On July 6, 2006, I was appointed as the assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) at the U.S. Department of Education. Since I recently completed my first month on the job, I thought this would be a good opportunity to introduce myself. My road to the federal government began in the 1990s when I worked in both the U.S. House and Senate. Now, nearly ten years later, I'm pleased to find myself back in the nation's capital working to oversee the diverse portfolio of grants and projects that OII is responsible for under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Coming from a family of educators, I have always had a passionate interest in education policy, a respect for the honorable profession of teaching, and an appreciation for the life-changing impact of an excellent school on an individual child. For six of the last nine years, I worked at several non-profit organizations promoting education reform and providing outreach to families regarding educational options. These included the Center of the American Experiment, the Partnership for Choice in Education, and the Twin Cities Financial Foundation. Following that, I served as the director of the Division of School Choice and Innovation at the Minnesota Department of Education while managing the administration of 25 programs in the areas of school choice, nonpublic school options, supplemental educational services (SES), American Indian education, voluntary integration, and postsecondary scholarships. Not only was this state office partially modeled on OII, but we were privileged to have been featured in a 2004 edition of The Education Innovator. I hope these experiences will assist me in leading OII in its unique role as the "entrepreneurial arm" of the Department, and I look forward to sharing with you the interesting developments that occur in this office and in the Department as a whole. As President Bush has noted, education is the "great civil rights issue of our time," and as the proud father of three young sons, I can think of no greater honor than working to ensure that all children in this country receive a high-quality education. Please enjoy the 2006 "Back-to-School" edition of The Education Innovator, and I wish the best of luck to all the education leaders, teachers, students, and families returning to schools across the country this fall.
The Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative Summer Workshops
- From the U.S. Department of Education
- From the Office of Innovation and Improvement
- Arts in Education
- Back to School
- Charter Schools
- Education Reform
- Grant Opportunities
- Magnet Schools
- Parental Involvement
- Raising Student Achievement
- Teacher Quality and Development
- American History
- Arts Education
- Back to School/Raising Student Achievement
- Charter Schools/Magnet Schools
- Teacher Quality and Development
Making Connections and Learning Lessons: The Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative Prepares Teachers for a New Academic Year
The pencils are sharpened. The desks are organized in neat rows. The computers whirr. Standing ready at the classroom door, the teacher knows that she is more prepared than ever before to engage her new students with innovative, research-based instructional strategies. Across the country, thousands of similar teachers are feeling confident about the start of the 2006-2007 school year because of the way they spent their summer.
The U.S. Department of Education offered 14 free professional development workshops for elementary and secondary teachers from early June through the middle of August this year. These workshops were part of the Department's Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative, which helps teachers to improve student achievement by supporting their professional development. Through face-to-face sessions and online learning opportunities, the Initiative reaches out to states and school districts so that teachers may receive credit toward professional development requirements and glean promising practices and useful classroom materials, including strategies, handouts, and tips for engaging hard-to-reach students, from their peers. Through its programs, the Initiative also aims to keep teachers informed of the latest research on educational practices that have proven success in the classroom. Formed in 2004, the Initiative is an outgrowth of the Teacher Assistance Corps (TAC), which the Department assembled in 2003 to support state efforts to implement the highly qualified teacher requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
Since 2004, almost 10,000 teachers attended Teacher-to-Teacher sessions in regional and district workshops. All workshops are free. To attend these sessions, many teachers seek support from their districts and schools, which can use Title II funds as well as other federal professional development funds to finance teachers' travel expenses. The content of the workshops are designed for kindergarten through twelfth grade teachers and principals in public, private, and charter schools. Workshop sessions feature teachers and administrators who explain the research-based techniques they use in their classrooms and schools. This summer, general workshops covered the content areas of literacy/reading, mathematics, science, the arts, and history. For the history workshops, the U.S. Department of Education collaborated with the National Park Service to offer hands-on sessions at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park (OH), the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration (MT), and the Edison National Historic Park (NJ). At these workshops, participants took free tours of the parks and learned how to use historic primary source documents in their classrooms. Additional workshop sessions dealt with early childhood education, technology in the classroom, NCLB, effective use of data, and differentiated instruction.
The Initiative also offered two workshops in California and Washington, DC that focused on foreign language instruction, with a special emphasis on Mandarin Chinese. This year, Chinese was recognized as a "critical foreign language" under the National Security Language Initiative, and with one quarter of the world's population speaking Chinese and approximately 30 million non-Chinese citizens studying the language worldwide, many schools across the United States have begun to take notice of the language's critical importance for competitiveness in the 21st century. As a result, the Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative offered summer workshops that included Chinese for the first time this year.
