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New York

Students of honored teachers share ideas for great teaching

The principal of the High School for Environmental Studies prepares to accept a check for her school's science program On Wednesday, we highlighted seven math and science teachers who received awards for their teaching. They were formally honored on Wednesday night, and yesterday the Fund for the City of New York launched a tour of their schools. We joined the tour's first day to ask students what qualities make a math or science teacher great. At Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, juniors and seniors gathered in the library were told that math teacher Kate Belin had won $5,000. Several students whooped with glee and one shouted, "You could go to Africa with that!" Principal Nancy Mann rejected the students' request to use the school's $2,500 reward to build a second gym. Next, at a highly selective school that the Department of Education does not manage, Hunter College High School, members of the math team praised Eliza Kuberska, their Math Team Advisor. Noting that Kuberska exhorts them to "do it for the love of math" and challenges them to tackle problems more complex than most high schoolers typically face, the students brought their teacher to tears. At the High School for Environmental Studies in Manhattan, it was science teacher Marissa Bellino who made her students cry. Senior Alejandro Vinueza, who has Bellino as his teacher for the third time and traveled with her to Japan to learn about lowering carbon emissions, read a prepared speech but paused shortly after beginning to rub his reddening eyes. “Damn, I’m getting emotional now,” he said. Later, he told me how Bellino inspired him to pursue a science major in college and how she has opened his eyes to environmental awareness. “You know when someone says that they had an experience that changed their life forever? I didn’t believe that could happen until I went to Japan,” Vinueza said. I asked students from the three high schools what makes for a great math or science teacher. Here's what they said: Fannie Lou Hamer receives a framed portrait of math teacher Kate Belin Good teachers connect: “A good teacher understands that every student has their own problems and it takes that one on one interaction, that personal connection, for the students to learn in his or her own way.” Tulio Santos, senior, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School
New York

Annual awards fete math, science teachers at array of schools

At a time when the Obama administration is rewarding efforts to improve math and science instruction, seven city math and science teachers are being lauded for the work they already do. For the third straight year, the Fund for the City of New York and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation are giving city teachers awards for excellence in teaching science and mathematics. The teachers will receive their prizes — $5,000 each — at an award ceremony tonight and their schools will celebrate the awards, and the $2,500 that their math and science programs receive, at a series of assemblies tomorrow. The teachers were nominated by students, parents, colleagues, and administrators and then selected by a committee made up of representatives from local science museums and universities, based on their students' achievement, their involvement in extracurricular activities, and their efforts to promote math and science inside and outside the classroom. The recipients’ high schools range from the city’s highest-performing to some of the weakest, including one that the city is trying to turn around using federal funding. Here are this year’s recipients, along with a highlight about each that we pulled from longer biographies compiled by the Sloan Awards: Teacher: Kate Belin School: Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School Subject: Geometry, Functions Why her school thinks she’s great: Belin makes math relevant and interesting for students at Fannie Lou Hamer, where 90 percent of entering freshman are below grade level in math or English, by connecting math to the world outside the classroom.
New York

DOE, local groups approved for more federal innovation funding

New York

DOE: Budget cuts fuel social studies, science score shortfalls

City schools are scoring higher on state math and reading tests, but they remain near the bottom of all districts statewide on science and social studies tests, a situation that schools officials attribute to budget cuts. Although social studies and science scores rose last year, they remain very low compared to scores in the rest of the state. Only five of the city's 32 school districts performed scored at better than the 10th percentile in science, meaning that 90 percent of districts statewide scored better than 27 city districts. In contrast, 18 districts scored at the 10th percentile or higher in math. Even in high-performing districts, fourth and eighth graders perform poorly on science and social studies tests compared to other students in the state. For example, Manhattan's District 2 outperformed 86 percent of districts in the state in math. In reading, District 2 students beat out students in 78 percent of districts. But in science, the district scored in just the 27th percentile, meaning that 73 percent of districts had higher average science scores.  The discrepancy, highlighted in the test score comparison tool launched by the New York Times today, gives ammunition to critics who say the city schools have focused so much on math and reading that they have given short shrift to other subjects. The early years of Mayor Bloomberg's Children First reforms did focus most heavily on math and reading, a department spokesman said today. Now, the city is trying to boost science and social studies performance by introducing some of the same strategies that worked for math and reading, such as offering a standardized curriculum in each subject, said the spokesman, Will Havemann.
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