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Current Issues in Education

Presenting 25 Issues Currently in Education


Teacher Salaries

Teacher Salaries

Teacher Salary in Poughkeepsie, NY

Average Salary: In USD as of Jun 20, 2016
Teacher in Poughkeepsie, NY: $58,000 High Confidence (more than 250 sources)
Average Teacher salaries for job postings in Poughkeepsie, NY are 6% higher than average Teacher salaries for job postings nationwide.

Teacher Salary Trend
Average Salary of Jobs with Related Titles

In USD as of Jun 20, 2016:

Assistant Teacher in Poughkeepsie, NY: $20,000

Teacher Preschool Code in Poughkeepsie, NY: $33,000

Teacher Infant Toddler Code in Poughkeepsie, NY: $27,000

Preschool Teacher in Poughkeepsie, NY: $24,000

Online Trader in Poughkeepsie, NY: $21,000

Special Education Teacher in Poughkeepsie, NY: $46,000

Substitute Teacher in Poughkeepsie, NY: $27,000

Postpartum Nurse Postpartum RN in Poughkeepsie, NY: $62,000

Teacher in Poughkeepsie, NY: $39,000

Teacher Assistant in Poughkeepsie, NY: $23,000

Tutor Teacher in Poughkeepsie, NY: $58,000

Sat Writing Tutor Teacher in Poughkeepsie, NY: $58,000

Elementary Math Tutor Teacher in Poughkeepsie, NY: $58,000

Music Teacher in Poughkeepsie, NY: $24,000

Add Adhd Tutor Teacher in Poughkeepsie, NY: $58,000


The Homework Debate

The Homework Debate

Read Abstract
March 2007 | Volume 64 | Number 6
Responding to Changing Demographics Pages 74-79
Special Topic / The Case For and Against Homework
Robert J. Marzano and Debra J. Pickering

Teachers should not abandon homework. Instead, they should improve its instructional quality.

Homework has been a perennial topic of debate in education, and attitudes toward it have been cyclical (Gill & Schlossman, 2000). Throughout the first few decades of the 20th century, educators commonly believed that homework helped create disciplined minds. By 1940, growing concern that homework interfered with other home activities sparked a reaction against it. This trend was reversed in the late 1950s when the Soviets' launch of Sputnik led to concern that U.S. education lacked rigor; schools viewed more rigorous homework as a partial solution to the problem. By 1980, the trend had reversed again, with some learning theorists claiming that homework could be detrimental to students' mental health. Since then, impassioned arguments for and against homework have continued to proliferate.
We now stand at an interesting intersection in the evolution of the homework debate. Arguments against homework are becoming louder and more popular, as evidenced by several recent books as well as an editorial in Time magazine (Wallis, 2006) that presented these arguments as truth without much discussion of alternative perspectives. At the same time, a number of studies have provided growing evidence of the usefulness of homework when employed effectively.

The Case for Homework
Homework is typically defined as any tasks “assigned to students by school teachers that are meant to be carried out during nonschool hours” (Cooper, 1989a, p. 7). A number of synthesis studies have been conducted on homework, spanning a broad range of methodologies and levels of specificity (see fig. 1). Some are quite general and mix the results from experimental studies with correlational studies.

FIGURE 1. Synthesis Studies on Homework

Synthesis Study
Number of Effect Sizes
Percentile Gains
Graue, Weinstein, &Walberg, 19831
General effects of homework
Bloom, 1984
General effects of homework

Paschal, Weinstein, & Walberg, 19842
Homework versus no homework
Cooper, 1989a
Homework versus no homework
Hattie, 1992; Fraser, Walberg, Welch, & Hattie, 1987
General effects of homework
Walberg, 1999
With teacher comments
Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006
Homework versus no homework
Note: This figure describes the eight major research syntheses on the effects of homework published from 1983 to 2006 that provide the basis for the analysis in this article. The Cooper (1989a) study included more than 100 empirical research reports, and the Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) study included about 50 empirical research reports. Figure 1 reports only those results from experimental/control comparisons for these two studies.
1 Reported in Fraser, Walberg, Welch, & Hattie, 1987.
2 Reported in Kavale, 1988.

Two meta-analyses by Cooper and colleagues (Cooper, 1989a; Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006) are the most comprehensive and rigorous. The 1989 meta-analysis reviewed research dating as far back as the 1930s; the 2006 study reviewed research from 1987 to 2003. Commenting on studies that attempted to examine the causal relationship between homework and student achievement by comparing experimental (homework) and control (no homework) groups, Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) noted,
With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant. Therefore, we think it would not be imprudent, based on the evidence in hand, to conclude that doing homework causes improved academic achievement. (p. 48)

The Case Against Homework
Although the research support for homework is compelling, the case against homework is popular. The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning by Kralovec and Buell (2000), considered by many to be the first high-profile attack on homework, asserted that homework contributes to a corporate-style, competitive U.S. culture that overvalues work to the detriment of personal and familial well-being. The authors focused particularly on the harm to economically disadvantaged students, who are unintentionally penalized because their environments often make it almost impossible to complete assignments at home. The authors called for people to unite against homework and to lobby for an extended school day instead.
A similar call for action came from Bennett and Kalish (2006) in The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It. These authors criticized both the quantity and quality of homework. They provided evidence that too much homework harms students' health and family time, and they asserted that teachers are not well trained in how to assign homework. The authors suggested that individuals and parent groups should insist that teachers reduce the amount of homework, design more valuable assignments, and avoid homework altogether over breaks and holidays.
In a third book, The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (2006a), Kohn took direct aim at the research on homework. In this book and in a recent article in Phi Delta Kappan (2006b), he became quite personal in his condemnation of researchers. For example, referring to Harris Cooper, the lead author of the two leading meta-analyses on homework, Kohn noted,
A careful reading of Cooper's own studies . . . reveals further examples of his determination to massage the numbers until they yield something—anything—on which to construct a defense of homework for younger children. (2006a, p. 84)
He also attacked a section on homework in our book Classroom Instruction that Works (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001).
Kohn concluded that research fails to demonstrate homework's effectiveness as an instructional tool and recommended changing the “default state” from an expectation that homework will be assigned to an expectation that homework will not be assigned. According to Kohn, teachers should only assign homework when they can justify that the assignments are “beneficial” (2006a, p. 166)—ideally involving students in activities appropriate for the home, such as performing an experiment in the kitchen, cooking, doing crossword puzzles with the family, watching good TV shows, or reading. Finally, Kohn urged teachers to involve students in deciding what homework, and how much, they should do.
Some of Kohn's recommendations have merit. For example, it makes good sense to only assign homework that is beneficial to student learning instead of assigning homework as a matter of policy. Many of those who conduct research on homework explicitly or implicitly recommend this practice. However, his misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the research sends the inaccurate message that research does not support homework. As Figure 1 indicates, homework has decades of research supporting its effective use. Kohn's allegations that researchers are trying to mislead practitioners and the general public are unfounded and detract from a useful debate on effective practice.1


Is Your Child Getting Enough Physical Education?

Is Your Child Getting Enough Physical Education?

Is Your Child Getting Enough Physical Education?

By Samantha Cleaver

Updated on Oct 10, 2008

With concerns about childhood obesity weighing on the minds of parents and educators, physical education is taking on new importance. The good news is that P.E. class is still part of most kids’ school experience. “One of the things that hasn’t really changed over time,” says Charlene Burgeson, executive director of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), “is the fact that most schools in the U.S. offer physical education to students.”

But whether kids are receiving enough physical education is another matter. Experts recommend that elementary school students spend 30 minutes each school day in physical education. But, according to the American Heart Association, only 4 percent of elementary schools, 7 percent of middle schools, and 2 percent of high schools provide daily physical education class for the entire school year; 22 percent of schools don’t require physical education class at all.

The benefits of physical education class are far-reaching. According to NASPE, a regular P.E. class not only improves kids’ strength, flexibility, and endurance, it can reduce stress, strengthen peer relationships, and improve self-confidence. In school, the benefits of gym class extend to reading and math. “When kids get moving, and they have their blood pumping, and have different body chemicals that are released it helps increase alertness and mental capacity,” says Burgeson.

And those benefits take on more significance when considering that the Department of Health and Human Service reports 20 percent of kids in the US will be obese by 2010. In response to these frightening estimates, some states are working to increase the amount of physical education in schools. A new bill in Oklahoma will require elementary schools to provide students with one hour of physical activity each week. The governor of Florida recently signed a law requiring middle schools to provide a physical education class for at least one semester of the school year. And, in Virginia, local school boards are required to provide 150 minutes of physical fitness each week for all students.

But all those measures would be a drop in the bucket compared a new piece of legislation introduced this summer called the Fitness Integrated with Teaching (FIT) Kids Act. If passed, the act would require that schools include information about physical education in annual report cards, and would fund innovative ways to increase physical activities in school.

The bill is currently in committee, and will be included with the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, which won’t make it through either the House or Senate until 2009. In the meantime, there are things that you can do to advocate for physical education in your child’s school.
•First, know that P.E. class, formerly known as “gym” class is more than play time or recess. P.E., just like any other subject, teaches kids skills and abilities—in this case they can use what they’ve learned to construct an active and healthy lifestyle.
•Ask your child what she’s doing in gym class: is she spending most of her time moving? “That may seem like a basic question, but it’s not.” says Russell Pate, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina. “We know from many studies that in some physical education programs kids stand around a lot more than they actually move.” He also suggests asking your child if she’s having fun, and if she’s learning lots of different sports and skills.
•To get an even better idea of what’s going on, sit in on a class. Use the forms on the NASPE web site to get a feel for the quality of your school’s program.
•If you’re interested in promoting the FIT Kids Act, contact your congressperson and ask your school to do the same, because, says Pate, “legislators, whether they’re at state or federal level, are reluctant to pass legislation that the professionals may not support.” Learn more about the bill at


Is Play on its Way Out?

Is Play on its Way Out?

Is Play on its Way Out?

By Rose Garrett

Updated on May 21, 2014

Most people would say that play is an essential part of childhood. Romping around the house, building imaginary worlds, and exploring the outdoors are all elements of play that most adults remember from their childhoods. But for an increasing number of children, play just isn't taking place, and the consequences for child development may be severe.

“Play has largely disappeared,” says Joan Almon, co-founder of the Alliance for Childhood, an organization that promotes healthy child development and learning. “It's pretty shocking how little time children spend on their own child-initiated play.” By “play,” she says, we're not talking about organized sports or video gaming. “What we're thinking about is play that the child themselves initiate and direct,” she says.

According to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, what children really need for healthy development is more time for old-fashioned play. But they're simply not getting enough of it. “This deprivation affects mental and physical health as well as cognitive and social capacities,” says Elizabeth Goodenough, PhD, who teaches in the emerging field of child studies and helped develop a forthcoming PBS documentary, “Where Do the Children Play?” Child-initiated play can develop social skills, problem-solving, creative thinking, self-awareness and confidence, as well as providing an opportunity for healthy exercise. So, what's stopping kids from getting the goods?

“There are a lot of different factors contributing to the loss of play,” says Almon. Among these, she says, is an increasing pressure for children to achieve and accomplish things at ever younger ages, and according to adult standards. A consequence of this is a lack of free time that results from an abundance of scheduled activities, such as music classes, sports practice, and academic tutoring sessions. Another major player is “stranger danger"; the perception by parents that the world is a dangerous place where children are best kept indoors. “Very few parents will give children the kind of freedom that they used to have,” says Almon, although she points out that, according to FBI statistics, children today are far safer than they were 20 years ago. But perhaps the biggest obstacle to play today is the increasing prevalence of electronic media in children's lives. Screen time, says Almon, takes up an average of 4-6 hours a day for children, leaving precious little time or motivation for play.

So what's a family to do? Fortunately, it doesn't take much to turn things around, and the solution is fairly simple. Here's what Almon and Goodenough suggest:
•Make the outdoors a must. “In most neighborhoods, it's safe to go out,” says Almon. So do it! At the very least, she recommends a short walk everyday.
•Don't overschedule them with adult-directed activities. “I would say most elementary-age children need an hour or two of playtime a day,” says Almon. And that means no adult-imposed schedule!
•Limit television and computer access. Almon suggests doing an assessment of just how and when your family engages in screen time. Is it for half an hour as a family? Or are your children watching television or using the computer incessantly? “Make decisions about whether it is getting in the way of life,” suggests Almon.
•Create a community. Become a promoter of play by organizing a community group or event to raise awareness of the importance of play. Goodenough suggests collaborating “in a performance, installation, library exhibition, public reading, conference activity outdoors or special event” to get the message out. Get creative!

Above all, parents should remember that play is not just a diversion for children from more important matters. Says Goodenough: “This process of self-discovery deserves to be treated with as much care and respect by educators and families as the cultivation of literacy and the mastery of mathematical skills.” So clear your schedule, and get playing!

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Saving Kids From Stress

Saving Kids From Stress

Saving Kids from Stress

Facing fierce competition to get into top colleges, many students are compromising their health and values to get ahead. Experts are even seeing stress levels increase at the elementary school level. Some educators are working to reduce the pressures on students. Included: One school's efforts to reduce student stress.

The Wheatley School has the type of students about whom communities like to boast.

Many of the students at the public grade 8 to 12 school in affluent Old Westbury, New York, wrack up honors and Advanced Placement courses, while participating in school clubs and community service. About 95 percent of Wheatley graduates attend college.

But a few years ago, principal Rick Simon read the book Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students, and felt like he was reading about his own school. He took the pulse of the Wheatley student body and discovered what was behind all those outstanding transcripts: stress. Students reported they were feeling overwhelmed and exhausted from trying to meet all the pressures from school, home, and themselves.

Tips for
Busting Stress
Survey students about the school-related stresses they experience. Invite them to reflect on changes they would make to help reduce stress.

Hold dialogues nights; invite community members to discuss the issue of stress.

Set reducing student stress as a long-term goal and make it part of your school's action plan.

Consider eliminating student rankings.

Get teachers to work together so all their tests are not scheduled during the same week. The same goes for big project deadlines.

Don't load up students with work that needs to be done during vacation weeks.

With Doing School as a catalyst, school administrators teamed up with faculty, students, and community members to look at the causes of stress and brainstorm ways to change the culture at Wheatley. "I think the biggest change has been awareness," Simon told Education World. "We got it out on the table and we're talking about it."


Ironically, at a time when U.S. high schools are under scrutiny for not being challenging enough, many students are working harder than ever, and often compromising themselves to get the highest grades and most impressive transcripts possible, at the expense of their well-being and education.

"Kids are mortgaging their adolescence, health, and values to get into college, where they are not resilient and are unprepared," according to Dr. Denise Clark Pope, who is a Stanford University School of Education (SUSE) lecturer, founder of the Stressed Out Students' Project, and author of Doing School.


Dr. Pope and Simon met when Simon used Doing School as the basis for an examination of school culture. Simon e-mailed Dr. Pope for suggestions about using the book and additional resources, and she attended one of Wheatley's school-wide discussions about the book.

Dr. Pope wrote Doing School after spending a year following five students at a competitive California high school. She learned that students had "too much to do and too little time, so they developed strategies to get top grades, and they had no time or interest for engagement in the curriculum."

The book's title comes from students' approach to high school that Dr. Pope characterized as "doing school" -- compiling an impressive transcript of difficult courses and school and community activities without really thinking about what they were doing or learning.

"One student said, 'You don't go to school to learn -- you go to school to get into college and then get a high-paying job,'" Dr. Pope said.

While shadowing students, Dr. Pope noticed that cheating was rampant and that students in class were doing homework for other courses. Many of the kids said they didn't want to cheat, but they didn't have time to do everything.

"They may be getting good grades, but they are not engaged or retaining information," according to Dr. Pope. "The new caffeine is Adderall and Ritalin, to help them stay up and study."

When Dr. Pope asked the students what they wanted more of , they said sleep and more time with family and friends. The result of this lifestyle, she said, is that "colleges are packed with anxious, depressed kids on antidepressants."


After reading Dr. Pope's book, Simon suggested faculty members read it and thought it would be a good basis for school-wide discussions. In the fall of 2002, Simon taught a mini-course called "Doing School" using Dr. Pope's book. Students were required to keep reflective journals on their reading and write final papers about a problem at Wheatley they would like to see changed.

"We began to realize that stress was a major issue," according to Simon. "We had a number of dialogue nights [for the school community] about issues, and stress was one of the big ones."

"One student said, 'You don't go to school to learn -- you go to school to get into college and then get a high-paying job.'"
The administration also set reducing student stress as a long-term goal as part of its action plan for re-accreditation.

