perimeter of Brooklyn Tech, the huge specialized high school located in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, highlight the…
August 29, 2008
It’s Friday, just show a video: Back to school in the Blackboard Jungle
An Oscar-nominated take on teaching in NYC, and one of Sidney Poitier’s early films.
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