Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
A growing number of elementary schools across the country are returning to “ability grouping,” a practice that groups students not by age, but by school level. The practice was popular in the 1980s and 90s, but fell out of favor amid discomfort from parents who feared the policy was unequal and placed poor and minority students at a disadvantage. More from The New York Times:
A new analysis from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a Census-like agency for school statistics, shows that of the fourth-grade teachers surveyed, 71 percent said they had grouped students by reading ability in 2009, up from 28 percent in 1998. In math, 61 percent of fourth-grade teachers reported ability grouping in 2011, up from 40 percent in 1996.
“These practices were essentially stigmatized,” said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who first noted the returning trend in a March report, and who has studied the grouping debate. “It’s kind of gone underground, it’s become less controversial.”
The resurgence of ability grouping comes as New York City grapples with the state of its gifted and talented programs — a form of tracking in some public schools in which certain students, selected through testing, take accelerated classes together.
These programs, which serve about 3 percent of the elementary school population, are dominated by white and Asian students.
Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker who is running for mayor, has proposed expanding the number of gifted classes while broadening the criteria for admission in hopes of increasing diversity. (The city’s Education Department has opposed the proposal, saying that using criteria other than tests would dilute the classes.)
Teachers and principals who use grouping say that the practice has become indispensable, helping them cope with widely varying levels of ability and achievement.
Image: School children, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Monday, April 15th, 2013
An upstate New York state school district has apologized after a high school teacher gave his English class an assignment in which students were asked to write from the perspective of Nazis, arguing that Jews are “evil” and the source of the German government’s problems. More from CNN:
The assignment from the unidentified teacher was designed to flex students’ “persuasive writing” skills.
But Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, superintendent of the City School District of Albany, called the assignment “completely unacceptable.”
“It displayed a level of insensitivity that we absolutely will not tolerate in our school community,” Wyngaard said, “I am deeply apologetic to all of our students, all of our families and the entire community.”
She told the Albany Times Union newspaper that one-third of the students refused to complete the work.
The teacher has not been in school since the district learned of the assignment.
The school district is considering disciplinary action, according to Ron Lesko, director of communications. Options include termination, but no decision has been made, Lesko said.
In the assignment, students were to pretend the educator was a member of the Nazi government.
“You must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!” the teacher’s assignment sheet said.
The assignment reiterated, “You do not have a choice in your position.”
Image: High school students writing, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani blogger who was shot in the head by the Taliban outside her school last October, is returning to school in Birmingham, England after enduring numerous surgeries and intensive medical procedures. Yousafzai was targeted because of her public criticism of the Taliban’s policies toward girls’ education.
More from NBC News:
Malala Yousafzai is attending classes in Birmingham, England, and not her homeland, where the Taliban had vowed to make another attempt on her life.
Still, it was a sweet victory for a 15-year-old who endured multiple surgeries to reconstruct her skull and restore her hearing after she was shot on her way home from school Oct. 9.
“It’s what I dreamed,” she said in a video released by the public relations firm that works with her family.
“I dream for all the children that they should go to their school because it’s their right…their basic right.”
Image: School supplies, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Friday, March 15th, 2013
Parents have been found to emphasize educational math activities at home far less than other academic pursuits like reading and paying attention, the result of which is American children lagging behind in math skills. A new study from PBS KIDS found that many parents do not know that research places math skills at kindergarten age as a greater predictor of academic achievement later in life than reading or other skills.
PBS’s “It All Adds Up” study was conducted in partnership with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and presented at the SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas. Some of the major findings:
- Nearly 30% of parents reported anxiety about teaching their child math. Anxiety is even greater for moms (33%) and parents with an education level of high school or less (32%).
- 60% percent of parents of 5-8-year-olds practice math daily with their kids, whereas only half of parents of 2-4-year-olds do; Parents are also more likely to practice reading skills with their kids than they are to practice math.
- Parents place less emphasis on math, since they view other skills as “the greatest predictor of achievement later in life,” ranking reading and literacy (26%) and the ability to pay attention and work hard (47%) as most indicative versus math (14%).
Encouragingly, the survey found that 84 percent of parents believe it is important to support their child’s learning with home-based activities, and PBS KIDS is developing mobile apps and other resources for parents to use to bring more math into their home learning.
“The early years of life are most critical for learning both literacy and math; in fact, many children do not realize their full potential in mathematics because they are not getting consistent support from a young age,” said Lesli Rotenberg, General Manager, Children’s Programming, PBS, in a statement. “The good news is that there are simple things parents can do to support early math learning that can all add up to make a big difference. We know that parents trust PBS KIDS and look to us for ways to support their kids’ learning, and we are excited to offer parents and caregivers free resources they can use on their mobile phones or computers, and offline activity ideas that make anytime a learning time.”
Image: Child doing math, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
Schools are increasingly debating the value of “zero tolerance” policies of suspending students who make threats in even the most unassuming ways. In the wake of the tragic Newtown, Connecticut school shooting late last year, some parents are jittery and want school officials to enforce the zero tolerance policy. Others, however believe that the policies discourage children from finding healthy ways to express anger. More from The Associated Press:
The extent to which the Newtown, Conn., shooting might influence educators’ disciplinary decisions is unclear. But parents contend administrators are projecting adult fears onto children who know little about the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators, and who certainly pose no threat to anyone.
‘‘It’s horrible what they’re doing to these kids,’’ said Kelly Guarna, whose 5-year-old daughter, Madison, was suspended by Mount Carmel Area School District in eastern Pennsylvania last month for making a ‘‘terroristic threat’’ with the bubble gun. ‘‘They’re treating them as mini-adults, making them grow up too fast, and robbing them of their imaginations.’’
Mary Czajkowski, superintendent of Barnstable Public Schools in Hyannis, Mass., acknowledged that Sandy Hook has teachers and parents on edge. But she defended Hyannis West Elementary School’s warning to a 5-year-old boy who chased his classmates with a gun he’d made from plastic building blocks, saying the student didn’t listen to the teacher when she told him repeatedly to stop.
The school told his mother if it happened again, he’d face a two-week suspension.
Add a Comment
‘‘Given the heightened awareness and sensitivity, we must do all that we can to ensure that all students and adults both remain safe and feel safe in schools,’’ Czajkowski said in a statement. ‘‘To dismiss or overlook an incident that results in any member of our school community feeling unsafe or threatened would be irresponsible and negligent.’’
Image: School sign, via Shutterstock