Posts Tagged ‘ education reform ’

Parents Across the U.S. Are Saying NO to Standardized Testing

Friday, March 6th, 2015

Standardized TestA growing number of states are adopting Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) standardized testing, and as a response, many parents are refusing to allow their children to take them.

New Jersey and Ohio were the first states to administer these exams, which align closely with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) exams created in 2009, and this year, eight more states will be following their lead.

Many parents argue that these exams focus too strongly on math, reading, and critical thinking skills, and don’t leave room for other important subjects, like science and history. Others, like Parents blogger Lisa Milbrand, believe the exams put an unnecessary amount of stress on their children.

Supporters, though, believe standardized testing is the best way to track a student’s performance, and to assess whether or not the school district is up to par. PARCC is “a valuable tool to know with confidence how their children are doing academically and how best to support their learning,” says Ellen Hur, a spokesperson for the New Mexico state education department.

But some New Jersey school districts have reported that more than 25 percent of their students have opted out of the exam. And these parents are not alone in this battle—hundreds of high school students in New Mexico recently staged walkouts during PARCC testing this year.

Although the kids are not penalized for opting out of exams, federal law states that 95 percent of the student body must complete the exam. If the quota is not met, the school risks losing their federal funding. “The rule is meant to keep administrators from quietly discouraging low performers to stay home on exam day, something that could skew performance upward and hide racial or socio-economic inequities,” reports the Washington Post. However, it’s unlikely that schools will be penalized for the opt-out portion of students.

As always, social media is helping to spread these displays of civil disobedience to an even wider audience, which may lead more parents and students to join the opt-out movement.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Helping Your Child Succeed At School
Helping Your Child Succeed At School
Helping Your Child Succeed At School

Image: Standardized exam via Shutterstock

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Are Teachers’ Prejudices Affecting Your Daughter’s Math and Science Grades?

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Female studentGirls can do anything boys can do, especially in math and science, but what if teachers, whose goal is to educate and empower kids, are discouraging girls from these subjects without knowing it?

This may be the case, according to new study conducted by the American Friends of Tel Aviv University and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The research suggests that the perceptions elementary school teachers have about what girls can and can’t do in math and science might be causing female students to shy away from those areas. Their unconscious biases are negatively impacting girls and unintentionally affecting the academic and career choices that female students make later in life.

Three groups of students, from sixth grade through the end of high school, were asked to take two exams. The exams were then graded by two different people: one who didn’t know their names and one who did. The results showed that girls were scored higher than boys only when their tests were graded by the objective scorer versus the familiar scorer, reports Science Daily.

Researchers in Tel Aviv continued to follow the students and also noticed a pattern: if a girl was discouraged by an elementary school teacher, they were less likely to register for advanced-level science and math courses. But boys who were encouraged, despite being scored lower, actually began to excel more and more.

“It isn’t an issue of discrimination but of unconscious discouragement,” said Dr. Edith Sand, an economist at the Bank of Israel and an instructor at TAU’s Berglas School of Economics. “This discouragement, however, has implications. The track to computer science and engineering fields, which report some of the highest salaries, tapers off in elementary school.”

Women around the world are still underrepresented in multiple fields, especially ones related to math and science. Although strides have been made in the U.S. to help young girls have a more STEM-focused education, to play with more toys related to science, technology, engineering, and math, and teach them how to code with HTML, there is still more to be done so that they won’t face inequalities in the future.

As parents, it’s important to continue encouraging kids, regardless of gender, to pursue all endeavors, which will definitely be a step in the right direction.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

What Parents Don't Need to Do (When it comes to school)
What Parents Don't Need to Do (When it comes to school)
What Parents Don't Need to Do (When it comes to school)

Image: Girl at chalkboard via Shutterstock

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California Court Throws Out Teacher Tenure

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

A California judge has made a landmark education ruling, calling that state’s teacher tenure rules unconstitutional because they keep some teachers who don’t perform well–and dismiss some teachers who do–based on standards other than current merit.  CNN has more:

Poor and minority students are especially hurt by the laws because “grossly ineffective teachers” more often work in their schools, Los Angeles County Judge Rolf M. Treu said.

The ruling was hailed by the nation’s top education chief as bringing to California — and possibly the nation — an opportunity to build “a new framework for the teaching profession.” The decision represented “a mandate” to fix a broken teaching system, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.

The court ordered a stay of the decision, pending an appeal by the state and the teachers union, the plaintiffs said.

Reforming teacher tenure and firing laws is a hotly debated issue in American education, and the California case is being watched nationally, as evidenced by a statement from Duncan immediately after the court ruling.

Reformers say firing a bad teacher is almost impossible because of tenure laws and union protections, but teachers and their unions argue school boards and their firing criteria have unfair, overtly political standards.

Duncan, a former schools chief in Chicago, said he hoped the ruling will spark a national dialogue on a teacher tenure process “that is fair, thoughtful, practical and swift.”

At a minimum, Duncan said the court decision, if upheld, will bring to California “a new framework for the teaching profession that protects students’ rights to equal educational opportunities while providing teachers the support, respect and rewarding careers they deserve.”

