I was listening to Kim Komando (the digital goddess) on nationally syndicated talk radio today as I often do, and a word caught my ear. She mentioned a Mathnasium! I, being a math coach at my school, had to wonder what it was. So I looked up a Mathnasium on line and found out that they are franchises that teach students math like a Sylvan Learning Center. They aren’t very well known yet, and they are international. Not all states have a site. This is a franchise which may interest you if you are burned out in the classroom and have a little business capital. Since they aren’t well known yet and there aren’t many locations, now would be an ideal time to get in on this business venture.
In case you haven’t heard the monumental news, Obama made a major decision in education last week. Some see this ploy as merely a political move especially since he didn’t give Congress the time to edit the current No Child Left Behind law, but nonetheless it affects the national educational landscape. His decision is giving states the choice to opt out of the No Child Left Behind law in exchange for waivers from certain aspects of NCLB. If a state chooses to opt out of NCLB (at least 45 states are expected to opt out), then they will receive flexibility with federal spending and with school improvement accountability. In order to receive this flexibility, the state must have adopted the common core standards in math and literacy, develop a test to show accountability of common core standards, and measure the performance of teachers and principals factoring in student achievement.
Surprisingly 31,737 of the 98,916 schools were labeled failing in 2009. Because this is such a large number of schools, Obama’s decision is to help the bottom 5% of schools that are failing instead of all 31,737 schools, which is an insurmountable number of schools to help. Since the change to NCLB decision was not a bipartisan effort and the House and Senate did not contribute to this effort, critics are concerned that the Secretary of Education is taking too much national control.
In Illinois, the teachers union in the Illini Bluffs school district have currently been on strike for 8 days in anger over having to be drug tested. Students are unable to start back to school because of the lack of teachers. The district is taking applications of temporary substitute teachers so that students may start back to school. The teachers union resents the drug testing as a power move. I however think that the school systems in any state could potentially get rid of poor teachers a lot more quickly if they would allow drug testing so I am in favor of the idea for the betterment of the children. What do you think? Should teachers be drug tested? For more about this story, click here.
With the common core standards on the horizon, project based learning has been given more attention. With that said I have been looking into some schools which have effectively implemented project based learning. In Portland, Maine all middle and high schools have one to one laptops (each child has an Apple laptop). Students use these laptops to investigate and build the projects they are working on. Teachers plan together and work through the project to make sure it is doable before assigning them to students. Students work with the communities and sometimes outside of school to capture images and gather information for their projects. The former governor of Maine Angus King discusses how he began this initiative in 2002 and how students are extremely engaged in learning. (to see short videos, click on the links above.)
In Santa Monica, CA at New Roads School, students are testing out a new online program which teaches them to make quick decisions based on their perceptions rather than on the traditional methods of memorization. Students are taught to skim problems for a few key words and then make a decision about the correct answer for a problem. In this way students are able to find patterns and improve their abilities to answer problems. To read more click here.
While teaching in a high poverty school and giving students the best education I can with the resources provided , I still wonder if most students will succeed in the midst of their home life with all of its habits and distractions. I have often thought the only way to ensure achievement is to place them in a boarding school atmosphere with the 24-hour support of dedicated professionals to influence good social and educational habits. This is something that also This is an area I have been pondering ever since I watched Waiting for Superman–the documentary. In Washington D.C. and Maryland, charter boarding schools have been developed for under privileged students called SEED schools. These schools have a 91% graduation rate with 95% of these students enrolling in college within 18 months of their graduation. Students who attend these schools are three times as likely to graduate college as their peers from the same neighborhoods. Compare this to a 1998 study done in which only 71% of ALL public school students privileged and underprivileged in the U.S. graduated high school. Since the SEED school concept has shown such a high success rate, the are wanting to spread the SEED schools to other states. If you would like to learn more about the SEED schools or request a SEED school be started in your area you may contact the SEED foundation.
John Kline the chairman of the Heritage Foundation recently discussed federal legislation which is on the horizon. This legislation will eliminate federal funding programs that do not allow school systems to spend money in the areas that they most need. Right now federal education funds are dispersed in different categories. For example, a school may be brimming with interactive whiteboards (smart boards) and other technology, however what the school really needed most was an additional interventionist to help struggling readers. Federal funds may not be allotted for this particular need, and so the school continues another year with their need unmet—but with plenty of technology! The good news is that educators can now look forward to legislation that will counteract this pitfall in federal education funding. View John Klein\’s Video
Happy Memorial Day!
As a result of the millions of dollars in philanthropy Bill Gates has poured into education many advances in educational technology have been made in the U.S. Some examples of what Gaters has contributed to are as follows. Video games are being developed by Quest Atlantis to help students become proficient in math, science, and literacy. Sal Khan, a former hedge fund manager, began developing You Tube videos to help his younger cousin in school. These videos received much more anticipation that Khan expected. So much attention that Gates’ children viewed them to help them with their math. Google and Gates then both helped Khan develop the Khan Academy. Some teachers are using Khan’s videos as homework for students to watch while they spend class time in a tutoring like atmosphere. Online learning is gaining popularity in India and in Florida as students retain more information with the differentiated one on one instruction a computer provides. Studies have shown students still need adult supervision of their learning in a computer lab, so if teachers are less depended upon for instruction, their title may become intellectual coach or research assistant. For more about this topic, follow the links:
The New York Times recently wrote an article about a new learning center called Kumon which is emerging on the horizon of U.S. education. Kumon is similar to a Sylvan learning center as it gives students individualized sessions to meet their areas of need. They also help school aged children (K-12) become more advanced in math and English skills. Some controversy surrounds the learning center because they accept three-year-old students or any child “out of a diaper [that] can sit still with a Kumon instructor for 15 minutes”, states Joseph Nativo, the CFO for North America. Many parents believe that a child that young should learn by exploring and playing instead of the drilling methods to learn letters and numbers that Kumon uses. Kumon believes that learning basic skills increases children’s self esteem which leads to success in their learning. To read more about this article, see the following links: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/16/pushing-kids-in-public-and-private/ and http://www.nytimes.com/pages/education/index.html “Fast Tracking to Kindergarten”.