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

Winning poem by 9-year-old: 'Let's All Save the World Together'

Jasia Smith, a 9-year-old fourth grader from Burrville Elementary School in the District won the city's DC SCORES Poetry Slam! contest with a poem that starts like this: Do you like nature? Do you like playing outside? Do you like hiking or watching the beach tides?

By Valerie Strauss  | December 25, 2009; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  D.C. Schools  
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The chemistry of Christmas--a demonstration

On Thanksgiving I linked you to a video of Catholic University Chemistry Professor Diane Bunce showing students the chemistry of the holiday. She showed chemically such topics as why popup timers work in turkeys and which antacid works faster. Now we have another video, this one in which she does experiments that showcase the chemistry concepts of creating Christmas ornaments and related things. She used the principles of chemistry such as polymerization cross-linking, viscosity and density to, variously, make a super bouncing ball, explain who snowflakes seem to fall almost hypnotically when you shake a snow globe and show how to marbleize a gift card.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 24, 2009; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Tags:  Catholic University, chemistry classi  
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Brady: The education reform train is off track

By Marion Brady. My more than 75 years in education as student, teacher, college professor, administrator, book and article author, newspaper columnist, publisher consultant, and visitor to schools around the world, have convinced me that most Americans are over-schooled and under-educated. Unfortunately, the federal dollars about to be channeled to the nation's schools will make the problem worse. Instead of triggering a fundamental rethinking of education, Education Secretary Arne Duncan's billions will simply hasten the destruction of the institution I love - universal, free, public schooling.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 23, 2009; 10:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Marion Brady, National Standards, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top  | Tags:  No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, school reform  
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Montgomery, Anne Arundel schools to close Wednesday

Attention parents: Winter break is beginning early in greater Washington, including Montgomery County. My colleague Nelson Hernandez reports: Montgomery County schools will be closed Wednesday, officials announced Tuesday morning, joining the tide of area school systems that have shut down...

By Washington Post editors  | December 22, 2009; 11:36 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Cuban: School teachers as politicians

By Larry Cuban. Besides managing a classroom of 20 to 30 or more students, besides teaching lessons every day, teachers also politick. Arguing that superintendents and principals, in addition to their managerial and instructional roles, are political in leading districts and schools is credible to most parents and voters because of all the stakeholders involved in districts and schools. Those stakeholders have to be mobilized, massaged, and influenced-given the value conflicts over which goals to pursue, how much money to spend, how to teach, what students should learn, and how much testing that naturally divide adults in U.S. schools. But putting politics and teaching together? That’s a bit too much. I know this is going to be a hard sell but stay with me.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 22, 2009; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Teachers  | Tags:  teachers  
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Cuban: School principals as politicians

By Larry Cuban. Telling principals that their daily work in schools includes political decisions usually prompts horizontal head-shaking and mumbled denials. Principals often view politics with a distaste reserved for eating a plateful of raw broccoli. Most principals, even in 2009, see their roles as both managerial and instructional and are disgusted by decisions that smell of politicking. Where did this holding one’s nose over anything political come from? The answer is a century old.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 22, 2009; 10:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Tags:  Larry Cuban, Principals  
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A different view on the value of tracking students

By Kevin G. Welner. Valerie Strauss kindly offered me this guest post on her blog. She asked that I write about a new policy brief that I co-authored, as well as about a second report release last week. Our policy brief makes the case for schools across the country to put an end to policies that cast off students into unchallenging, low-track classrooms. Titled “Universal Access to a Quality Education: Research and Recommendations for the Elimination of Curricular Stratification,” it begins where the vast body of research leaves off: the harmful effects of ability grouping and the need for reform.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 22, 2009; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Kevin Welner  | Tags:  tracking students  
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Willingham: Why doesn’t reading more make us better readers?

By Daniel Willingham. Who has time to read? Surprise! Americans read more now than they did in 1980. A lot more, according to an exhaustive University of California, San Diego study. Why? More than ever, we are surrounded by printed words. We read text messages. We read web pages. We read instructions and information on computer games. If we’re reading more, why is literacy dropping? If you think that reading is a skill, then practice should improve the skill. We’re reading more than ever, so why aren’t we better than ever at reading? The problem is that, as I’ve noted before, reading comprehension is not a skill.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 21, 2009; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Daniel Willingham, Guest Bloggers, Reading  | Tags:  Daniel Willingham, reading  
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Readers talk back

Take a look at some of the response I have received recently from readers on different topics. The first several are about a post I did about Swanson Middle School in Arlington cancelling an assignment that would have required eighth graders to argue for and against the Taliban.--From Michelle Jensen: While I understand the sensitivies regarding this topic, I believe it is wrong to state that these 8th graders are not mature enough to handle this type of assignment. As my 8th grade Swanson student said, "Arguing the Taliban’s position does not mean you agree with their side." Apparently some 8th graders understand that this was merely an academic exercise.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 21, 2009; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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