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Articles: Teaching & Learning

The Common Core State Standards are no longer coming—they are already here.

Tom Johnstone, right, with Shane Martin, dean of the School of Education at Loyola  Marymount University.

It was 1978 when Tom Johnstone, graduated from Santa Clara University, hopped in a Volkswagen bus with some buddies and headed to South America.

When he wasn’t sightseeing in Argentina and Chile, he treasured one-on-one time with locals. And this came after Johnstone had spent a year of college in Madrid and studied in Caracas, Venezuela, as a high school exchange student. It reinforced an earlier connection he had with Spanish-speaking people.

After serving as editor-in-chief and then executive editor of District Administration, and writing and editing for our sister education publication University Business more than a decade ago, it is an enormous privilege to step into a new role as columnist for both magazines and editor at large (my wife says it is more accurate to say editor at “extra-large”).

“The Heart of Matter," by Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, says competing nations are focusing on humanities.

Reduced emphasis on the humanities in school could threaten the nation’s ability to innovate and compete internationally, and leave students less prepared to participate in the democratic political process, according to a new report by the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences.

A Texas law that forces students who have missed an excessive amount of school to go to court and sometimes jail has been challenged as unconstitutional by a coalition of advocacy groups for young people and the disabled.

Out of the 45 states that have adopted the Common Core, only 11 states and the District of Columbia have high school math graduation requirements that align to the new standards, says a new study. Thirteen more states are only partially aligned, leaving 22 that have yet to complete any steps to meet the graduation standards, according to the study, co-sponsored by the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education and the nonprofit, Change the Equation.

Students at the Harlem Children’s Zone and Promise Academy Charter School grow tomatoes, squash, eggplants and other vegetables in a rooftop garden.

Nestled between high-rise buildings in New York City, a lush, green garden full of colorful fruits and vegetables grows on the rooftop of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Promise Academy Charter School. What was just a few small boxes of dirt five years ago has grown into a 1,000-square-foot garden with 30 types of plants, including tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers, and berries.

Education Commissioner Terry Holiday says Kentucky students have made gains in college career readiness.

Terry Holliday knows something about what makes a school district work. Having come up through the ranks, from band director and assistant principal to principal, superintendent, and, in 2009, to Kentucky’s commissioner of education, Holliday has seen first-hand how schools and districts can get on track for success. He spoke to District Administration about what Kentucky has done to turn around low-performing schools.

Pamela Cantor is the president and CEO of Turnaround for Children, a nonprofit organization that partners with public schools to address the challenges to teaching and learning that stem from poverty.

There are alternatives to meting out punishment that treats our school children like criminals. Instead of sending students to the principal’s office or worse—calling police into classrooms to deal with disorderly conduct—schools can equip their teachers with tools proven to create safe, supportive learning environments and defuse disruption. The very things that mitigate student stress and bad behavior make a school what it’s supposed to be: a healthy and productive place to learn.

Updated July 1, 2013:

“Do a triangle pose,” a teacher says to her third-grade students during one of their bi-weekly yoga classes. “Good. Now a gorilla pose. Now you’re a mountain.”

This is yoga at Encinitas USD’s nine K6 schools. The poses’ names have been changed to be less religious. They are part of a complete physical education program designed to help students stay calm, focused and physically active throughout their day, says Encinitas USD Superintendent Timothy Baird.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium.

One significant impact of this year’s federal budget sequester is its toll on scientific research, with many organizations and research institutes facing the likelihood of huge cuts to their funding. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, for example, could have $8.6 billion taken from its budget, while the National Institutes of Health anticipates $1.5 billion in cuts. And the National Science Foundation, which faces $283 million in cuts, is under additional pressure from Congress to fund only “approved” scientific research.

Schools are not getting a big enough bang for their education technology buck, according to a new report. While computers and internet access are common in the classroom, students are often using this technology for simple foundational exercises, rather than higher-order data analysis or statistics work that will help prepare them for the modern workforce, the report from the Center for American Progress found. This issue is most prevalent in schools with primarily low-income students, further widening the digital divide.

A human-like robot that can mimic emotions and play interactive games can help students with autism develop social skills.

Aldebaran Robotics’ “ASK NAO” robot, which is about two feet tall, mimics an emotion with gestures and sounds, and waits for children to recognize the emotion. It may then ask children the last time they experienced such an emotion. It also can teach autistic children time, taking turns, basic conversation, and other communication skills.

Many teachers will spend this summer learning classroom strategies to best align with upcoming Common Core standards.

Common Core is the topic teachers have requested most for summer professional development, says Karen Beerer, Discovery Education’s vice president of professional development for Common Core State Standards. “Contrary to popular belief, the standards are not one size fits all,” she says.

Native American students face a dropout rate of over 12 percent—more than double that of their white peers and higher than that for black and Asian students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

High teacher turnover rates and few native teachers in the classroom are part of the problem, says David Thomas, a U.S. Department of Education spokesperson. The Indian Education Professional Development Grant seeks to change that by providing Native Americans a chance to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree and become teachers or administrators.

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