“The students who brought this lawsuit are, unfortunately, just nine out of millions of young people in America who are disadvantaged by laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students. Today’s court decision is a mandate to fix these problems,” Duncan said.

Teachers unions, however, criticized the ruling, with one leader stating the court decision was “anti-public education” and a “scapegoating” of teachers for public education’s problems. They will appeal the ruling.

Image: Classroom, via Shutterstock

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French President Promises to Ban Homework

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

French President François Hollande has made a promise that kids are likely to love–as part of a sweeping package of changes to the country’s education system, Hollande proposed a ban on homework.  “Work should be done at school, rather than at home,” Hollande said. has more:

He also proposes reducing the average amount of time a student spends in class in each day, while stretching the school week from four days to four and a half. It’s a bid to bring the country more in line with international standards and to acknowledge some of the current system’s shortcomings. Even the homework isn’t just an empty populist gesture — it’s meant to reflect the fact that many of the lowest-performing students lack a positive support environment at home.

Earlier this year, an Australian study found that too much homework actually decreases student performance on standardized tests, and that students’ after-school time is better spent cultivating an interest like music or sports.

Image: Kid doing homework, via Shutterstock
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Are Romney and Obama Talking About the Things That Matter to Parents?

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Amy Julia Becker

My day as a mom doesn’t involve much thought about our government. I think about packing lunches for school, wiping counters, getting our kids dressed in clothes that are somewhat appropriate for the weather outside. I think about how many minutes of television William (age 4) has already watched today. I think about whether I’m being consistent in my discipline and expectations for Marilee (20 months), our third child, who is rather inclined to get away with, well, everything. I think about how Penny (age 6 ½), who has Down syndrome, is doing in school–will she control her hands, will she eat her carrot sticks at lunch, will she make friends? I think about the dozens of emails in my inbox, our cat with hyperthyroidism, the rusty spot on the door of the minivan that really needs attention.

I don’t think much about tax policy, job creation, teachers unions, national defense, or public health. And I suspect that neither Romney nor Obama spends much time thinking about chores and report cards and rusty minivans. I certainly hope they don’t.

Although I don’t spend my days thinking about the government, I do have concerns about how the outcome of our next election will affect my family. At a luncheon hosted by CNN and Parents last June, I was part of a group of moms that discussed various election issues. It was clear that many of us care about having a president who can fix the educational system, address environmental hazards, and implement economic policies that enable job creation. Similarly, in a survey conducted by the Center for the Next Generation and Parents, “74 percent of parents say the government is not doing enough for children.” The authors of the report detailing the same survey called upon Obama and Romney to address the “concerns of parents” in tomorrow’s debate about domestic policy.

Neither Romney nor Obama has made educational reform or other issues related to kids the center of their campaigns. Both have instead made the economy the focal point of this election. They have different proposals for addressing economic woes–Romney follows his party line in calling for keeping both taxes and government spending low, although he is vague about the specifics of how to do so. Obama promotes the agenda of the past four years–raising taxes on the top income brackets and continuing to spend as an act of financial stimulus while “trimming fat” from the national budget. And although parents might complain that neither politician has focused enough on issues related to children, economic issues are what matter most to parents right now.

The recent survey showed that “91 percent of parents believe that the lack of jobs that pay enough to support a family is a serious problem facing America’s children,” and, in a departure from historical norms, “When asked to choose between an extra $10,000 per year or an extra hour every day of quality time with their children, two-thirds choose the money.” In other words, the biggest concern parents face is the economy, exactly the topic both candidates highlight every day on the campaign trail.

When it comes to our presidential candidates, the problem doesn’t lie with an unwillingness to address the concerns of parents and children. The problem lies with an unwillingness, on the part of the candidates and the American public, to address the real problems within our national budget. As Michael Grunwald recently wrote in a cover article for TIME (“One Nation on Welfare”), “The 2012 election is shaping up as a debate over Big Government, but it is only loosely tethered to the reality of Big Government. The vast majority of federal spending goes to defense, health care, and Social Security plus interest payments on the debt we’ve run up paying for defense, health care, and Social Security. Nondefense discretionary spending–Washingtonese for “everything else,” from the FBI to the TSA to the center for grape genetics–amounts to only 12 percent of the budget.”

The candidates don’t need to be talking first and foremost about education reform or child welfare. They don’t need to be thinking about the things parents are thinking about on a day to day basis. But in order to address the needs of the nation, which very much includes the needs of parents and of the next generation, the candidates need to do more than pontificate about reducing the deficit and providing sound economic policy.

They need instead to articulate reductions in defense spending and policy changes to our longstanding and beneficial entitlement programs–Medicare and Social Security. The boldness to ensure security and health for the next generation of children rests upon conversations that have very little immediate connection to my car that needs to go to the shop or Penny’s behavioral chart at school or another box of macaroni and cheese. I’ll be tuning in on Wednesday night to see if either Obama or Romney has any concrete solutions to the economic problems that concern us all.

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