On March 5, as kids began their annual high-stakes standardized tests, they tried out a new way of fueling up for the day.
They grabbed a morning meal not in the school cafeteria, as was their routine, but in the classroom. In doing so, they followed the latest thinking in school meals, which concerns not just what kids eat butwhere.
Studies show when kids are offered meals in the classroom, “they’re more likely to eat it,” said Sarah Maver, school wellness dietitian for New Haven Public Schools.
The program aims to boost the number of kids who eat free breakfast every morning, said Maver. She said studies consistently show that when kids eat breakfast, their grades, test scores and attendance rise—as fewer kids go to the nurse for stomachaches.
Guest blogger Jonathan Plucker from Indiana University recommends a book for Education Week’s Straight Up blog. I will be adding this one to my list, without a doubt.
Matthew Tully’s Searching for Hope: Life at a Failing School in the Heart of America (Indiana University Press) … is the best book I’ve read about urban education in years, certainly one of the best I’ve ever read.
Tully is a columnist for the Indianapolis Star and spent an entire school year in Manuel High School, a depressingly typical school in a poor neighborhood, with all the normal problems faced by struggling urban schools in poor neighborhoods. [He] was given nearly unlimited access to the school and its educators and students, and he wrote frequent columns for the newspaper throughout the 2009-2010 school year, and the book is pulled from those columns and experiences ….Tully draws the reader into his experience quickly, and it’s hard not to get caught up in his observations as he works his way through the school year. […]
[T]he aspect of the book that is perhaps most important is that people care. Tully recounts the immediate, positive response whenever, for example, he mentioned a particular student who didn’t have enough to eat each day, bags of food would be dropped off at the school the next day. Those reactions—relatively small community responses to desperate needs—gave me perhaps the greatest sense of hope. People do care about these apparently hopeless situations, and perhaps these small acts can help tide us over while we struggle to find the big solutions to the overwhelming problems of urban poverty and education.
Via Education Week, a new report from the National Governors Association identifying “informal science education” (i.e., science learning outside the classroom) as a frequently overlooked vehicle for helping states advance their STEM goals.
The [National Governors Association] document urges governors to “explicitly” include informal science education on their action agenda to improve STEM learning among young people and have representatives from informal science institutions (such as museums and zoos) be a part of state STEM advisory councils. […]
Opportunities for such “informal” learning come through a variety of venues and activities, such as science centers and museums, zoos, robotics and rocketry clubs, online games, and science competitions, to name a few. […]
The NGA issue brief suggests that “informal science offers states a powerful, low-cost way to help achieve the goals of an overall STEM strategy.” It notes that most quality programs “involve little if any direct state funding and do not compete with other state education dollars or classroom time.” […]
[A] key challenge is that many states fail to recognize and promote the role informal science learning activities can play in “buttressing” other state activities in STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“Thus, the state may be adopting more rigorous math and science standards, and providing more rigorous preparation for STEM students, while not taking full advantage of after-school programs or teacher professional-development opportunities provided through informal science institutions,” the report says. “As a result, school districts engage with the informal science community in a patchwork fashion, with robust activities in some areas and none in others.”
American students need a dramatically new approach to improve how they learn science, says a noted group of scientists and educators led by Michigan State University professor William Schmidt.
After six years of work, the group has proposed a solution. The 8+1 Science concept calls for a radical overhaul in K-12 schools that moves away from memorizing scientific facts and focuses on helping students understand eight fundamental science concepts. The “plus one” is the importance of inquiry, the practice of asking why things happen around us – and a fundamental part of science.
“Now is the time to rethink how we teach science,” said Schmidt, University Distinguished Professor of statistics and education. “What we are proposing through 8+1 Science is a new way of thinking about and teaching science, not a new set of science standards. It supports basic concepts included in most sets of state standards currently in use and complements standards-based education reform efforts.” […]
The 8+1 concepts were derived from two basic questions: What are things made of and how do systems interact and change? The eight concepts are: atoms, cells, radiation, systems change, forces, energy, conservation of mass and energy, and variation. […]
“The natural world seems to operate through these laws and concepts, but when it comes to schooling we don’t teach children these laws and then show how these apply in different situations,” Schmidt said.
Churn is a remarkable instability among school personnel that makes it nearly impossible to build a professional community or develop long-term relationships with students. It happens when teachers are treated like interchangeable parts who can be moved around cavalierly to plug a hole in a school schedule. It happens when administrators repeatedly order teachers to switch to a different grade, teach a different subject, or move to a different school. […]
But we think churn may be an even bigger problem for schools and districts. In the urban schools we studied, internal instability was worse than attrition. For every two teachers who left the district or the profession during our study, another three were moved from subject to subject, grade to grade, or school to school. […]
We think that churn is hurting kids in urban schools, and hurting them badly.
It hurts them directly, right in the classroom, because teachers are shifted around so often that they can’t develop deep mastery of a grade and subject, or develop stable professional learning communities to support their work. […]
And churn isn’t a problem only among teachers. Many urban districts see astonishing instability among principals, central-office staff, and, at the very top, superintendents. As a result, teachers constantly have to adjust to new leadership styles and new priorities.
The bottom line is that in a hurricane of churn, you can’t build the culture of trust and safety that kids need to learn. If we’re serious about turning our urban schools around, it’s time to devote serious resources to doing something about churn.
Top-notch reporter Bill Turque at the Washington Post dropped this barnburner article today about Sarah Wysocki, a DCPS teacher who received praise from everyone she worked with… and then got fired over test scores. The whole article is a must-read, but the thing that leaped most off the page to me was how likely it seems that Wysocki, a fifth grade teacher, was the victim of a sinister consequence of high-stakes testing: cheating.
In The New York Times, Michael Winerip looks into Brooklyn’s high-achieving P.S. 146 where the school community was shocked to learn that because their already-high test scores evidently didn’t go up enough, revered faculty leaders were rated as bottom-of-the-barrel.
This beautifully-written personal account by Dr. Katya Denisova in NSTA Reports addresses one of the main reasons why I do what I do.
As I worked with K–5 teachers individually, I gradually learned that despite their excitement and willingness to carve out time for science in daily schedules packed with math and language instruction, one important factor impedes our progress. Many science lessons are almost entirely activity-focused, with little or no explicit teaching of science content. Students simply follow directions and carry out activities without being required to think about scientific explanations and reasoning. Some teachers hesitate to discuss scientific ideas with their students, fearing they may not be able to answer all the questions students may have. These teachers need science-content mentoring to boost their confidence in their ability to teach science. […]
Providing mentoring, coaching, and professional development in science content to our elementary educators is critically needed. Just like a pianist needs to know “do-re-mi” as the audience embarks on the discovery of the beauty of music, our preK–5 teachers need to know the fundamentals of science to capture their students’ imagination with the beauty of science.