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Articles: Teaching & Learning

The education community has rightly identified teacher quality as the key factor in improving student achievement. Most people would now agree that students must have top quality teachers if students are to reach their potential. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) made teacher quality and accountability central in the debate on education.

07/2010

Au Contraire

As a proud Vermont chauvinist, I feel compelled to point out that, contrary to your assertion in your first story in the States of Debate series ("Lone Star," May 2010), three U.S. states have been sovereign nations — Hawaii, Texas and Vermont. Vermont was an independent, self-governed republic for a period of time immediately following the Revolutionary War, I believe from 1777 to 1791.

Kate Davie, Librarian Blue Mountain Union School, Wells River, Vt.

In the six years since her appointment as superintendent of Volusia County (Fla.) School District—a district that has 63,000 students in 16 cities, including Daytona Beach, in the heart of Florida's east coast—Margaret Smith has had her share of success. But what makes her so different from other superintendents is her ability to reach out.

With a national teacher shortage projected to start peaking this year as baby boomers retire and budget shortfalls restrict state and local funding for teachers, rural school districts are working to keep the teachers they have while seeking new ones at little if any additional cost.

As the nation prepares for common core standards in math and English language arts, a framework to guide new science standards in elementary and secondary education—where students are showing only mediocre achievement compared to other nations—is getting closer.

Following the publication of a 2004 report by the Alliance for Excellent Education (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004), the topic of adolescent literacy emerged as an issue of concern. It recently has received increased attention thanks to the latest round of studies and calls for additional federal funding (Cassidy, Valadez, Garrett, & Barrera, 2010).

A new report released in May finds that although a majority of K12 educators believe that financial literacy is an important content area that should be taught in schools, only a small minority feel qualified to teach it or have ever taught the topic in class.

With oil continuing to spill into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon drilling explosion and experts scrambling to discover the elusive solution that will halt the unceasing flow of pollutants, it's time to begin grappling with the necessary question that legislators, bureaucrats and everyday citizens must now address: How do we prevent this kind of disaster from happening again?

"Every state is different and unique in its education system," says Don McAdams, founder and president of the Houston-based school-board training and consulting firm Center for the Reform of School Systems. "But Texas is one state that is really different and unique." The state's tumultuous history, huge size, high poverty rate and English language learner population have created "an overall sense of urgency" when it comes to education, McAdams explains.

Pittsburgh Public Schools is focused on reforming its teacher recruitment, evaluation and training systems, along with better coordinating its student services. In both goals, the district is being helped by elements of the business community, including a billionaire philanthropist and some MBA students.

At its most fundamental level, literacy represents the ability to read, write and communicate. Unfortunately, too many adolescents lack the literacy skills necessary to navigate the reading and writing requirements of high school and the future world in which they will work and live.

A well-rounded education now includes environmental literacy, according to the Obama administration.

"A Blueprint for Reform," the administration's amended proposal for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), has for the first time carved out room in the budget for environmental education. The proposed bill, No Child Left Inside (NCLI ), is among the administration's signature competitive grants and if passed would provide $500 million over five years to states that develop superior environmental and outdoor education plans.

A summer job for a 16-year-old typically involves serving coffee, scooping ice cream, or babysitting the neighborhood children. Some students at Miami-Dade County (Fla.) Public Schools, however, spent their summer vacation designing a children's Web site for the city of Miami Beach. An increasing number of students are finding themselves mingling among professionals with internships in local businesses—the culmination of a work-based learning curriculum.

Female elementary school teachers may project a fear of math onto their female students, causing them to do poorly in the subject, according to a new study, "Female Teachers' Math Anxiety Impacts Girls' Math Achievement," published by the University of Chicago in January.

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