Wheatley students noted similarities between behaviors at their school and the school described in the book. In their journals, students wrote about the stress of living in a community where everyone is expected to go to the best colleges. The pressures often led to plagiarism, sleep deprivation, and test anxiety among students, and the use of tutors, therapists, caffeine, and prescription pills, some students said.


Wheatley's administration already has adopted numerous changes, including eliminating student rankings. Wheatley is the only Long Island, New York, high school that does not name a valedictorian, according to Simon.

Teachers are more conscious of students' many commitments. "Now teachers are more flexible," Simon said. "They try not to schedule multiple tests on one day and extend due dates for projects."

He also asked teachers to let "vacations be vacations" and not assign a lot of homework or major projects over school breaks.

Guidance counselors also were asked not to talk to the eighth graders about the need to prepare for college, and the math midterm for eighth graders was dropped because it usually was scheduled about the same time as the state's high-stakes test.

Among the other changes that were implemented:

Offering alternatives to traditional midterms
Reducing the weight of exams in course grades
Offering yoga to faculty and students
Creating a committee to address plagiarism
Surveying faculty and students about stress levels and causes
"Parents also have to be part of the equation," Simon said. "Part of it is raising awareness in the community about the downside of pressure."


The Stanford University School of Education continues to examine the issue of student stress through research and conferences with local middle and high schools, and has held conferences on student stress. Dr. Pope also works directly with some middle and elementary schools to help them reduce student stress, and said symptoms of stress are showing up in increasingly younger students.

"Stress can begin in elementary school with overscheduling, tests, even tutoring for kids," she said. "We're seeing more anxiety in elementary students."

Both Simon and Dr. Pope said that one of the first ways to address stress is by listening to students.

Ask students to name one thing in the school they would like to change and explain why, Simon suggested. Administrators also can set up a "fishbowl" in which students sit in the center of a room with a facilitator and the faculty listens to students' comments.

Administrators also can help reduce the stress teachers are feeling about student performance on high-stakes tests. "You have to give your staff permission to say it is not the most important issue," Simon said.

Restructuring the school day and reworking curriculum are other ways to beat stress, according to Dr. Pope. "Block schedules can reduce stress because there are fewer classes and less homework," she said. "Also, look at ways to improve the curriculum and assessment so kids can get more out of their work and reduce cheating."


How Can Teachers Help Kids With ADHD

How Can Teachers Help Kids With ADHD

How Can Teachers Help Students With ADHD?

Education World highlights strategies for teachers to help their students with ADHD be successful in school, from routines that provide structure to showing students how to keep daily assignment journals. Included: 20 tips for teachers from the American Academy of Pediatrics and CHADD.

All kids in school fidget in their seats and look out the windows from time to time. Sometimes elementary students get out of their seats and walk around for a few minutes, or sometimes they have trouble getting their work finished. Those are normal behaviors. Most of us did those things in school when we were children. Generally, children need only a gentle nudge to get back to work. But with children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), teachers need to understand how that disability interferes with their ability to learn and stay on task.

What Educators Should Know About ADHD and the Law
Under the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools must provide an appropriate education for all children, including those diagnosed with ADHD. Federal law also has specific regulations about discipline of students with ADHD. Schools and teachers must assess an ADHD child's troubling behavior and develop positive interventions to address the behavior. Educators must determine whether the behavior is a manifestation of the child's disorder.

In Running on Ritalin: A Physician Reflects on Children, Society and Performance in a Pill, Lawrence Diller wrote that "schools must develop a plan to address a child's behavior problems." If schools don't comply, they may face legal costs and even civil damages, he warns.

Under federal law, schools can remove a child for up to ten school days at a time for violations of school rules as long as there is not a pattern of removals. Schools cannot give a child with a disability a longer suspension or expel the student for behavior that is a manifestation of his or her disability. If that child is suspended or expelled, the school must continue services for the children.

Schools and teachers do not have to be subject to dangerous behavior, however. In the event a child brings a gun to school, schools do have the authority to remove the child. Schools may also request a hearing officer to remove a child for up to 45 days if keeping the child in his or her current placement is substantially likely to result in injury to the child or to others.


The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) estimates that all teachers have in their classrooms at least one child with ADHD.

Teachers can help children with ADHD become successful in school, said Beth Kaplanek, volunteer president of the board of directors for Children and Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). "Teachers can make all the difference with how a child feels about [himself or herself]," she said.

Kaplanek recalls how her son Chris, now 18 years old, struggled in school because of ADHD and learning disabilities. She credits a special teacher for helping her son believe he could achieve in school. "She was the most caring teacher, and she would point out his successes whenever she could. The best thing a teacher can do is to look for the small milestones with kids with ADHD."


When teachers understand the struggle of a student with ADHD, they can better help that student in the classroom. Because children with ADHD do better when their lives are ordered and predictable, the most important things teachers can do for those children is establish a calm, structured classroom environment with clear and consistent rules and regular classroom routines.

CHADD and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer suggestions on what teachers can do in the classroom to help students who have ADHD:

Display classroom rules. Classroom rules must be very clear and concise.
Provide clear and concise instructions for academic assignments.
Break complex instructions into small parts.
Show students how to use an assignment book to keep track of their homework and daily assignments.
Post a daily schedule and homework assignments in the same place each day. Tape a copy on the child's desk.
Plan academic subjects for the morning hours.
Provide regular and frequent breaks.
Seat the child away from distractions and next to students who will be positive role models.
Form small group settings when possible. Children with ADHD can become easily distracted in large groups.
Find a quiet spot in the classroom (such as a place in the back of the room) where students can go to do their work away from distractions.
Train the student with ADHD to recognize "begin work" cues.
Establish a secret signal with the child to use as a reminder when he or she is off task.
Help the child with transitions between other classes and activities by providing clear directions and cues, such as a five-minute warning before the transition.
Assign tutors to help children with ADHD stay on task. Tutors can help them get more work done in less time and provide constant reinforcement.
Focus on a specific behavior you wish to improve and reinforce it. Teachers can reinforce target behaviors by paying attention to the behavior, praising the child, and awarding jobs and extra free time.
Offer more positive reinforcements than negative consequences.
Explain to the student what to do to avoid negative consequences.
Reward target behaviors immediately and continuously.
Use negative consequences only after a positive reinforcement program has enough time to become effective.
Deliver negative consequences in a firm, business-like way without emotion, lectures, or long-winded explanations.
Education World Explores ADHD
In a Five-Part Series
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has been the subject of countless investigations, seminars, and individual education plans (IEPs). Education World published a five-part series that explores ADHD, research and treatments, and the controversy that surrounds it.

  • ADHD: What Is It?
  • Statistics Confirm Rise in Childhood ADHD and Medication Use
  • Is Medication the Best ADHD Treatment?
  • How Can Teachers Help Students With ADHD?
  • Dramatic Rise in ADHD Sparks Controversy

Article by Diane Weaver Dunne
Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World


Are Smaller Classes the Answer?

Are Smaller Classes the Answer?

Are Smaller Classes the Answer?
Teachers, parents, and students all say smaller classes are better, but will smaller class sizes really lead to enhanced student performance?

From time to time, Education World reposts a previously published article that we think might be of interest to administrators. Before reposting, we update all links and add new resources to the article. We hope you find this archived article to be of value
Common sense suggests that smaller classes give teachers an opportunity to devote more time to each student and enhance the learning process. Much research supports this theory. Already, about 25 states either have implemented or are in the process of implementing smaller class size in their schools.

"Smaller class size enhances learning," says Don Ernst, director of government relations with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), "for a basic common sense reason -- it helps teachers in getting to know the kids. You can get to know 19 kids better than you can get to know 30 kids.

"The optimal class size where most of the research has been done, in class sizes in grades K-3," Ernst goes on, "is 20 or fewer students."

Inforbrief "Advocates of smaller classes cite a host of benefits," writes Erik W. Robelen in a new ASCD Infobrief (Issue 14, September 1998), Reducing Class Size. "[Among those benefits are] increased student achievement, fewer discipline referrals, more personalized attention to students, higher teacher morale, and more time for teachers to focus on instruction rather than on classroom management"

Yet skeptics are concerned that reducing class size will increase costs -- which it almost certainly will -- without substantially increasing teacher effectiveness or that other, less expensive approaches might achieve the same educational goals without costing as much as limiting class size.

"If you have a choice between a small class with a bad teacher or a large class with a good teacher, which would you choose?" is the rhetorical question from University of Rochester economist Eric Hanushek.

"Reducing Class Size," the ASCD Infobrief, summarizes the questions policymakers must confront in making decisions about class size:

"Given funding limitations, is reducing class size the best method to improve education?
"What approaches to class-size reduction are likely to prove most effective? What factors might enhance the effectiveness of smaller classes?
"How can policymakers handle some of the challenges of lowering class size, such as ensuring a qualified teacher pool and managing classroom space shortages?
"What impact does class-size reduction policy have on equity in education?"
Examining the available research will help guide educators who are considering a reduction in class size in their classrooms.

Have You Seen
These Articles
From the
Ed World Archive?
The Debate Over Class Size
Plenty of research supports the initiative to reduce class size. Early results from a class size reduction program introduced in California also seems to support the plan. This two-part article examines both sides of the issue.

Class Size Reduction: Success Stories Noted in Report
A U.S. Department of Education report, "Local Success Stories: Reducing Class Size," describes challenges and opportunities in efforts to reduce class size. Included: Recent research on class size reduction.

Be sure to check out our A-to-Z Glossary of School Issues.


A wide-ranging study on the effects of class size is Tennessee's Project STAR (Student-Teacher Achievement Ratio), along with two associated data collections. STAR was a longitudinal study of first, second, and third grade classrooms in Tennessee. STAR was unusual, according to the Department of Education's report Reducing Class Size: What Do We Know?, because of its:

Study size. Project STAR included 79 schools, more than 300 classrooms, and 7,000 students, with students being followed through 4 years of experience in the given class size.
Random assignment. Teachers and students were randomly assigned to three different kinds of classes in order to ensure that the study was not biased by who was in which type of class. The three categories of classrooms were classes with 13-17 students; classes with 22-26 students with no instructional aide; and classes with 22-26 students with an instructional aide.
In-school design. All participating schools implemented at least one of each of the three types of classes in order to cancel out the possible influences coming from variations in the quality of the participating schools that might affect the quality of the classroom activity.
The students in the smaller classes, according to the student testing in STAR, performed better than the students in the larger classes did. This was the case for white and minority students in smaller classes, and for smaller class students from inner-city, urban, suburban, and rural schools.

In fourth grade, students from smaller classes still performed better than the students from larger classes did. "At least through eighth grade, a decreasing but significant higher academic achievement level for the students from the smaller classes persists," according to the Department of Education report.


The most clear-cut problem with reducing class size is the cost. Significantly more must be spent on added teachers and added space to limit class size. In addition, while some states have reduced class size and then done research to make sure that doing so actually enhances student performance, others have not spent money on this kind of research, so they don't know what the added cost is buying.

At times reducing class size has resulted in large numbers of new teachers being thrust into tough situations. Critics then question the educational outcome and quality of education provided.

In 1996, California had to hire many new teachers to implement a reduction in class size mandated by the governor. Many of the new teachers worked with emergency credentials. Those teachers taught smaller classes, but often had few or no experienced teachers to turn to for advice.


Despite some problems with cutting class size, teachers generally support the smaller class sizes.

Shari Elmer, who teaches kindergarten at Loyola Elementary School in Los Altos, California, says in the September 1998 Instructor magazine that the new 20-student-cap has made a huge difference in her classroom.

"The extra time got me inspired to try new things -- things I could never have done before," Elmer said. "I played word games with students. I used hand puppets. I never got the chance or had the time to do those kinds of things before."

"Ask any teacher, we all prefer smaller classes," Association of Texas Professional Educators President Amy White says.

Due to an expected $6 billion state budget surplus, Texas has a plan to enforce a 22-student per class limit in kindergarten through fourth grade.

The debate over class-size and instructional quality will continue. But, as cited in the Department of Education report Reducing Class Size: What Do We Know?, "Students, teachers, and parents all report positive effects from the impact of class size reductions on the quality of classroom activity."


To order individual copies of ASCD's Infobrief, Issue 14, September 1998, call 800-933-2723. For more information on education policy issues, go to the ASCD Web site or write to ASCD at 1703 N. Beauregard St., Alexandria, VA 22311-1714.

Tapping the Benefits of Smaller Classes
After decades of research on class size, the evidence is considerable and compelling: Especially in the early grades, smaller classes do make a difference.

Class Size
While many education reform proposals remain controversial, reducing class size to allow for more individualized attention for students is strongly supported by parents, teachers and education researchers. This NEA position paper includes links to research summaries.

Class Size Matters bills itself as a non-profit, non-partisan clearinghouse for information on class size data and the proven benefits of smaller classes.

Reducing Class Size: What Do We Know? A Department of Education report examining various aspects of research on whether reducing class size enhances student performance.

A Lesson in Classroom Size Reduction This article from School Planning & Management magazine recounts how districts in California implemented the state's classroom size reduction plan.

Article by Sharon Cromwell
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World

Originally published 12/07/1998
Links last updated 02/19/2005


Is Year-Round Schooling the Answer?

Is Year-Round Schooling the Answer?

Minority Drop-Out Problem
By Jessica Washington - 2:00pm May 20, 2013 1455 1
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Every day an average of 7,000 American students drop out of school. That is one student dropping out every 2.6 seconds. It is clear that our current school system is failing the students that need it the most. Minority students in lower income areas are particularly at risk. Data from the Department of Education shows that white and Asian-American students graduated at a higher rate in nearly every state across the U.S. compared to their black and Hispanic counterparts. For example in Nevada only 43% of African-Americans graduated compared with 71% of white students. Faced with this large disparity in graduation rates, and an education system that is clearly falling behind, many people are beginning to consider alternatives to traditional American schooling.

Year-Round schooling appears to show some promise. In year-round schooling the year is broken up into segments with frequent and more substantial breaks mixed throughout, as apposed to one long summer break at the end of the year. Although the lack of a summer break might sound daunting many feel that these little breaks keep students and teachers alike from getting overly stressed and gives them more down time when they need it as opposed to all at once. Year-round schooling also promotes continuous learning because students are not spending large amounts of time over the summer without intellectual stimulation. All of these factors culminate in a better school environment and ultimately has a dramatic effect on dropout rates. The national dropout rate is 5%, while the dropout rate for students enrolled in year-round schooling is only 2%. Year-round schooling isn’t just a way to keep students more engaged and prevent them from forgetting material- it’s also an effective way to keep them in the schools themselves.


End-of -Year Activities

End-of -Year Activities

Saying Goodbye to Middle School Students
We answer middle school teachers' questions about the best ways to wrap up the year.
Grades: 6–8

During the day, I teach up to 150 students. I'd like to say a special goodbye to every child that I've gotten to know, but how can I make it personal?
Take candid pictures of your students prior to the last day of school. Combine the photos with a song that relates to an activity or lesson you have taught during the year to create a wonderful slide show, PowerPoint, or presentation for the interactive whiteboard. The students will enjoy seeing themselves on the screen and you will send the students off with one last memory-and have a great set of mementos for yourself from the year.
Don't have time to make a PowerPoint or whiteboard presentation? Write a simple thank-you note on a posterboard. Use quotes, comments, and memories of activities that happened during the past year. By including important pieces of the school year, you are giving your students a gift, letting them know that you are thankful they came to your class throughout the year. During middle school, students often do not realize how important they are to the classroom, and this is a quick way to make them understand that you are thankful for the opportunity to teach them.

I have a student teacher and would like to give her a special gift as she's been such a big part of my classroom this year. How can I involve my students and keep our plans a secret?
Invite students to bring in "teacher" supplies such as sticky notes, red pens, paper clips, staplers, etc. Pick up a few items from your dollar store for students who forget to bring in an item, as well as a storage bucket of some sort. Ask the student teacher to sit at the front of the room and have the students bring up their supplies, filling the basket and sending the student teacher off on a good note.
In addition, take lots of pictures of the student teacher in action, as well as group pictures of the student teacher with the students. Why pictures? This is often the first classroom the student teacher has guided, and offering up memories is important. You get to thank the student teacher for a job well done and she gets to compile images that will help with her teaching portfolio. While you will have an opportunity to say good-bye to the students at the end of the year, as well as the opportunity to see them if they stop by, the likelihood that the student teacher will get a job in your school is slim. The student teacher will not get to see the students grow and change, and photos will allow her to keep the students close a little longer.

