The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released its annual analysis of the significant developments and trends in U.S. education. As always, The Condition of Education report addresses all aspects and all levels of education, but this year's version includes a special focus on the changes in the nation's high schools over the past 20 years.
There's a massive Viking longhouse under construction in Winthrop, Mass., and its youngest architects are only 14 years old. Each afternoon—after school—students in the town of Winthrop expand their math skills as they draw plans and measure wood, social studies skills in recreating Viking food and clothing, computer skills as they plot the museum's layout, and language and leadership skills as they make Viking culture come alive for visitors.
Across the country, high-quality after-school programs are helping accelerate student achievement. And, because the programs are community-driven and tap into local expertise, resources and talent, no two programs are exactly alike. In Winthrop, for example, Viking scholars are treated to visits by area architects and engineers. At other after-school programs, participants are just as likely to have music executives or computer programmers as their guides and colleagues.
The United States has the highest teen birthrate in the industrialized world, and teen pregnancy and parenting is the number one reason girls drop out of school. (See the infographic below for the far-reaching effects of teen pregnancy.)
This is an avoidable crisis—teen parents don't have to be left behind. Not only can access to comprehensive sex education (including information about both abstinence and birth control) help drive down those numbers, but measures to keep pregnant and parenting students in school actually reduce the incidence of repeat teen pregnancies, and lead to improved outcomes for teen parents and their children.
At ASCD's Fall Conference in October, educator Mary McDonough used a variety of techniques while explaining the importance of formative assessment in standard-based grading. During her session, "Formative Assessment: Linchpin for Standards-Based Grading," McDonough had attendees share their own experiences and discuss the topic amongst themselves and presented a slide show with everything from detailed instructions to cartoons that related to her presentation. The discussion was lively, and the audience was engaged with the large amount of information they were receiving, but it all came down to one important point:
"It's good for learning," said McDonough of using formative assessment and standards-based grading. "And it's good for the students."
For all the ink that has been spilled regarding the issue of differentiated instruction, little has been said about differentiated assessment. There is no doubt that students come to school with a variety of backgrounds and learning needs, and Carol Ann Tomlinson (Tomlinson & McTighe, 2006) and others (e.g., Stefanakis & Meier, 2010; Fogarty & Pete, 2010) have documented the importance of the issue and the potential success of the results.
The devil, as always, is in the details, and as Schmoker (2010) recently noted, some teachers find the demands of creating different lessons for the learning needs of each student overwhelming. Here are some practical ideas for busy teachers who want to meet the different needs of students while managing the demands on their already busy schedules.
We want our schools to be dynamic and exciting places where student learning takes front and center stage. We want to reduce the dropout and failure rate among students. We want to support students in exploring deeper understandings that can build the academic confidence that will help them succeed in school and life. We want to be better teachers.
Authors Persida and William Himmele believe that when you give students the opportunity to demonstrate higher-order thinking and to learn through individual processing followed by interaction, they will surprise you. Himmeles' new book, Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner, presents dozens of ways to engage your students in active learning and allow them to demonstrate the depth of their knowledge and understanding. Each technique has step-by-step instructions and suggestions for how to adapt it to specific contexts and content areas.
Read excerpts from the book and join the discussion on ASCD EDge, a free social networking community for educators, linking teachers, administrators, authors, and experts online. The community currently has 27,000+ members.
Throughout the United States, classrooms are becoming more diverse and educators are struggling to provide the resources English language learners need to be successful. What can educators do to help ensure that these students, especially the rapidly increasing Latino population, get the attention and education they need?
Authors David Campos, Rocio Delgado, and Mary Esther Soto Huerta assert that it's time for the education community to tap into parent involvement to shatter the 28 percent nationwide dropout rate for Latino students. In their new book, Reaching Out to Latino Families of English Language Learners, they argue that with more than 5 million new students—the majority of whom will be Latino—projected to enroll in U.S. schools by 2025, now is the time to take action.
In-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, long-term suspension, suspension for minor infractions, lack of counseling, adoption of zero-tolerance policies: are these just the rhetorical appearance of toughness instead of what is actually tough to do?
And for what end? To be a deterrent for others? Well if that's the case, it ain't working.