Friday, October 12, 2007

LCEA Morning Edition 10/15/2007--from 10/12/2007

Connecticut districts use videoconferencing technology to share classes between schools.

Journal-Inquirer (10/11, Abalyan) reported, "With the help of cutting-edge video conferencing technology, high school teachers and students in Ellington, Suffield, Windsor Locks, and Granby [Connecticut] are part of a distance learning program that allows them to collaborate on educational projects without leaving their respective schools." Educators at one school can teach classes to the students in the others using "two cameras for capturing images from the front and back of the room and a TV that allows administrators to preview and select which images will be broadcast to other schools." At present, the system is being used to teach SAT prep courses. "Instead of hiring teachers to lead the two-month program at each of the schools, administrators now share resources and split the bill." The schools were initially worried that students would reject the approach, but "the response has been positive."

"Freedom Writers" curriculum succeeds in suburban Ohio school.

Ohio's Vindicator (10/11, Schmitt) reported, "Outwardly, the students at Austintown Fitch High School don't have much in common with the students who inspired the movie 'Freedom Writers.'" While the film focused on poor, minority students in "neighborhoods plagued by gang violence," Fitch's students tend to be white and middle class. "But English students in Steven Ward's ninth- and 11th-grade classrooms at Austintown Fitch are benefiting from the same avant-garde curriculum that had such a powerful impact on" the students profiled in the film. "Ward is one of just 150 teachers nationwide who have been trained in the principles teacher Erin Gruwell used to inspire the California students to challenge their prescribed identities and their standards for personal achievement." As his students study the stories of others through literature, he requires them to tell their own stories through anonymous diary entries. He finds that, in addition to improving their reading and writing skills, the approach is "empowering them to change their own lives."

Kansas students learn biology through competitive Eco Meet.

Pittsburg Morning Sun (10/12, Stefanoni) reports, "Fourteen teams of junior high and high school students from" Pittsburg, Kansas-area schools gathered "Thursday for a competition that didn't involve scoring a touchdown or shooting a basket. ... The students were competing in the regional Eco Meet, an event designed to challenge and inspire an interest and appreciation of nature and the environment -- something coordinators say is something they rarely get to do with upper grades." Biology students from four schools competed in zoology labs, in which they examined "live, preserved, or photographed species" then were asked to "answer questions pertaining to their habitat, their identification, their life cycle, or their food preferences." They also came with prepared "skits" on environmental issues, and competed in a scavenger hunt.


Study suggests Rhode Island may find it too expensive to move teachers to 401(k) plans.

Rhode Island's
Providence Journal (10/12, Peoples) reports, "A study commissioned by the [Rhode Island] governor's office reveals that moving to a 401(k)-style retirement system would cost Rhode Island taxpayers $151.5 million next year and more than $520 million over the next seven years before the state sees any savings." Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri (R) has proposed moving all state employees and teachers to a defined-benefit plan instead of a traditional pension, but "the new study details the specific price for the first time and suggests that elected officials may have trouble changing the system this coming legislative session." Nationally, "just three states -- Alaska, Michigan and West Virginia -- and the District of Columbia require state employees and public school teachers to enroll in a defined-contribution plan," while six offer the plans as an option.

Number of male teachers at 40-year low.

Indiana's South Bend Tribune (10/12, Ellis) reports, "The National Education Association (NEA) recently announced that nationwide, 24.9 percent of teachers are men -- a 40-year low. In elementary schools, just 9 percent of teachers are men." NEA President Reg Weaver "blames low pay and declining respect for the job." The decline will probably continue for some time, as most schools of education report low enrollment among men. California State University at Fresno, for instance, reports that "just 18 percent of students this year in the school of education are men, compared to 24 percent a decade ago." The trend is worrisome to many educators because boys "have fallen behind girls in graduation rates and have more trouble reading and writing, leading some to wonder whether more male teachers would improve boys' classroom performance."

Editorial urges California to give teachers more authority in classrooms.

In an editorial, California's Oakland Tribune (10/11) wrote that a recent "California State University Teacher Quality Institute study found that the leading reasons why teachers left the profession were bureaucratic impediments, poor district and principal support, lack of resources, too much testing and, most importantly, because they did not have the authority to make decisions about how to teach their students." To combat these problems, the Tribune recommends that the state DOE give teachers "far more control of how they teach," which "means less interference from the state and district, fewer changes in curricula and more flexibility for teachers." Among other recommendations, the Tribune argues for higher starting salaries and "differential pay," offering more money to teachers of subjects facing shortages.

Roll Call (10/11, Dennis) reported, "Efforts to reach a bipartisan deal on revamped No Child Left Behind legislation have broken down, with Republicans charging" that House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) "has refused to compromise." The committee's ranking Republican, Howard McKeon (R-Calif.), said that "his staff and Miller's staff have been working together all year to try to work out a deal, but he said there are about 15 issues that have yet to be worked out." Miller said that he "remains hopeful," but that "President Bush's decision in past years not to fully fund No Child Left Behind has undermined support for the legislation."


U.N. report shows that U.S. leads world in education spending.

Chronicle of Higher Education
(10/11) reported that UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has released its annual report on the state of education around the world, the Global Education Digest for 2007. The report reveals that "the United States spends the most on education, with a public education budget 'close to that of all governments in six regions combined: the Arab States, Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, South and West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.'" The U.S. has just four percent of the world's children, but accounts for 28 percent of the world's education spending. The imbalance is "mainly due to the large numbers of university students and the relatively high costs associated with this level of education."