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Class Struggle: November 15, 2009 - November 21, 2009

Why not junk teacher evaluations in favor of more preparation time?

Education consultant Ted Haynie made this provocative suggestion: "If we completely suspended the formal evaluation process for two years, the overall quality of classroom instruction would be greatly increased because the time could be spent actually discussing effective classroom practice in a collegial and more informal manner than what exists today."

By Jay Mathews  |  November 20, 2009; 5:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (21)
Categories:  Trends  | Tags: Elena Silva, Furman Brown, Generation Schools, Jonathan Spear, Ted Haynie, Willis Hawley, teacher evaluation, teacher instructional time, teacher planning time, teacher preparation, teacher teams  
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Portfolio exams--wave of the future or big cop-out?

It is clear to me, and I suspect to most readers, that this system inflates achievement scores. Of course, so has the assessment system we have been using in schools since the beginning of public education---teachers grading their own students' work. We seemed to have prospered as a nation despite giving many struggling students a break on their report cards. I don't think portfolios used in this limited way are going to ruin the effort to set strong national standards, but I think it is going to give a big push to the idea of introducing independent inspectors to assess the effectiveness of schools and teachers.

By Jay Mathews  |  November 19, 2009; 11:22 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: England's school inspection system, Richard Rothstein, Virginia Grade Level Alternative, inflated achievement levels, inflated scores, portfolio exams, school inspectors, state tests  
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High school research papers: a dying breed

The leading U.S. proponent of more research work for the nation’s teens is Will Fitzhugh, who has been publishing high school student papers in his Concord Review journal since 1987. In 2002, he persuaded the Albert Shanker Institute to fund a study of research paper writing by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut. The results were as bleak as he expected. Sixty-two percent of the 400 high school history teachers surveyed never assigned a paper as long as 3,000 words, and 27.percent never assigned anything as long as 2,000 words.

By Jay Mathews  |  November 18, 2009; 10:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (22)
Categories:  Extra Credit  | Tags: Christin Roach, Doris Burton, Prince George's County Schools, Rebecca D. Cox, Will Fitzhugh, high school term papers, student research, writing instruction  
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The lost art of walking to school

For a while I lived in probably the safest village in America, Scarsdale, NY. One day, while driving my fourth-grader to school, I saw a rare thing, a 9-year-old riding his bike, his books in the front basket. Then I noticed, right behind him, his mother driving the family Mercedes, making sure he got to school safely.

By Jay Mathews  |  November 18, 2009; 2:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: Fairfax County school bus cut, school budget problems, school safety, walking to school  
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Algebra and politics: A Marty Weil exclusive

Marty Weil is, I think, the only writer left at the Post who has been around longer than I have. He is the polymath hero of our night-side operation, able when necessary to write a story about anything in...

By Jay Mathews  |  November 18, 2009; 12:54 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  
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Name the new education law, one word at a time

Assistant secretary of education Peter Cunningham suggested I ask readers what single word they think is most important to have in the new name to replace No Child Left Behind. Sounds like a fun exercise. Put your suggestions here.

By Jay Mathews  |  November 18, 2009; 5:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, No Child Left Behind, Peter Cunningham, law naming contest, name the new education law  
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Cutting elementary foreign language--often no big loss

Keep in mind the more exotic the language, the more it will impress parents, but the more exotic the language, the less likely the teaching will be very good.

By Jay Mathews  |  November 17, 2009; 3:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: Fairfax budget cuts, Key Elementary School Arlington, foreign languages, language instruction  
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Don't save bad schools--terminate them

This year's hot education topic is fixing what is broken. The first sentence of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's July 22 speech was: "Today, I want to focus on the challenge of turning around our chronically low-achieving schools." It...

By Jay Mathews  |  November 17, 2009; 5:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (30)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: Andy Smarick, Arne Duncan, start-up schools, turnaround schools  
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Charters good, bad and mediocre

Those of you tired of my frequent celebrations of good charters (stay on this station for a change of that tune in a couple of weeks) should click right away on this link to my colleague Nick Anderson's deep...

By Jay Mathews  |  November 16, 2009; 11:50 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  
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Want to eliminate at-risk kids? Call them something else.

I sympathize with those who may not be comfortable with the latest plan to rid our schools of at-risk kids. Several educators across the country, including Alexandria city schools superintendent Morton Sherman, have decided not to call them that...

By Jay Mathews  |  November 15, 2009; 10:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (26)
Categories:  Metro Monday  | Tags: Alexandria City Schools, achievement gap, at-promise students, at-risk students, political correctness  
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