During the workshop in Washington, DC, for example, participating teachers could choose to attend sessions covering topics such as Building Competency in Foreign Language Instruction, Improving Visual and Verbal Literacy, and Planning Standards-Based Curriculum in Mandarin Chinese. One special session highlighted the new Mandarin Chinese program in the Glastonbury Public Schools (CT). The district has mandated that all students study at least one foreign language beginning in elementary school since the 1950s. Now the Chinese program quickly is gaining popularity next to other course offerings in Spanish, French, Russian, Latin, and Ancient Greek. Rita Oleksak, the foreign language/English Language Learner (ELL) director for the Glastonbury Public Schools, gave Teacher-to-Teacher participants a glimpse into the Mandarin Chinese program, which is offered to students in ninth grade as an additional foreign language. Ms. Oleksak explained how teachers use the Internet and international satellite television broadcasts to give their students a deeper understanding of Chinese culture in a "Mandarin I" course. Then she showed Teacher-to-Teacher participants how teachers in a "Mandarin II" course help students develop more complex skills in Chinese written and oral expression through the use of texts and thematic units.
Another session showcased Jie Gao, who teaches at Bigelow Middle School in the Newton Public Schools (MA). Ms. Gao uses technology in her classroom both to instruct and assess her students by creating games, quizzes, and tests on her computer. Ms. Gao then posts these activities online. By using an online format, she is able to give her students more immediate feedback on their progress. Her students also "chat" online in Chinese, which has proven to be an interesting way for them to practice their writing and reading skills. Before closing her presentation, Ms. Gao shared one of her most successful instructional strategies with Teacher-to-Teacher participants: making mini-movies. Ms. Gao frequently asks her students to write scripts in either English or Chinese and then act out the scripts in front of a digital movie camera. Using special software, the students then write subtitles in the opposite language in which the movies were filmed. According to Ms. Gao, her students feel especially accomplished after completing an activity of this type because they have created something that is both tangible and entertaining and have used their foreign language skills in a meaningful way.
In her address to the Teacher-to-Teacher workshop on mathematics and science in Hopkinton (MA), U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings stressed the importance of teachers providing their students with rigorous and engaging learning opportunities like the ones demonstrated in Ms. Gao's Chinese class and in other classrooms lead by Teacher-to-Teacher presenters. Referencing a recent study of high school dropouts by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Secretary Spellings noted that 50 percent of the students surveyed cited a lack of challenging coursework as one of the top reasons they dropped out of school. She added, "That's why [the U.S. Department of Education] is holding [Teacher-to-Teacher] workshops. We want to give the chance to share best practices and learn from teachers who are getting great results in the classroom and inspiring students."
Jennifer Coughlin, who presented at the workshop in Hopkinton, is one of these teachers. Currently an Einstein Fellow working to shape K-12 education policy at the U.S. Department of Energy, she joined the national nonprofit Teach For America (TFA) after earning a degree in biochemistry from the University of San Francisco. During her stint with TFA, she taught physical science and chemistry to at-risk students in Louisiana. Ms. Coughlin has since taught in Albuquerque (NM) and has received a New Mexico Dream Grant, an Intel ACES award, and a Fulbright-Hays grant. Integrating these experiences into her classroom, she also transfers her research interests in molecular biology, material science, physical biosciences, pharmaceutical chemistry, and computer programming into many of her classroom laboratory experiments.
At the Hopkinton workshop, Ms. Coughlin had Teacher-to-Teacher participants working as hard as her students through hands-on activities. In one demonstration of a typical lesson, participants measured colored liquids to calculate density and then attempted to layer the liquids in the correct order so that they would not mix with one another. After the demonstration, Ms. Coughlin used her standard classroom rubric to determine whether each participant was a "novice," "apprentice," "scientist," or "expert scientist," based on the success of the experiment.
Ms. Coughlin, like many presenters at the summer workshops, is a member of the U.S. Department of Education's Teacher-to-Teacher Training Corps. The purpose of the Training Corps is to provide on-site technical assistance and presentations at regional workshops for teachers and districts across the country. Training Corps members, who numbered 101 by the end of the April 2006 selection period, were chosen from over 1,800 educators who have applied to the U.S. Department of Education since the Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative's creation. Members were chosen on the basis of their experience with scientifically-based instruction and positive results in the classroom, and are slated to work for the next 12 months hosting workshops, providing email mentoring, producing webcasts, and conducting personal site visits with other educators.
