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Articles: Teaching & Learning

Saikaly and his team make their way up Mount Everest.

Adventure filmmaker Elia Saikaly was approaching the top of Mount Everest Friday when he took some time out of the climb to speak to a high school classroom in Canada about his journey.

Students talked via Skype to Saikaly at his base at the mountain’s Camp 2, about 22,500 feet above sea level. They asked him about adjusting to the cold climate, his diet (lots of eggs, meat and potatoes), how to train for such a feat (plenty of exercise and hiking trips), and what keeps him motivated (hot showers, strawberries, and his family).

A student at the Beech Hill School in the Otis (Maine) School Department learns chemistry in a hands-on science lab over Skype.

Four students in Maine had the unique chance to study organisms on their shoreline this past year to help contribute research to a new chemical bond discovery that Vanderbilt University researchers made three years ago.

Two kindergarten classes are speaking Spanish throughout most of their days in a successful opt-in, dual-language program in the Tigard-Tualatin (Ore.) School District.

Joseph Lopez, El Paso ISD’s associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, talks with the district’s Texas Literacy Initiative administrators. The program has been implemented in 39 of El Paso’s 94 schools to promote better reading and writing skills.

With more than 30 years of education experience, Joseph Lopez brought grant money and state funding to help grow student achievement.

After the Newtown tragedy last December, an outpouring of gifts from around the world inspired Sandy Hook Elementary School first grade teacher Kaitlin Roig. She created a new social curriculum that teaches students about compassion, kindness, and caring for others—an antidote of sorts for the hatred and pain inflicted upon their school children, their families, and their community.

With the Common Core standards comes an increasing focus on literacy across subjects: today, 77 percent of educators believe developing students’ literacy is one of the most important parts of their job, a new survey found.

“It’s much more widely understood today that every educator has a responsibility to improve student literacy, which is the gateway to learning in all disciplines,” says Kent Williamson, director of the National Center for Literacy Education, which conducted the survey of 2,400 educators nationwide.

Students in the Allegheny Valley (Pa.) School District use robotics kits to build moving dioramas that integrate poetry and engineering. Robotics and poetry aren’t an ordinary combination.

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.

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.

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