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Monday, April 13, 2009

Our Courts Update

Our CourtsFormer Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced last June that she was developing a free interactive web program for middle schoolers on the U.S. court system. I've visited the Our Courts site from time to time over the last year to check what progress was being made.

The good news is that the site has fleshed out to include lots of lesson plans and "in-class activities" about our court system in its Curriculum Builder section. While you may search for information by state and grade level, state standards are sadly missing.

The not-so-good news is that the centerpiece of the site, a series of online and standalone games for classroom use originally planned for release last fall, won't be available until this summer at the earliest.

While obviously still in development, the Our Courts site is definitely worth a look right now if you teach middle school social studies.

Ravitch on Mayoral Control of Schools

Diane Ravitch takes a good look at recent New York City Schools' numbers in Mayor Bloomberg’s Crib Sheet and finds "the record on mayoral control of schools is unimpressive." The Daily Howler notes that "Ravitch’s column raises good questions" in "challenging comments by Ed Sec Arne Duncan" and the "alleged progress in New York City under Mayor Bloomberg."

Texting in School

The Denver Post's John Ingold writes, "You'd have better luck wrestling an acorn from a hungry squirrel than prying a cellphone from a teenager." He tells in Teens glued to their cellphones of one family with a "staggering cell phone bill — $4,756.25 in one month," mostly from their daughter's 10,000 text messages, along the way to describing what schools are doing with texting and cell phone policies. It's an interesting and humorous read...if you don't have to pay the cell phone bill.

Successful Residential Special Ed School

Kathy McCabe reports in the Boston Globe about Solstice, a residential special-education school in Rowley, Massachusetts. At Rowley school, a recipe for learning tells of a successful small setting approach to special ed instruction.

Small Nevada School May Close

A Small Nevada Town Fears a Damaging Silence From Its School Bell Soon tells of the possibly closing of Goodsprings Elementary, "a three-room schoolhouse with just six students."

School Turnaround Foiled

Andy Gammill tells the tale of a school on the brink of a turnaround foiled by school politics. School took 1 step forward, 2 steps back is the sad story of John Marshall Community High School, long a sore spot in the troubled Indianapolis Public Schools, and how lack of support for a school administrator has changed the school described last year "by its Far-Eastside community as a miracle of rejuvenation."

The Rainy Monday Edition

Culitvating garlicOne of our area schools is returning to school today after their spring break. I can't imagine a gloomier day to return to work/school, especially since I spent most of yesterday outside playing in our yard and garden!

We're supposed to be in for another day of rain tomorrow, according to the Weather Underground site. I'm not sure their forecasts are any better than anyone else's, but I like the organization of the site and recent addition of a new reporting station very close to where we live. The previous closest reporting location was too far east of us to reflect the wind speeds we experience here due, in large part probably, to the beautiful natural formation we live near.

Merom Bluff rises several hundred feet above the Wabash River along the Indiana-Illinois border. We live close enough to the bluff that we experience some pretty strong straightline winds much of the time. I spent a lot of time searching Amazon for a good, wireless weather station just so I could accurately monitor the wind speeds here. With the new reporting sites from Wunderground, I can save my cash for now and just use their info.

Off Merom Bluff

The photo above and many others are available for free download for use as computer desktop images (wallpapers) from my Desktop Photos page.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

L.A. Unified to Lay Off Thousands

Struggling to close a $596.1 million budget deficit, the Los Angeles Board of Education voted yesterday to lay off as many as 5,400 personnel for the coming school year. From the LA Times:

The board action affects about 3,500 newer teachers who have yet to earn tenure protections as well as administrators, nursing staff, library aides, computer programmers and others. The teachers will lose positions as a result of larger classes, which could rise from 20 to 24 students in the early grades. Sixth-grade classes would rise to 35 students. The average high school class would be larger still.

According to the Associated Press, "1,996 elementary school teachers were spared from the cuts thanks to federal stimulus funds." District Superintendent Ramon Cortines stated, "I have recommended that the majority of the stimulus money be used to save jobs, but it is not enough to save all the jobs."

