Friday, May 15th, 2015

✧ Math + Fun = Success

A San Antonio teacher proves that when you teach math class in an engaging and unconventional way, students pay attention, retain lessons better, and get excited about learning.

✧ Bullying Down

A study released today from the Department of Education found that school bullying is down 6% from what it was 2 years ago, and at its lowest point in over 10 years.

✧ Duncan on Denver

After Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, visited Denver Public Schools, he praised their success, admitting that “the Department of Education’s Teach to Lead initiative was influenced heavily by the DPS pilot program.”

✧ Hashtag Movement

Grassroots groups, parents, and communities have entered the education policy arena using the hashtag #educolor to address racial inequality.

✧ Poverty’s Impact

VIVA Teacher and writer Mark Anderson analyzes Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, and scarcity’s impact on mindset and behavior.

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

✧ Dept. Of Ed

From a disappearance of deserved student grants to a loss of essential student data, here’s what would happen if we shut down the Department of Education.

✧ Grit Evaluation

With recent studies focused on how grit can predict student’s overall success, many wonder if teachers should be evaluated on the grit growth of their students.

✧ Early Ed Pays Off

Why policy makers must invest in early childhood education. “Communities thrive when leaders invest in smart, evidence-based programs with proven success.”

✧ Teacher Retention

Are there too few teachers in the profession or too few quality teachers? As experts debate why the “best and brightest young people are becoming teachers”, everyone agrees that better incentives for teachers are the first step to both seek out quality candidates and retain them.

✧ Food Ed

Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, wants to celebrate Food Revolution Day tomorrow, May 15th, by encouraging the expansion of food education programs across the country. The end goal would be for every child to “know how to grow and cook food.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2015

✧ NY Parental Involvement

The New York outreach campaign “Raise Your Hand for Our Kids” has seen a rise in parents participation in local education council elections.

EdTech Outcome

Forbes article reminds us that the only metric that matters when it comes to edtech is student success.


Asia Leading Test Scores

A global school ranking lead by based on test scores in 76 countries found that Singapore and Hong Kong are leading the pack.


Preschool Roundup

New research conducted by National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University breaks down the good, the bad, and latest on preschools across all 50 states.


Future of Ed

Interview with Jordan Shapiro discuss the future of education, including what ideas deserve investing and edreform fads that need to fall by the wayside.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

✧ Lesson Planning

Joseph Rogan explains how teachers should prepare themselves in a world where they influence school outcomes the most, yet have the least control.

✧ Corporate Ed

Edweek discussed the role of corporations in improving schools. Some say corporate reformers’ desire for education to be a free marketplace will undercut edreform progress.

✧ CS Gap

The latest report from the Level Playing Field Institute found that students of color are half as likely to have access to computer science classes than predominantly Caucasian or Asian public schools.

✧ Language Barrier

According to The Atlantic, recent research shows an imbalance in language studies. Less than 1% of Americans are proficient in a foreign language that they studied in a U.S. classroom, and most students are more frequently studying languages that aren’t commonly spoken (ie., Bengali vs. French).

✧ 15 Spring Reads

The top 15 teaching books recommended most often by master educators.


Lowering the Expectations of Our Students

by Kelly Waller

Should students receive half credit for an assignment they didn’t even bother to turn in? That is the new trend sweeping across the country in our public school system. District leaders are either strongly encouraging or making it mandatory for teachers to change their grading criteria so that 50% is the lowest score a student can earn, even when they fail to turn in the assignment.

According to Douglas B. Reeves, Chairman and Founder of the Center for Performance assessment in Boston, “it is mathematically disproportionate when a student receives a 0 on a 100-point scale when the interval between numerical and letter grades is 10 points. Therefore, when applying a 0 to a score, the interval between a D and an F is not 10 points, but 60 points.” (The Case Against the Zero).

So, taking this theory into consideration, should schools and teachers change their grading scale so that a 50% is the lowest possible score and, likewise, give a student credit for no work at all?

The logic sounds solid, but can (or should) teachers alter their ideals and make this adjustment?  After all, our education system is not only responsible for instilling knowledge in their students, but also for life skills such as accountability. When our students grow up, will they still get paid for their job if they don’t show up to work?

There is also another factor that should be taken into consideration: the weighing of the assignments. Most teachers, me included, weigh an assessment at a higher percentage than a homework assignment. So, if a student doesn’t turn in their homework, a “0” will not drop them significantly. On the other hand, if a student decides they don’t want to complete their essay assessment, should they still receive 50%?

As a middle school teacher in the public school system, I feel an immense amount of pressure from my administration and district to make sure my students pass, especially since the dropout rate in the United States continues to rise. However, should one of those opportunities be to change a grade and give credit that wasn’t earned?

Like most teachers I’ve spoken to, I already give students every opportunity possible to help them pass my class (extra time, replacing lost materials, extra credit, in-school make-up work days, parental communication, incentives, etc.). Should changing their grade now be one of those opportunities?

If we continue to lower our expectations for our students, how will they be able to compete with graduates from higher performing schools that expect students to be successful by earning their grades?

Furthermore, how will they learn the importance of responsibility if they no longer need to be accountable for their own work?