In addition to the professional development provided by the summer workshops and the Training Corps, the Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative offers online learning opportunities. An "eLearning" website models successful instructional strategies, highlights academic content, details how strategies may be implemented in the classroom, and contains follow-up activities and an online assessment. Taking advantage of the website's offerings is simple. Once a teacher accesses the site and completes a professional development course of his choosing, he can then take the corresponding assessment and complete the related follow-up activities. After these steps, he is ready to incorporate what he has learned into his classroom. Each session on the eLearning site is derived from the regional and summer workshops.
Another useful online tool is a new interactive feature on the U.S. Department of Education's website that allows teachers to ask questions of Secretary Spellings and obtain answers on a wide range of issues. The most recent question, for example, comes from an individual in Pennsylvania inquiring about school choice. Other topics have included testing and special education, gifted and talented programs, hurricane relief, NCLB, and teacher quality. Teachers can sign up to receive regular "Teacher Updates" in their email inboxes as well.
Over the last two years, the Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative has helped more than 300,000 teachers, and, by the end of this year, it is expected to reach the teachers of more than one million students. After attending a summer workshop, one participant noted, "I love the sessions. I've taken away so much information. I am just sharpening my tools so when I go back to the classroom in the fall I'm ready."
The U.S. Department of Education wishes the best to all teachers across the country who are beginning the 2006-2007 academic year.
Resources: Note: The U.S. Department of Education's Teacher-to-Teacher workshops were developed by various individuals and were provided as illustrative examples of what might be useful to teachers. The Department is not requiring or encouraging the use of any particular methods or materials in the classroom, and the use of the methods and materials in the workshops does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education.
From the U.S. Department of Education
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced the award of 33 grants in the Advanced Placement Incentive Program, totaling $17 million. The grant is being provided to states, school districts, and national education nonprofits to help increase advanced placement access rates for economically disadvantaged students. (Sept. 8)
Members of 100 Black Men of America, Inc., joined Secretary Spellings to unveil plans for a partnership to raise awareness in the African American community of available education resources under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The partnership will co-sponsor events, produce parent-focused materials, enhance charter school performance in underserved communities, and educate families and communities about NCLB. (Sept. 7)
Secretary Spellings announced the award of $101,687,216 in Early Reading First grants to 32 recipients in 25 states. The grants are intended to improve the language and early literacy skills of young children, especially children from low-income families, by transforming early childhood education programs into centers of educational excellence. (Sept. 1)
Secretary Spellings spoke regarding the award of over $23 million in grants to 74 school districts in 26 states to help enhance and strengthen plans for emergency response and crisis management. The Emergency Response and Crisis Management program provides funds to help local educational agencies prevent or mitigate, prepare, respond, and recover from crises. (Aug. 30)
Secretary Spellings announced that over $60 million in foreign aid donations have been awarded to help rebuild and restart school operations and meet the educational needs of displaced students in the Gulf Coast states. Additionally, $235 million in supplemental funding from the Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students program has been made available to bring relief to schools and districts hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Regarding the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Secretary Spellings issued a statement. (Aug. 24)
Three-year grants to help support the unique educational needs of Alaska Native children and adults recently were announced by Secretary Spellings. The grants will be used toward a range of innovative projects, from family literacy and home-based tutoring to dropout prevention and teacher training. (Aug. 23)
At the opening of the Davidson Academy of Nevada in Reno, Secretary Spellings delivered remarks. Founded by retired educational software developers Jan and Bob Davidson, the Academy is a public school for gifted children located on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno. Secretary Spellings told the incoming class, "Davidson Academy is the kind of place where the only boundaries to what you achieve are the ones you set for yourself." (Aug. 22)
Secretary Spellings announced the award of $11,609,750 to nearly two dozen Native Hawaiian Education (NHE) programs on Oahu, Maui, and the island of Hawaii. These programs will develop, assist, and expand innovative programs that provide supplemental services and address the educational needs of Native Hawaiian children and adults. (Aug. 21)
Secretary Spellings released a statement regarding the release of the Class of 2006 ACT scores. She noted, "Today's ACT results show a nation that is on the right track and moving forward, but far too slowly for the 21st century." The ACT findings, she added, point to the need for high schools to require a rigorous, four-year core curriculum and offer advanced coursework. (See Raising Student Achievement under What's New.) (Aug. 16)
