• Oak Ridge educators meet challenge of teaching ‘what matters’
    The Oak Ridge school system continues to “get after the plan” of teaching students what matters in a way that matters, according to Superintendent Tom Bailey. The recent increase in education standards set by the state’s Tennessee Diploma Project, as well as its federal component, are geared toward preparing all students for college and careers after high school.
  • New sex ed guide builds foundation by 2nd grade
    By the end of second grade, the guidelines say students should use the correct body part names for the male and female anatomy, and also understand that all living things reproduce and that all people have the right to not be touched if they don’t want to be. They also say young elementary school kids should be able to identity different kinds of family structures and explain why bullying and teasing are wrong. Beyond lessons about puberty by the end of fifth grade, the guidelines say students should be able to define sexual harassment and abuse. When they leave middle school, they should be able to differentiate between gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, according to the guidelines. And the say they should be able to explain why a rape victim is not at fault, know about bullying and dating violence and describe the signs and impacts of sexually transmitted diseases. It calls for those leaving eighth grade to also be able to evaluate the effectiveness of abstinence, condoms and other “safer sex methods” and know how emergency contraception works. Many of these issues the groups encouraged to be further addressed in high school as well. The non-binding recommendations to states and school districts seek to encourage age-appropriate discussions about sex, bullying and healthy relationships — starting with a foundation even before second grade.
  • Winners in Metro’s magnet school lottery rejoice
    This year’s lottery was the largest in the history of Metro Schools, with nearly 15,000 applications from 6,000 students, said Chris Weber, director of student assignment services for the district. “There’s no limit to how many schools a student can apply for, so the applications really add up,” Weber said, adding that 31 magnets were included in the fall application process. He would not say how many slots were available at each school. Based on last year’s data, about 60 percent of the students in the lottery were offered a seat at one of the schools they applied for, Weber said.
  • Lawmakers promise teacher eval fixes
    Rutherford County’s state lawmakers promised Monday they’d improve the controversial teacher evaluation process implemented this year.
  • McIntyre suggests changes to Knox magnet school programs
    Knox County school board will vote Wednesday to designate the School of Communications at Fulton High School as a magnet program; modify the magnet theme at Green Magnet Math and Science Academy to have a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics focus; and use current resources to enhance current magnet programs.
  • County Trustee Duncan, employees to pay back more than $40,000 in bonuses
    Knox County Trustee John Duncan III and a half dozen of his employees have agreed to pay back more than $40,000 in incentive payments for participating in a government-related program that they never completed.
  • Report: Tenn. meeting goals for education reform
    Tennessee is meeting most of its goals for implementing educational reforms tied to a $500 million federal Race to the Top award, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Education. It found the state’s major challenge during the 2010-2011 school year was a delay in hiring management and support staff for several key programs.
  • Anticipating Responses from Gates
    Over the weekend I posted about how I thought the Gates Foundation was spinning the results of their Measuring Effective Teachers Project to suggest that the combination of student achievement gains, student surveys, and classroom observations was the best way to have a predictive measure of teacher effectiveness.  Let me anticipate some of the responses they may have:
  • Familiarity Breeds, Or Why Classroom Observations Don’t Work in Evaluating Teacher Quality
    Why is it that student surveys are more accurate in determining the quality of teaching than classroom observations? This is a question raised by the study on teacher evaluations released last week by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching project. And the likely answer should give school reformers pause in pushing for the so-called multiple measures approach to teacher performance management.
  • Annette Callahan and the Importance of Ending Zip Code Education
    If you want to fully understand why we must overhaul school funding in order to allow children to get a high-quality education, consider the case of Annette Callahan, a Waukegan, Il., mother who now faces the possibility of being brought up on charges by the Beach Park school district for what can only laughingly be called stealing education — even though her children live part time in the district with her ex-husband.
  • Annette Callahan Gets a Victory — And We Must Still End Zip Code Education
    Last night, after a lengthy meeting…the Beach Park school board agreed to allow Annette’s two children, Josiah and Hannah, to remain in the district and continue in its middle schools once Annette and her ex-husband, Samuel, come up with a “concrete” plan for the kids to live in its boundaries.
  • Governors Association Examines Teacher Merit Pay
    In late December, the National Governors Association (NGA), a group that advises America’s governors on policy decisions, released its recommendations for states that want to pay teachers for their performance. The recommendations are based on the experiences of six states—Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Rhode Island, and Tennessee—that tried to change teacher pay structures. Based on the NGA brief, these are recommendations for reform-minded states to keep in mind during 2012:
  • New study offers room to negotiate on valuing good teachers
    Existing teacher assessment programs too often consist primarily of a peer teacher or principal making observations in a classroom once a year. A 2009 report from an advocacy group called The New Teacher Project found that in 14 large American school districts traditional assessments had found about 98 percent of the teachers to be satisfactory. To say the least, that’s not likely. If public schools are going to get more highly qualified teachers in front of students, more rigorous assessments are essential. There is room in this debate to value the job teachers do while recognizing that helping them to improve has a real, tangible effect on the quality of life their students will have after their formal education ends.
  • Teacher quality training evaluation: Teacher training should be focus – ahead of evaluations
    The National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonpartisan research organization, has embarked on an extensive review of colleges of education in the United States that is expected to be published in U.S. News & World Report later this year. The goal: to determine which programs are doing the best job of preparing teachers — and which could use improvement. Unfortunately, the schools do not share the same enthusiasm for the project — not a surprise, given that this is the first attempt by an independent third party to scrutinize how these programs approach teacher preparation. There are five main reasons why higher-education institutions should change their tune and embrace NCTQ’s review:
  • School reform: Three steps to fix our schools
    This year, the nation’s leaders will be tested to put aside partisan differences to respond to the demands of a highly competitive global economy that requires a skilled work force. Preparing to meet this challenge will become a major part of this election year’s political debate. As the new year begins, here are three recommendations for policymakers to consider.
  • NEA Gave More Than $18.8 Million to Advocacy Groups
    NEA Gave More Than $18.8 Million to Advocacy Groups. An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of NEA’s financial disclosure report for the 2010-11 fiscal year reveals the national union contributed over $18.8 million to a wide variety of advocacy groups and charities. The total was about $5 million higher than the previous year, but short of the record $26 million spent in 2008-09. The expenditures fall into broad categories of community outreach grants, charitable contributions, and payments for services rendered. In this list, EIA has deliberately omitted spending such as media buys, or payments to pollsters or consultants that have no obvious ideological component. The grants range from $3.15 million to America’s Families First, down to smaller grants to organizations such as People for the American Way, Media Matters and Netroots Nation. Here is an alphabetic list of the 121 recipients of NEA’s contributions, with relevant web links. All of these were paid for with members’ dues money (the union’s federal PAC is a separate entity funded through voluntary means):

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