Tougher Education Standards

Sam Dillon speculates in Education Standards Likely to See Toughening that the Obama administration will support a revision and rewriting of the No Child Left Behind law that will "toughen requirements on topics like teacher quality and academic standards and to intensify its focus on helping failing schools."

A Video for Children with Autism

Teaching autistic kids to read facial expressions tells of "a series of short videos designed to help autistic children recognize the emotions in others' faces." The Los Angeles Times's Amber Dance writes about The Transporters, a series of five minute videos "with actors' faces grafted onto appealing vehicles." Development of the series was funded by the British government. Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University in the UK and developer of The Transporters stated, "Children can focus on the wheels going around . . . but at the same time, without even realizing it, they're getting exposed to faces, getting the opportunity to learn."

Hubble Space Telescope

John GrunsfeldI'm going to get a bit off task from education news here with a couple of space related postings. I recently saw an interesting article by Dennis Overbye in the New York Times that tells of Dr. John Grunsfeld, who has been "the Hubble repairman," making his last maintenance trip to the space telescope. Last Voyage for the Keeper of the Hubble relates the story of the repairs needed by the Hubble Space Telescope and of the upcoming STS-125 mission to keep it in service for at least another five years.

Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (Colbert)

If you missed it on the Colbert Report last night, NASA has decided to name a new module on the International Space Station "Tranquility" instead of the top-rated suggestion in their poll, "Colbert." Instead, NASA will be naming a treadmill to be housed in the new node the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill for Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, who gave NASA lots of good publicity with his campaign to win NASA's naming poll for the node.

NSF Computer Science Survey

I received the following email today from Jan Cuny, Program Director for National Science Foundation's Broadening Participation in Computing Program, and Chris Stephenson, Executive Director of the Computer Science Teachers Association:

The National Science Foundation is actively engaged in the the task of ensuring that more students take high school computing courses but we need some information from actual classroom teachers to help us target our effort so that we are putting our resources where they will best help the teachers and students. Our plan is to work with the College Board and CSTA to create a new curriculum for high school computing and to get that curriculum taught in 10,000 schools. We are planning a 3 course curriculum that starts with an introductory course that goes beyond computer literacy to teach fluency in the fundamental concepts of computing and computational thinking.

But first we need a better understanding of what you are currently teaching so that we can incorporate the great things you are doing into this new curriculum.

If you teach an introductory computer science course at your school, please take a few minutes to complete our survey. To fill out the survey, just go to this url:

CSTA will publish the results and will keep you up to date on the progress we are making on our CS for 10,000 school project.

Thanks so much!

Virginia Schools to Use iTunes

Macworld's Jim Dalrymple relates in Virginia to use iTunes U in new education initiative that Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine has launched a series of new K-12 education initiatives that includes sharing "digital content that supports the Virginia Standards of Learning" on Apple's iTunes U.

Play Freerice and feed the hungry

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Human Side of the L.A. Unified Layoffs

Yesterday's lead story here was the news of over 5,000 potential layoffs in the Los Angeles public schools. Today, the human side of those layoffs is described in Howard Blume's feature story, Layoffs would hit Villaraigosa's schools especially hard. Blume tells of the disruption in education that will be caused by the layoffs at Markham Middle School in Watts. Half the teachers there have received layoff notices, and the principal is almost certain to get bumped as well.

Nanette Asimov, the San Francisco Chronicle's excellent education writer, explains California's upcoming ballot initiatives that may return about $9.3 billion in previous state education budget cuts to schools in Prop. 1A tied to Prop. 1B to fund schools.

Odds 'n' Ends

Andy Rotherham takes issue on Eduwonk with Sam Dillon's column posted here yesterday in …And Smoke Them Out? Indiana's new high-stakes test produced a 4% drop in adequate yearly progress as described in Half of Indiana schools meet raised standard for academic progress. And Arne Duncan, of course, is still saying that "he is focused now on saving teaching jobs." I'm sure his comments in Education Chief to Spend Billions to ‘Transform’ U.S. Schools about saving jobs will make the folks in L.A. (and elsewhere) feel comfy and secure.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Study on Self-Esteem Writing

Benedict Carey has an interesting article about some positive results of students writing about values in Task to Aid Self-Esteem Lifts Grades for Some.

