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Articles: Teaching & Learning

Mentoring programs are a strategy at the middle school level aimed at improving graduation rates. Connecticut’s Jones-Zimmermann Academic Mentoring Program, launched in 2001, pairs college students with middle school students below grade level in math and English.

Adjust to student needs. The most successful schools take students from all cultural and educational backgrounds and adjust to their needs, says William Parrett, director of the Center for School Improvement & Policy Studies at Boise State University. This means tutoring and after-school, weekend, or summer programs. Districts may also have to redistribute funds to schools most in need.

Students who are identified early as at-risk and get support like extra reading have a better chance at graduating high school. But many students are unable to access early education opportunities and, research says, fewer than half of poor children are ready for school at age 5.

“People don’t often think about preschool as [an element of] dropout prevention,” says Marty Duckenfield, spokesperson for the National Dropout Prevention Center. “They think of the surly high school kid with behavior problems—but it goes back to other issues, and one is early childhood education.”

• Establish clear expectations and
deadlines from the start

• Be in regular communication
with students, using whole group
and individual email, phone calls,
and chat features

• Guide students through projects,
activities and problems with
carefully-crafted directions

• Pay attention to online voice: be
positive, personal, professional,
and approachable

• Provide regular and timely feedback

• Model good online behavior and
encourage student reflection

• Listen to and learn from students

Students are doing less hand-raising and more clicking as online classes become increasingly popular in K12 instruction, both in combination with brick-and-mortar classrooms and in independent full-time virtual schools. “It’s exploding,” says Barbara Treacy, director of EdTech Leaders Online, a program of the nonprofit Education Development Center that works with educational organizations to develop online courses and professional development. “What we’re going to see in the future is a spectrum of blended courses, and the rare classroom that is 100 percent face-to-face.” 

In December 2012, in the case Zeno v Pine Plains Cent School District, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that a New York district was liable under Title VI for student-on-student harassment, upholding a $1 million reduced jury verdict.

Chinese teacher Dun Zhang presents a lesson to three different Dublin City, Ohio high schools at once via interactive video conference.

At Dublin (Ohio) City Schools, Chinese teacher Dun Zhang teaches class in three different high school buildings—at the same time. With a shrinking budget and a desire to keep the foreign language program, the district moved to a blended model this year, with a combination of in-person, online, and video conference classes, to save money while reaching as many students as possible.

I have been a school social worker in the small Westmoreland Central School District in central New York for 26 years. And I have experienced what is now documented in research, that schools are seeing more children with mental health difficulties, such as fear and anxiety. These problems occur for various reasons, including family and tempermental issues, and often emerge at an early age.

Raymond Lauk at Paul Revere Primary School teaching Literacy Through Laughter.

Being fired as chief of the Lyons Elementary School District in Illinois a decade ago was the best thing to happen to Raymond Lauk, at least career-wise. It forced him down a path to the corporate world, specifically GE Security, as the education solutions manager, which taught him how to focus and to later create better school environments.

School administrators need to adapt to rising numbers of autism cases, despite reports from the U.S. Autism and Asperger Association that show educators have been overwhelmed and unable to provide for all the affected students for years.

It’s not a new reality show: Exploration Nation helps students understand STEM.

In April, three Texas middle school students joined marine veterans and a team of surgeons on a 12-day expedition through the jungles of Central America, learning about sustainable agriculture, reforestation, and ecosystems, and helping create a mobile surgical clinic for an indigenous Nicaraguan tribe that lacks access to medical treatment.

The expedition was part of a science education program called Exploration Nation, featuring real students applying STEM topics to the real world.

With the Next Generation Science Standards coming soon, elementary school teachers need more preparation to effectively teach complex STEM subjects, according to the fifth National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education, released in February. While about 80 percent of elementary teachers feel very well prepared to teach reading/language arts and math, less than half feel very well prepared to teach science, and only 4 percent are prepared for engineering, the nearly 7,800 respondents nationwide reported.


Oceanographer David L. Evans was appointed executive director of the National Science Teachers Association in February, and will work to promote STEM education and professional development for the Next Generation Science Standards.

Most children consume too much omega-6, which is found in soybean oil, and is an ingredient in many processed foods. But they don’t get enough omega-3, a fatty acid found in foods generally consumed less frequently, such as flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, grass-fed beef and soybeans (though not soybean oil). 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most children and adolescents in the United States eat too much sugar, fat, and salt, but not enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Further, they consume about half their “empty calories” in the form of soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza and whole milk (CDC, 2013).