A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) examines the use of computers and the Internet by American children enrolled in nursery school and students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. The report examines the overall rate of use, the ways in which students use the technologies, where the use occurs, and the relationships of these aspects to demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. (Sept. 5)
The U.S. Department of Education was recognized by the U.S. General Services Administration with the 2006 Miles Romney Achievement Award, an honor presented annually to federal agencies for noteworthy personal property management and disposition practices. The Department was honored for its Furniture for Schools Program, which has donated more than 12,000 school desks and other furniture valued at $4.6 million to Hurricane Katrina-impacted schools. (Sept. 1)
The State Education Reforms (SER) website has been updated. This website was first based on the report, Overview and Inventory of State Education Reforms: 1990 to 2000, and is updated periodically to incorporate new data on state education reform activities. (Aug. 25)
Volumes One and Two of the User's Guide to Computing High School Graduation Rates have been released by NCES. The first volume examines existing measures of high school completion and newly proposed proxy measures. The second volume provides documentation of the technical work that the U.S. Department of Education used to select an interim graduation rate. (Aug. 24)
David Dunn, Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Education, issued a statement regarding eligible majors under the Academic Competitiveness/National SMART grant program. He noted, "Recent news reports have suggested that Evolutionary Biology is not an eligible major under the new National SMART grant program. This is incorrect and, in fact, the opposite is true." A list of updated majors may be found online. (Aug. 24)
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Ray Simon, First Book ® Vice President Lynda Lancaster, and Louisiana State Deputy Superintendent of Education Carole Butler-Wallin highlighted the importance of reading and delivered free books to students at Andrew Jackson Elementary School in St. Bernard Parish (LA). (Aug. 22)
The U.S. Department of Education released initial peer review feedback and related information on revised state plans for ensuring that all public elementary and secondary school students are taught by highly qualified teachers. The Department determined that the majority of states made serious efforts to develop plans for having experienced, well-trained educators in classrooms, particularly in low-performing, disadvantaged schools. (Aug. 16)
NCES has released Qualifications of Public Secondary School History Teachers, 1999-2000. This issue brief reports on the combination of certifications, majors, and minors of secondary school history teachers, and how teachers' qualifications vary across schools with differing levels of student poverty. (Aug. 3)
NCES has issued a publication containing data on current expenditures, by state, for public elementary and secondary education for the 2003-2004 academic year. It also contains data by state on median current expenditures per student by school districts and current expenditures per student by districts at the fifth and 95th percentile. State average current expenditures per student also are included. (Aug. 1)
The U.S. Department of Education published How to Acquire Surplus Federal Real Property for Educational Purposes this spring. The guide is now available online and explains The Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, as well as eligibility requirements, conditions and restrictions, and other topics. (Apr. 2006)
From the Office of Innovation and Improvement
Assistant Deputy Secretary Morgan Brown participated in the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools' "Virtual Back to School Day" regarding the Administration's initiatives to expand and improve choice, innovation, and accountability in public education. (Sept. 6)
For Fiscal Year (FY) 2006, the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Program awarded 34 new grants. These grants support the further development, implementation, and expansion of standards-based arts education programs and the integration of arts instruction into the core curriculum. (Sept. 2006)
Arts in Education
The Architecture + Design Education Network (A+DEN), a collaborative association formed by the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) and the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), will host its first national conference for design educators in Chicago from October 27-28. The conference aims to bring leaders and practitioners of architecture, design, and education together to identify and explore ideas that advance K-12 design education. Online registration is available. Reduced registration fees are available through September 30. (Sept. 14)
Back to School
Read up on recent education statistics in a mini primer from the Associated Press, Back to School: Education by the Numbers. (Aug.19)
The Teachers Network Leadership Institute (TNLI), a project of Teachers Network, a nationwide, nonprofit education organization, has issued its newest publication, PDF, (4MB) How to Do Action Research in Your Classroom. The booklet was developed from TNLI's experience in supporting teachers to conduct action research in order to make connections among policy, practice, and student achievement. (Aug. 2006)
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools will host the 2007 National Charter Schools Conference from April 24-27 in Albuquerque (NM). The "Call for Presentations" system, as well as registration information, are available online. The deadline for presentation proposal submissions is October 16. (Sept. 14)