School is coming to an end and many students will be purchasing a yearbook, but I have a few students who can't afford it. What can I do?
School yearbooks are often pricey, but you can leave all of your students feeling good by creating memory books. Have each student draw five names from a hat. Use one class period to have the students write a poem (think haiku or name poem) saying something nice about each of the students whose name they drew from the hat. If you have access to computers, have the students add graphic art and use fancy fonts. After you collect them (and check to make sure that the commentary is nice), create a book for each student. Students are forced to find the positive in others they might not know well, and all students have a "book" that can be signed by their friends to celebrate the end of the year.
Another solution is to bring in some digital cameras (if the school has any) or inexpensive film cameras and have students take pictures of one another. Ask for parent volunteers to develop the film, and allow the students to make their own photo album/yearbooks. Get double or triple copies of the pictures, and give students time to combine their words and photos to create a memory board. Have each student or team of students present the board, sharing memories of the year. Make sure every student is in at least one photo and make sure that they are mentioned in at least one presentation. And remember to make this a fun project so students end the year on a good note.

Saying Hello

Welcome next year's group of students with these fresh ideas.
Post a Sneak Preview
Even if you don't have your class lists for next year, you can build excitement for what goes on in your classroom by creating a hallway bulletin board before students leave for the summer. Title the bulletin board "In 2012, This Could Be You," and post photographs of some of the exciting things you've done with your students this year, as well as intriguing headlines. When students get their schedule, they will be thrilled to see your name on it!
Start an E-mail Chain
If you have your new students' e-mail addresses, send them a message asking a question to spark your discussions next year. For example, "What's the best book you've ever read?" "What's the best activity you've ever done in math class?" Encourage students to "reply all" to the message so that everyone can read and respond to one another's ideas.
Be Mysterious
Many teachers like to send welcome letters to new students. Put a twist on that idea by including a mysterious image or object that will pique students' interest in the lessons you have planned. For example, if you will be reading To Kill a Mockingbird you might include images of the objects that Boo Radley leaves for Scout and Jem, with the caption "Riddle: What Do These Items Have in Common?"


Why Teach Current Events?

Why Teach Current Events?

50 Ways to Teach With Current Events
By MICHAEL GONCHAR OCTOBER 7, 2014 9:10 AM October 7, 2014 9:10 am
An Iraq map showing areas under ISIS control; a rally outside the Supreme Court in October 2013 protesting the role of money in politics; demonstrators in Washington in August 2014 protesting the killing of Michael Brown.
An Iraq map showing areas under ISIS control; a rally outside the Supreme Court in October 2013 protesting the role of money in politics; demonstrators in Washington in August 2014 protesting the killing of Michael Brown.Credit The New York Times, left; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; and Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press
Lesson Plans - The Learning NetworkLesson Plans - The Learning Network
Teaching ideas based on New York Times content.
See all in Current Events »
See all lesson plans »
Updated, March, 2016

How can we make sure that students are informed about what’s going on around the world? That they are armed with the tools to be able to distinguish between opinion and fact; between evidence-based statements and empty rhetoric; between sensationalism and solid journalism? Just like most other things in life, the best way to do all that is through practice.

In honor of National News Engagement Day, here are 50 ideas to help teachers bring current events into the classroom, grouped below by category:

Reading and Writing
Speaking and Listening
Games and Quizzes
Photographs, Illustrations, Videos and Infographics
Design and Creativity
Making Connections
Building Skills
Some ideas work best as regular routines, others as one-shot activities. Many might be easier to use together with the new K-12 New York Times school subscription, but all of them could be implemented using the free links to Times articles on The Learning Network — or with any other trusted news source.

In our comments section, we hope you’ll share how you teach current events.

Reading and Writing

Amanda Rogowski, left, and Juliana Bailey, center, students in Roosevelt University’s online composition class, read The New York Times with the Roosevelt reference librarian Michael Gabriel.
Amanda Rogowski, left, and Juliana Bailey, center, students in Roosevelt University’s online composition class, read The New York Times with the Roosevelt reference librarian Michael Gabriel.Credit Joshua Schweigert
1. Read the Paper and Find What Interests You: If we could recommend just one thing teenagers should do with the news, it’s this. Just read and discover what you care about. Every summer we try to promote this with our Summer Reading Contest, and we hope teachers are continuing this student-centered approach now that school has started.

You might invite your students to pick one article each week and write about why they chose it, perhaps using student winners from our summer contest as models. Our Reading Log (PDF) might also help.

Then, set aside time for students to share their picks with a partner, or even with a wider audience through social media. If they are posting on Twitter, invite them to add the hashtag #NYTLNreads for the possibility of being featured on our blog.

Should parents let their children play football?

Should parents let their children play football?
Credit James Estrin/The New York Times
2. Share Your Opinion: Each school day we publish a new Student Opinion question about an article in The Times. Students can participate in our moderated discussions online, or you can borrow from hundreds of published questions for class discussions or personal writing from 2015, 2014 and beyond.

  1. Read About News-Making Teenagers: Every month we publish a collection of all the recent Times articles and multimedia that feature teenagers. Students can use this list to identify someone they admire, learn how other teenagers are taking action or make connections to issues in their own school and community.

  2. Find ‘News You Can Use': Use The Times, or any other news source, to find things like movie or video game reviews, recipes, sports scores, health information, and how-to’s on subjects from social media to personal finance that can help improve your life.

  3. Ask and Answer Questions: Each day we choose an important or interesting Times story and pose the basic news questions — Who, What, Where, When, Why and How — in our News Q’s feature. Students can first answer the “right there” questions that test reading comprehension, then move on to the deeper critical thinking questions, then write their own “News Q’s” about articles they select.

  4. Write an Editorial: Have your students pick an issue that matters to them, whether climate change, gender roles or police brutality, and then write an evidence-based persuasive essay like the editorials The New York Times publishes every day. They can practice all year, but save their best work to submit in our Student Editorial Contest in February. Each year we select 10 winners along with dozens of runners-up and honorable mentions from nearly 5,000 student editorials.

  5. Compare News Sources: Different papers, magazines and websites treat the news differently. You might have students compare lead stories or, via the Newseum’s daily gallery, front pages. Or, you might just pick one article about a divisive topic (politics, war, social issues) and see how different news sources have handled the subject.

  6. Be a Journalist Yourself: Perhaps the most powerful way to engage with current events is to document them yourself, as a student journalist. Write articles or opinion pieces for your school or community paper about how a national or global issue is playing out in your community. Contribute comments online or letters to the editor reacting to news stories you’ve read. Use social media to document what you witness when news happens near you. Take video of local events and interview participants. Or, suggest ways that you and others your age can take action on an issue you care about. The National News Engagement Day Pinterest board has ideas like this and many more.

Speaking and Listening

Protesters waved signs from a flatbed truck in March, 2010 during the March for America immigration rally in Washington. Related Lesson Plan
Protesters waved signs from a flatbed truck in March, 2010 during the March for America immigration rally in Washington. Related Lesson PlanCredit Luke Sharrett/The New York Times
9. Hold a Debate: Want your students to be able to develop arguments and support a point of view on current issues? We offer numerous resources to help, including: ideas for different classroom debate formats; ways to use The Times’ Room for Debate feature in the classroom; and a graphic organizer for gathering evidence on both sides of an argument (PDF).

  1. Interview Fellow Students: Ask students to generate a question related to an issue they’re reading about, and then conduct a one-question interview (PDF) with their classmates. The room will be buzzing with students asking and answering questions. For more detailed instructions on this activity, consult our teacher instructions.

  2. Brainstorm Solutions to the World’s Problems: Why not put students in the role of policymakers? They can look closely at an issue covered in The Times and brainstorm possible solutions together, using our Problem-Solution handout (PDF) to take notes. Then they can work together to draft a policy proposal, perhaps one that suggests a local solution to the problem, and present it to the class or to the school board or city council.

  3. Create a News-Inspired Theatrical Performance: Whether a simple monologue or a full Reader’s Theater event, our series, Drama Strategies to Use With Any Day’s Times, can help you use simple theater exercises to spur discussion and thinking about current events.

  4. Hold a Mock Campaign and Election: Looking to teach an upcoming election? Let students take the role of campaign strategists and candidates. Our Election Unit can be adapted for any election to get students researching candidates, studying issues, trying out campaign strategies and holding their own mock election. Or, choose another approach from our 10 ways to teach about Election Day or our list of resources for the 2016 presidential election.

  5. Organize a Teach-In, Gallery Walk or Social Action on a Topic: Our country and world face complex issues — war, drug abuse, climate change, poverty — to name a few. Students working in groups can follow a topic in The Times, and then organize a classroom or whole school “teach-in” to inform their peers about topics in the news and decide how to take action. Alternatively, they can create a classroom gallery of photographs, maps, infographics, articles, editorial cartoons, essays, videos and whatever else they can find to immerse others in the topic. Ask yourself and your classmates, what can people our age do to effect change around this issue?

Games and Quizzes

Map from a Fantasy Geopolitics game.
Map from a Fantasy Geopolitics game.Credit
15. See How You Do Compared to Others on Our Weekly News Quiz: Have students test how well they’ve been keeping up with the week’s news with our 10-question current events quiz. The answers provide an explanation along with links to relevant Times articles so students can learn more. Then, in December, students can take our annual year-end news quiz, like this one from 2015.

  1. Play Fantasy Geopolitics: Have students draft teams of countries, similar to how they might draft players in a fantasy sports league, and then accumulate points based on how often those countries appear in The New York Times. Classrooms can track point scores and trade countries using the resources on the Fantasy Geopolitics site, a game created by Eric Nelson, a social studies teacher in Minnesota.

  2. Battle Others in Bingo: Encourage students to get to know the newspaper — digital or print — by playing one of our many versions of bingo: Page One Bingo, Science, Health and Technology Bingo, World History Bingo or Geography Bingo (PDF).

  3. Do a Scavenger Hunt: Send your students searching for answers to our New York Times Scavenger Hunt (PDF) as a way to become more familiar with how a newspaper covers the day’s news.

  4. Mix and Match Headlines, Stories and Photos: Cut up articles, headlines and photos into three separate piles and mix them up, then challenge students in groups to see who can correctly match them in the shortest amount of time. When they’re done, they can fill out our related handout (PDF). Our teacher instructions provide more details.

  5. Hunt for the Three Branches of Government in the Paper: What articles can you find in a week’s worth of papers about the different branches of the United States government? Record what you find with our Branching Out handout (PDF).

Photographs, Illustrations, Videos and Infographics

What's going on in this picture? Every Monday we ask students to look closely at a Times photograph to describe what they see in our "WGOITP?" series.
What's going on in this picture? Every Monday we ask students to look closely at a Times photograph to describe what they see in our "WGOITP?" series.Credit Andrew Biraj/Reuters
21. Analyze Photographs to Build Visual Literacy Skills: On Mondays we ask students to look closely at an image using the three-question facilitation method created by our partners at Visual Thinking Strategies: What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can you find? Students can participate in the activity by commenting in our weekly “What’s Going On In This Picture?” moderated conversation.

Alternatively, you might prefer to select your own news photos. Slideshows, such as the regular “Pictures of the Day” feature, are always a great place to find compelling images related to current events.

"Dealing With Ebola" Editorial Cartoon
"Dealing With Ebola" Editorial CartoonCredit Patrick Chappatte
22. Interpret Editorial Cartoons and “Op-Art”: Patrick Chappatte publishes editorial cartoons on topics ranging from ISIS to the Ukraine. You can use the Visual Thinking Strategies facilitation method to ask open-ended questions, letting students make meaning out of the cartoons. Or, have students analyze some of the “Op-Art” on the Opinion pages of The Times. How do these images make an argument? Students can also try their hand at drawing their own editorial cartoons, and then enter them into our annual editorial cartoon contest.

  1. Decipher an Infographic: Take an infographic or chart in The Times and have students explain what it shows using sentences. Our handout “A Graph Is Worth a Thousand Words, or At Least 50″ (PDF) can serve as a guide.

  2. Create an Infographic: Or, do the opposite, and have students take the data provided in a Times article to create their own graph or chart (PDF). The Reader Ideas “From Article to Infographic: Translating Information About ‘Sneakerheads’” and “Telling Stories With Data” suggest ways to approach this task.

  3. Illustrate the News: Students can draw an illustration that captures some aspect of an article. Using our handout “The One-Pager” (PDF), students accompany their illustration with a quote from the article as well as a question for the journalist or someone mentioned in the article.

  4. Write a Postcard: Or, maybe having students create a mock postcard to or from a subject in a Times article would work better for your class.

  5. Say What’s Unsaid: Another option is assigning students to add speech and thought bubbles (PDF) to a Times photograph to communicate something they learned by reading an article.

  6. Create Storyboards: Students can break a story into various scenes that they illustrate (PDF), like a storyboard, and then write a caption or choose a quote from the article that captures the essence of each frame. Our teacher instructions can help with this activity, as can a recent lesson plan on using storyboards to inspire close reading.

Creative Writing and Design

Of all the news of 2013, the most-written about for our rap contest was the death of Nelson Mandela. Related Obituary
Of all the news of 2013, the most-written about for our rap contest was the death of Nelson Mandela. Related ObituaryCredit Denis Farrell/Associated Press
29. Write a Rap or Song: Each December, we ask students to compose a rap about important and memorable events from the past year. Get inspired by the winners from our 2015 contest, and start polishing your rhymes for this year.

  1. Make a Timeline: Students can design their own timelines, using photographs, captions and selected quotes, to understand and keep track of complex current events topics. Times models can help since the paper regularly publishes timelines on all kinds of topics, whether Mariano Rivera’s career, the evolution of Facebook or the Ferguson protests

  2. Create a Twitter Feed: Or, students can create a fake Twitter feed documenting a news story, paying attention to time stamps and author tone, such as we suggested in this lesson about the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

  3. Explore a Particular Community: Find reporting on a community of which you’re a member — whether an ethnic, religious, professional, school or artistic group, or any other — and analyze how it has been reported on. Then use these ideas for finding ways you can help express what, in your experience, makes this group unique. What do you think people need to know about this community and how can you communicate that?

  4. Write a Found Poem: Every year we invite students to take any Times article or articles published since 1851 and mix and combine the words and phrases in them into a new piece. Take a look at the work of our winners for inspiration, but the exercise can be done with anything from a science essay to an obituary to an archival article reporting on a famous event from history.

  5. Make a News Broadcast: Students can turn an article they read in The Times into an evening news broadcast, with an anchor, on-the-ground reporter and interview subjects.

  6. Create an Audio Podcast: Listen to some Times models, then get students to create a podcast (PDF) of a news story instead.

Making Connections

One of our Text to Texts looks at a connection between the factory collapse in Bangladesh and the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.
One of our Text to Texts looks at a connection between the factory collapse in Bangladesh and the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Credit Munir Uz Zaman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
36. Connect the Past to Today: Help students tie what they’re studying in history class to what’s going on in the world today. We regularly do this in both our Text to Text feature as well as our social-studies-focused lesson plans. You might also consider following @nytarchives on Twitter and our own “Throwback Thursday” posts to see echoes of the past in today’s headlines — or, visit Times Machine on your own to view by date or through search terms 129 years of Times journalism as it originally appeared.

  1. Pair the News With Literature and Poetry: Encourage students to look for connections between literary themes and current events. Our Poetry Pairings and Text to Text lesson plans can provide inspiration, as can our Classic Literature posts.

  2. Think Like a Historian: What events make the history books? How and from whose point of view are they told? Have students research a current events topic, and then write a paper arguing whether this topic will make “history” and how it will be remembered.

  3. Connect The Times to Your Own Life: Have students make connections between the articles they read in The New York Times and their own life, other texts and the world around them using our Connecting The New York Times to Your World (PDF) handout.

  4. Consider Censorship Through Any Day’s Front Page: What if we didn’t have freedom of the press? Ask students to take the front page of any New York Times and put an X over the stories that might be censored if our government controlled the press. You might use our Censoring the Press (PDF) handout to help.

  5. Take Informed Action: When students become more informed about the world, they can get inspired to become civically active and engaged in their communities. Have students brainstorm issues that matter to them, either at the local, national or global level, and then design a plan of action for how they can begin to make the change they hope to see in the world.

Building Skills

Students at High Technology High School in Lincroft, N.J. made this video about their year reading The Times in class.
42. Determine Reliability of Sources: How do we distinguish good journalism from propaganda or just shoddy reporting? Students can use simple mnemonics, like those developed at the Center for News Literacy, to evaluate the reliability of an article and the sources it relies on. For example, apply the acronym “IMVAIN” (PDF) to an article to surface whether sources (and the information they provide) are Independent, Multiple, Verifiable, Authoritative, Informed and Named. This and many other strategies can be found in our lesson on “fake news vs. real news.

