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The Answer Sheet: July 11, 2010 - July 17, 2010

Harvard profs dropping final exams

Hundreds of Harvard professors have stopped giving final exams and there is some thought that they have been “going the way of the dodo” for years. Are final exams necessary?

By Valerie Strauss  | July 17, 2010; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (31)
Categories:  Learning  | Tags:  FAS and harvard, final exams, final papers, harvard college, harvard drops final exams, harvard university  
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The education of 'Twilight's' Edward Cullen

Someone has to correct an error made (in another publication) about Edward Cullen's education. That someone is going to be me.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 16, 2010; 12:46 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Literature  | Tags:  edward cullen and college, edward cullen and high school, edward cullen and medical degrees, edward cullen and school, gail collins and palin, gail collins and the bad news bears, levi and bristol, levi johnston and bristol palin, robert pattinson and edward cullen, twilight, where did edward cullen go to school  
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A parody: Baseball phenom to run D.C. schools

Here's a news parody that manages to include D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Washington Nationals pitcher Stephene Strasburg, and LeBron James.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 16, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Tags:  d.c. schools, lebron james, michelle rhee, news parody, parody on d.c. schools, reforming d.c. schools, rhee and fenty, stephen strasburg  
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Fairfax schools' food program named nation’s best

Good news for Fairfax County Public Schools: It’s nutrition program was named best in the country by the School Nutrition Association. What makes it so good.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 15, 2010; 2:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
Categories:  Health  | Tags:  fairfax nutrition program, fairfax wins award, meals in fairfax schools, school meal planning, school meals, school nutrition association  
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Florida's FCAT scandal -- the next chapter

Let’s go to Florida for the latest entry in the category of “you can’t make up this stuff.” Here's the latest twist in the scandal over the state's 2010 standardized test scores.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 15, 2010; 11:02 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Standardized Tests  | Tags:  FCAT, eric smith, florida comprehensive assessment test, florida education department, ncs pearson, pearson and fcats, problems with fcats, standardized tests  
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What does "charterness" mean, exactly?

“Charterness” is not a policy, an education researcher writes. If a particular policy or set of practices seems to help increase student performance, we should replicate those practices, not entire schools that adopted them. Doing the latter is sort of like buying a second home just to have a garage.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 15, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Charter schools, Guest Bloggers, Matthew Di Carlo  | Tags:  al shanker, al shanker institute, charter schools and research  
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A weird accountability system in Texas

In the category of “data will set your school system free, unless, of course, the data In the In the category of “data will set your school system free, unless, of course, the data doesn’t doesn’t tell the literal truth, ” we have the Texas Projection Measure. It’s a tool that awards schools credit for students who have actually failed state-mandated tests but who are expected to pass sometime in the future

By Valerie Strauss  | July 14, 2010; 4:29 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Research, Standardized Tests  | Tags:  accountability measures and school, data driven reform, gerald bracey, texas accountability measures, texas education agency, texas projection measure  
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Cool Summer Class: 'Boot camp' revisited

At the Washington Jesuit Academy, boys take a mandatory 7-week summer course of classes that helps them learn more about themselves and others.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 14, 2010; 11:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Student Life  | Tags:  boot camp, cool summer classes, interesting classes and summer, jesuit academy, social emotional development, summer school classes, washington jesuit academy  
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How we evaluate relief pitchers and teachers

How is it that we are better able to evaluate baseball players than we are teachers?

By Valerie Strauss  | July 14, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Teachers  | Tags:  baseball facts, bill james, evaluating baseball players, evaluating teachers, fplay, johan santana, teachers  
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Rhee’s problem with D.C.’s new test scores

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has a problem, and it’s not the fact that elementary school standardized test scores just went down (at, it is worth noting, a bad time for Mayor Adrian Fenty, who appointed her and is seeking re-election).