One year after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita battered the Gulf Coast, the United States Fund for UNICEF (United Nation's Children's Fund) and the The Broad Foundation recently announced a total of $2.45 million to fund two current and three planned KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) public charter schools in New Orleans (LA). The five KIPP schools will aim to serve more than 2,400 students. (Aug. 28)
Howard Husock, for the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, has written a case study entitled, The KIPP Schools: Deciding How to go to Scale. The case focuses on the relationship between KIPP founders Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, and Donald and Doris Fisher, philanthropists who used funds earned through their GAP apparel chain to help the KIPP program expand. (Aug. 2006)
Choosing an Education Contractor: A Guide to Assessing Financial and Organizational Capacity PDF, (508K) was developed jointly by The Finance Project and the Comprehensive School Reform Quality (CSRQ) Center, operated by the American Institutes of Research (AIR). The guide provides State and local educational agencies and others with information about the importance of a contractor's financial stability and organizational capacity and offers guidance for how to assess these elements of a contractor's quality. CSRQ received a grant from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. (Aug. 2006)
The National Charter School Research Project, Center on Reinventing Public Education, has released a record PDF (356K) of the proceedings at a January symposium in which nearly two dozen charter school leaders discussed methods of increasing the number of high-quality charter schools in large urban areas. (June 2006)
With a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education, the Urban Institute and six universities are founding the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER), one of the new federally funded National Research and Development Centers. The center will gather state administrative data concerning teacher quality and other issues and examine how these concerns affect students' academic achievement and high school graduation rates. CALDER also will research issues such as teacher hiring, school accountability, choice, and student demographics. (Sept. 14)
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) released policy recommendations concerning middle level reform. The proposal is based on the strategies outlined in Breaking Ranks in the Middle and Strategies for Leading Middle Level Reform, a NASSP handbook that has been distributed to middle level principals across the country. The proposal also is aligned with the 2005 recommendations for high school reform put forth by NASSP. (July 2006)
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) Research Grants Program, jointly funded by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), currently is accepting applications with deadlines of January 5, 2007 and March 1, 2007. The program's goals are to stimulate research on U.S. education policy and practice using NCES and NSF data sets, improve the education research community's knowledge of the range of data available, and increase the number of education researchers using NCES and NSF data sets. (Sept. 14)
The Florida State Board of Education honored Gina Eyerman, magnet programs principal at Fort Lauderdale High School, and William Kemp, principal at Northeast High School. Both principals helped their schools improve performance by two letter grades from the 2004-2005 academic year to the 2005-2006 academic year. Fort Lauderdale High School is the recipient of a Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education. (Aug. 15)
The Education Commission of the States (ECS) High School Policy Center has released a new policy brief PDF, (130KB) on the need for students and parents to receive better information on how to prepare for the transition from high school to college. The brief particularly focuses upon the need to improve the "college knowledge" of students whose parents did not attend college. (Aug. 2006)
Raising Student Achievement
Each year, ACT reports information about students in the current high school graduating class who took the ACT exam. This year, ACT scores are at their highest point since 1991, with males, females, and all major ethnic groups making gains. Despite these positive results, the majority of test-takers still lack college-ready skills in mathematics and science. (Also see From the U.S. Department of Education under What's New for Secretary Spellings' statement regarding ACT scores.) (Aug. 16)
A new report from the Urban Institute evaluates the summer enrichment program operated by Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL), a nonprofit provider of after-school and summer programs for low-income students in Boston (MA), New York (NY), Baltimore (MD), and Washington, DC. The authors conclude that the program increases students' reading skills and their parents' involvement in education. (Aug. 2006)
According to its fifth annual report PDF, (119MB), on state high school exit exams, The Center on Education Policy (CEP) concludes that, for the first time, growth in the number of states requiring students to pass a test in order to earn a diploma has stalled. The report finds that no state legislature adopted a new exit exam requirement in 2006, although Maryland, Washington, and Oklahoma are phasing in their exit exams. The report also shows that most of the states that currently require exit exams have created greater flexibility and support to assist struggling students. (Aug. 2006)
Teacher Quality and Development