  1. Distinguish Fact From Opinion: Even within The Times, students can get confused when navigating between news and opinion. What’s the difference? Use our Skills Practice lesson on distinguishing between the two to help students learn the basics, then go on to our lesson “News and ‘News Analysis’,” to help students learn how to navigate between news reporting and Opinion pieces within news outlets.

  2. Start With What Students Already Know: Students are often aware of current events on their own, even before topics come up in school. When delving into a subject, start by asking students what they’ve heard or seen, and what questions they already have. Use our K/W/L Chart (PDF) or a concept map to chart what students say and think. And this post, about reading strategies for informational text, has much more.

  3. Identify Cause and Effect: Much of journalism involves tracking the ripple effects of big news events or societal trends. Our handout (PDF) can help students get started, as can this Facing History “iceberg” strategy that helps learners think about what’s “under the surface.” Another resource? This Skills Practice lesson.

  4. Compare and Contrast: Venn diagrams and T-charts (PDF) are often useful for comparing two topics or issues in the news, and our Text-to-Text handout can help students compare two or more texts, such as an article and a historical document.

  5. Read Closely: By using a double-entry journal (PDF), students can become better readers of informational text by noting comments, questions and observations alongside lines or details they select from a text.

  6. Support Opinions With Facts: Whether students are writing their own persuasive arguments, or reading those written by other people, they need to understand how authors support opinions with facts. Students can practice by reading Times Opinion pieces and identifying how authors construct arguments using opinions supported by facts (PDF). Then they can develop their own evidence-based counterpoints.

  7. Summarize an Article: Having students pull out the basic information of a news story — the five W’s and an H (PDF) can help them better understand a current events topic. Here is a lesson plan with a summary quiz and many ideas for practice.

And Finally…

  1. Learn From Our Mistakes: There are several places in the newspaper where you can see corrections and analysis of where The Times has made a misstep. For a weekly critique of grammar, usage and style in The Times, see the After Deadline series. For a list of each day’s corrections, go to the bottom of the Today’s Paper section and click “corrections.” And for a full discussion of issues readers and the public raise around Times coverage, visit the Public Editor column. What can you learn from the mistakes The Times makes, and from how they are addressed publicly?

Let us know in the comment section below how you teach current events in your class, or which ideas from the above list inspired you.



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Peter Farárik October 7, 2014 · 2:58 pm
Great ideas! Thanks for sharing.

Matthew Y. October 28, 2014 · 2:00 pm
I am currently a graduate student working towards a certificate and Masters in Special Education. One of the biggest pushes in our program is to ensure that we are doing the things necessary within the classroom to become a critical transformative multicultural educator. Through my studies and observational experiences, I believe there is no better way to prepare studenst for the real world than connecting them to current events. It can often be comfotable to keep students in a world within the walls of the classroom. Yet, in doing so students only adapt to only being able to staticly think about the environments they are exposed to. Through these amazing and creative ways students can evolve their thought processes and become dynamic learners interest in the how the world around them works. It is through current events that we as educators can empower our students to become advocates for their own lives. Thanks so much for sharing and could not agree more with message.

Here are some more current event brain boosters:


Wellness Policies Promote Healthy Choices

Wellness Policies Promote Healthy Choices

Team Nutrition
Local School Wellness Policy Requirements

Last Published: 09/01/2015
Section 204 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-296) added Section 9A to the Richard B. Russell national School Lunch Act (42 USC 1758b), Local School Wellness Policy Implementation. The provision set forth in Section 204 expand upon the previous local wellness policy requirement from the Child Nutrition and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-265).

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 expands the scope of local school wellness policies; brings in additional stakeholders in its development, implementation and review; and requires public updates on the content and implementation of the wellness policies. The intent is to strengthen local school wellness policies so they become useful tools in evaluating, establishing, and maintaining healthy school environments, and to make clear to the public (including parents, students, and others in the community) about the content and implementation of local school wellness policies.

The Act requires each local educational agency participating in the National School Lunch Program or other federal Child Nutrition programs to establish a local school wellness policy for all schools under its jurisdiction. Each local education agency must designate one or more local education agency officials or school officials to ensure that each school complies with the local wellness policy. At a minimum, a local school wellness policy must:

Include goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity, and other school-based activities that promote student wellness.
Include nutrition guidelines to promote student health and reduce childhood obesity for all foods available in each school district.
Permit parents, students, representatives of the school food authority, teachers of physical education, school health professionals, the school board, school administrators, and the general public to participate in the development, implementation, and review and update of the local wellness policy.
Inform and update the public (including parents, students, and others in the community) about the content and implementation of local wellness policies.
Be measured periodically on the extent to which schools are in compliance with the local wellness policy, the extent to which the local education agency’s local wellness policy compares to model local school wellness policies, and the progress made in attaining the goals of the local wellness policy, and make this assessment available to the public.
For School Year 2015-2016, local educational agencies are encouraged to continue reviewing and assessing their local wellness policies and implementing the new requirements. The Model Local School Wellness Policy Template is a good starting point.

Model Wellness Policies - Refer to these sample policies when drafting or updating wellness policy.
Local School Wellness Policy Requirement Overview (7/10/13)
Comparison Chart: 2004 vs. 2010 Policy Requirements
Implementation Guidance Memo (7/8/11) Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2010: Local School Wellness Policies - This memorandum provides information on the new requirements for local school wellness policies and recommended actions beginning School Year 2011-2012.
FNS CNPP FNCS USDA FOIA Accessibility Statement Privacy Policy Nondiscrimination Statement No Fear Act Information Quality


Educate Out Doors

Educate Out Doors

Love science, nature, elementary education, and social justice? Want to make meaningful change in the world?

Join our AmeriCorps program and teach science and environmental education in urban schools! Our online application is now closed for the 2016-2017 school year.

Who we’re looking for

Gutsy, energetic folks with a positive attitude and a can-do spirit
Independent self-starters who also understand the value of teamwork
Curious, lifelong learners open to growing and developing their skills
Great communicators who enjoy building community and making connections
Bright, passionate people who are ready to dedicate two years of their lives to service
Working in a fast-paced public school and with elementary-aged kids is not for the faint of heart, so you should be flexible, able to think on your feet, and know when to stand firm and when to go with the flow.

We value connections to the communities we are part of and look to empower local leaders.

We strive for a service corps that reflects the diversity of the students we serve, and we strongly encourage applications from people of color and underrepresented populations. Spanish- or Chinese-language proficiency is a bonus (but not required).

How it works

Each Education Outside instructor is an AmeriCorps service member and is assigned to a San Francisco elementary school for two one-year terms of service.

This is a full-time position starting in August, when we begin training, and ending in June after the end of the school year and upon completion of 1700 hours. Depending on service member performance, match, and completion of hours, there is a break in July before beginning a second term.

Mondays through Thursdays are dedicated to teaching in the outdoor classroom at your school site and guiding outdoor education and other efforts with the community, including sustainability initiatives, garden workdays, and more. Fridays are reserved for professional development and school site administration.

As a service member, you will serve at your school site, becoming part of the school and staff community. You will also be part of an Education Outside service member cohort, which means you’ll have a group of peers for support as you learn and grow together. You will also have the support and mentorship of your dedicated program manager and the Education Outside team. Our program is designed to meet the critical needs of our community and to support our members’ development and leadership.

"My experience as a Corps member has been challenging, powerful, and incredibly rewarding. It is easily the most educational and rewarding position I've ever had the opportunity to experience. I have grown as an environmental educator and grown more passionate about this field of work with each passing day."

Where you'll serve

Our program currently operates in San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), which has more than 80 green schoolyards—and you will be the steward of one of them! SFUSD is a large, ethnically diverse district, with a high percentage of low-income children and many English-language learners. Education Outside corps members must be committed to social justice and have cultivated or be willing to cultivate cultural competence and humility. In addition, some of our schools offer language-immersion programs, where instruction is given in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, or Korean, as well as in English. To learn more about SFUSD, please visit their website.

What you’ll get

A $25,000 annual stipend (paid biweekly) for your 1,700 hours of service.
A $5,730 Education Award upon successfully completing the program. Learn more.
Eligibility to postpone or defer qualified student loans and to have student loan interest paid for the duration of your service. Learn more.
Eligibility for the Child Care Benefit Program. Learn more.
Full medical, dental, and vision benefits.
Approximately 300 hours of training and professional development in areas including garden-based education, leadership for community engagement, horticulture and garden design, and more. Learn more about our Professional Development program here.
Support and mentorship from your dedicated program manager and from the Education Outside team. Meet our team.
The chance to be part of the AmeriCorps network and the nation’s first science-and-sustainability service corps.
An incredible, life-changing experience!


Dealing With Angry Parents

Dealing With Angry Parents

10 Tips to Deal with Difficult Parents Effectively

by Barbara & Sue Gruber
Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers
Regular contributor to the Gazette
February 1, 2008

You probably never imagined contending with difficult parents when you dreamed of becoming a teacher. Unfortunately, almost every teacher is faced with an irate parent at some time. Not only is dealing with an angry or unreasonable parent upsetting, it’s time consuming. It’s only natural for parents to want the best for their child. Every now and then there are parents who refuse to accept that their child struggles in school. It can be easy for them to make excuses and blame others for their child’s troubles. Before you know it, you have a huge problem on your hands. Here are some tried and true tips to help you resolve difficult situations with parents.

  1. Let upset parents know that your goal is to help every child succeed. Look for ways to find common ground. Tell parents that both of you want what’s best for their child and that you want to find ways to work together. When parents are able to look at the big picture and realize that you are on the same side, you can begin to work together to help their child succeed.

  2. Be sensitive! No matter how tense a situation becomes, always remember that your student is someone’s precious baby. Open your conversation with parents by acknowledging the child’s strengths before you focus on areas of concern.

  3. Good records that document dates, times, notes and decisions about students can be invaluable if problems arise. Keep track of communication you’ve had with parents throughout the school year. Make a set of parent communication folders by labeling file folders with the names of your students. Staple a few blank sheets of paper inside each folder. Use these folders to jot notes with details of important conversations and keep notes from parents organized. Inside each folder, write the date, name of the parent with whom you spoke, and any actions that need to be taken. Make sure to date notes that you receive from parents before you file them in the folders. If you respond to a parent’s note in writing, make a copy of your response and staple it to the parent’s note. After making phone calls to parents to discuss problems, take a few minutes to record any important information that was discussed. Parent Communication Files come in handy if you ever need to document how you’ve involved and informed parents after an incident at school. Keep these important folders inside the front of your desk drawer so they are at your fingertips instantly.

  4. Be proactive! Contact parents as soon as you see academic problems or negative behavior patterns develop. You’ll have a better chance to change these patterns if you catch them early. Here are some things to discuss with parents:

areas where their child excels
if their child is attentive during lessons
where their child stands academically
specific areas where their child experiences difficulties
specific ways they can help their child at home
how well their child gets along with classmates
how long homework should take to complete
allow parents to share their concerns and ask questions
if you are unsure what a parent asks about, request specific examples
5. Be prepared to give specific examples to illustrate the points you make. Show parents examples of average and above average work for your grade level. White out the names on papers and use actual samples of students' work to clearly illustrate typical work for the grade level. The idea isn’t to compare students to one another, it’s to give parents a clear idea of exactly what your expectations are for students in your class.

  1. Have you ever been caught off guard by a parent and answered a question in a way that you regret later? If a parent asks you a question that floors you, don't be put on the spot. It's fine to let parents know that you need some time to reflect on their question before you respond. Let them know that you'll get back to them in a day or two. Relax—you’ve just bought yourself time to explore options and perhaps bounce ideas off of a colleague before you respond to the parents.

  2. Don’t be afraid to end a meeting with parents who become confrontational. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to provide an opportunity for all parties to cool down and reflect on the issues at hand by bringing the meeting to a close. Set a time and date to meet again. If you feel threatened, ask your principal, vice principal or school counselor attend the next conference.

  3. It's awkward when parents share too much information with you. While it’s helpful to know things that directly impact a student, it can be problematic when parents disclose too much personal information. It’s not your job to be their therapist. Remind parents that during the limited time you have to speak with them, that you need to focus on their child and not on them.

  4. Sometimes neighborhood issues spill over into the classroom. Don’t let yourself get dragged into disputes between families of children in your class. Problems escalate quickly if it’s perceived that you’re siding with other parents. When parents begin to share information about neighborhood squabbles, jump right in and tell them that it’s information that you don’t need to hear. Let parents know that you're receptive to their thoughts and ideas about their child, but you must stay out of personal issues between the families.

  5. Watch for parents who hover relentlessly. I had a parent my second year of teaching who expected to volunteer in my classroom all day every day. I welcome parent volunteers, but this was ridiculous! She actually burst into tears when I told her she could only work in my room for an hour or two each week. I let her know that her daughter needed the space to develop social skills and gain independence. Then I told her about all of the other volunteer opportunities available at the school. Before long she was busy helping in the library and active in the PTA.

  6. Be prepared for a worst case scenario. Read your contract or board policy and make sure you understand your rights and the steps to follow if a parent files a formal complaint.

Managing difficult parents can be one of the hardest parts about teaching. It’s easy to dwell on negativity and begin to question your skills as a teacher. Instead of worrying about how those parents perceive you, approach them and offer them the opportunity to join you as you help their child have the best year possible. Chances are the vast majority of parents of students in your class are thrilled that you are their child’s teacher! Focus on all that positive energy and have a great rest of the school year!

When you are looking for practical ideas for your classroom that

save time and work, take a look at our online courses for teachers. Teachers tell us we’ve helped them put the fun and joy back into teaching—that’s music to our ears.

Best wishes ~
Barbara Gruber & Sue Gruber
Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers
Copyright 2008: Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers


Childhood Obesity and Nutrition

Childhood Obesity and Nutrition

Childhood Obesity Causes & Consequences
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Childhood obesity is a complex health issue. It occurs when a child is well above the normal or healthy weight for his or her age and height. The main causes of excess weight in youth are similar to those in adults, including individual causes such as behavior and genetics. Behaviors can include dietary patterns, physical activity, inactivity, medication use, and other exposures. Additional contributing factors in our society include the food and physical activity environment, education and skills, and food marketing and promotion.


Healthy behaviors include a healthy diet pattern and regular physical activity. Energy balance of the number of calories consumed from foods and beverages with the number of calories the body uses for activity plays a role in preventing excess weight gain.1,2 A healthy diet pattern follows the Dietary Guidelines for Americans which emphasizes eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat and fat-free dairy products and drinking water. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends children do at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Having a healthy diet pattern and regular physical activity is also important for long term health benefits and prevention of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

For more, see Healthy Weight – Finding a Balance.

