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The Answer Sheet: January 24, 2010 - January 30, 2010

Duncan’s own Hurricane Katrina

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said to an interviewer that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that happened to the New Orleans school system, I’m sure he wasn’t retroactively wishing a catastrophe to decimate the city and its school buildings. But he seems to be confusing metaphor with reality.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 29, 2010; 3:51 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Education Secretary Duncan  | Tags:  secretary arne duncan  
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College acceptance on display?

Now is the time that many high schools start making public--through posters, announcements, emails, websites, etc.--where high school seniors have been accepted to college. I wish they wouldn't. Here's why.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 29, 2010; 11:18 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  college admissions  
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AP Courses: How many do colleges want?

I’ve just started researching college admissions in depth and already I'm about to answer a question with the same response that annoys me so much from college admissions directors. (Let me apologize now.) A reader posed this question: How many Advanced Placement courses should a student take in high school to go to college? The answer: “It depends.” On what?

By Valerie Strauss  | January 29, 2010; 6:31 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  College Admissions, High School  | Tags:  advanced placement, ap program, college admissions  
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AP: College admissions directors weigh in

Here are some of the responses I received from college admissions officers to a query about how many AP courses they wanted to see on an applicant’s transcript. See the post above this for a discussion of this issue..From University of Southern California's Jerome A. Lucido, vice provost for enrollment policy and management: Students are always advised to take the strongest curriculum that they can reasonably handle while pursuing opportunities for academic and extracurricular opportunities for which they have a passion. We do not advise students to design their lives around what they believe that we or any other admission office may want. This, after all, is the personal journey of each student.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 29, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  ap program, college admissions  
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The real grading scandal

it’s not surprising to hear that an enterprising computer geek hacked into the Churchill School computer system in Bethesda, Md., and changed a bunch of grades. Kids will be kids. What concerns me is that most teachers at Churchill--and other schools as well--apparently don’t keep any paper record of grades.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 28, 2010; 7:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
Categories:  Montgomery County Public Schools, Technology  | Tags:  grading scandal, montgomery county schools  
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Taking Anne Frank off shelves: Indefensible

It isn't the first time that a classic book has been pulled off a library shelf because a parent didn't want their darling child to read it, but it is equally obscene every time it happens. This just happened in Culpeper County Public Schools, where a version of the “Diary of A Young Girl,” by Anne Frank was removed from schools because a parent complained about graphic sexual language, according to the Star Exponent.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 28, 2010; 5:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (79)
Categories:  Literature  | Tags:  banned books  
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Hating interactive whiteboards

I’ve read a lot about how interactive whiteboards are powerful new tools that allow teachers to create fabulous lessons for their kids. But sixth grade teacher Bill Ferriter hates them, and in this lively piece from Teacher Magazine, explains why.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 28, 2010; 3:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Teachers, Technology  | Tags:  technology, white boards  
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Rhee: In her own words

Nobody is immune from saying things they don’t mean--but it is probably a good idea to watch what you say when you work in the public eye. A reader put together this list of quotes from D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, suggesting a record of inconsistencies that go beyond the most recent controversy surrounding her word. Rhee got into trouble recently over remarks to a magazine that teachers laid off last October had had sex with children and hit kids. After my colleague Bill Turque wrote about the comments, it came out that one of the 266 teachers had been accused of having sex with a student. Here is the list of Rhee quotes, with links. What do you think?

By Valerie Strauss  | January 28, 2010; 10:10 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (37)
Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  d.c. public schools, michelle rhee  
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7 College admissions myths

Here are seven issues about college admissions that Lee Coffin, dean of undergraduate admissions and enrollment at Tufts University, calls "myths." He discusses issues such as whether "optional" really means "required," whether colleges check Facebook pages, whether colleges say they will only use the highest admissions test scores but really will look at the worst ones, whether coaches can actually grant school admittance to a desired athlete... and more.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 28, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  college admissions  
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Top college rankings vs. endowments

When I looked at the list of top college endowments (a new report on these funds was released today) I had a nagging feeling that I had seen the same schools on a different list. Then I remembered: Many of the top 10 schools were the same as those on >U.S. News & World Report’s 2009 list of top national universities (which actually looks very similar to lists of years past). Take a look at the following lists, and then the reason I find this problematic.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 28, 2010; 4:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  college endowments, college rankings  
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Newbery winner: How author was discovered

By James Blasingame. When good things happen to good people, it renews my faith in the universe, and when good things happen to two people, doubly so! The newest winner of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents Ted Hipple Award, Wendy Lamb, is definitely a deserving soul. Wendy is one of those people who lights up a room when she enters, but she is also someone who has been lighting up young readers’ minds for years, including eight years with her own imprint at Random House, Wendy Lamb Books. One of the books published by the imprint just won the prestigious Newbery Medal. How did Wendy Lamb find the author Rebecca Stead?

