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The Answer Sheet: September 27, 2009 - October 3, 2009

Counting The Layers Of a Whale’s Wax Earplugs, Robin Hood, And More

Things I Learned This Week (And Last Week Too): To find out how many years a dead blue whale had lived, you can count the layers of the animal's wax earplugs.... States aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing with education money they are receiving from the federal government’s economic stimulus....Every generation gets the Robin Hood It Deserves. The Robin Hood It Deserves? ....

By Valerie Strauss  | October 3, 2009; 11:10 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Tags:  Antioch College, Blue Whales, George Orwell, Robin Hood, Tom Hanks  
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What's Going On In D.C.?

It sounds like a great plot to a movie for kids: A security company that provides guards to public schools goes bankrupt overnight. Anxiety and confusion rule the day when kids go to school and discover that about 300 guards aren’t there. Some kids even get sent home because nobody can monitor the entrances! What fun! But, as we know, this did just happen in Washington D.C. And once again we find ourselves asking: Who in the city could or should have foreseen this and why didn’t they?

By Valerie Strauss  | October 2, 2009; 4:44 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, D.C. Schools Chanceller Michelle Rhee, D.C. schools  
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When Kids Attack Other Kids

If my child had been attacked at a school event by teenagers and other people watched and did nothing to help, I would be apoplectic. A lot of people would not hear the end of it. In fact, I am apoplectic over an incident in which this happened to a child I don’t know.

By Valerie Strauss  | October 2, 2009; 11:36 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Bullying  | Tags:  bullying  
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THE LIST: How Americans Rate Public Education

Sixty-four percent of Americans favor public charter schools--15 percent more than did five years ago--but many don’t understand what these schools actually are. Almost three out of four Americans favor merit pay for teachers. Seven out of 10 Americans would like a child of theirs to teach in the public schools. These are some of the findings in the 41st annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the public’s attitudes toward public schools, published in Kappan magazine. Read on for more findings.

By Valerie Strauss  | October 2, 2009; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Tags:  American attitudes of public education  
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Moms: Which Years Would You Like to Stay Home?

Stay-at-home moms are “more likely than” than working moms to have an infant or preschooler in the house. That piece of information is one of many in new census statistics that my colleague Donna St. George wrote about today in a story about stay-at-home moms in The Washington Post. If you could choose, which years would you stay at home with your kids--when they are young or when they are in older?

By Valerie Strauss  | October 1, 2009; 3:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Parents  | Tags:  Parenting, Stay-at-home moms  
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Berliner: Why Rising Test Scores May Not Mean Increased Learning

By David Berliner A rise in test scores leads most people to believe good things are happening in their schools. Not unreasonably, politicians and parents alike infer that students have learned more when test scores go up. But since the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law was passed that inference may be unwarranted. Sadly, there are numerous reasons why rising test scores may not be related to increases in student learning.

By Valerie Strauss  | October 1, 2009; 11:25 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  David Berliner, Guest Bloggers, Learning, Standardized Tests  | Tags:  David Berliner, No Child Left Behind, Standardized Tests, high-stakes standardized tests, school reform  
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THE GROUP: The Extracurricular Activity Problem

Participation in extracurricular activities has risen in this decade and sports is at the top of the list. Thirty-one percent of kindergarten through eighth grade students took part in 2005, according to the latest available data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Today The Answer Sheet’s group of moms discusses kids, after-school activities, and how much is too much.

By Valerie Strauss  | October 1, 2009; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Parents  | Tags:  The Group, afterschool activities  
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Packing School Lunches for Picky Eaters

My mother was a magnificent cook invited into the kitchens of the finest chefs in France. Every dinner was a delicious experiment. But she insisted that my two sisters and I eat the lunch served at school. Now I know that my mother didn’t pack us lunches because she didn’t want to. It was too annoying a task.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 30, 2009; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Parents  | Tags:  parents, school lunch  
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SPOTLIGHT: Bullying--and What Schools Do and Don’t Do About It

At Vivian Elementary School, about 12 miles from the site of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School, students spend about an hour once a week talking about bullies--and what to do when they see one. Every child from kindergarten through sixth grade--and all of the adults in the school--learn how to identify bullying behaviors and how to stand up to a bully without inflaming the situation... The comprehensive strategy is what experts say is the best--and probably only approach--that can reduce bullying. Unfortunately, most schools won't do it.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 30, 2009; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Bullying, Parents  | Tags:  Bullying  
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How Do Americans View Their Public Schools?

The following was submitted by educator Stephen Krashen to Kappan, the magazine of Phi Delta Kappa International, in relation to the 41st annual PDK/Gallup poll on how Americans view public education, published in the September 2009 issue. Do you agree or disagree with him? How do you rate your neighborhood public school?

By Valerie Strauss  | September 29, 2009; 1:57 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Education Secretary Duncan  | Tags:  education secretary arne duncan, gerald bracey, public education, stephen krashen  
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CHECKING IT OUT, Part 2--Teens Talk About Screen vs. Print

The Answer Sheet asked some teenagers to explain whether they prefer to read on screen or in print, if they can detect a difference in the way they read, and if they think they can do without reading anything on paper. Given the ease with which young people use screens, some of these answers surprised The Sheet.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 29, 2009; 11:40 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Tags:  reading, screen vs. print  
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CHECKING IT OUT, Part I: Reading on Paper or Screen--Which Is Better?

A reader of The Answer Sheet asked whether there is research that shows the superiority of reading text on line or in print. It is a good question to ask today. More and more school textbooks are being put on line, the Kindle and other electronic reading devices are gaining in popularity and many young people say they prefer reading on a screen. The good news is that there is research on the subject. The bad news is that it is not definitive--and, in fact, is contradictory.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 29, 2009; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Tags:  reading, screen vs. print  
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Willingham: Reading Is Not a Skill--And Why This Is a Problem for the Draft National Standards

A draft of voluntary national standards for reading was just released, and at first glance the 18 standards sound quite sensible: students should be able to determine what a text says, make inferences from it, discern the most important ideas, and so forth. Many of the standards boil down to this notion: "The student will be able to comprehend the text.” For the others, comprehension is a prerequisite. The problem is that teachers and administrators are likely to read those 18 standards and to try to teach to them. But reading comprehension is not a “skill” that can be taught directly.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 28, 2009; 7:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Daniel Willingham, Learning, National Standards, Reading  | Tags:  Daniel Willingham, National Standards, Reading  
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Trachtenberg: New Year’s Greetings 5770

By Stephen Joel Trachtenberg--Life on a university campus is about respect, tolerance, curiosity and understanding. It is about breaking bread as one explores differences and finds commonalities....Before matriculating, I asked the Yale admissions office to match me with a roommate as different from me as they could. I was expecting someone from a small country I had never heard about, hailing from a far-off continent, but they looked only 300 miles away and found Bill, and he was different. He is the only man I ever knew who thought the “k” in knish was silent.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 27, 2009; 8:16 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Tags:  college life, stephen joel trachtenberg  
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