Community Environment

American society has become characterized by environments that promote increased consumption of less healthy food and physical inactivity. It can be difficult for children to make healthy food choices and get enough physical activity when they are exposed to environments in their home, child care center, school, or community that are influenced by–

Advertising of less healthy foods. Obesity Caution Sign
Nearly half of U.S. middle and high schools allow advertising of less healthy foods,3 which impacts students' ability to make healthy food choices. In addition, foods high in total calories, sugars, salt, and fat, and low in nutrients are highly advertised and marketed through media targeted to children and adolescents,10 while advertising for healthier foods is almost nonexistent in comparison.
Variation in licensure regulations among child care centers.
More than 12 million children regularly spend time in child care arrangements outside the home.11 However, not all states use licensing regulations to ensure that child care facilities encourage more healthful eating and physical activity.12
No safe and appealing place, in many communities, to play or be active.
Many communities are built in ways that make it difficult or unsafe to be physically active. For some families, getting to parks and recreation centers may be difficult, and public transportation may not be available. For many children, safe routes for walking or biking to school or play may not exist. Half of the children in the United States do not have a park, community center, and sidewalk in their neighborhood. Only 27 states have policies directing community-scale design.13
Limited access to healthy affordable foods.
Some people have less access to stores and supermarkets that sell healthy, affordable food such as fruits and vegetables, especially in rural, minority, and lower-income neighborhoods.14 Supermarket access is associated with a reduced risk for obesity.14 Choosing healthy foods is difficult for parents who live in areas with an overabundance of food retailers that tend to sell less healthy food, such as convenience stores and fast food restaurants.
Greater availability of high-energy-dense foods and sugar sweetened beverages. Obesity Junk Food
High-energy-dense foods are ones that have a lot of calories in each bite. A recent study among children showed that a high-energy-dense diet is associated with a higher risk for excess body fat during childhood.15,16 Sugar sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugar and an important contributor of calories in the diets of children in the United States.17 High consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, which have few, if any, nutrients, has been associated with obesity.18 On a typical day, 80% of youth drink sugar sweetened beverages.19
Increasing portion sizes.
Portion sizes of less healthy foods and beverages have increased over time in restaurants, grocery stores, and vending machines. Research shows that children eat more without realizing it if they are served larger portions.20,21 This can mean they are consuming a lot of extra calories, especially when eating high-calorie foods.
Lack of breastfeeding support. Obesity Kid Eating
Breastfeeding protects against childhood overweight and obesity.22,23 However, in the United States, while 75% of mothers start out breastfeeding, only 13% of babies are exclusively breastfed at the end of 6 months. The success rate among mothers who want to breastfeed can be improved through active support from their families, friends, communities, clinicians, health care leaders, employers, and policymakers.
Consequences of obesity

Health risks now

Obesity during childhood can have a harmful effect on the body in a variety of ways. Children who are obese have a greater risk of –
High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). In one study, 70% of obese children had at least one CVD risk factor, and 39% had two or more.24
Increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.25
Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea, and asthma.26,27
Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort.26,28
Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastro-esophageal reflux (i.e., heartburn).25,26
Psychological stress such as depression, behavioral problems, and issues in school.29,30,31
Low self-esteem and low self-reported quality of life.29,31,32,33
Impaired social, physical, and emotional functioning.29
Health risks later

Children who are obese are more likely to become obese adults.34,35 Adult obesity is associated with a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cancer.35,36
If children are obese, obesity and disease risk factors in adulthood are likely to be more severe.34,35.37


Stop Tolerating Zero Tolerance

Stop Tolerating Zero Tolerance

Tolerating Zero Tolerance?
legal and legislative issues
t all starts with good enough intent. Who could argue when
a politician takes a hard line and says into the camera, “We
will have zero tolerance when it comes to drugs or guns in
our schools.” This is almost always followed by a rousing
round of cheers and applause.
Keeping kids safe is always the way to go, right? But what if
you are the parent of an adorable third grader who is suspended
because zero tolerance to drugs includes over-the-counter cough
drops? This is just one example of the many intricate traps of
zero tolerance that has led to debate after debate over the years.
Perhaps now is the right time to revisit the issue and define
just what things we really do have zero tolerance for in schools. SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS | OCTOBER 2010 9
Back to the Beginning
The concept of zero tolerance dates back to the mid-
1990s when New Jersey was creating laws to address
nuisance crimes in communities. The main goal of these
neighborhood crime policies was to have zero tolerance
for petty crime such as graffiti or littering so as to keep
more serious crimes from occurring. The media commended
this same ideology when New York City Mayor
Rudy Giuliani took to cleaning up Times Square by
fighting the nuisance crimes in the largest tourist spot in
New York.
Next came the war on drugs. In federal law, zero tolerance
became a seizure tool that allowed federal agencies
to seize vehicles, planes, and boats used to transport even
the smallest amount of drugs into the country. Again, not
a bad idea if one is fighting a major influx of drugs.
States began to follow suit with laws such as mandatory
sentencing when guns were used during a felony.
Zero tolerance became a standard for adding jail time
for such offenses.
Students would follow the
rules because they knew
exactly what would happen
if they didn’t.
In the 1990s, opponents of zero tolerance began to
question how a court could possibly make the punishment
fit the crime if the circumstances of the crime were
not allowed to enter into the equation. This would soon
become a sticking point as the policy made its way from
the courtroom into the classroom, from the state house
all the way down to the school house.
As zero tolerance policies were enacted, many districts
believed they would create a status quo for school climate.
By taking away the administrator’s ability to
determine punishment for each case, they would eliminate
issues such as favoritism and would force schools to
comply with pre-determined disciplinary consequences.
Students would follow the rules because they knew
exactly what would happen if they didn’t.
Fighting Back the Fears
After the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999,
guns in schools became a major element of what could
now be called the zero tolerance culture. If you brought
a gun to school you would be expelled automatically.
Again, many experts and parent groups applauded
these types of hard-line stances on protecting our children.
Soon the states were establishing the same
initiatives surrounding drugs in school. But soon questions
arose about the definition of a drug. Districts
struggled to understand what the legislature meant by
“no drugs in schools.”
“No guns” slowly changed to “no weapons” and
again the terminology opened itself up to interpretation.
One person’s idea of a weapon did not coincide with
another person’s idea and challenges started to crop up
in court.
Still, the legislatures and school boards around the
country were fighting the public battle to stop violence
and drug abuse in schools, so taking a hard line was a
popular position.
Scant data was made public about the success of these
early initiatives in the traditional law enforcement community.
Public opinion supported these approaches and
applauded their use in making a community safe. It was
hard, according to researchers, to develop data based
upon what the crime rates might have been if the laws
had not been enforced using zero tolerance policies.
What did become clear, however, was that correctional
institutions were beginning to burst at the seams based
on the mandatory sentences passed down under zero tolerance.
While prison overcrowding became an issue for
the penal system, high drop out rates and suspension
and expulsion rates began to have an effect on education.
How could a school district strike a balance
between taking a hard line on crime in school yet still
meet its constitutional role of educating a child?
Zero Tolerance Today
During the past few years, many school districts have
become embroiled in bitter media battles over zero tolerance
One school district received national attention when it
suspended a student for bringing a cake knife to school
to cut a birthday cake, although the student never actually
handled the knife. That same district was criticized
for putting a six year old in an alternative education setting
for bringing a Cub Scout knife to school to use
while eating his lunch.
Is the issue here a question of zero tolerance policy or
does it center on a building administrator’s definition of
the term “weapon”?
Sometimes the issues that surround zero tolerance are
not about enforcement, but rather about the initial
assessment and decision (usually by a school administrator)
to take action under the auspices of zero tolerance.
Robin Case is the Delaware Department of Education
associate for school climate and discipline. She checks
every case of reported crimes that occur in schools.
When there is an issue, Case notes, it is often in the way
an administrator at the school level defines the offense.
“It can be a real challenge to find a way to share a
consistent view of what is a crime and what is not,”
Case says. These judgment calls can be made in haste by
sometimes inexperienced and often overwhelmed school
administrators. The end results can be difficult for districts
and the public to reconcile.
“In the end you simply cannot legislate good old fashioned
common sense and experience,” Case says.
Organizations Speak Out
The American Bar Association weighed in on the topic
of zero tolerance in 2000. In a report to their members,
a committee on zero tolerance noted, “zero tolerance is
a perverse version of mandatory sentencing, first, because
it takes no account of what we know about child and
adolescent development, and second, because at least in
the criminal justice system (despite ABA policy) when
mandatory sentences exist, there are different mandatory
sentences for offenses of different seriousness.”
The report noted that the entire educational process
is supposed to recognize the growth and learning of each
student—something that can easily be lost under zero
How could a school district
strike a balance between
taking a hard line on crime
in school yet still meet its
constitutional role of
educating a child?
Experts who work in the field of juvenile justice tend
to agree. Detective Nick Terranova of the Delaware State
Police Youth Aide Division is charged with investigating
crimes that involve school students.
“Zero tolerance in its original form was meant to
serve as a deterrent against drug crime,” Terranova says,
“but in its current form it can sometimes hinder both the
schools and our own ability to look at the circumstances
behind the crime.”
In one case he investigated, a student brought a
weapon into the school for the purpose of committing
suicide. “My heart truly went out to this student and his
family,” Terranova says. “He wasn’t a criminal but
rather someone in desperate need of help and support.”
In 2008, the American Psychological Association
released a report that highlighted the fact that what little
data exists regarding zero tolerance in schools may actually
point to the fact that these policies have a negative
effect on school climate.
The report, published in the December 2008 issue of
American Psychologist magazine, notes that students
with high suspension and expulsion rates, such as minority
students, suffer even greater rates of disciplinary
action under these policies. The report highlights the fact
that disciplinary actions in these schools are even higher,
which would lead to the question: how much of a
“deterrent” is zero tolerance?
Now What?
If your district has a standing zero tolerance policy,
remember that education is the key. Make sure all staff
members share the same definition of what offenses meet
the requirements to fall into a zero tolerance issue. If
they are not sure, have them check with a district office
person who has a clear understanding of the law or policy
your district uses. Make sure those definitions for
what constitutes a weapon or drugs are clearly defined
in your policy. Review your old policies to make sure
they are still applicable today.
The most difficult issue is not simply the definition
of what each offense represents, but what your organi -
zation believes is its responsibility to educate and its
stance on school climate.
In the community that your district serves, is marijuana
use so common in the community that a zero
tolerance policy toward a small amount would lead to
a significant number of students not being able to receive
educational services? Again, these are decisions that have
to be made locally and based on what your community
may need or desire.
Everyone wants schools to be safe and crime free.
But when do we stop serving as an educational institution
and start serving as part of the criminal justice
system? Today’s educators are challenged to decide where
to draw the line between tolerance and zero tolerance.
Yes, you need discipline in your school so you can
educate your students, but you also need understanding
and compassion. Take the lead in your district by really
looking at your zero tolerance policy and asking yourself
if it truly serves a purpose as it is written. If not, step up
to the plate and recommend changes.
Brian N. Moore, RSBS, is supervisor of public safety for Red
Clay School District in Wilmington, Delaware, vice chair of the
ASBO’s School Facilities Committee, and a member of the
ASBO Editorial Adv


Is The Four-Day -School Week Coming Your Way?

Is The Four-Day -School Week Coming Your Way?

Benefits of the Four Day School Week

The John Doe School District of Little Town, Colorado is a rural district with an enrolment of a little under 1,000 students. Houses in the area are few and far apart; buses have to drive, on average, nearly 900 miles a day. All forms of travel require a large part of the day, and students and teachers have to miss a large part of the school day to attend to personal appointments in the larger city of Hugeville. With a small population, the district has trouble finding substitute teachers on short notice. On Fridays about 37% of the students are on a bus driving to a sporting event. When the superintendent looked at their budget for the next five years he found that there could be a lack of money and some activates might have to be cut. After doing some research, he discovered that if he switched to the four-day school week he could save $1,000,000 (Reeves). A four-day school week would be a great benefit to the John Doe School district. The system is ideal for rural schools, and that is what Little Town is. It has many benefits with little problems that can be fixed or are so minute that they hardly affect the issue.

The four-day week started in early '70s New Mexico to deal with the high transportation and electric costs during the energy crisis. When the shortened week was first being debated, the New Mexico Legislature ruled out larger districts; it wouldn't be nearly as expense reducing since commutes are shorter in a larger area. On top of that, the child-care problem is much more difficult to tackle in urban areas. Jack McCoy, deputy director of learning services at the New Mexico Department of Education, said, " larger cities, you typically had more families with both parents working." There are also fewer child-care options in large cities (Reeves). According to the New York Times, in the year 2002, thirty-six out of 180 districts in Colorado, and twenty out of forty-eight in Wyoming were using the shorter week. There are also a "smattering in Arizona, Louisiana, and Utah" that have gone to the new calendar. Most of these districts are in small rural areas ("Four-Day").

Changes in the state requirements were necessary to get this system to work. Since students were going to school one less day a week the requirement had to be changed from days to hours. To meet the new minimum hours, school days were made longer by ninety minutes (Becker).

With these new laws in place, schools can then take advantage of the four-day school week. One of the greatest things about the four-day week is probably the most obvious that there is one less day of school. Now it may just sound like students will not have to go to as much school, but students would actually be in school the same amount of time. The hours lost on the other day are just added on to the other four days. The free day can then be used for many things. Lewis Diggs, superintendent of schools in Saratoga, Arkansas, implemented the four-day system in his schools. With the extra day off, they brought students in for tutoring. The students would sign up for which subjects they wanted tutoring in. The school could then bring in the required teachers. This would mean extra pay for the teachers and greater learning for the student. This kind of work environment would be much more beneficial to the student because he would receive instruction in a quite, more personal environment (Guignon). Paying teachers for their work on the day off would cost extra money. The day off would actually save more money over all than it would cost to pay a few teachers for their extra services.

Having a day off has other benefits. Better attendance and focus for students and teachers is one of these. The day off can be used for doctor's appointments. On Fridays, the students who all leave for sporting events will not have to miss a day of school. On these Fridays, the students and teachers who do stay in school often find a lack of motivation, dubbed the "Friday football flu." This is primarily caused by students and teacher coaches who are on their way to a game, leaving classes full of substitute teachers and small student populations (Reeves).

There are some parents who worry that an extra day off will "encourage students to play truant" ("Parents"). Au contraire mon ami. Students will have much more drive to go to school with an extra day off. Five days a week can start to get to students. With a longer weekend, students would not be feeling the effects of the previous week as harshly.

Even what was originally thought to be a problem can actually be turned into a benefit. With one less day, a week the time lost had to be added on to the other four days, as much, as a ninety-minute increase. Many people believed that with longer class periods, students would lose focus, especially the younger students, and academics would suffer. Jon Ott, the Cove School District's administrative assistant, observed, "with fewer distraction, class time has been more productive" (Reeves). Hot Springs Schools have also found the longer days to be advantageous. A survey of the teachers showed that they liked the longer classes because it allowed them to teach more without interruptions. They felt that the increased time improved academic performance. In other schools, staff felt that they were able to do a better job with more instructional and planning time ("Four-Day").

Most people of the world work a five-day week. With students on a four day-week who is going to take care of the children? Many schools have looked into this and there are many grants to help establish day cares (Wilson). In Hot Springs, located in the state of South Dakota, the school district received such a grant: an Out-of-School Time Grant. With this grant in place younger students, K-8, can participate in educational enrichment activities on Fridays and after school ("Four-Day") According to Diggs, parents also found that with longer school days "... it was less trouble to find someone for all day [on the off day] than for a few hours every day of the week." (Guignon).

One unexpected benefit that arose from this new system was a slight academic improvement in some schools that implemented the four-day week. "The four-day school week was probably one of those few decisions made in education in the name of money that actually ended up having educational benefits in terms of the academic performance of kids," said the director of the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory in Portland, Oregon, Joyce Ley (Reeves). With longer days, teachers felt that they were able to give a more thorough lesson. A four-day week is also much more appealing for teachers. With more teachers, applying the school could have a better, bigger and more varied teaching staff. Many of the teachers would still come on the day off and give tutoring sessions for any student struggling in the class (Wilson).

Many studies have not shown any direct correlation between the shorter week and improvement in academics; some have. Not to say that either is more correct than the other is, the fact still stands that there has been no proof that this new week has any signs of being a problem academically. With the other benefits, it is worth the risk of possible better academics (Toppo).

The main reason most schools went to the four-day week was to cut costs. According to Robb Rankin, the superintendent of the East Grand School District, "you get an immediate twenty percent cut in your food services budget, twenty percent in transportation and some savings in energy and custodial costs" ("Seven"). The East Grand School District of Granby, Colorado cut $206,000 a year in transportation, personnel and substitutes (Reeves). With these cuts, many rural school districts were able to keep art, music, and other classes that are cut when budgets get tight (Toppo). School districts cannot just make cuts. "You've got to take that money and put it back into staff development or other programs that are favored by the parents," says Joe Newlin, of the National Rural Education Association at Colorado State University. The Saratoga, Arkansas Public School superintendent, Lewis Diggs, did just that. He took the $40,000 that was saved on the four-day week and put back into tutoring programs for students, as well as, pre-kindergarten programs (Reeves).

The four-day week is a wonderful thing. It could be a great new approach for schools. Saving money, improving academics, and more, the four-day week could be one of the greatest things to happen to the human education system since the pen and paper. Living in a rural town with lots of travel time the one less day for travel would, most definitely come in quite budget handy for the superintendent of the John Doe School District.

Work Cited
Becker, Jerry. "Michigan: Four-day school week." 14 June 2003. 24 October, 2003
Guignon, Anne. "Is the Four-Day School Week Coming Your Way?" 1998. 22 October 2003 <>
"Parents angry at four-day school week." BBC News. 9 October 2000. 22 October 2003
Reeves, Kimberly. "The Four-Day School Week " School Administrator. 1999 March. 23 October, 2003
"Seven States Adopt Four-Day School Week." 26 December 2003. 25 October 2003
"The Four-Day Week." Hot Springs District Schools. 19 October 2003. 25 October 2003
Toppo, Greg. "In rural areas, the four-day school week is growing in popularity." 20 August 2002. 22 October 2003 < http://www.csmonitor. com/2002/0820/p14s02-lecs.html >
Wilson, Lynette. "Franklin Parish considers four-day school week." 13 August 2003. 23 October 2003


Do Good Manners Contribute to Academic Success?

Do Good Manners Contribute to Academic Success?

"Do Good Manners contribute to Academic Success?"

