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Articles: Teaching & Learning

In districts with Hispanic populations, English language learning is a priority, particularly in the elementary grades, which many students enter still speaking Spanish as their primary language. In affiliation with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a private, non-profit organization focused on reducing poverty and discrimination and improving opportunity for Hispanic Americans, about 100 community-based charter schools serve districts like these across the United States.

The latest trend in the rapidly advancing and fiercely competitive interactive whiteboard market reflects the ever-increasing popularity and global appeal of this technology: support for multiple languages. A variety of manufacturers have recently added or expanded their language resources because of U.S. demand for teaching ELL students, the use of the devices in foreign language classes and strong sales in countries around the world.

Call it a case of "vertigo." Middle school media specialist Grace Poli was determined to find a way to use technology to help her ELL and special-needs students learn English more quickly. As she watched the Apple ad featuring the U2 song "Vertigo," something clicked.

"I thought, 'This will motivate kids,'" says Poli. After looking into the benefits of music and how audiobooks can help struggling readers, Poli approached her superintendent with a proposal for an after-school iPod program.

For high school students, college admissions counseling and postsecondary school planning have become increasingly intricate. In response, many school districts have invested in counseling programs developed to educate students and families regarding issues such as conducting the college search, testing, career guidance, application procedures, essay preparation and interviews. For many students, the postsecondary planning process is a significant part of their junior and senior years in high school.

For many students, natural science seems irrelevant to everyday life. Whether they are teaching biology or physics, unless they explicitly show students how formulas and processes apply to their own lives, teachers run the risk of disengaging students and allowing their minds to wander freely.

PROBLEM

For years, administrators at Waukegan (Ill.) Public School District 60, located on Lake Michigan and just south of the Wisconsin border, had been using an alternative educational program to serve students who needed extreme discipline or had been expelled from school. But they also needed an entirely different program to help special education students who had aggression or academic weaknesses that prevented them from being successful in traditional classrooms but who did not need restrictive private placement.

It’s not only the treatments of viruses that can have side effects. The H1N1 epidemic itself has created a variety of “side effects” around the country, as well as in nearly every school district. Among them have been opportunities for companies to cash in with new products and services. Not all are legitimate.

Cory was a special education sixth-grader at the Saugus (Calif.) Union School District when he wrote an entry on his blog page entitled “The Spied Enemies: A War Journal.” This make-believe story opens with the words “I am Johnny Willow, a hero to some people. I will tell you my story about my adventures in World War II.”

When Charles Soriano enrolled in classes a few years ago in the Mid-Career Doctorate in Educational Leadership program at the University of Pennsylvania, he was already an accomplished school administrator. Assistant superintendent of schools in the East Hampton (N.Y.) Union Free School District, Soriano had two master’s degrees—in English literature and educational leadership—and had served on state panels and advisory committees. He wasn’t satisfied and chose to pursue professional development. “I really believe school leadership is a craft,” he says.

Within the Common Core State Standards Initiative, I facilitated the working group charged with the development of a new generation of English-language arts (ELA) standards that would be fewer, clearer, higher, evidence-based, and internationally benchmarked. Moreover, these standards would address the realities of the kinds of reading, writing, speaking and listening required for success in college or the workplace.

A suburban school systewas saddened when its third student in several months died by suicide. The superintendent shared the most recent tragedy at a meeting with other local superintendents and was startled to learn that across four neighboring districts, nine teenagers had died by suicide in the last 18 months. Were they in the midst of a suicide cluster? If so, how could they stop it? Did these teens all know each other? How will further deaths be prevented? Who is most at risk?

When students fail courses or drop out of school, it isn’t good for them or their districts, which are under federal and state mandates to improve test scores and graduation rates. With those mandates and about 1.2 million students dropping out each year—or one every 26 seconds—“there is more pressure today than ever to help students stay in school and graduate on time,” according to Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

A movement to spread scientific learning in a casual environment that started in Britain in the late 1990s has gotten a foothold in the United States. At science cafés, adults gather at a restaurant, bar or other nonacademic spot to listen to a presentation on a scientific topic while enjoying their favorite beverage.

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