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Articles: Teaching & Learning

A World-Class Education: Learning From International Models of Excellence and Innovation stewart
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Calvert County

While much of the predictive analysis in K12 districts today determines student achievement, some districts are taking it a step further to determine teacher effectiveness. After all, Race to the Top funds require districts to base teacher evaluation in part on student achievement.

Predicting the future is now in the hands of K12 administrators. While for years districts have collected thousands of pieces of student data, educators have been using them only for data-driven decision-making or formative assessments, which give a “rear-view” perspective only.

Kids collaborate on an assignment in an after-school program.

Effective after-school and expanded learning programs can play a vital role in student success. In fact, when researchers at the Harvard Family Research Project analyzed a decade of research and evaluation studies a few years ago, they concluded that “children and youth who participate in after-school programs can reap a host of positive benefits in a number of interrelated outcome areas—academic, social/emotional, prevention, and health and wellness” (Little, Wimer, & Weiss, 2008).

Let’s be honest. Flipping the classroom and using clickers and other new products can only have a modest impact on student achievement. Why? Because the underlying pedagogy of such innovations is still direct instruction, with a teacher telling students stuff and then students working to remember that stuff.

Maria G. Ott on May 15, 2011, the opening day of Rowland's Blandford Elementary School.

Known for its cultural diversity, Rowland Unified School District (RUSD) in Rowland Heights, Calif., takes the “unified” in its name very seriously, says Superintendent Maria G. Ott—so seriously that the district’s mission statement calls Rowland’s “progressive international community” one that is “united in learning.”

An elementary school teacher at Dublin City (Ohio) Schools guides students through a group reading in class.

Principal observes teacher for 50 minutes. Principal completes checklist. Principal tells teacher what she needs to work on. Dublin City (Ohio) Schools did away with this archaic method of teacher evaluation in the 2009-2010 school year and put the emphasis on teacher self-assessment, professional learning and student-growth data after developing a tailor-made teacher evaluation tool with the help of a committee of teachers, administrators and the teachers union.

We at DA keep our ears to the ground and our noses to the grindstone always looking for new stuff to keep you, our readers, well informed. Much of what we’re hearing these days points toward the growing use of predictive analysis—looking at student data and seeing where kids are going, rather than looking at where they’ve been, as is used with data-driven decision making. Sophisticated modeling software is beginning to move from the corporate world and higher education admissions to K12, and the potential is huge.

language learning students in China FLAP grant

While in the fourth year of a five-year Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) federal grant, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) learned in late December that Congress had cut the grant’s final year of funding. ACTFL had used its portion of the grant, which was created to improve innovative foreign language programs, to develop nationally recognized language assessments. Consequently, four years’ worth of work developing these tests assessments would go unfinished.

Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster are multibillion-dollar leaders in the energy drink industry. Touting empowering names and containing nearly 80 milligrams of caffeine per eight ounces, these drinks have become staples in the diets of young, active and stressed-out students. National health associations, however, warn that these drinks can be hazardous, particularly among student athletes.

We haven’t seen this big a change in education in 500 years. Every learner with an Internet connection can build a personalized, global network of people and information. It’s a shift that Robert Darnton, a Harvard University history professor, compares to watershed moments like the invention of the printing press. To stay current, every educator needs to dive into these networks ASAP. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone.”

It’s a drug prevention conversation—and program—that was largely missing as recently as a decade ago in most middle and high schools. In those days, the principal concern of health educators and disciplinarians alike was to keep students from misusing alcohol and illegal street drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and even heroine.

Singapore girls

If the results of the most recent international achievement tests were graded on a curve, U.S. students probably would rank somewhere in the B range.

Problem

Students in Niles Township High School District 219 in Skokie, Ill., were getting tired of paying more money for healthy foods at lunch and craved nutritious meals with a variety of flavors and choices at a fair price. Students were actually paying more for salad and carrot sticks than unhealthy foods such as pizza or fries. In early 2010, they asked the school board to make changes in the food. Because of the growing rates of diabetes and obesity in school-aged children around the nation, board members had to act.

No Excuses University

Two-thirds of the Amarillo Independent School District’s 33,000 students enrolled on 53 campuses qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Undaunted by the academic and societal challenges commonly associated with such a statistic, 10 of Amarillo’s lower-income schools have recently joined the No Excuses University (NEU) network. This fast-growing collective of 117 elementary and middle schools scattered across the United States is a brain trust of principals and teachers who promote college readiness from kindergarten up, especially for children living in poverty.

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