The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) is gearing up for its annual celebration of the "Week of the Classroom Teacher" (October 1-7) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Teachers' Day (October 5). ACEI encourages students, parents, school leaders, and communities to recognize the hard work and dedication of teachers. A planning guide filled with suggestions and sample materials to honor teachers is available online (Sept. 14)
TEACHER MAGAZINE, Education Week's sister publication, has been redesigned with the goal of better serving leaders in the teaching profession. Editors aim to provide teachers with the practical tools and information they need to lead their schools and guide reform. Each issue will explore a major education theme. (Sept. 14)
The Education Commission of the States (ECS) Teaching Quality and Leadership Institute has announced the launch of an online tool to assist states in revising plans to ensure that highly qualified teachers teach in every classroom. As of August 16, only nine states' plans met all the criteria outlined in guidance from the U.S. Department of Education. (See announcement From the U.S. Department of Education under What's New.) (Sept. 1)
In a recent paper, Mathematica Policy Research analyzed School Principals' Perspectives on the Passport to Teaching, which is an American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) program that aims to streamline the teacher certification process. The paper is the first in a series of studies that will attempt to determine whether Passport teachers are effective. Currently just five states recognize the Passport program, but principals' initial opinions about Passport teachers have been positive overall. (June 2006)
Tom Tillapaugh, founder of the Denver Street School (CO) and the National Association of Street Schools (NASS) (see Innovator, March 2006) addressed the Helping America's Youth Conference at the University of Denver, sharing how the Street School Model is helping at-risk youth throughout the country. (Aug.4)
Innovations in the News
A $1 million Teaching American History (TAH) grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education will bring a new professional development program to approximately 70 American history teachers in grades four, five, six, seven, and 11 in Virginia. Teachers in Charlottsville and four surrounding counties will participate in "The Virginia Experiment: Growing Seeds of Democracy in Four Hundred Years of American History." The University of Virginia's Center for Liberal Arts, Center for Technology and Teacher Education, and Miller Center for Digital History are partnering with the City of Charlottesville and the counties of Albermarle, Greene, Madison, and Orange to bring the project to life. [More-Inside UVA, PDF, (903KB)] (Aug. 25)
Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA, Dist.1) presented an oversized check to school leaders at the Massie Heritage Center in honor of the Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools' Teaching American History grant award. Candy Lowe, principal at Massie and the instructional director of social studies stated, "I notice a difference when I go into schools where I see American history everywhere." The grant will help educate teachers and bring hands-on projects to students. [More-WTOC] (Aug. 23)
Eighth grade Pinellas County (FL) teachers sat in the student's seat this summer as they attended a workshop lead by James Cusick, curator of the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History at the University of Florida. Mr. Cusick gave the teachers a history lesson on colonial St. Augustine, which is the nation's oldest continuously occupied settlement, and introduced them to a variety of resources including books, articles, and websites. The workshop was made possible by a federal Teaching American History grant awarded to the School Board last year. [More-St. Petersburg Times] (Aug. 22)
This summer, a cluster of elementary school teachers found themselves back in the 18th century, picking out tobacco worms next to slaves on the Great Hopes Plantation. Slavery was one of many topics that the Colonial Williamsburg (VA) weeklong training offered. Each summer, the for-credit course is offered to elementary, middle, and high school teachers across the nation. "When you can inhabit a space, you can make it more real," said Carroll Magill, a fifth grade English and history teacher from New York City (NY). [More-The Culpeper Star Exponent] (Aug. 21)
At Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) High School in Brooklyn (NY), students in Peter Riggi's United States history class write position papers on The Preacher and the Slave, a satirical song written in 1911 by labor leader Joe Hill. Down the hall, Advanced Placement (AP) students examine democratic principles as they prepare for the AP exams. Students and teachers at FDR High School excel in the study of history. The percentage of students at the school passing the United States History Regents Exam increased from 70.3 percent in 2001 to 84.2 percent in 2005. The school's success is due in large part to its participation in the federal Teaching American History grant program. For the past three years, 40 history teachers from Brooklyn and Staten Island have attended a rigorous, two-week summer institute at Princeton University where they listen to lectures, examine scholarly texts, and create innovative lesson plans. [More-City Schools Newsletter] (Apr. 2006)
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a grant of more than $1 million to ARTS FIRST Hawaii to fund arts education research in four Hawaii schools. The grant will finance research on the effects of arts education on the overall academic experience of students, said Marilyn Cristofori, chief executive officer of the Hawaii Arts Alliance. The College of Education at the University of Hawaii will conduct research for the grant. (See announcement From the Office of Innovation and Improvement in What's New for a complete list of Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination grants.) [More-The Honolulu Advertiser] (Aug. 24)
