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A human-like robot that can mimic emotions and play interactive games can help students with autism develop social skills.

Aldebaran Robotics’ “ASK NAO” robot, which is about two feet tall, mimics an emotion with gestures and sounds, and waits for children to recognize the emotion. It may then ask children the last time they experienced such an emotion. It also can teach autistic children time, taking turns, basic conversation, and other communication skills.

Many teachers will spend this summer learning classroom strategies to best align with upcoming Common Core standards.

Common Core is the topic teachers have requested most for summer professional development, says Karen Beerer, Discovery Education’s vice president of professional development for Common Core State Standards. “Contrary to popular belief, the standards are not one size fits all,” she says.

Native American students face a dropout rate of over 12 percent—more than double that of their white peers and higher than that for black and Asian students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

High teacher turnover rates and few native teachers in the classroom are part of the problem, says David Thomas, a U.S. Department of Education spokesperson. The Indian Education Professional Development Grant seeks to change that by providing Native Americans a chance to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree and become teachers or administrators.

Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will no longer face suspension for minor acts like not coming to class prepared or refusing to remove a hat.


Shelley Holt, Los Angeles USD instructional director for secondary schools, was named one of ASCD’s 2013 Emerging Leaders for her work helping principals use data to develop plans for monitoring instructional outcomes.

The total unfunded liability of U.S. teacher pensions is currently anywhere from $390 billion to $1 trillion, according to recent estimates. In an effort to bolster depleting pension funds, some states are enacting laws that cut benefits and require more contributions from employees, according to a June report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “The Big Squeeze: Retirement Costs and School District Budgets.”

In the aftermath of the nation’s largest standardized test cheating scandal, 35 Atlanta Public Schools educators, including former Superintendent Beverly Hall, were criminally indicted for changing student answers on high-stakes state tests.

Investing in the Arts

Andrew Bott, principal of Orchard Gardens K8 School in Boston Public Schools, reinvested money used for the troubled school’s security infrastructure into the arts in 2010. As a result, today the school has one of the fastest student test improvement rates statewide.

Connecticut, home to some of the wealthiest and most destitute towns in the country, has the nation’s largest student achievement gap, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

This gap is most severe in Bridgeport, Conn., one of the poorest cities in the United States based on the percentage of children living at or below the federal poverty line. In Bridgeport Public Schools, fewer than half of the 21,000 students are proficient in math and reading, according to the Connecticut Department of Education, and the high school graduation rate is 55 percent.

Walking to school combats obesity and increases student concentration, according to a Danish study released last year. Children who walk or bike to school performed better on tasks demanding concentration, such as solving puzzles, than those who traveled by car or bus, the researchers found.