Kelly Waller 150Kelly Waller teaches middle school language arts in Hillsborough County, Florida Public Schools. She participated in the VIVA MET Idea Exchange.

Friday, May 8, 2015

✧ Math Teaching Alternatives

Teachers are using theatre and rap to introduce math concepts to students. The results? Engaged students. 

✧ Boston Ed

Boston’s upcoming superintendent, Tommy Chang, wants to improve Boston’s public schools.  “Our job is not to just create innovations, it’s to create innovators . . . among teachers, and parents, and administrators.”

✧ Math Textbooks

New research from the National Research and Development Center on Cognition and Mathematics Instruction looks at how students learn and uses that knowledge to produce better math textbooks.

✧ Community Learning

Preschools like The Fowler Head Start Program inspire students (and their parents) to dream and pursue their dreams. By bridging the relationship between teachers, administrators, and families, schools can help create academic interests and imagination among students and the community.

✧ CCSS Skills

A new study finds that some skills don’t translate to Common Core assessments, like rote memorization, but mastering theory and connecting big ideas produce higher scores.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

✧ Chicago Teachers Fire Back

The Chicago Teachers Union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint claiming that the city’s school board is refusing to mediate with teachers on a new contract. This comes after the school board rejected the teachers’ pension payment revisions earlier this week.

✧ CCSS Implementation

Some states still have concerns and hiccups with Common Core implementation, but whether it’s tech problems or parental opt-out issues, overall the problems seem to be minor and isolated.

✧ Teachers and Tablets

5 creative ways teachers can use tablets to engage students as more than just a digital device, but as a real-life, physical learning tool.

✧ Las Vegas Teachers

Las Vegas is having a hard time recruiting enough teachers to staff its growing population.

✧ #MoveInMay

First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative set a goal of allocating 60 minutes of physical activity a day across schools nationwide. #MoveInMay is her latest campaign to get kids active this month.

How Can a Teacher Make a Difference in Education Policy?

by Sara Arnold

Seems a bit ironic, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t changes in education be made by well-trained educators?

Shutting our doors and teaching is no longer an option.

I used to believe that all I needed to do was be the best teacher I could be for my students. I had control of what happened in my classroom, but I had no idea how many decisions were being made about my profession by non-educators.

Many decisions that drive education are made in the state house, not the school house. Two years ago, I realized I could no longer sit idly by and allow policy to be made for me. Many people don’t know where to begin when it comes to education policy, so here are three things you can do to make a difference for your students.

Tell Classroom Stories to Your Legislators

It seems scary and intimidating, but your legislators want to hear from you. I made my first trip to the state house this January to be a voice for adequate funding for our schools. I was able to tell my story and offer my input back to my legislators.

You can talk about increasing class sizes, reductions in programming, increased testing….but also share your heartfelt stories. Stories of a student who learned how to read or a class that organized a food drive for a local food pantry. These stories are the reasons we became educators: to make a difference in the lives of others.

Just Say ‘Yes’

Whether it’s a state or local committee, say “yes” when you’re asked to serve. I said yes to a few local and state committees and I’ve learned so much through the process and had the opportunity to share my voice. Decisions are no longer being made for me, they’re being made with me at the table.

Always Do What’s Best for Your Students

You are the expert in your field. You know and understand your students, so do what’s best for them. As a teacher, I would never try and tell a neurosurgeon how to perform brain surgery, just as legislators shouldn’t be telling us how to do things in our classrooms. Sometimes we must stand up for what’s right and make decisions based on what’s best for our students.

Sara Arnold teaches elementary gifted and talented students in Iowa’s Cedar Rapids Public Schools. She participated in the VIVA ISEA Teachers Idea Exchange.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

✧ Presidential Candidates on Education:

Here’s a round-up of the major 2016 presidential candidates’ positions on education:

✧ CPS Distress

On Tuesday, the Chicago Teachers Union announced that the school district is asking teachers to take a 7% pay cut in their upcoming contract. [NEEDS LINK]

✧ Ed Pays Off

According to a new study, “Americans with an advanced degree are 50 times more likely to become millionaires than those without a high school diploma.” Other findings link wealth and income with education.

✧ MT Opt-Out

It looks unlikely that Montana will meet the minimum testing participation requirements for the Common Core state standards. “The challenge is that all of these things are outside our control.”

✧ Teacher / Healer

In an era of conflict, this MindShift article explains how teachers have the power to heal their classrooms and the world.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

✧ EdTech Gap

New research indicates that up to 58% of high school students (grades 9-12) are using their own tech devices for school.

✧ Grade Skipping

NPR follows up with students who skipped grades and dives into the good, the bad, and the surprising.

✧ Nashville Ed Agreement

The Nashville Public Education Foundation launched Project Reset to bring the community together to discuss what could work for local schools, instead of a heated debate.

✧ CCSS Debate

The New York Times debate, “Is Testing Students the Answer to America’s Education Woes?“ has us wondering where the expert educators are to weigh in on this issue, considering they’re the ones who see it in action, and will have to implement it.

✧ Teacher Appreciation Deals

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week by taking advantage of some wonderful deals and discounts from local stores for their local teachers! Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!