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The Answer Sheet: September 20, 2009 - September 26, 2009

The Power of Magic (Johnson)

I have long questioned the value of motivational speakers who tell young people to stay in school and stay out of jail. Kids often slump in their chairs and use the time to catch up on their sleep. But then this morning I watched about 850 students--all minorities--at a high school about a mile from the White House sit at rapt attention for more than an hour as Magic Johnson talked about dreams, the importance of education, sex, responsibility and perseverance.

By Washington Post editors  | September 25, 2009; 1:27 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  DC schools, Magic Johnson  
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Accountability in Education: High Hopes and False Promises

Right now, accountability is being presented as the great problem solver. Yet, one big problem is that the teacher and the school are the ones being held accountable. It would be easier if it worked that way, but it doesn’t. Instead, real accountability is an ever changing mix of a multitude of factors including teacher competency, student motivation, and parental responsibility.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 25, 2009; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Tags:  Dorothy Rich, MegaSkills, accountability  
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THE LIST: Readers Sound Off About Facebook

Seventeen-year-old Adam Turay was a guest on The Answer Sheet with a post on the intersection of kids and adults on Facebook. The Answer Sheet found Adam’s post delightful and funny though scores of adults who commented appeared to be less than enchanted. Here are some of The Sheet's favorite comments: 7) Sorry Kiddo. My generation built Friendster. My generation built the web browser. My generation owns most of the companies you love on the internet. And my kids want to use facebook too. Get in line, it’s ours, not yours. Posted by: bbcrock

By Valerie Strauss  | September 25, 2009; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers  | Tags:  facebook  
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Why So Many People are So Angry At Arne Duncan

Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s speech today about the future of No Child Left Behind explains why people who had hoped that President Obama's education team would make a clean break with "No Child Left Behind" are angry. Duncan called for changes in the NCLB law that sparked an era in which high-stakes standardized tests drove K-12 education. But he sounded less like he had seen the real folly in NCLB and more like someone who thinks “tougher” standards will solve what ails many public schools.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 24, 2009; 2:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  National Standards, No Child Left Behind, Standardized Tests  | Tags:  no child left behind, president obama, race to the top,  
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High School Senior Tells Adults: Get Off Facebook!

By Adam Turay: I was sitting on Facebook one afternoon looking through some new photos of my friend at a football game. The sequence of comments was fairly run-of-the-mill; there were some chummy remarks from his teammates, a few gushy sentiments from his girlfriend, and one excessively adulatory comment from ... HIS MOTHER? ... Though adults (and even teachers in some cases) want to maintain relationships with children, grandchildren etc., Facebook is definitely not the place to do so.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 24, 2009; 11:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (80)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Parents  | Tags:  Facebook, adults on Facebook, teachers  
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THE GROUP: How Much Is Too Much Screen Time?

Experts tell parents to limit their children's screen time to no more than two hours a day and to keep computers and television out of their kids' bedrooms--but some parents find that hard to do. Today The Answer Sheet's group of moms talks about the struggles in their own home over the time their children spend on television, computer and video games.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 24, 2009; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Tags:  The Group, screen time, television  
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TRANSCRIPT: Ed Sec Duncan's Speech on NCLB

Duncan on NCLB:I always give NCLB credit for exposing achievement gaps, and for requiring that we measure our efforts to improve education by looking at outcomes, rather than inputs.NCLB helped expand the standards and accountability movement. Today, we expect districts, principals and teachers to take responsibility for the academic performance of their schools and students. And while existing state tests are not ideal measures of student achievement, they are the best we have at the moment. Until states develop better assessments – which we will support and fund through Race to the Top -- we must rely on standardized tests to monitor progress – but this is an important area for reform and an important conversation to have.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 23, 2009; 3:48 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  No Child Left Behind, Standardized Tests  | Tags:  Education Secretary Arne Duncan, NCLB, No Child Left Behind  
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Dr. Jill Biden Guest Blogs on Community Colleges

By Jill Biden I wanted to share some thoughts about a very exciting day I had Monday. In the morning I traveled with President Obama to Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York. As I told the students and teachers I met there, I felt right at home. I’ve been an English teacher for almost 30 years, and I’ve spent much of my career in the community college system. In fact, yesterday I was right back in my own college classroom teaching English. People often ask me why I choose to teach at a community college. Well—the answer is simple: It’s my students.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 23, 2009; 11:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Community Colleges  | Tags:  community colleges, jill biden, president obama  
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SPOTLIGHT: Geniuses--Born or Made? Rare or Common?

The annual naming of recipients of the MacArthur “genius” awards has come and gone--and, once again, there was not a grant for me. Twenty-four extraordinary people won half a million dollars each--with “no strings attached”--from the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Though true genius is supposed to be exceptionally rare, the foundation found two dozen in one year, in the United States alone. And 25 last year. And 24 the year before that. Are geniuses a dime a dozen?

By Valerie Strauss  | September 23, 2009; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Intelligence  | Tags:  genius, i.q., intelligence, macarthur foundation  
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A Troubling Trend in D.C. Schools

Reporters like to declare a trend when they see at least three examples of the same phenomenon. Based on the rules of trends, The Answer Sheet sees a troubling trend involving D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and what seems to...

By Washington Post Editors  | September 22, 2009; 1:44 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  d.c. schools, mayor adrian fenty, michelle rhee  
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CHECKING IT OUT: The Push for National Standards--and Why You Should Care

The new release of a draft of national standards for math and language arts brings into sharp focus an effort to reform public education--based on the notion that all Americans should have the same basic foundation of knowledge and skills. The impetus behind national standards is understandable, but the bottom line is that Americans don't all have the same educational needs.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 22, 2009; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  National Standards, Standardized Tests  | Tags:  content standards, education secretary arne duncan, national standards, no child left behind, school reform  
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Dartmouth Chief Is Ivy's First Asian-American President

Dartmouth College president tJim Yong Kim, 49, an internationally renowned health expert, educator and anthropologist, is the first Asian-American to head an Ivy League institution. Here are excerpts of a conversation Kim had with The Answer Sheet about his new job and the issues confronting higher education: Q) Some people are surprised that Dartmouth, with a conservative reputation, was the first Ivy League school to have an Asian-American president. A) So was I.

By Washington Post editors  | September 21, 2009; 4:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Tags:  dartmouth college, ivy league, jim yong kim  
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More on Academic Kindergarten

Readers of today’s post on academic kindergarten raised a concern that kids who are ready for reading and writing and arithmetic at age 5 could be held back in a class that doesn’t stimulate them in an academic way. Advocates of a more kid-friendly kindergarten are not suggesting that anybody be “held back” so that kids less advanced can catch up.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 21, 2009; 12:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Tags:  kindergarten  
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The Problem That Is Kindergarten

Art. Mathematics. Music. Physical Education. Reading/Language Arts. Science. Social Studies. Guess the school year in which kids first tackle that lineup. Third grade? Second grade? First? Wrong, wrong and wrong. That’s what 5-year-olds in kindergarten are doing in Montgomery County public schools--and in many other districts around the country too.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 21, 2009; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (22)
Tags:  kindergarten, montgomery county public schools, standardized tests  
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