By David Steiner
An education system without an effective instructional core is like a car without a working engine: It can’t fulfill its function. No matter how much energy and money we spend working on systemic issues – school choice, funding, assessments, accountability, and the like – not one of these policies educates children. That is done only through curriculum and teachers: the material we teach and how effectively we teach it.
Education reformers have grasped the importance of one-half of this core: teacher quality. Indeed, one of the most contentious education reforms of the last decade was the effort, spearheaded in the federal Race to the Top initiative, to create accountability around teachers’ performance. More recently, federal initiatives and major foundations have begun to focus on the caliber of teacher preparation, with states such as Delaware and Louisiana taking the lead in evaluating the quality of schools of education. At the same time, we have seen the multiplication of clinical residency programs across the country, a strategy based on the medical model of training doctors.
Source: Choosing a Curriculum: A Critical Act – Education Next : Education Next
By Richard Bammer
Despite recent bad news that several Solano County unified school districts have some of the lowest average-daily-attendance funding in California, Vacaville’s can still lay claim to some decidedly positive news.
Science kits in elementary classrooms, Chromebooks for every student across 16 district campuses, Measure A projects, PE teachers at every elementary school, and increased pay for employees were among the highlights cited by Superintendent Jane Shamieh during her 2015-16 annual report when she updated trustees and the public during last week’s governing board meeting.
Stepping down from the dais in the Educational Services Center and standing behind a lectern to face trustees, she moved quickly during her slide presentation, recalling last year’s major board actions and initiatives for students and employees, something of an A-to-Z snapshot of the district.
Source: Vacaville Unified supe offers A-to-Z district snapshot
By Ryan McCarthy
Proposed textbooks that recognize people have different sexual orientations and that discuss same-sex relationships won approval Thursday by Fairfield-Suisun School District trustees after comments that included a letter from six mothers and grandmothers in Fairfield questioning the books.
“Children, of course, should be taught to always be kind to others who are ‘different’ sexually,” the letter states. “But they should also be taught it is wrong to act out sexually as they do.”
The Positive Prevention Plus textbook was on display at the school district offices and had generated a single comment before the letter from the women, along with separate correspondence from a former school board member.
Source: Sex-ed textbooks get OK after letter from 6 women questioning curriculum
By Ryan McCarthy
Placing proposed textbooks, including Positive Prevention Plus for sex education classes, at the Suisun City Library would expand the opportunity for the public to review the books, Fairfield-Suisun School District Trustee Chris Wilson said Thursday.
He said having the books at the library will allow review after 5 p.m., when the school district offices in Fairfield close and textbooks on display in the lobby are not available.
“We’ll see what we can do,” Superintendent Kris Corey told Wilson.
Source: Place proposed textbooks at library, trustee suggests
By Ryan McCarthy
Positive Prevention Plus – sexual health education curriculum for middle and high school students that reflects the California Healthy Youth Act to affirmatively recognize people have different sexual orientations and discuss same-sex relationships – goes before Fairfield-Suisun School District trustees Thursday.
The sexual health instruction is among new instructional materials for spring 2017 that go before the school board as an information item.
Action by trustees on the curriculum would follow Oct. 5, when public viewing ends for textbooks recommended for adoption.
Source: Sexual health education curriculum goes before Fairfield-Suisun school board
By Jace Harr
The price of a college education has skyrocketed in recent decades, but it’s not only tuition that contributes to student loan debt. Textbook prices have increased more than 1000% since the 1970s, according to a recent NBC documentary.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that between January 1977 and June 2015, the price of textbooks increased 1041%, which is three times the rate of inflation in the same period. A student at a public college is estimated to need $1,225 for textbooks this year.
Mark Perry, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan who has tracked textbook prices for years, said:
- College textbook prices are increasing way more than parents’ ability to pay for them.
via Textbook Prices Have Risen 1000% Since 1977.
By Todd Finley
Teaching is not natural.
The public believes, incorrectly, that classroom instruction is as natural as showing your child how fish or helping a nephew play Ms. Pac-Man. But those comparisons don’t take into account the profoundly specialized discourse of K-12 instruction.
Answering a learners question with a question, creating a holistic rubric, or take a deep breath facilitating a high-level discussion of new content on the Thursday before prom with 35 diverse students two of whom present ADHD behaviors while an administrator evaluates you . . . all of this requires a ridiculous constellation of specialized, unnatural skills.
That alien skill set means that even the most brilliant teachers cannot just wing it. They have to plan.
via Planning the Best Curriculum Unit Ever | Edutopia.
By Michael B. Horn
As Course Access programs, in which students have access to publicly funded courses of their choice across a range of providers held accountable for results, proliferate across the country, gauging the success of these statewide programs will be difficult because of how districts are likely to respond, as I wrote a few weeks back.
Few entities like to lose money even if it means their students will be better served, just as few companies like to lose money when customers choose another option in search of a better fit.
But Course Access presents a number of opportunities for districts, if they leverage it appropriately.
First, given the wide variety of students schools serve, it is challenging, if not impossible, for most school districts to provide access to all of the courses and academic content necessary to meet each student’s needs, interests, and abilities. The story is bleaker than many realize. Across the country, less than two-thirds of high schools–63%–offer physics. Only about half of high schools offer calculus. Among high schools that serve large percentages of African-American and Latino students, one in four don’t offer Algebra II, and one in three don’t offer chemistry.
via Five Reasons Districts Should Love Course Access – Education Next : Education Next.
