• Brightest Stall, Low Achievers Gain
    A national focus on the lowest-achieving students has helped boost their academic performance, but it has left the country’s brightest young minds behind, prompting calls to rethink how schools teach top kids. Recent data, including results released last week from national math and reading exams, show high achievers are stagnating and falling behind their international counterparts. A report by the National Association for Gifted Children released this week said public schools deny top-performing children the resources, properly trained teachers and coherent policies they need to excel. It called for policy changes that don’t require additional spending, such as holding schools accountable for the scores of the top-fliers. Proponents of gifted education say a preoccupation with the lowest performers has relegated the most promising students to unchallenging classrooms. They point to the 1990s effort to “mainstream” gifted students who previously had been taught in separate classes, and to the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, which put intense focus on the lowest achievers. A Wall Street Journal analysis of national elementary and high school reading, writing, math and social studies exams shows dramatic progress—sometimes double-digit increases—for the lowest achievers over the last two decades, especially after No Child Left Behind. But the scores of the brightest students have, for the most part, inched up marginally or stalled. In fact, of the 17 subject exams given in elementary and high school over the last decade, top-scoring kids showed progress on only four: fourth and eighth grade math, and minimal gains in 8th and 12th grade reading. Meantime, the lowest achievers improved on 11 exams.
  • School administrators work through new evaluation guidelines
    Carter County school administrators, teachers and staff members are continuing to learn and adjust to the recently approved state evaluation process. Before the start of the school year, administrators took part in a five-day training session to learn about the evaluation process. Whaley said the training provided testing administrators with a better understanding of the achievement measures used in the evaluation process. Whaley commented the evaluation process for principals and teachers are administered in a similar fashion, but their overall content and achievement measures are different. Carter County Director of Schools Dr. Shirley Ellis has spent a part of the last several weeks observing principals during a normal day.
  • Without Fanfare of Ohio or Wisconsin, Idaho Enacts Sweeping Reforms
    However, while the unions won the battle in Ohio last week, they’re losing their war against choice for teachers and commonsense reforms that benefit taxpayers. Across the country with much less fanfare than in the Midwest, states are moving to limit the power of education special interest groups that have stood in the way of reform for decades.
  • How Online Schools Work
    The growing popularity of online public schools lets states and local school districts effectively outsource some teaching functions—to parents. Students enrolled in an online school full-time are required to work closely with a “learning coach,” usually mom or dad, to ensure that they are staying on track in their studies. For younger students, the learning coach becomes the primary teacher. Online teachers are required to check in with each student—and each learning coach—regularly, often every month or two. They are available to answer questions by phone or email. They also try to encourage interaction by hosting optional field trips to real-world museums and by creating online social activities. But because teachers only review select pieces of work from each student, it’s up to the parents to monitor how much effort a child put into any given lesson. Older students can be more self-sufficient. Their lessons are studded with multiple-choice tests, graded on the spot by the computer. Teachers grade bigger projects, such as essays and lab reports, along with some short-answer quizzes. The online experience can be isolating for students.
  • Teachers Unions Mobilize In A Fight For Their Lives
    “Folks from at least 20 state affiliates that went into Ohio on their own volition because they wanted to help,” she says. They’re coming because these collective bargaining fights are a threat to some unions’ ability to exist.
  • 10 things to think about as Michigan and other states overhaul teacher evaluations
    Those questions were at the forefront of a daylong conference that I attended Saturday in Chicago, along with about 50 other journalists. The event was sponsored by the Education Writers Association, which brought in experts from around the country to brief us. Here’s 10 take-away messages from Saturday’s conference:
  • Candidates seek to limit federal role in education
    When it comes to education, the Republican field of presidential candidates has a unified stance: Get the federal government out of schools. How they’d do that varies.
  • Groups in Memphis, nation hope to improve educational odds for Hispanics
    The Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation recently announced that it had picked Memphis as one of a small number of cities to test methods for improving Hispanic high school graduation rates and college attendance. Funds will pay for one coordinator at Kingsbury High School, which enrolls a large number of Hispanic students, and another coordinator at Southwest Tennessee Community College, said Mauricio Calvo, head of advocacy group Latino Memphis. In another local effort, Colombian-born singer Marcela Pinilla says she’s seeking to raise $250,000 by Christmas for Hispanic scholarships and educational research through sales of a pop song called “Un Mundo Bueno” or “A Good World.”
  • New teacher evaluation methods force educators to adapt
    In short, the profession of teaching has changed in Tennessee, and local colleges that offer education majors and teacher licensure tracks are attempting to adapt. The solution, according to McQueen, has to do with more specific professional development within schools. “If we’re going to have high quality teachers at every level at every school, you have to give them more specific embedded professional development that is specific to their needs,” McQueen said.
  • State legislators gear up for battle over school voucher programs
    Tennessee’s House and Senate Republican leaders could be at odds next year over legislation requiring school voucher programs in Hamilton County and Tennessee’s three other largest school systems.
  • Chattanooga area schools call for police help thousands of times a year
    Hamilton County middle and high schools called for police help 20 times a day on average last school year. But perhaps the most surprising finding is that last year’s overall numbers were an improvement — the best in three years. Even if students feel safe, law enforcement action can cause disruptions and distractions in schools, whether in the hallways or the classroom. Officials warn of drawing broad conclusions about student behavior from the SRO numbers. Numbers on fights, gang activity, drugs and alcohol use are useful in identifying problematic behaviors, they said, but most behavior issues at school aren’t of a criminal nature.
  • Tennessee’s Push to Transform Schools
    As with any new reform, adjustments will be necessary. For example, principals should have the option of evaluating high-performing teachers less frequently than novices or low performers. And state officials must continue to review the question of how much standardized test data should count in teacher evaluations. Tennessee will need to address these issues fairly if the system is to win wide support among teachers and school administrators. But, even with shortcomings, the new approach to teacher evaluation is a vast improvement over the one it replaced.

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