• Nashville schools to teach students to rap, spin
    Nashville Mayor Karl Dean used the city’s famed Ryman auditorium on Friday to announce new offerings next year in songwriting, rock band and hip-hop performance, and recording and disc jockey remixing. “Nashville is blessed with a tremendous infrastructure of creators of music, more than any city in America, and we need to take advantage of that. This will give us the opportunity to leverage those resources,” Dean said. Tennessee schools, which have ranked near the bottom among U.S. states on standardized test scores, have made strides recently in test scores and graduation rates.
  • List of 2011 Blue Ribbon Schools
    he U.S. Department of Education today named 305 schools as 2011 National Blue Ribbon Schools based on their overall academic excellence or for their success in closing achievement gaps. The Department will honor the entire 256 public and 49 private schools with their National Blue Ribbon School awards at a conference and awards ceremony Nov. 14-15 in Washington, D.C. The Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools that are either high performing or have improved student achievement to high levels, especially among disadvantaged students. The program is part of a larger Department of Education effort to identify and disseminate knowledge about best school leadership and teaching practices. Each year since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education has sought out schools where students attain and maintain high academic goals, including those that beat the odds.
  • ABCs of School Choice-The 2011 Mid-Year Update
    2011 has been called the “Year of School Choice” and there is much to support that. Since January, 8 new school choice programs have sprung up around the nation and 11 existing programs have been expanded. The Mid-Year Update is a look at these exciting changes since our ABCs came out earlier this year.
  • Mayor, Music Row push music education plan
    Starting next year, music education at Metro Nashville Public Schools will undergo a radical change. You’ll still have your marching band and glee club, but thanks to an avalanch of donations and music industry volunteers, students will also have the option of joining a rock and roll band, or performing bluegrass or hip-hop, or signing up for a songwriting class or a course in DJ remixing.
  • Charter groups apply to run TN’s toughest schools
    Nine charter organizations have applied with Tennessee’s Achievement School District to turn around the state’s lowest performing schools, state officials announced Friday. An outside group will now vet the charter applicants based on track record. The final selection will be made by Nov. 15, will start going into public schools during the 2012-13 school year.
  • Memphis schools Supt. Cash gives himself mostly ‘excellent’ ratings in evaluation
    The focus was on Supt. Kriner Cash on Thursday as he assessed his leadership… In his self-evaluation, the first phase of job review, Cash rated himself “good” in six subjective categories and “excellent” in 18 others that include strategic direction, maintaining the community’s respect and engaging it in the work of the district. School board members will turn in their assessments of Cash’s work Monday as it pushes to complete his performance review before the unified school board is seated Oct. 1.
  • White Station tops state in National Merit Scholarship semifinalists
    White Station High School has more National Merit Scholarship semifinalists than any school in the state. The first cut in the prestigious scholarship awards were released this week. White Station has 22 semifinalists. The private Memphis University School has 15 semifinalists, followed by St. Mary’s Episcopal School with eight and Christian Brothers High School with six.
  • White House details plans for more digital learning
    The White House will unveil plans Friday for a research center that aims to infuse more digital learning into the nation’s classrooms. The center, dubbed “Digital Promise,” will aid the rapid development of new learning software, educational games and other technologies, in part through helping educators vet what works and what doesn’t. Among the new ideas: a “League of Innovative Schools” that will test-drive promising technologies and use its collective purchasing power to drive down costs.
  • Electronic education: Flipping the classroom
    But lectures, whether online or in the flesh, play only a limited role in education. Research shows that the human brain accepts new concepts largely through constant recall while interacting socially. This suggests that good teaching must “de-emphasise lecture and emphasise active problem-solving,” says Carl Wieman, a winner of the Nobel prize in physics and an adviser to Barack Obama. They thereby answer one common misconception about KhanAcademy: that it makes live teachers less relevant. Mr Khan, the teachers and Mr Gates all insist that the opposite is the case. It can liberate a good teacher to become even better. Of course, it can also make it easy for a bad teacher to cop out. The arrival of a powerful new tool thus does not replace the other necessary element in education reform, the raising of teacher quality.
  • Reforming education: The great schools revolution
    Above all, though, there has been a change in the quality of the debate. In particular, what might be called “the three great excuses” for bad schools have receded in importance. The idea that good schooling is about spending money is the one that has been beaten back hardest. So what are the secrets of success? Though there is no one template, four important themes emerge:
  • Senate Republicans to Poor and Minority Children: Fuggedaboutit
    lexander plan simply returns things back to the days when the federal government ladled out dollars with almost no accountability in return. It doesn’t embrace the best elements of Race to the Top — including its emphasis on forcing states to compete for federal money and show results.There are those who will argue that the efforts by reform-minded states will continue without strong federal education policy. But they fail to remember that No Child is one of the main reasons why these reforms have accelerated in the first place. All in all, the Alexander plan, like Duncan’s waivers and House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline’s own efforts, simply does the bidding of education traditionalists (who don’t want any form of accountability) and fails to serve children. And any reformer who can defend this mishmash should look in the mirror and ask where do they really stand when it comes to our poor and minority kids.