I read the article “Do Good Manners Contribute to Academic Success?” by Linda Starr. From this article I learned about the rules of etiquette and the importance of them. Being aware of appropriate behavior will help children be better people and teach them how to stay away from conflicts. Etiquette teaches respect therefore will improve student’s behavior and guarantee the success of the students. There are five essential etiquette skills children should know. They are appropriate and inappropriate behavior in public, respect for self and others, proper introduction skills, how to handle conflicts, and basic table manners. This article does not say that it is the teacher’s job to implement and teach students good manners but we as educators should set an example. Students should bring their manners from home and as educators are job is to reinforce their learning and make sure they follow them. I would like to learn ways to teach good manners to students indirectly without them even noticing they are learning good manners.


In School Suspension: A Learning Tool

In School Suspension: A Learning Tool

In-School Suspension: A Learning Tool
While educators agree that keeping suspended students in school is better than having them home unsupervised, schools need more than a room and a teacher for in-school suspension to change behavior. Structured programs that address multiple issues can help students get back to class faster and stay there. Included: Tips for creating successful in-school suspension programs.

As schools strive to keep more students in school, even disruptive ones, in-school suspension programs are seeing more students. But there is a big difference between having an in-school suspension program and having an effective one, educators and researchers said.

Read More
Read an Education World Wire Side Chat with Anne Wheelock, an education researcher, about evaluating and monitoring in-school suspension programs.
"The big plus of an in-school suspension program is that students are still in school, with all the potential for engaging them," said Anne Wheelock, a research associate with the Progress Through the Education Pipeline Project at Boston College's Lynch School of Education. "Suspending students out of school means schools pass up the 'teachable moment' when they can connect with students, build relationships, and communicate that they belong in school.

"Having said that, in-school suspension programs can be little more than window-dressing designed to pull down out-of-school suspension numbers," Wheelock continued. "Poorly conceived and inadequately staffed programs, even though they are better than out-of-school suspensions, may be little more than holding tanks -- just a pro-forma stop on the route to out-of-school suspension or exclusion."


The unappealing idea of students serving out-of-school suspensions roaming their communities during the day, possibly getting into more trouble, prompted some schools to create or expand their in-school suspension programs. In Louisiana, state officials became so concerned about suspended students missing instructional time that the legislature began funding in-school suspension programs.

The Kentucky Department of Education encourages school districts to develop policies that include well-rounded academic offerings for those students who stay in school during suspension.

The most effective in-school suspension programs have components to address students' academic and social needs, educators said, since frequently, suspended students have both academic and behavioral problems.

At the same time, in-school suspension often remains the final step before out of school suspension.

To be an effective learning tool, in-school suspension programs "should be one part of a school-wide strategy for creating and sustaining a positive, nurturing school climate, based on respectful relationships between teachers and students, teachers and teachers, students and students," Wheelock said. "Such a strategy would acknowledge that conflicts of all kinds occur in schools and should be based on a thoughtful set of approaches to resolving conflict and solving problems."

According to Wheelock, characteristics of good ISS programs include:

Ways to ensure in-school suspension is appropriate; in-school suspension is unlikely to resolve a truancy or homework completion problem that should be resolved through other means.
A term limit; students should not be suspended indefinitely.
Problem-solving and/or mediation (including peer mediation) sessions among teachers and students or students and students, which result in written contracts that spell out future expectations.
Ensuring students come to the program with academic assignments to complete.
Professionals to staff the program, such as a teacher who can assess students for unidentified learning difficulties, assist in assignment completion, and by a counselor who can explore root causes of problems, refer students to community services, and engage with parents.

One high school with an in-school suspension program that has been gaining national attention is A.Crawford Mosley High School in Lynne Haven, Florida. The program, called Positive Alternative to School Suspension (PASS) operates as its own class, with explicit requirements and expectations, developed on the job by teacher Jim Lawson.

Building a Solid In-School Suspension Program

Jim Lawson, the in-school suspension teacher for 15 years in the Bay District Schools, Lynne Haven, Florida, told Education World these elements are critical for an effective in-school suspension program:

Preparation. Students and teachers need books and materials, and the teacher needs strategies to keep the students on task.

Orientation. Make sure the rules, benefits, and consequences of the program are clearly communicated. Lawson said he spends about 20 minutes with each new student.
Implementation. Make sure students do their work, the teacher keeps accurate records, and the teacher is fair and consistent.
Assessment. Every program should have a method for assessing students.

Most programs are missing an assessment program, according to Lawson. "Take away any two [of the four] and the program won't work," he said.
"Fifteen years ago, the district gave me a title and a room; I became the in-school suspension teacher for all of the high schools," Lawson told Education World. "I learned everything through trial and error. Now I have a model I follow, and I want to reach people who need help -- who have ISS programs that don't work."

Lawson, who now is responsible for just one high school program, lectures at national educators' conferences, and hosts about 20 people annually who come to observe the program. His approach is working; last year, only 67 out of 467 students did not complete the in-school suspension program and were assigned to out of school suspension, Lawson said.

"The program is designed so students can work themselves out of a little bit of trouble and keep their grades up," said Lawson, a former psychology teacher and coach. "I look at it as my classroom. I call it 'graduation' when they leave."

Students can choose in-school suspension over out-of-school suspension, and are assigned to in-school suspension for three, five, or ten days, where they work on assignments from their classes. All students start their suspension with an orientation. Lawson explains the expectations and rules of the program; students are graded daily in five areas based on a rubric. "The rubric also helps parents understand why their child is in trouble," Lawson said. "The orientation removes all the 'I didn't knows' from student excuses. Students are immediately responsible for their success or failure."

Areas in which students are graded include attendance, tardiness, ability to follow all rules, behavior, and work habits in class. Students receive a point for each violation in each category. If they accumulate five points, they are transferred to out-of-school suspension. If that happens, the highest grade they can receive for assignments they completed while assigned to in-school suspension is 60 (D).

While there is no formal counseling component in the high school ISS program, as there is in the middle school, Lawson said he often talks with students about why they were suspended and introduces strategies to prevent them from being suspended again. "I point out that if they were suspended for being tardy, and they haven't been tardy to suspension, that shows they can get to school on time."


Several middle school principals also told Education World that they prefer to use in-school suspension whenever they can.

"We try to think of it as a learning opportunity," said Jeanette Tendai, principal of North Kirkwood Middle School in Kirkwood, Missouri. "We call it the North Intervention Center."

The grade 6 to 8 school has been using ISS for nine years, and has few out-of-school suspensions, Tendai told Education World.

The fact that most students intensely dislike in-school suspension is a behavior management tool in itself. "It's very unpopular; it's not something kids are dying to get into," Tendai said. "They can't leave and they can't sleep, they have to remain engaged in their schoolwork."

Students are assigned to the intervention center, a separate room under adult supervision, for between one and five days, but only after other disciplinary measures have been tried. "Generally, it is not the first intervention," according to Tendai. "We try conferences, team meetings, and lunch detentions first."

If those interventions fail to change a student's behavior and he or she receives in-school suspension, on the first day the student is greeted by a teacher who reviews the school's rule book and discusses how they could have handled their situation differently.

Then students work on assignments from their classes. A teacher from their team checks on them daily to ensure assignments are being completed.

At the end of the suspension, students meet with an administrator or counselor before returning to class, according to Tendai. "I think it's effective," she said. "Most parents would prefer that their student stay in school. This gives us a middle step. The key is that the child changes his or her behavior."


At Falcon Middle School in Peyton, Colorado, safety and discipline incidents dropped dramatically after the school introduced an in-school suspension program in 2001-2002. "We had 437 safety and disciplinary incidents in 2000-2001 [before in-school suspension]," principal Bill Noxon told Education World. "In 2001-2002, we had 74."

While the number of in-school suspensions is growing this year, out-of-school suspensions are dropping, Noxon added. "I'd say in-school suspension works on 95 percent of the kids," he said. "We do have quite a few repeaters. Some kids take a little longer to understand things than others." Students are assigned to in-school suspension after three detentions (plus they must serve the detention). Another infraction that earns in-school suspension is fighting for the first time.

In-school suspension can last up to five days, during which time students report to a room, sit in a study carrel, and do their schoolwork. They are forbidden to talk and must eat their lunches there.

Originally, the program did not have a separate monitor; students were assigned to a room adjacent to the office so staff members could keep an eye on them. But Noxon quickly learned about the need for a full-time supervisor: "A kid started a fire," he said. "They need constant supervision."

Now a paraprofessional who is a West Point graduate oversees the in-school suspension program. "Students have to fill out a packet of information, and explain how they got into trouble," Noxon said. "The paraprofessional does a lot of processing with them as they go over information in the packet. She asks them about the choices they made."

Students also participate in 45 minutes of daily community service, which can include picking up trash on school grounds or putting together a packet of papers. "They need to do something with their hands," Noxon explained.

The shift away from out-of-school suspension has been a positive move, he added. "I think in-school suspension is much better," Noxon continued. "You can at least monitor them. If they are suspended for truancy, at least this keeps them in school and they get their work done."


Other principals see the value of comprehensive in-school suspension programs, and hope to do more at their own schools. Dr. Marc McCoy, principal of Excelsior Middle School in Marion, Iowa, told Education World that a lack of funding has kept him from developing the program.

"Our in-school suspension program is not at the level we would like," McCoy said. "Most schools have more extensive behavior management components. We don't do much to actively help the kids. We keep using it as an alternative to sending kids home. That's the tool we have right now."

Usually one student at a time is assigned to in-school suspension, in a room near the main office, in sight of an adult. In at least half the cases, a teacher works with the student to help he or she catch up on schoolwork, McCoy added. "They often have both behavior and academic problems."

Infractions that earn students in-school suspension include fighting, theft, and blatant disrespect for authority. Between 20 and 30 students a year are suspended in-school, compared with between ten and 15 suspended outside of school.

While the in-school suspension program is not as extensive as McCoy would like, he still finds it preferable to sending a student home. "That [out-of- school suspension] gets the kid out of your hair, but it doesn't do much for the kid," he said. "They can get in more trouble during the day."


Does Inclusion help or hurt kids?

Does Inclusion help or hurt kids?

Is Character Education
The Answer?
As incidents of in-school violence become more common, and strict disciplinary techniques and increased security measures fail to control the problem, many parents, educators, politicians, and social leaders are looking for reliable methods of prevention. Is character education the answer?

lt community need to do our part in helping build young people of high character. There isn't a more critical issue in education today." --- Sanford N. McDonnell, Chairman emeritus of the former McDonnell Douglas Corporation.
At Newsome Park Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, all students participate in a service learning program, which integrates community service into every aspect of the curriculum. The youngest students exchange visits with senior citizens. Second and third graders provide food and clothing to needy families -- and exchange letters with the families as part of their study of the postal system. Fourth and fifth graders adopt a ward at the local VA hospital -- and learn about the technology used to treat patients there.
At Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter School in Franklin, Massachusetts, each month's curriculum focuses on one of the cardinal virtues of fortitude, temperance, justice, and prudence, while the school fosters a sense of personal and social responsibility through a variety of voluntary community service projects.
Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Maryland, features a "Virtue of the Week" program, a peer mediation program, and a rigorous community service graduation requirement.
Although the individual programs vary, each school has made a commitment to providing students with character education along with the more traditional disciplines. Each school was also a recipient of The Business Week Award for Instructional Innovation in 1998, sponsored by Business Week magazine, McGraw-Hill's Educational and Professional Publishing Group, and The Character Education Partnership.

Have You Seen
These Articles
From the
Ed World Archive?

Promoting Respect and Service: Two Programs Get A+ for Impact
Two programs designed by schools to promote caring for others were awarded grants for their impact on both school and community.

Three Ways to Make Values Last at Your School
Elaine L. Lindy documents the process and benefits of creating a set of core values at any school. Included: Tips for helping your school team develop a dynamic list of core values.

Books of Character: Eighteen Books for Teaching About Character Across the Grades
These books that might be used -- in or out of the classroom -- to spark discussion about character. Included: Titles arranged by age level, plus a link to a list of more than 200 other titles for teaching about character.

Singing for Societal Change... Again
Disrespect has become rampant in U.S. society, according to singer/songwriter activist Peter Yarrow of the trio Peter, Paul & Mary. Yarrow's curriculum, Don't Laugh at Me, teaches children to respect themselves and others.

The Giraffe Project: Encouraging Kids to 'Stick Their Necks Out' for Others
This organization shares news of individuals who are making a difference in their communities. Included: Comments from teachers and students who've been inspired by the Giraffe Project to "stick their necks out" to help others.

Character Education Getting a Boost
Some schools that received federal funding to pilot character education programs are now going to their state legislatures or local communities to continue them.

Be sure to check out our A-to-Z Glossary of School Issues.
"I believe that a values vacuum exists in American society, and that teachers must not be casual or apologetic about confronting it. We must make an explicit commitment to formal character education. We must integrate character education into the fabric of the curriculum and into extracurricular activities. We must train teachers in character education -- both pre-service and in-service. And we must consciously set about creating a moral climate within our schools." --- Bob Chase, President National Education Association
A survey conducted in 1992 by the Joseph and Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics found that thirty-three percent of all high school students admitted they had stolen merchandise from a store within the past year. Sixty-one percent of the students admitted cheating on an examination during that year, and 83 percent said they had lied to their parents. Thirty-three percent of students said they were willing to lie on a resume or job application or during an interview to get a job, and sixteen percent said they had already done so.

In addition, in a 1997 survey of teachers conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, more than half of the respondents reported perceiving a decline in student morality since they began teaching. Even among those teaching 5 years or less, forty-four percent said they have seen a decline in ethical values and an increase in illegal drug use among their students.

Clearly, a moral decline among our young people affects all of society. But is it the job of the school to address it? According to the Character Education Partnership (CEP), a nonpartisan coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to promoting the teaching and modeling of character education, "there is no such thing as value-neutral schools or value-free education. Schools teach values every day, by design or default. When schools do not teach values, they are teaching that values are not important."

Furthermore, the CEP says, "Schools cannot achieve their educational goals in a values vacuum. To succeed, schools must teach such values as academic integrity, civility, responsibility, perseverance, cooperation, self-discipline, and respect for self and others."


"Clearly we can all agree about the importance of teaching our children, both as individuals and as members of society, the importance of common values such as respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, and citizenship." ---U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley
Many schools shy away from formal character education, citing a national diversity in beliefs and values that make such education a family, rather than an institutional, imperative.

Research shows, however, the existence of a national consensus that makes values education in public schools both possible and desirable.

A 1993 Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup poll found that more than ninety percent of respondents were in favor of schools teaching such values as honesty, democracy, tolerance, patriotism, caring, and moral courage.
Researchers at The Institute for Global Ethics report that five core values -- truth, compassion, fairness, responsibility, and respect -- consistently cut across cultural, religious, and socioeconomic lines.
And the CEP endorses the teaching of the core ethical values of caring, fairness, trustworthiness, citizenship, responsibility, and respect for self and others, calling them "values that form the basis of good character" and "principles that are common to all cultures and religions."
Nationally, many different state and local programs have been, and are being, established to incorporate character education in our public schools.

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, schools recently launched the Your Environment Education Program, designed to help children succeed by improving their behavior both in and out of school. (See an accompanying article in this week's issue of Education World, One Character Education Program That Works!)
The Connecticut State Department of Education is working with Character Counts!, a nationwide initiative supporting non-partisan character education, to involve schools, parents, and businesses in a statewide commitment to character education.
In Missouri, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is establishing a Show Me Character Education Partnership to build on their existing Personal Responsibility Education Partnership (PREP) program and to extend character education in state schools.

"To educate a man in mind and not morals is to educate a menace to society." ---Theodore Roosevelt
The programs may differ, but the basics of character education possess certain common characteristics. According to Dr. Thomas Lickona, director of The Center for the 4th and 5th Rs, a national resource for character education, all schools should teach students that a person of character:

is trustworthy -- possessing honesty, integrity, and loyalty.
treats all people with respect -- demonstrating courtesy, politeness, tolerance, and acceptance.
acts responsibly -- acting with accountability, reliability, and self-control, and setting a good example.
is fair and just -- treating all people fairly.
is caring -- showing compassion, kindness, sensitivity, and charity.
is a good citizen -- accepting legal, civic, community, and environmental responsibilities.
Character education programs may differ, but CEP endorses eleven principles of character education. Schools committed to character education, CEP says, must:

Define core ethical values in terms of observable behaviors and hold all school members accountable to standards of conduct consistent with those behaviors.
Help members of the school community recognize, value, and act upon core ethical values.
Integrate character development into all aspects of school life and deliberately plan ways to develop character rather than waiting for opportunities to present themselves.
Imbue every area of the school environment -- including the classroom, the cafeteria, the hallways, and the playground -- with evidence of core ethical values.
Provide students with real-life challenges to help them develop a practical understanding of the moral requirements of the core ethical values.
Provide a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners and helps them succeed.
Develop students' intrinsic commitment both to core values and to the academic curriculum.
Involve all school staff in modeling and promoting core ethical values, and provide staff with the same opportunities for personal and academic growth afforded students.
Require strong moral leadership from both staff and students.
Recruit the help of parents and community business, religious, government, and media representatives in promoting core ethical values.
Continuously assess the progress of character education by evaluating the character of the school, the character of the students, and the success of the staff as character educators.

