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Articles: Teaching & Learning

Students at Haas Automation Inc. in California take part in a lesson. Haas supports SkillsUSA and manufacturing education, and is considered a best practice by the Manufacturing Institute.

When career tech students in 21 West Virginia districts returned to school this fall, they didn’t head to classrooms. They went to work.

Through the state’s Simulated Workplace pilot program, high school students learn in classes that are restructured to feel like workplace environments. For instance, students will clock in upon arrival, take random drug tests, and be evaluated based on their “company’s” bottom line.

For years, schools have focused on preparing students for jobs that require a four-year degree from a university, and federal and state education policies “have prioritized college preparation over career preparation,” says Ashley Parker, spokesperson for the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE).

As it becomes clearer that many high-paying jobs are remaining unfilled—and that many university-educated job seekers are not prepared to fill them—that focus has started to change. But to get students and parents on board, districts must start early.

Growing demand and a shortage of qualified foreign language teachers has opened the door for commercial companies, including Rosetta Stone and Middlebury Interactive, to enter the educational marketplace.

More than 20,000 schools and districts have integrated Rosetta Stone into their curriculum since 1991.

Nearly half of all students in public schools are now considered low income and therefore eligible for free or reduced lunch. And in 17 states, those students are already the majority, says a new report by the Southern Education Foundation that looks at data from 2010 and 2011.

Amanda Ripley says schools overseas do a better job teaching students critical thinking skills.

When journalist Amanda Ripley was assigned to learn why the United States fared poorly on the global PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test, she was in for a surprise. PISA, administered every three years, evaluates education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in 70 countries. Ripley found that the highest ranked countries, not previously known for their “smart kids,” had made remarkable turnarounds in recent years.

Teachers are the single most important factor in student learning. Yet, our field as a whole spends little time ensuring that only the best teachers enter our classrooms—and even less time ensuring that the best teachers feel supported.

Some educators are making a push to bring a renewed emphasis to social studies, as subjects like history and civics have taken a backseat to math, science and English in the nation’s rush to improve academic achievement.

A Connecticut school district in the suburbs of New York City violated the IDEA by denying special education students the proper services for the past year, according to a recent Connecticut State Department of Education investigation. The case shows districts may run afoul of the law if special education services are reduced due to budget cuts.

Opponents of the Common Core State Standards say they have a variety of concerns about the effects the standards will have on school districts’ curriculum.

Math standards under Common Core will push the teaching of algebra back a year, from eighth to ninth grade, in many districts, say Lindsey Burke, educational policy fellow at the Heritage Foundation and Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute. Both also insist that the teaching of literature will take a backseat as emphasis shifts to informational texts.

About 1 in 6 students are now diagnosed with a developmental disability, according to a 2011 study in the journal Pediatrics.

Relationships between school districts and the parents of special needs students are notoriously adversarial, and lawyers sometimes get involved in the disputes that arise. Given the increase in students diagnosed with disabilities and the costs involved in serving them, district leaders who want to provide the proper instruction and care, and avoid costly litigation, must stay abreast of the law.

The question of whether prior experience as an educator should be a required qualification for superintendents has been asked for a number of years. The issue comes to the forefront of education reform efforts, particularly in big city school systems, where former corporate CEOs, politicians, or military officers without prior K12 experience have been appointed district CEO or superintendent.

David Kirp’s book new book is "Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools."

David Kirp’s book, Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools (Oxford University Press, 2013), is different from many education titles on the market. While other authors go to great lengths examining where our schools fail, Kirp, a former journalist who is a public policy professor at the University of California at Berkeley, shows what works.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force) Members of the U.S. Air Force and Army examine a map to determine the placement of disaster-response facilities in Illinois.

Developing small robotic helicopters that can navigate rooms on their own is a task usually left to engineering experts. But now, students seeking hands-on STEM experience can work with U.S. Air Force experts on this and other real military projects, including rescue technology and GPS satellites.

The substantial number of high school graduates who land in higher education unprepared academically and have to take remedial courses to catch up are more likely than other students to quit before earning a two- or four-year diploma. Now, districts in several states are intervening more aggressively than in the past to better prepare struggling high school students for college-level classes.

Students who earn college credit while pursuing their diploma at early college high schools are more likely to graduate and go on to higher education than their peers who attend traditional schools, according to a new study from the nonprofit American Institutes for Research.

Women, minorities, and low-income students from these schools were more likely to earn a college degree than those at other high schools, the study also found.