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Professional Opinion

Meghan Reilly Michaud says art is no longer used only to teach students about culture.

Today’s students encounter art in many aspects of everyday life. From the icons representing the applications on their smartphone to the paintings hung on the walls of a museum, the arts teach our students to interpret information. But art also instills skill sets for students pursuing any field of study.

These days, no discipline stands on its own. Visuals can simplify complex data in science in the same way that mathematics can structure appealing rhythmic patterns in music.

Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp once said, “If top recent college graduates devoted two years to teaching in public schools, they could have a real impact on the lives of disadvantaged kids.” I agree. TFA members and other short-term teachers have changed kids’ lives—for the worse.

As an idealistic Ivy League graduate, I was the student TFA likes to recruit. According to Kopp’s thesis, my education, academic achievements, and enthusiasm would transfer into great teaching.

When you drive the winding, wooded roads of Sandy Hook, Conn., the reminders of what happened here on Dec. 14, 2012, are everywhere.

The country’s obsession with high-stakes testing is an expensive, destructive failure. Students who can least afford it pay the biggest price.

When upgrading security, can districts afford to wait the weeks or months the purchasing process sometimes takes? A widely available but not very well-known funding option can speed things up.

We know there is a sense of urgency around funding safer schools—just think about the title of President Obama’s school safety plan: Now is the Time! The good news is that for district leaders who are willing to explore a new purchasing method, time and cost savings may be on the way.

School lunches are at the front lines of the country’s childhood obesity and nutrition crisis. First Lady Michelle Obama, star chef Jamie Oliver and the “Renegade Lunch Lady” activist Ann Cooper have helped draw the public interest to the problems in school cafeterias.

Since 2009, I have worked with The Culinary Institute of America’s Menu for Healthy Kids initiative. We have provided school districts in New York’s Hudson Valley with tools to improve the food served to students.

Since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001, trying to close the achievement gap has been on every educator’s mind.

Key to that law has been the requirement of measuring achievement through the administration of standardized tests to determine the extent to which schools are making “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) toward that goal.

As part of the $700 million grant through the federal Race to the Top (RttT) initiative, New York State was required to develop and implement an evaluation and accountability system for measuring the level of teacher effectiveness in direct relation to student outcomes. An essential element of this system included the development of Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) for teachers where, “there is no State assessment that can be used for a State-provided growth or value-added measure” (www.Engageny.org).

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.

prof opinion science experiment

Education and business leaders, the press, and the president have all called for increased emphasis on STEM in K12 schools, and NGSS, the “Next Generation Science Standards” released in April are a response to those priorities (www.nextgenscience.org). The standards do an outstanding job of defining science and engineering for our time.

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