Shuttle Program Shutdown to Continue

The space shuttle Endeavour is being rolled out to Launch Pad 39B today in its backup role "in the unlikely event a rescue mission is needed during Atlantis' May flight to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope." Florida Today's Todd Halvorson has a couple of good articles about NASA's plans to shut down the shuttle program in Shuttle Program Shutdown To Resume May 1 and Shut down shuttles in 2010, experts say.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Educators' News Turns Eight

Happy Birthday, Educators' NewsHmmmHey, at my age, you usually just let birthdays come and go without much notice. But since there really is some good stuff to post today, I decided to go ahead and light the candles and admit that we're another year older. Well, that is, Educators' News, which began publication on April 18, 2001, is now eight years old.

And what about the dude on the right? When I started publishing Educators' News, it was all done on the old Claris Home Page application. When I was hunting around today in the Home Page graphics folder for a royalty-free birthday image, I ran across the animated graphic at right and couldn't resist using it.

On Multiple Intelligences

Scott Seider has a great article on multiple intelligences in An Educator's Journey Toward Multiple Intelligences. He tells of attending freshman football games to gain rapport with his students during the years he was teaching freshman English:

My presence at their games unquestionably helped on the management front, but a second, unexpected benefit emerged as well. A couple of those freshmen -- kids in my class who struggled mightily with subject-verb agreement and the function of a thesis statement -- had clearly committed several dozen complex plays to memory. During one particularly impressive series of plays, I remember thinking, "These guys are really smart! I'm underestimating what they're capable of!" And over the course of my first year in the classroom, that same thought emerged several more times -- at the school musical, visiting the graphic design class, and even just watching a couple of students do their math homework during study hall. Without my realizing it, my relationship with multiple-intelligences (MI) theory had begun.

I'd already taught a long time when Harvard University professor Howard Gardner published his book Frames Of Mind: The Theory Of Multiple Intelligences in 1983. Like everyone else in special education, I've had multiple intelligences hammered into mind via experience, workshops, etc.. I still found Seider's article a refreshing review of something we all need to keep in mind.


Atlantis & Endeavour

I hunted in vain yesterday for an image of the space shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour both sitting on their respective launch pads (39A and 39B). It appeared today from NASA. Senior Editor Tariq Malik has the story in Rescue Ship For Hubble Shuttle Flight Moves to Launch Pad. He writes that:

NASA has said the likelihood of requiring a rescue mission for the seven Hubble-bound astronauts is extremely remote. But the space agency is taking the precaution because unlike recent shuttle flights to the International Space Station, where astronauts could seek shelter if their spacecraft is severely damaged, the crew of Atlantis will have no such safe haven.

If you're hunting for sources of information for the STS-125 mission, the links are just a bit different this time around, as NASA is linking it as a Hubble repair mission.

On Science@NASA

Since we're into space stuff, let me add Dr. Tony Phillips's most recent post, Venus Disappears during Meteor Shower. Phillips writes:

On Wednesday morning, April 22nd, Earth will pass through a stream of comet dust, giving rise to the annual Lyrid meteor shower. At the same time, the crescent Moon and Venus will converge for a close encounter in the eastern sky. Viewed from some parts of the world, the Moon will pass directly in front of Venus, causing Venus to vanish.

Rupert Murdoch Declares War on News Linking

eSchool News had a pertinent editorial yesterday, Fox at the henhouse, about Rupert Murdoch's recent statements about news links, just like Educators' News does. He complained, "People are getting used to reading everything on the net for nothing. That's going to have to change...somehow. They're going to have to work out a pay model." eSchool News Editor Gregg Downey notes that "Murdoch's own web sites, incidentally, are profligate linkers themselves, 'just taking' links to whatever content they please--as is their right."

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