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Articles: Teaching & Learning

There was a time when it seemed a day didn’t go by without reading about Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. Rhee, known for her passion for raising student achievement—and for her aggressive style—became a symbol for the new school reform movement.

The Virginia Beach Landstown High School and Technology Academy administration confers with lead teachers on the five dozen professional development opportunities offered to its faculty this past February.

At some level, principals always have been instructional leaders—but never before has their role been more prominent.

First, the accountability movement—No Child Left Behind in particular—thrust principals into the spotlight on academic achievement. Then budget cuts peeled away capacity at both the district and school levels, thinning the ranks of assistant superintendents, curriculum specialists and assistant principals, who shouldered some or most of the load.

girl with boy senior year

As a growing number of states push to make the senior year of high school more rigorous, others are working to make the year a more meaningful experience that moves beyond academics.

The senior year of high school has long been considered a lost year, a time when many students have earned most of their high school credits and have been accepted into college. With few requirements and little pressure, students often slack off in a common affliction known as "senioritis."

While looking at maps may belong to an old-fashioned approach to geography, digital mapping, the collection of all kinds of data from space or the ground, has changed the game. Geo-technologist Joseph Berry works on the cutting edge of those changes.

Elementary and middle school students in a Reach the World (RTW) project in New York City learn geography and how it relates to learning.

Geography isn’t what it used to be. Nowadays, that subject is often buried—and therefore inadequately covered—in a social studies curriculum itself under siege because of the extended commitment in schools to reading and math.

Johnson (top row, center) with students in a welding certification intensive at Kodiak High School.

People hear “rural” and think endless woods and farmland connected by interstates and picturesque windy roads. But in parts of Alaska, rural can mean having to hop on a ferry or a small plane to get from place to place. Eight of the Kodiak Island Borough School District’s 14 schools are on small islands. Only 156 students attend these eight schools; the rest of the district’s students attend schools on Kodiak Island proper. The 21 teachers in these rural schools are required by the district to teach all subjects, making them akin to the teachers in one-room schoolhouses years ago.

Next school year, teachers will use diary maps to update their lessons based on student success.

About 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis, Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation, or RBBCSC, comprised of 3,000 students and 200 teachers, has struggled to update its curricula year after year. This was an especially tedious project last summer when the suburban district aligned their English language arts and math curricula to the Common Core State Standards and Indiana’s state standards. Teachers spent hours creating curriculum binders that were rarely used because they cannot be updated easily.

With over 200,000 applications available for Apple’s iPad and thousands more for Android devices, educators and students must sift through a lot of apps to find effective learning tools. An app is software that allows users to perform specific tasks on a mobile device.

Diane Ullman Superintendent, Simsbury (Conn.) Public Schools

Diane Ullman has been the superintendent of the Simsbury Public Schools, a nationally recognized top-performing district, since 2004. Prior to this, she served as the assistant executive director of the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC). She also served for seven years as the assistant superintendent of the Farmington (Conn.) School District.

Industry experts and district technology officers offered a number of thoughts on what K12 school systems should know before investing in a new or upgraded student information system. The questions they suggest asking are:

Joseph Renzulli and Sally Reis are recognized as the leading experts in differentiated instruction.

The term “talent development” has historically been associated only with gifted education in the K12 eduation world. But for the past 30 years, husband and wife team Joseph Renzulli and Sally Reis have been steadily increasing the pool of educators trained to apply talent development practices to mainstream instruction through the Renzulli Learning Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM).

Springfield (Pa.) Literacy Center, sustainable schools

Imagine a school with classrooms on only one side of the building, windows that look out onto picturesque landscape, a path outside that features the ABCs, and a forest area with a tree house where a classroom of kids can read. The Springfield Literacy Center is that place, and 600 kindergartners and first-graders in the Springfield (Pa.) School District gather for school there every day.

Don’t Forget Education

Former West Va. Gov. Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, has urged the presidential candidates to not forget about education policies in the 2012 election. A College Board poll says education is behind the economy and jobs in top issues.

E2 Petition, Anthony Delmedico

There’s a new petition for legislators on the hill and it appeals for entrepreneurial lessons to be taught in the classroom. The E2 Petition, initiated by Anthony Delmedico, an independent entrepreneur, urges community members to encourage legislators and educators to consider a course in business and innovative practices to be taught throughout grades 4-12. While courses on this subject are traditionally found in higher education, Delmedico says students need to be encouraged at an early age.

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