"Virtue and vice will not grow together in a great degree, but they will grow where they are planted, and when one has taken root, it is not easily supplanted by the other. The great art of correcting mankind consists in prepossessing the mind with good principles." --- Noah Webster
Craig Cunningham, in A Certain and Reasoned Art: The Rise and Fall of Character Education in America, points out that character education has been a goal of public education since the establishment of the public school system in this country. It was only in the 1950s, he says, that an emphasis on academics supplanted character education in as an educational priority.

"Today," Cunningham states, "there is a renewed interest in character education, as the perception grows that many American youth are getting out of control. Drugs and gangs, teenage pregnancy and suicide, and the breakdown of school discipline, have led many educators and political leaders to once again look to the schools to educate not only the minds but also the consciences of children."


For additional information on character education or for tips on establishing a character education program at your school, contact one of the following organizations:

The American Federation of Teachers, 1555 New Jersey Ave., NW, Arlington, VA 20001
The Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character, School of Education, Boston University, 605 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215
The Center for the 4th and 5th Rs, SUNY Cortland, Education Department, Cortland, NY 13045 (Email:
Character Counts! National Office, 4640 Admiralty Way, Suite 1001, Marina del Rey, CA 90292-6610 (Email:
The Character Education Institute, 8918 Tesoto Dr., San Antonio, TX 78217 (Email:
The Character Education Partnership, 918 16th Street NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC 20006
The National Education Association, 1201 16th St., NW, Washington, DC 20036
Your Environment Inc. Character Education, 300 N. Mononghela Ave., Glassport, PA 15045
Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2009 Education World


A "Survival Kit" for New Teachers

A "Survival Kit" for New Teachers

A 'Survival Kit' for New Teachers
Curriculum CenterLooking for a "welcome -- we're here to help you" gift for your school's new teachers? Check out Survival Kit for New Teachers, a resource bulging with practical ideas for classroom use. Included: Ideas for building "teamwork" skills, motivating students, and creating reading response journals.

Survival Kit Book Cover Image


The first year of teaching is like riding a roller coaster--full of ups and downs.

No college program can prepare new teachers for the enormity of the task ahead. But the year will be made more manageable if the new teacher is prepared to take on a few mountains. That's why every teacher needs a "bag of tricks" -- a "survival kit"!


Not long ago, teachers Emma McDonald and Dyan Hershman were new teachers. They remember those days well; they know what all first-year teachers go through. That's why the two veteran teachers have put together the Survival Kit for New Teachers. This "survival kit's" 200-plus, spiral-bound pages are packed full of practical ideas and strategies for beginning teachers. Even the most experienced teachers will find the "kit" to be a useful teaching tool.

Some of the ideas might be familiar because, as all teachers know, teachers have a way of taking ideas -- from textbooks and teacher magazines and other teachers -- and reworking or adapting those ideas to meet their own needs. This sort of "professional sharing" is common in the profession, and it can help turn good teachers into great teachers.


Hershman and McDonald, both teachers in the Dallas area, cover just about every problem a teacher might encounter in Year One, or Year Twenty-Five. Useful and workable ideas, tips, strategies, and activities are offered in response to teacher questions and comments such as:

What questions do I need to ask to help me get a better start?
How do I talk to parents or hold a conference?
My education classes didn't teach me this!
How am I supposed to grade this? What is a rubric?
I'm so frazzled. Somebody help me, please!
"This book is meant as a starting point, not as a program," Hershman and McDonald caution in the introduction to their book. The book is one more resource to use in building a curriculum, one more tool to help teachers cope -- and excel.


One of the chapters in Survival Kit for New Teachers highlights activities for getting the school year off to a good start. Ideas for icebreakers and rainy day games can be found here. Also included are some great activities for new teachers -- no, any teachers -- to use in developing cooperative team skills. Here are a couple of the many activities offered to build "teamwork" skills, activities that will serve any teacher well throughout the year:

Draw an Alien Activity. In teams, have each student select a marker of a different color. All members of the team, using only their own colors, and with no oral communication, create a team picture of an alien creature. Once the illustration is complete, the team discusses the results and names their creature.
Desert Survival. "You are on an airplane that is forced down in the Sahara Desert in North Africa. All passengers are okay. There is no guarantee of a rescue, nor of continued survival. It is a 3-day journey north, to a city." Divide the class into small cooperative groups. As a group, students must choose seven of the 20 items in the "Desert Survival Box" to help the group survive the desert trek. The box includes a hand mirror, a parachute, a pencil, a book of matches, 2 cans of cola, scissors, an electric fan, a tube of toothpaste, and more. (See Survival Kit for New Teachers, page 68, for a complete listing.) At the end of the activity, the group must be prepared to tell why the seven items were selected.


Another section of Survival Kit for New Teachers focuses on ideas for motivating students. In this section, McDonald and Hershman share bunches of "meaningful, creative, and unique ideas," a veritable ABC of exciting ideas! Among the activities:

Atlas Race. Have students race against one another to locate various places using the atlas. Start with the entire class. Play five games as a class to get five different semi-finalists. Those students then play two rounds to determine the two finalists. The last two players play one more round to determine the champion.
Editing Using Colors. Seat students in groups of four and give each student a different colored pen or pencil. Each color is assigned to do a job. For example, blue is punctuation, red is spelling, green is sentence structure, and purple is capitalization. Each student passes their paper to the right. Everyone reads the story they have and edits the errors for their color. When finished, students switch the papers to the right and edit the next story. This continues until each reader receives his/her own paper.
X-tra Small or X-tra Large. Have students do their work on extra large or extra small pieces of paper. This makes the old boring paper/pencil task seem like a lot more fun. Another way to spruce up their work is by providing them with colored paper or index cards.


Survival Kit for New Teachers includes individual sections of teaching ideas for language arts, math, and science and social studies. In each section, teachers will find all kinds of activity ideas -- many complete with reproducible teaching masters. For example, in the language arts section, McDonald and Hershman offer tips for using the writing process. They address a handful of different writing styles (ie., persuasive writing, descriptive writing) and provide graphic organizers to help students write in each style. Just for the teacher, a grading checklist (rubric) is offered for each writing style. Also included, 25 question prompts for students to answer in their reading response journals. Among them:

What would happen to the story if the setting was 1000 years into the future?
Would you be friends with the main character? Why or why not?
What animal is the main character mostly like? Why?
Choose one of the characters to invite to a party. Which one did you choose and why?


A quick scan of the book's table of contents reveals more of the topics covered:

Career Bound. Advice for the job search, a list of possible questions that might be asked in an interview, a guide for helping applicants design appropriate questions for them to ask in an interview, and a casual reminder to send a thank you note to the interviewer.
Before School Starts. Tips for organizing the classroom, getting to know a little about your students before you meet them, creating a file for substitutes, and much more.
Classroom Management. A guide to establishing procedures, establishing rules and consequences, reward-based discipline (possible rewards included!), and a list of things you should never, never say to your students (I really mean it this time!, If you don't stop, I'm going to, etc.).
Parent Communication. Ideas for getting this all-important relationship off to a good start, tips for creating a simple parent newsletter and keeping records of parent communications, thoughts about preparing for Open House or the first parent-teacher conference, and a list of "positive ways to inform parents of negative behaviors."
Technology in the Classroom. Ideas and Web sites for integrating technology into math, science, social studies, and language arts.


Survival Kit for New Teachers is a terrific resource that should be included in every school's resource library, no, in every teacher's classroom! Teachers -- new and experienced -- will find in the "Kit" many practical classroom ideas. This volume could make life easier for all teachers, while making it more fun for their students.

In those schools where staffs like to welcome new teachers with something very special, why not provide a copy of Survival Kit for New Teachers to each new teacher? No more practical and useful gift will come their way!

Survival Kit for New Teachers is published by the Inspiring Teachers Publishing Group. For more information about Survival Kit for New Teachers (or for information about a "Survival Kit" in-school workshop), contact Inspiring Teachers Publishing Group, 1025 N. Central Expressway, #300-306, Plano, Texas 75075. Or you can find ordering information on the Inspiring Teachers Web site at, email them at, or call at (972)496-7633.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1998 Education World


Student-led Conferences: A Growing Trend

Student-led Conferences: A Growing Trend

Student-led conferences: A growing trend

Student writing on boardFor years parent-teacher conferences have been the primary means of parent-teacher communication. But now, many schools are trying something new—student-led conferences that communicate not only how a student's doing but also why.

Parent-teacher conferences—we all know how they go. Parents troop into classrooms to talk with teachers about their children's progress in school. Often, the process feels rushed, and parents leave feeling vaguely dissatisfied, as if they didn't really get what they came for.

For years that process has been the norm, but now it is changing. In more and more schools, students are leading conferences, and, overall, the word is that they're doing a fine job.

Many teachers themselves speak enthusiastically of the advantages of student-led conferences over teacher-led ones. "We found the [student-led] conferences most beneficial," said Keith Eddinger of the Marcus Whitman Middle School in Rushville, New York. "From a teacher's perspective, we were able to get a better picture of each child. It forced us to sit down with each student and review strengths and weaknesses. This conversation often told us the students learned more than perhaps we had measured through conventional assessments."

Eddinger added, "Our post-conference reviews with parents and students were overwhelmingly positive."

John Osgood, of C. L. Jones Middle School in Minden, Nebraska, found that "comments [about student-led conferences] from parents and board members were very positive."

Another staff member, Dick Philips, said, "Most parents listened to their child. It was interesting listening to [children] explain low grades to their parents. It did open the lines of communication."

"Several parents really liked it because it gave them an opportunity to see their child's work," said Sue Yant, another staff member. Yet "some [parents] said they hoped we [would hold] the traditional conference once a year."

Student preparation

"The format is important, but I believe the success of a student-led conference is most determined by how well students are prepared," wrote Laura Hayden, a seventh-grade communications teacher at Derby Middle School in Derby, Kansas, in Letting Students Lead Parent Conferences, an article published by the National Association of Elementary School Principals in Middle Matters.

The conference format at Hayden's school had students show parents some of their work and explain their grades in a student-led conference. Each team could conduct conferences a bit differently. Hayden's team used an open house arrangement in which students and parents visited all team members' classrooms, but other teams held the entire conference in one classroom.

The significance of format aside, Hayden focused her students on preparation. At the beginning of the school year, she had students set up a binder to contain a portfolio as well as graded work. She explained that students had to keep their binders orderly because they would use them to lead their conferences.

A week before the conferences, Hayden's team sent home a letter informing parents of the conference and the fact that their child would lead it. About three days before conferences, she had students prepare portfolios of their work to date, including a special project, a quiz, a homework assignment, and one assignment from which they felt they had learned the most. Students also wrote a reflection on their grades and study habits. They set goals for the next semester and organized their graded work section.

The day before conferences, teachers role-played, pretending to be the student, with the student playing the teacher or the parent. Teachers modeled, for example, how to explain a poor grade to parents, and they gave students a checklist of what to cover in the conference.

Student responsibility

"The preparatory time is worth it," Hayden wrote, "especially when you hear a struggling student explaining what he or she learned from an assignment and taking responsibility for the score he or she achieved."

"[Students] need to understand that they are in control of their own efforts to learn the material," said Barbara Rommel, superintendent of the David Douglas School District in Oregon. (Source: "New Method Puts Student in Charge," an article published in the Oregonian newspaper.)

The Oregon Educational Act for the 21st Century requires students to meet higher standards. By having students assess how they are progressing toward those standards, educators say, students will know how far they've come and how far they have to go to meet the standards.

"It helps them accept responsibility for their learning," said Patti Kinney, principal of Talent Middle School in Oregon.

"I like being able to tell my side of the story," Josh Whitney-Wise of Milwaukie, Oregon's, McLoughlin Middle School told the Oregonian.

Advantages and disadvantages

Educators acknowledge that there are disadvantages as well as advantages to student-led conferences. Although parent attendance seems higher for student-led conferences than for teacher-led ones, a parent's failure to attend a student-led conference leads to a great deal of disappointment for a student who has worked hard to prepare.

Another disadvantage is that some parents want to spend more time with their child's teacher, receiving his or her viewpoint. Nearly all schools with student-led conferences will let parents make separate appointments to confer with teachers.

For the most part, parents support the concept of student-led conferences, though some support them with slight reservations. "My daughter was in a class that did student-led conferences a couple of years ago," said one parent of a child at Jones Middle School. "I think the object was to make the child feel a part of the whole process, to get them in tune with their own progress. As a parent, I felt like I still needed some info from the teachers and wanted more. But I do think the student gets a new perspective on their grades. Personally, I don't think it would be good to do this often, but once a year is good. When you ask if they were 'beneficial,' I can say yes and no. They were more beneficial to the student than to the parent."

But the advantages, say most teachers who have participated in student-led conferences, outweigh the downside. Student accountability is mentioned again and again by educators as a plus for student-led conferences. Another plus is the way even a struggling student can produce something positive for a conference, an art project or an essay, perhaps, that wouldn't show up in a report card grade. Overall, talks with educators indicate, student-led conferences are a growing trend.


Ways to Teach Empathy Skills

Ways to Teach Empathy Skills

Discipline & Guidance

Developing Empathy: Raising Children who Care
Developing Empathy: Raising Children who Care
What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others, feel what they feel, and respond in helpful, compassionate ways. Children who are able to identify with and comfort others make friends more easily, generally perform better academically, and demonstrate a higher level of moral and emotional development.

Are children born empathetic?

Unlike appearance or intelligence, which depends largely on genetics, empathy is a skill that children learn. We are born with the capacity for empathetic behavior, but whether or not we mature into caring, understanding adults is principally determined by what we are taught.

How do we teach empathy?

Infants: (Birth to 1 yr.) Babies learn about empathy by the way parents treat them when they are cranky, fussy, or frightened. The foundation for empathetic behavior begins with the trust and attachment that is established when a parent consistently, promptly and lovingly responds to their baby's needs.
Toddlers: (1-2yrs.) Toddlers have strong feelings but they are not always capable of identifying or managing those feelings. Parents can help children name what they feel and show them how their actions are tied to those strong emotions. In this way parents can lay the groundwork necessary for the child to connect his feelings and actions with those of others as he matures.
Pre-schoolers: (3-5 Yrs.) During this developmental stage learning how to share is a great tool for nurturing empathy. Help small children learn to share by "taking turns". Use a kitchen timer if necessary to help children remember their friend deserves a chance to enjoy a toy. Before friends come over ask your child to pick out toys he thinks his friend would like to play with. Allow him to put away a few of his very favorite toys that might cause problems. Don't forget to express your appreciation when your child behaves in a caring manner. The use of puppets can be a wonderful way to help your child learn to think of others' needs and feelings

By the time your child reaches 4 years old his cognitive (thinking ability) development has progressed enough that he is able to associate his emotions with the feelings of others. Before this point, he assumed everyone else saw and felt the very same things he did. Help him continue to progress by pointing out people's facial expressions you observe while shopping, etc. and question him about what he thinks they are feeling. Explain in plain, simple terms the effects his behavior has on others. Point out the impact of his actions and ask him to think about how he would feel if the roles were reversed.
Ages 5 and up: Continue to talk with your child regularly about his feelings and those he recognizes in others. Help him to see how people are very similar in regards to emotions no matter their age, ethnicity, or gender. He can also learn about empathy by talking about hypothetical problems. "Tell me how you would feel if your friend called you a name? How would he feel if you did the same?" As he gets older, you can teach him that although two people may experience very similar situations, they may not both react or feel as strongly as the other.
Model empathy: Above all, remember that parents are their children's first and most influential teachers. If we expect our children to grow into caring, empathetic adults we must model these behaviors. Let your children see your kind and thoughtful actions, hear you express your concern for the feelings of others, and demonstrate empathetic parenting. Listen carefully to your children and ask questions that help them clarify their thoughts and feelings. As their empathy grows because of your modeling, they'll be more able to relate deeply to others. They will also grow in their ability to practice good listening skills, help others, and show generosity.