By Richard Bammer
In the coming weeks, Vacaville Unified leaders will consider several proposed changes to course offerings and graduation requirements at the city’s charter high school, Buckingham, leading to a revised charter for the Bella Vista Road campus.
At a governing board meeting Thursday, school Principal Jeff Erickson, in a computer-aided slide presentation, outlined not only the costs of the changes, which include grading practices and course requirements, but also the reasoning behind them.
Among the proposed changes for the 2014-15 year are the addition of a biotechnology science course, the start-up costs of which would be an estimated $40,000 in the first year for equipment and supplies and $6,000 the following year.
via VUSD leaders hear proposed major course changes at Buckingham – The Reporter.
By Peter Schrag
Listening to the people at the State Department of Education who are charged with California’s transition to the new Common Core K-12 learning standards, as I did (twice) earlier this month, you’d have to conclude that it’s all going pretty well.
Everything’s on schedule, local districts are moving ahead to “varying degrees” to get ready, teachers are champing at the bit to be liberated from the chains of rote learning and fill-in-the-bubble multiple-choice tests, and there’ll be materials to support the new focus on analytical skills, critical thinking, problem solving and essay writing.
By spring 2015, the state officials say, the kids will be ready – many of them anyway – for the “Smarter Balanced” computer-based test assessments that will measure how well they’re doing. (Yes, Virginia, “smarter balanced” is a test, not a shoe or a brand of margarine.) Anyway, they say, local districts will have a lot of flexibility on when to get on board.
via Uncertainty and unknowns beneath the gloss of Common Core – by Peter Schrag.
With California set to bring its public school curriculum, instruction and state assessment system into alignment with the new Common Core State Standards in just under a year and a half, the local and state educational worlds are buzzing with what this means for students, teachers, schools, parents and the overall community.
California is one of 47 states to formally adopt the CCSS for mathematics and English language arts. The state’s existing STAR Program assessments are set to sunset on July 1, 2014 and the CCSS will be assessed through the Smarter Balanced Assessments.
via Dixon Unified prepares for new Common Core standards
SCOE’s Speaker Series presents Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, on January 9, 2013. Dr. Jacobs is an author and internationally recognized education leader known for her work in curriculum mapping, curriculum integration, and developing 21st century approaches to teaching and learning. She has served as an education consultant to thousands of schools and works with schools and districts on issues and practices pertaining to: curriculum reform, instructional strategies to encourage critical thinking, and strategic planning. Registration ends tomorrow, December 21.
via SCOE’s Speaker Series presents Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, on January 9, 2013. Dr. J….
The state’s Environmental Protection Agency finalized a revision of a controversial K-12 environmental curriculum on plastic bags Friday.
California Watch reported last year that whole sections of an 11th-grade teachers’ edition guide for a new curriculum had been lifted almost verbatim from comments and suggestions submitted by the American Chemistry Council, the chemical and plastics industry trade group.
That investigation spurred politicians and state regulators to demand an examination into how the controversial text was compiled and changed, and whether industry bias was present.
via New environmental curriculum corrects plastic bag information.
Like many cities across the country, Vallejo, California, is challenged by financial strains. Yet over the past several months, the Vallejo City Unified School District Adult School has found a new way to keep significantly more of its at-risk high school students on track toward graduation, despite limited resources.
Since March 2012, when Vallejo City Unified School District Adult School implemented a new online learning curriculum, Aventa Learning® by K12, nearly 200 students have recovered more than 900 high school credits enabling them to either graduate or get back on the path toward graduation. This is a 25% increase over the number of students who attempted to recover credits in the spring and summer semesters of 2011, when classes were offered in the traditional classroom setting, or through a state-supplied software program.
via More California Students Back on Track for Graduation as the ….
This year may finally be the time to get a major overhaul in education – simpler, fairer, more flexible and accountable.
via Editorial: State leaders must meld on K-12 standards.
A study conducted in four California school districts found that students studying Algebra I on an iPad did no better overall than students equipped with a traditional textbook.
via Mixed results using iPads for Algebra – by John Fensterwald – Educated Guess.
The gap starts early in elementary school, widens in middle school, and continues, through filters and barriers, on a trajectory of low achievement and missed opportunities. By the end of college, the number of Latinos and African Americans who graduate with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math is a trickle: an estimated 1,688 from the University of California and California State University in 2008.
via STEMing the minority gap – by John Fensterwald – Educated Guess.
Andreas Schleicher looks the part of a diplomat. Tall and slim, with thick gray hair, and impeccable English spoken with a European accent. He is also the consummate diplomat when it comes to assessing the United State’s standing in education. In most countries, low results on the Programme for International Student Assessment, known as the PISA exam, led to contemplation and action. In the United States, not so much; at least not initially.
via U.S. in and out of step with top ed systems – by Kathryn Baron.
I recently participated in the Grad Nation Summit in Washington, D.C., where community members, legislators, parents, educators and business leaders from across the country gathered to develop and share strategies to address the staggering high school dropout problem.
via Education: Trapped in the past.
If the reaction of kids and teachers is any indication the new Common Core State Standards adopted late last year by Benicia Unified School District will be a boon to students and educators throughout the district.
via A New Set of School Standards Taking Hold in Benicia Schools.