By Valerie Strauss  | July 13, 2010; 4:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  D.C. Schools, Standardized Tests  | Tags:  CAS scores in d.c., d.c. CAS, d.c. schools, d.c. standardized tests, d.c. test scores down, d.c. test scores mixed, d.c. test scores rise, fairtest, michelle rhee and reform, monty neill, rhee and test scores, tmichscho  
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Florida standardized test results challenged

Six of Florida's largest counties formally protest the results of the state's 2010 standardized test.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 13, 2010; 3:02 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Standardized Tests  | Tags:  FCAT, FCAT scores and anomalies, challenge to FCAT scores, problems with FCAT, standardized tests in florida  
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Cool summer class: Reading with dogs

Lots of kids go to summer school/camp to improve their reading, but at Stanton Elementary School in Washington D.C., there is an added attraction: dogs.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 13, 2010; 11:59 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Student Life  | Tags:  animals people love, cool summer classes, reading with dogs, summer school  
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Say 'no' to college admissions creep

A college admissions consultant argues that too many high school students are starting the college admissions process too early.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 13, 2010; 9:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Bruce Vinik, College Admissions, Guest Bloggers  | Tags:  bruce vinik, college admissions, college admissions creep, college admissions process, college applications, juniors and SAT, when to start the college application process, when to take the SAT  
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The myth of teacher tenure

An education and law professor argues that getting rid of teacher tenure will not solve the problem of incompetent teachers or noncompetitive student achievement in the global marketplace

By Valerie Strauss  | July 13, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Teachers  | Tags:  ayp and teachers, eliminating teacher tenure, eliminating tenure for teachers, myth of tenure, no child left behind and teachers, teacher tenure, teachers  
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Teacher accountability schemes let teens off the hook -- Willingham

Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham talks about students, their attitudes and whether teachers can be held solely or even primarily responsible for their academic achievement.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 12, 2010; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (28)
Categories:  Daniel Willingham, Guest Bloggers, Teachers  | Tags:  attitudes and students, daniel willingham, factors in student achievement, main factor in student achievement, teachers and student achievement, teenagers and behavior, who is responsible for student achievement  
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How Gates is spending money on school reform

My colleague Nick Anderson's story about Bill Gates explains how Gates is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in public education.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 12, 2010; 11:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Tags:  bill & melinda gates foundation, bill gates, gates foundation and public education, gates foundation and schools, nick anderson  
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Questions for Michelle Obama's live Web chat on obesity

First Lady Michelle Obama is hosting her first live web chat on Tuesday about her national campaign to end the country's obesity epidemic. Here are a few questions for her.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 12, 2010; 10:24 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Health, Standardized Tests  | Tags:  first lady and web chat, first lady michelle obama and let's move, let's move and michelle obama, michelle obama, michelle obama and first web chat, michelle obama and obesity, michelle obama and web chat, nclb and physical education, physical education and obesity, web chat and let's move  
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Bill Gates' troubling involvement in school reform

Bill Gates is surely smart and rich, but his involvement in public education is highly troubling for a number of reasons. Here's why.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 12, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (32)
Categories:  Teachers  | Tags:  bill gates, bill gates and teachers, bill gates at aft convention, gates foundation and education, gates foundation and race to the top, gates speech to teachers, teachers  
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‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ from $3.95 to $39,000

In 1960 you could buy the first edition of "To Kill a Mockingbird" for $3.95. Today you can pay $39,000!

By Valerie Strauss  | July 11, 2010; 10:54 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Literature  | Tags:  cost of mockingbird, first edition and mockingbird, gregory peck and to kill a mockingbird, rare books, rare books and mockinbird, to kill a mockingbird, to kill a mockingbird and film, to kill a mockingbird first edition  
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Why ‘Mockingbird’ has been challenged

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is now a classic, but there have been challenges to the book over the years, and initial reviews were mixed in 1960. One called it "sugar-water."

By Valerie Strauss  | July 11, 2010; 10:34 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Literature  | Tags:  banned books, challenged books, challenges to mockingbird, mockingbird, reviews of mockingbird, reviews of to kill a mockingbird, to kill a mockingbird  
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The story behind ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

"To Kill a Mockingbird" turns 50 on Sunday. Here's the story of how the author, Harper Lee, came to write it.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 11, 2010; 9:56 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  History, Literature, Reading  | Tags:  50th anniversary and mockingbird, anniversary of to kill a mockingbird, atticus finch, boo radley, dill, harper lee, harper lee and to kill a mockingbird, harper lee's novel, jem, literature, scout, to kill a mockingbird, to kill mockingbird's 50th anniversaity  
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A new look at Teach for America

Here's a new look at the independent research on the effectiveness of Teach for America teachers.

By Valerie Strauss  | July 11, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (76)
Categories:  Research, Teachers  | Tags:  research on teach for america, research on tfa, teach for america, teachers and attrition  
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