  • Stupid in America
    This Saturday, 9/17, at 10 PM (ET & PT) on the Fox News Channel John Stossel returns with Stupid in America. In this documentary, he’ll be interviewing some of our favorite edreformers and taking aim at the monopoly that has kept education costs on the rise and performance flat. And don’t miss John’s recent blog post: “School spending has gone through the roof and test scores are flat. While most every other service in life has gotten faster, better, and cheaper, one of the most important things we buy — education — has remained completely stagnant, unchanged since we started measuring it in 1970. Why no improvement? Because K-12 education is a government monopoly and monopolies don’t improve.”
  • The September issue of School Reform News from the Heartland Institute
    The September issue of School Reform News reports on the progress of bills in Congress aimed at reauthorizing No Child Left Behind. HR 2218, The Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act, is an NCLB reform measure aimed at encouraging states to develop and expand high-quality charter schools; it passed through the House Education and the Workforce Committee with strong bipartisan support on a 34–5 vote. Also in this issue:  California’s State Board of Education approved a new draft of regulations governing the state’s landmark Parent Trigger law; the final set of regulations is expected this month. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill extending Milwaukee’s vouchers to the entire county and a neighboring one, potentially doubling enrollment in the program over three years. So many school districts have signed up for Colorado’s pilot teacher evaluation program that the state department of education has had to make room.
    Utah has enacted the first “high-quality” digital learning law, expanding providers and opportunities–but schools are still waiting for explicit guidelines. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rolled out funds from the 2010 health care law for school health centers, but the cost could turn out to be huge. The Foundation for Teaching Economics estimates it has reached 43 million students by offering teachers free seminars on the basics of economic thought. Bruno Behrend, director of The Heartland Institute’s Center for School Transformation, reviews Terry Moe’s new book, Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools.
  • Hume-Fogg using tattered, duct-taped pre-calculus textbooks
    Pre-calculus students at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School are using 13-year-old textbooks that in some cases are bound together by duct tape, the result of teacher preference and budgetary constraints. Metro school officials say the Hume-Fogg math team opted to use 1998 pre-calculus textbooks — preferring the content — instead of 2004 versions that were purchased in 2005 and are in far better shape. Metro plans to auction off the 2004 pre-calculus textbooks next year to the highest bidders
  • Dyersburg City School District setting the pace for savings
    The Dyersburg City School District has achieved a 40 percent cost savings totaling $1,567,575 in 32 months since forming a strategic alliance with Energy Education, a national energy conservation company.
  • NCES releases The Condition of Education 2011 e-book
    The Condition of Education 2011 summarizes important developments and trends in education using the latest available data. The 2011 report presents 50 indicators on the status and condition of education. The 2011 edition includes indicators in five main areas: (1) participation in education; (2) learner outcomes; (3) student effort and educational progress; (4) the contexts of elementary and secondary education; and (5) the contexts of postsecondary education. The e-book version will be available for “free!” download for all e-readers. The epub file is for use with the iPad, Nook, and other non-Kindle devices. The mobi file is for use on the Kindle only.
  • Why more school choice would be good for Michigan
    [Wow, an editorial from the Grand Rapids Press in Michigan in FAVOR of school choice!] Critics argue that school choice is no panacea for the ills of education. That’s true. Of course, supporters of bills in the Legislature that would expand choice for parents and children aren’t pitching the idea as a cure-all. They are arguing, simply, that more choice would empower families who are in school systems they don’t believe meet their needs. That’s a modest, attainable goal, one the state Legislature should support.
  • Inspiring Stories from Pennsylvania Kids Who Are Ready to Make A Difference
    School choice—whether it be via open enrollment, public charter schools, or private school scholarships—is the key to helping thousands of students towards the education they deserve. The results of those opportunities are apparent throughout our society—from classrooms to boardrooms to the halls of government, including the White House. Take a look at the video below from one student, a recent graduate of Imhotep Institute Charter High School in Philadelphia.
  • Structured homeschooling gets an A+
    A new study from Concordia University and Mount Allison University has found that homeschooling — as long as it’s structured or follows a curriculum — can provide kids with an academic edge. Published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, the investigation compared 74 children living in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick: 37 who were homeschooled versus 37 who attended public schools. Participants were between 5 and 10 years old and each child was asked to complete standardized tests, under supervision of the research team, to assess their reading, writing, arithmetic skills, etc. “Although public school children we assessed were performing at or above expected levels for their ages, children who received structured homeschooling had superior test results compared to their peers: From a half-grade advantage in math to 2.2 grade levels in reading,” says Martin-Chang. “This advantage may be explained by several factors including smaller class sizes, more individualized instruction, or more academic time spent on core subjects such as reading and writing.” The study included a subgroup of 12 homeschooled children taught in an unstructured manner. Otherwise known as unschooling, such education is free of teachers, textbooks and formal assessment. Compared with structured homeschooled group, children in the unstructured group had lower scores on all seven academic measures,” says Martin-Chang. “Differences between the two groups were pronounced, ranging from one to four grade levels in certain tests.” Children taught in a structured home environment scored significantly higher than children receiving unstructured homeschooling. “While children in public school also had a higher average grade level in all seven tests compared with unstructured homeschoolers,” says Martin-Chang.

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