Back to School/Raising Student Achievement
For young students in Gulf Coast areas hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina, telling their stories and sharing their emotions is a valuable step in the recovery process. This summer, many of these students healed by participating in weeklong technology workshops in which they scripted, filmed, and edited their own digital movies. Approximately 500 middle school students from Bay St. Louis (MS), New Orleans (LA), and Plaquemines Parish (LA) learned valuable technology skills while channeling their creativity. The "Digital Arts Summer Camps" were organized by the Pearson Foundation and Nokia, Inc. All 150-plus mini-movies were presented to libraries throughout the Gulf Coast, and the National Geographic Channel and the Smithsonian Network announced plans to share the movies with a national audience. This fall, the digital arts program will be extended to other schools in Louisiana (New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Plaquemines Parish, and Algiers Parish) and Mississippi (Bay St. Louis and Waveland). [More-eSchool News] (Aug. 31)
One year after Hurricane Katrina blasted New Orleans (LA), the state of Louisiana finds itself in a unique position: drawing up a brand new plan for directly operating a group of public schools in the city. The state is expected to manage at least 17 schools this fall, far more than originally predicted. For the new Recovery School District, the state is selecting curricula and textbooks, hiring principals and teachers, ordering furniture and computers, and setting up a dress code. As of the week of August 21, the state is anticipating to operate about one-third of the 53 New Orleans public schools expected to open in September. These schools will serve nearly one-third of an estimated 22,000 public school students. The state expects to open more schools later in the fall. [More-Education Week] (Aug. 30) (paid subscription required)
Some 55 million students are enrolling in the nation's schools this fall, making this the largest group of students in America's history and, in ethnic terms, the most diverse in a century. Millions of baby boomers and foreign-born parents are enrolling their children, sending a demographic bulge through the schools that is driving a surge in classroom construction and a rush to hire additional highly qualified teachers. Many school systems have begun recruiting overseas for instructors in hard-to-staff subjects such as special education and mathematics. According to projections published last year by the U.S. Department of Education, the nation's elementary and secondary school enrollments would grow, on average, by about 200,000 students each year. The enrollment trends would be uneven, regionally, with schools in the Northeast and Midwest losing students, on average, and those in the South and West gaining students. [More-The New York Times] (Aug. 28) (paid subscription required)
"The range of the strange" is the term that Stacey Rather, a social studies teacher at Woodlawn Middle School (MD), uses to describe the social/emotional differences in students between the ages of ten to fifteen. According to these students' performance on standardized tests, middle-schoolers not only have difficulty negotiating the onset of puberty, they also struggle with academics. One-third of Maryland's middle schools are on a list of troubled institutions. To boost the achievement of middle-schoolers, the state has appointed a task force to recommend middle school reforms and has begun training teachers and administrators for those grades. A separate certification for middle school teachers, who are currently certified along with secondary school teachers, also may be instituted soon. Additionally, state officials are looking at the potential benefits of combining elementary and middle schools. [More-The Baltimore Sun] (Aug. 28)
Last year, students learned the order of the planets using handy mnemonic devices such as "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pancakes." With this new school year comes a new mnemonic device. Perhaps "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nuts?" With Pluto's demotion from planetary status in August, teachers across the country will have to adjust their lesson plans. Many teachers also look at the recent change as a great opportunity for discussion and scientific inquiry in their classrooms. [More-USA Today] (Aug. 27)
More teachers across the country may be greeting their students at the classroom door this school year with "ni hao" and expressing their appreciation with "xie xie." The U.S. government recently flew ten teachers to Washington, DC from China and gave them a five-day crash course in teaching before dispatching them to schools in different states. In January, President Bush unveiled an initiative designed to increase the number of critical foreign languages taught in U.S. schools. The ten Chinese teachers represent the first recruits in a program that aims to expand to include teachers of Russian, Korean, Farsi, and other critical languages. There is no official tracking of Chinese programs in the country, but the interest in them is growing. This interest no longer is coming from Asian parents trying to preserve their culture, but from non-Asian parents who want their children to learn Chinese to become competitive for the best jobs. [More-The Washington Post] (Aug. 26)