By Valerie Strauss  | January 27, 2010; 1:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Reading  | Tags:  james blasingame, literature  
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Warning to high school seniors

It is the last semester of your senior year, your college applications are in, and you may be tempted to relax. That’s fine, just don’t relax too much: Colleges DO revoke acceptances. According to the 2009 State of College Admissions report issued a few months ago by the non-profit National Association for College Admission Counseling, more than one-fifth of colleges reported having revoked an admission offer in 2008.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 27, 2010; 9:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  college admissions  
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The college chase: Making a plan

Even parents who have carefully plotted every step of their child’s education can get flummoxed over the colleges admissions process. It seems overwhelming--because it is. You (and I)--and, mostly, our kids, have a lot of work ahead. The vast majority of families will not have the luxury of having someone else plan out the application process and will have to it themselves. Yes, high schools have college admissions counselors, but recent budget cuts have reduced staff, giving the remaining counselors many more students for whom they are responsible.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 27, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  college admissions  
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Mr. Obama: Say this on education

Note to the White House: You haven’t yet called to ask me what President Obama should say about education in the State of the Union speech so I’ll save you the time. Here it is. This comes from Sam Chaltain, national director of the non-profit Forum for Education & Democracy, an oganization committed to advancing the democratic role of public education. Chaltain has been involved for years in educating young people to become engaged and democratic citizens. If Obama is planning to extol the virtues of his "Race to the Top" program, please reconsider. Chaltain has a better idea.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 26, 2010; 8:56 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top  | Tags:  president obama, race to the top  
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Rhee still perplexing

Now that we know why D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee told a magazine that some laid off teachers had had sex with children and hit them too, I’m still perplexed. I wonder why Rhee didn’t tell District residents about this when the layoffs happened last October. I wonder why she didn’t try to explain herself immediately when the controversy over her magazine comments first became public within the last week.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 26, 2010; 3:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  d.c. schools chancellor michelle rhee  
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Firing teachers

By Debra Viadero. Researchers don't agree on much in education, but there is one point on which many experts agree: Having an effective teacher may be the single most important school ingredient to a child's learning success. That's why there is always much gnashing of teeth in education policy circles over labor contracts in many large urban districts that make it very hard for school administrators to get rid of incompetent teachers. Read what happened when principals in Chicago were given the power to dismiss probationary or nontenured teachers for any reason without going through a long process.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 26, 2010; 12:29 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Tags:  school reform  
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Sex education -- the right kind

Cause and effect can be hard to determine, but it seems fair to link at least part of the rise of abstinence-only sex education during the last decade to the newly reported rise in teen pregnancy. Congress should pay sharp attention and stop spending money on what doesn't work. A report released today shows that the pregnancy rate among teenage girls in the United States has jumped for the first time in more than a decade... What kind of sex ed works?

By Valerie Strauss  | January 26, 2010; 10:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Health  | Tags:  sex education  
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Obama's teleprompter

In the category of “some folks will find any and every stupid little thing with which to bash President Obama:” The commander in chief is being ridiculed by bloggers on the Internet over his use last week of a teleprompter when he went to an elementary school in Virginia to give a speech about his education program. Obama went to Graham Road Elementary School last week to talk about “Race to the Top,” and while he was there, to have a talk with sixth graders. The bloggers are accusing him of using the teleprompter to talk to the kids. Of course, any sixth grader who wasn’t there could figure out that that wasn’t what he did.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 26, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Private Schools, Race to the Top, Standardized Tests  | Tags:  President Obama, Race to the Top  
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College gender gap stabilizing?

A new analysis shows that the gender gap in college appears to be stabilizing for every group except Hispanics after years of rising concern that the male undergraduate minority was dwindling. The non-profit American Council on Education crunched data and found evidence to suggest that the gender gap has remained stable since about 2000, when men represented 43 percent of enrollment and earned 43 percent of the awarded bachelor’s degrees. It is only among Hispanics that the percentage of females continues to grow.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 26, 2010; 4:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  college admissions, gender gap  
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Rhee in trouble; Gray not helping

What was she thinking? Even for D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who routinely attracts controversy, this time she really stirred up unnecessary trouble by telling a magazine that some of the teachers that she laid off last year because of budget cuts had been having sex with children and hitting them. Really? I can’t figure out if Rhee actually likes stirring up controversy or just muddles her way into it--or both--but in this instance, whether it was a hasty remark she didn’t intend to make or an intentional bomb, I don’t see a good way out. Why didn't she do something about it earlier?

By Valerie Strauss  | January 25, 2010; 3:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  dc public schools, michelle rhee, sidwell  
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Willingham: 'A terrible idea'

By Daniel Willingham. Randi Weingarten’s recent speech at the National Press Club garnered a great deal of press attention, almost all of it on her openness to student achievement data being part of an evaluation scheme for teachers. This is a terrible idea.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 25, 2010; 12:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Daniel Willingham, Guest Bloggers, Teachers  | Tags:  Daniel Willingham, student performance, teacher evaluation  
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Rhee D.C.’s person of the year?

Let’s congratulate D.C. Schools Chancellor for being named the Federal City Council’s Washington D.C.’s Person of the Year. Now let’s look at the rationale behind the decision, explained in an advertisement in yesterday’s Washington Post on page B2, the second page of the Outlook section--and see whether it holds together. It was signed by Frank Keating, the president of the Federal City Council and former governor of Oklahoma.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 25, 2010; 10:10 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  d.c. public schools, michelle rhee, school reform  
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Admissions season begins. Again.

I didn’t react when I heard this: “There are over 3,000 colleges and universities out there, and there is a school for everyone, so don’t worry about your child getting in.” But by the time I heard this--“The college admissions process shouldn’t take over your life”--a slow quiet scream was rising in my throat. "Who are you kidding?" I thought... This is part of the speech that college admissions counselors are giving right now to students in 11th grade and their parents around the greater Washington area and everywhere else in the country. I heard it last week at the private school where my 11th grader attends.

By Valerie Strauss  | January 24, 2010; 9:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  college admissions  
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