Creating carnival games, blueprints for complex "Bug Smashers," and emergency plans for volcanic eruptions were the activities du jour at Camp Invention at the Alden School in Duxbury (MA) this summer. Worried about the "summer slide," the attrition of academic gains in the absence of daily homework and exams, families across the country are enrolling their children in summer enrichment programs like Camp Invention. In a study released in June, the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (MD) found that students typically lose about one or two months of reading and mathematics skills during the long summer vacation (see Innovator, What's New, August 2006). Over the last three years, enrollment at Camp Invention has tripled to nearly 100 students, who spend part of their summer working their brains to develop projects that are aligned with national science standards. Many teachers report that at the beginning of the school year, they can tell which students have read and engaged in intellectual activities during the summer and which have not. [More-The Boston Globe] (Aug. 24)
Charter Schools/Magnet Schools
The Algiers Charter School Association (ACSA) (LA) has seen a surge in students in the last month, with enrollment rising 32 percent from 3,138 students on the first day of school to more than 4,000 students currently in classes. ACSA spokesman David Grubb said that the schools collectively are at 90 percent capacity. Mr. Grubb stated that ACSA schools might be a more stable option for parents because ACSA has been operating schools since December of last year. The other major public school option in the New Orleans area is the state-run Recovery School District. [More-The Times-Picayune] (Sept. 3)
On August 28, the same day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, a charter school bearing his name celebrated its opening in Springfield (MA). The school's curriculum is based on Dr. King's teachings and philosophy of peace, citizenship, and community. This year, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Charter School of Excellence will serve 180 students in kindergarten through second grade. Eventually, the school will grow to serve 360 students through fifth grade. [More-The Republican] (Aug. 29)
A new charter elementary school based in the Ravenswood City School District (CA) opens this year to 150 kindergarten, first, and sixth grade students. By 2010, the East Palo Alto Academy: Elementary School plans to expand to a full kindergarten through eighth grade model. Sponsored by the Ravenswood district, the school was founded by Stanford University's School of Education. The new charter school is intended to be a training site for individuals going through Stanford's teaching program. [More-Palo Alto Online] (Aug. 29)
Among the amenities at the new Western Connecticut Academy of International Studies in Danbury (CT) are an ampitheater, individual art and music rooms, a large gymnasium with a rubber mat floor, outdoor classrooms, and a planetarium. Danbury High School senior Christopher Ziegler, who volunteered to give tours of the school to newly enrolled students and their families, marveled, "[There are] themed hallways. All seven continents are represented, and the United Nations has a corridor!" The regional magnet school, housed on the campus of Western Connecticut State University, opens for the first time this year, serving 267 kindergarten through fourth grade students. A fifth grade will be added next year. [More-The Redding Pilot] (Aug. 24)
Tangipahoa Parish is one of several southeastern Louisiana parishes that have seen residential and student population growth since the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina last year. Tangipahoa recently opened a pilot magnet school at Hammond Eastside Primary School. Students must pass tests to gain entrance into the 100-slot program. The curriculum offers visual and performing arts, music, science, and foreign language programming. Hammond Eastside is one of 36 other sites that are opening for the upcoming school year. [More-The Advocate] (Aug. 16)
Teacher Quality and Development
Many school districts require summer courses to ensure that all teachers are reaching the No Child Left Behind Act's (NCLB) highly qualified teacher (HQT) status. These days, teachers also are studying sea turtle habitats in Costa Rica, evolution in the Galapagos, and the history of the Wright Brothers in Dayton (OH). The federal Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative (See Feature) was established to ensure that all students receive instruction from well-trained teachers. This summer, teachers have traveled to Ohio, Wyoming, and New Jersey, among other states. Though no reliable data exist on how many teachers train or work during the summer, national data show the percentage of teachers earning a master's degree more than doubled from 1961 to 2001, from 23 percent to 56 percent. [More-USA Today] (Aug. 30)
Brandy Bailey had no idea when she lead her class of fourth grade students into a special assembly at Oak Grove Central Elementary School (MS) that she was going to be honored as one of "America's Stars of Teaching." The American Stars of Teaching program is part of the Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative (see Feature) at the U.S. Department of Education and annually honors 51 exemplary teachers from each state and Washington, DC. Teachers are recognized for their effectiveness in helping students meet and exceed the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Ms. Bailey was chosen as the 2006 Mississippi recipient. At the assembly, U.S. Representative Roger Wicker (R-MS) praised Ms. Bailey and her work in the classroom, calling her "a real American hero." [More-The Memphis Commercial Appeal] (Aug. 28)
Winthrop University (SC) professors are traveling to the I-95 corridor to help successful teachers with roots in the community earn master's degrees in educational leadership and become principals in high-poverty schools. Winthrop was granted a $776,036 Improving Teacher Quality grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the four-year program. The program targets future education leaders in rural communities. [More-The Rock Hill Herald] (Aug. 28)
Last Modified: 07/19/2012