Should Struggling Students Repeat a Grade?

Should Struggling Students Repeat a Grade?

Making Retention a Last Resort
From time to time, Education World updates and reposts a previously published article that we think might be of interest to administrators. We hope you find this recently updated article to be of value.

Too often, educators find themselves choosing between social promotion and retention, when neither benefits children. Some districts have found that intensive intervention in the early grades can eliminate the choice between two unappealing options. Included: Ways to keep struggling students from falling too far behind.

Vying for least appealing education strategy of all time are social promotion and pupil retention. The trouble is, traditionally, one has been seen as the antidote for the other.

Retaining students while their peers are promoted is bad for a child's self-esteem and may not help them academically, according to the argument. But promoting children without the skills for the next grade can be just as demoralizing.

The solution, according to some researchers, is to avoid both unsavory choices, and intervene early and often so children never get to the point of facing retention.


By changing the focus to try to get all students help when they need it, some school districts have seen their retention numbers plummet.

"Our retention policy is that we don't retain anyone unless absolutely necessary," said Dr. Linda Sheppard, director of elementary education for the Coatesville (Pennsylvania) Area School District. "We retain fewer than one percent on the elementary level. It's not really beneficial to the student, unless you change the whole program. And we try to avoid passing [an unprepared] student from one teacher to another."

The district sets benchmarks for promotion, and then offers tutoring and after school programs for students who need help keeping up. "We try to put everything in place for a particular student."

Administrators in the Everett Public Schools in Washington also view retention as the last step, not an educational strategy.

"We don't retain many; probably fewer than ten a year," said Gay Campbell, the district's director of communications. The district only considers retaining K-5 students, and has an elementary school enrollment of 12,000. "It's such a detrimental process. The research shows if a child is retained, and you do the same things, he or she will be further behind than ever. If you retain them, you need to do something different."

"We look at it to see if it [retention] truly will benefit the child, and see if there are any other ways we can help the student meet the standards. We have to look at every child and see what we have to do to get them there."

Everett has a detailed retention/promotion policy, that includes multiple criteria for evaluating students. "We hope we know early in the year if children need intervention," she added.

The California Department of Education also required all districts to adopt policies on retention and promotion in 1999, in an effort to prepare more students to move to the next grade, according to Larry Boes, an education program consultant for the department of education.

One aspect of the policy requires a parent's written permission to retain a student in kindergarten. "This [policy] grew out of a concern about social promotion -- we wanted students ready for the next grade," Boes said. "The policies were developed with the idea that districts would provide support to reduce retention; just retaining students was not effective. The aim is to minimize social promotion and retention."


Non-traditional school structures also help minimize retention. The Lincoln Prairie School, a pre-K to 8 school in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, with multi-age classes and a curriculum that stresses multiple intelligence learning, has not retained a student in the five years it has existed, said principal Jan Jetel.

"Multi-age learning is the gift of time," Jetel told Education World. "Students work to complete a curriculum cycle. The activities are open-ended and students can work on at their own pace."

More educators need to employ what works best for each child, according to Dr. Mark Alter, chairman of the department of teaching and learning at the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. "Teachers need more flexibility; if a child is not reading, the child may need a different approach to reading," he said. To help a slow reader keep up with other subjects, a teacher can take the same science concept the class is studying and break it down to a lower reading level, he said. "Teachers should identify what works and what doesn't, and put in place an infrastructure that assumes a child can learn."


Numerous studies argue that holding children back does not help them catch up academically and can cause more social problems. Still, that does not prevent schools from doing it. In its position paper on Student Grade Retention and Social Promotion, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) notes that the use of grade retention has increased over the past 25 years, despite little indication of its effectiveness.

The NASP estimates that as many as 15 percent of American students repeat a grade each year, and between 30 percent and 50 percent of students in the U.S. are retained at least once before ninth grade.

Nineteen empirical studies conducted during the 1990s compared students who were retained with students who were promoted to the next grade, NASP noted. The results showed that grade retention had a negative impact on all areas of achievement, including reading, mathematics, and language, as well as socio-emotional adjustment, such as peer relationships, self esteem, problem behaviors, and attendance.

"I can't think of any pluses to it," said NYU's Alter. "Retention damages a child's self-esteem and impacts the family's perception of the child." And if nothing changes instructionally when the child repeats a grade, Alter noted, there is no reason to think doing the same work again will make the student successful. Before retaining a student, "Educators should be asking: 'What didn't work? What wasn't done earlier? What do we do to identify the difficulties a kid is having?'"

At the same time, Alter added, social promotion is not much better, a position echoed by NASP and the U.S. Department of Education.

In Taking Responsibility for Ending Social Promotion: A Guide for Educators and State and Local Leaders, published in May 1999, U.S. Department of Education officials urge educators to eliminate social promotion, but not to replace the practice with retention: " research also shows that holding students back to repeat a grade (retention) without changing instructional strategies is ineffective," according to the report. "Much evidence suggests that the achievement of retained students still lags behind that of their peers after repeating a grade, making it an ineffective strategy for enabling students to catch up. Retention in grade also greatly increases the likelihood that a student will drop out of school -- and being held back twice makes dropping out a virtual certainty."


Frequently, educators feel the only alternative to social promotion for struggling students is retaining them, the report noted. The accountability and standards movements also have increased the pressure on districts to ensure students pass high stakes tests or clear other hurdles before being promoted.

"This scares me," Alter said. "I've heard more talk of retention than I've heard in a while, because there is more emphasis on testing driving other patterns. I think the talk is going to increase. The No Child Left Behind Act is putting pressure on the schools."

Some education officials, though, still see a place for retention. Joel I. Klein, chancellor of the New York City Public School System, the country's largest with 1.1 million students, announced in January that third graders who fail city-wide achievement tests this year will be retained. Based on the number of students who failed the tests last year, as many as 15,000 students could be repeating third grade.

"The chancellor has taken the side that it [retention] will work," Marge Feinberg, spokeswoman for the New York City schools, told Education World. "This is the first year there has been intensive intervention programs and individual support. The tests are given in the spring; the interventions are starting now [in the winter] to help students prepare for the tests."

Students who fail will be able to retake the tests in August; if they pass, they will be promoted, and if not, "they will repeat third grade with the support they need to master the skills necessary in order to advance," Klein said in a speech at the New York Urban League's second annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Symposium in January.

The system is implementing multiple support programs to help students stay on track to pass the tests the first time, he said. Newly-formed Student Success Teams in each school will identify students at risk of not meeting standards, assess their needs, and develop a K-3 intervention program, Klein said in his speech.

In the classroom, students who need extra help will receive differentiated instruction from teachers trained to meet their needs. Students also will receive instruction before and after school, on weekends, and during a Summer Success Academy, designed for second and third graders. The academy's focus will be on reading, writing, and math, and classes with no more than 15 students, according to Klein.

"By going down this road, we shine a public spotlight not only on what we expect from our students, but as importantly, what we expect from ourselves," the chancellor said. "Unless we are prepared to take the steps necessary to educate students to a level that enables them to move on to fourth grade, holding them back is ultimately an empty act."


Many parents, though, are upset with the policy and the fact that it was instituted mid-year, said Jan Atwell, executive director of United Parents Associations, a group urging that the policy be rescinded.

"Past practice shows this does not work," said Atwell, citing a similar effort by the city about 20 years ago. "The concept of retention has been tried in many places and not been successful. Not only did children not show a net gain, but more dropped out. We don't want to take a chance on more of our third graders dropping out."

The parents would like to see the district try smaller classes and earlier support services before instituting such a sweeping retention policy, Atwell told Education World. "Why not provide the support up front? All this has done is upset a lot of parents and students."

Even with the district's insistence that additional support will be provided, NYU's Alter said he is concerned about the possibility of thousands of children being retained.

"We'll see if the support infrastructure is available," he said. "Right now, teachers don't have the resources -- teachers must have instruction options, seven days a week, so you prevent retention and social promotion."

"When a kid is in danger of being held back, the bottom line is 'why?'" Alter continued. "We tend to blame the kid or the parent. It's not the kid's fault. Educators should be asking: 'What didn't work? What wasn't done earlier? What do we do to identify the difficulties a kid is having?' If you can't answer the question why the student didn't learn, you are in danger of repeating mistakes."


Multiculturalism: What Do Students Think?

Multiculturalism: What Do Students Think?

Multiculturalism -- What Do Students Think?
Share Administrators, teachers, parents, and other public figures have voiced their opinions about multicultural education. Now a survey by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company asks students what they think about multiculturalism in their schools.
Report Cover Students of many races, cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and economic situations fill today's schools. By the year 2000, according to the Census Bureau, one of every three children will be of a racial or ethnic background other than non-Hispanic white. Many educators believe that multicultural education can help students learn about other people and about cultures different from students' own.


In 1996, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company produced a series of reports " bring the opinions of teachers, students and parents to the attention of educators, policymakers and the American public." The fourth report in the series, The Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teacher 1996: Students Voice Their Opinions On Learning About Multiculturalism, "...assessed students' opinions and interests in learning about multicultural topics." Lou Harris and Associates conducted the nationwide survey. Public school students in grades 7-12 were asked about

the availability of multicultural courses,
their interest in taking multicultural courses, and
the effectiveness of lessons being taught.

Sixty one percent "...of students say their schools offer classes on multiculturalism" (defined in the survey question as "...the history and culture of people who came to the U.S. from different parts of the world, such as Asia, India, Africa or South America."). Survey results indicate that

these courses are more prevalent in middle schools than in high schools.
rural (68%) and suburban (62%) schools are more likely to offer these classes than urban (57%) schools are.
African-American students (52%) have less access to multicultural courses than white (63%) or Hispanic (61%) students do.
Students are divided in their opinions on whether their school is placing the right amount of emphasis on multiculturalism. The survey results show that

more students (45%) responded that their schools place the right amount of emphasis (as opposed to too little or too much) on multicultural lessons. Many dissatisfied students thought more emphasis was needed.
African-American students (34%) were more likely than white (26%) or Hispanic (34%) students to respond that their schools place too little emphasis on multiculturalism.
A majority of students (71%) responded being either very interested or somewhat interested " learning more about holidays and other special events that people in different parts of the world celebrate...." Survey results indicate that

more females (78%) than males (63%) surveyed are at least somewhat interested in learning more about cultural events.
Hispanic students (38%) and African-American students (32%) are more likely to be very interested than white students (23%) are.
Question: How interested would you be in learning more about the holidays and other special events that people celebrate in different parts of the world -- very interested, somewhat interested, or not very interested?

Total White African-
American Hispanic
Base 2476 1313 456 486
% % % %
Very Interested 27 23 32 38
Somewhat Interested 44 47 41 39
Not Very Interested 24 27 22 17
Don't Know 5 4 6 6
"Learning to be tolerant of those who are different from oneself is an important component of lessons on multiculturalism," states one of the survey's generalizations. Students were asked to rate their teachers on how well they teach tolerance. More students (44%) say their teachers do an average job than an above average (26%) or a below average (18%) job.

An earlier 1996 Metropolitan Life study (...Violence, Social Tension, and Equality Among Teens) found that "...students are more likely to say students of diverse backgrounds get along well when they also say their teachers do a good job (vs. a bad job) of teaching tolerance."
Students (51%) feel that their schools do a satisfactory job in the area of helping immigrant students learn to speak or improve their English.

Although many students responded positively to this question, 31% of students responded that they did not know the answer to this question.
"Students are equally divided on whether or not the teachers in their schools mirror the social and ethnic makeup of the students," states the report. About one third of students did not know. African-American students were more likely to say that teachers do not mirror the ethnic makeup of the students they teach.


Metropolitan Insurance Company's report found the survey's message encouraging. Students are interested in learning more about other people and other cultures. The result of greater emphasis in multicultural education could be greater tolerance among students, fewer negative attitudes, and fewer prejudices with the result being better social relations between students from different cultural backgrounds.

While in print, The Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teacher 1996: Students Voice Their Opinions On Learning About Multiculturalism is available at no charge from MetLife, The American Teacher Survey, PO Box 807, Madison Square Station, New York, NY 10159-0807.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1997 Education World

Related Resources

K-12: A Webliography of Multicultural Resources, by Dian Borek, is a site that provides links to multicultural children's literature, multicultural materials online, and multicultural research.
The Multicultural Pavilion includes Teacher's Corner, Multicultural Awareness Archives, an On-line Discussion Board, and many other "departments." The Teacher's Corner has "resources for teachers, including reviews of children's music, multicultural activities, and on-line literature archives."
A Community Guide to Multicultural Education Programs, by Wendy Schwartz, discusses the importance and types of multicultural education programs. (From the ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education.)
Varieties of Multicultural Education: An Introduction, an ERIC Digest by Gary Burnett, discusses the controversy and policy debate regarding multicultural education; provides research links; and outlines "typologies of multicultural education."


Do Schools Give Equal Grades for Equal Work?

Do Schools Give Equal Grades for Equal Work?

Do Schools Give 'Equal Grades for Equal Work'?

Do Schools Give 'Equal Grades for Equal Work'?

Share School Issues CenterWhen is a B really an A? When you live in a school district with high academic standards and tough grading policies, according to some Connecticut parents who want their kids to get more A's. Those parents blame the school district's high standards for their students' low grades! Included: An Education World poll of school administrators across the country.
"We are not a college placement school. We're preparing kids for life."
-- Joseph Townsley, Superintendent of Schools, Simsbury, Connecticut
For most of the past year, school administrators in Simsbury, Connecticut, an affluent community just outside of Hartford, have found themselves dealing with hundreds of angry parents, all demanding immediate changes at the town's high school. The parents who have spoken repeatedly and emotionally at PTA and school board meetings are not calling for tighter school discipline or more foreign language courses or improved technology, however. They are concerned about the school's academic standards. Those standards, parents say, are too high.

Specifically, the Simsbury parents are protesting what they regard as overly stringent grading policies at the high school. According to the parents, students at Simsbury High School receive significantly fewer A's than do students of similar ability attending high schools in equally affluent communities. The dearth of A's in Simsbury, the parents say, prevents many students from being admitted to the nation's most prestigious colleges and universities.

Do you think Simsbury High School should lower its standards for an A? Are you satisfied with the grading policy at your school? Share your thoughts on our message board.
The Simsbury parents have compiled an impressive body of research that they say supports their position. In a study of 27 economically similar schools in the state, for example, Simsbury students ranked fourth in SAT scores but 26th in the number of students who reported having an A average at the time of the test. The relatively low averages (represented on college transcripts as the students' grade point average, or GPA) in conjunction with the high SATs, the parents claim, make their children appear lazy or underachieving to college admissions officers.
Confronted with the assurances of many admissions officers that students' GPAs are considered in the context of the school they attend, the parents point to Simsbury's class of 1998. Students in that class, they say, placed fourth among 11 similar schools on their SATs but only eighth in the number of students admitted to top-tier colleges. Simsbury, the parents say, needs to change its grading policies to make it easier for students to get A's.

Although not everyone agrees with the position of the parents who want to see grading standards eased, school administrators have agreed to study the issue. Simsbury's superintendent of schools, Joseph Townsley, told Education World that the school board has set a goal of addressing the issue of grading and its relationship to admission to tier-one schools and that the board is considering a number of possible actions. Among those actions are the development of a Simsbury student profile, a marketing plan to familiarize top colleges and universities with standards at Simsbury High School, and a policy requiring teachers to grade with a specific grade distribution. Under that policy, teachers would be required to award a certain number of A's.

At present, Townsley told Education World, Simsbury has no system-wide standard for awarding an A. "Although, in most cases, individual departments meet and set departmental standards, thus achieving some degree of consistency, the grade a student ultimately receives is left up to the discretion of the teacher."

Based on an informal Education World poll of school administrators across the country, Simsbury's grading policy appears to be typical in procedure, if not in results. Although many systems set grading guidelines, many others do not. Even with guidelines, of course, grading can be a pretty subjective endeavor.

In Portland, Oregon, for example, an A relates to a numerical score of 90 to 100. "But that's probably only objectively true in certain math classes," middle school director Peter Hamilton told Education World. "How do you grade an English paper numerically?" he asked. "In most cases," Hamilton said, "a student's final grade is probably pretty subjective, based on both effort and achievement -- with no good agreement on how each should be weighed."

Sid Smith, director of curriculum in Boston, Massachusetts, reports a similar system in his city's schools. "In Boston," Smith told Education World, "we've established benchmarks in reading and math. Those benchmarks must be met for a student to achieve a passing grade. Above and beyond that, there's lots of teacher discretion, although, numerically, an A is 90 to 100."

"In South Carolina, the state Department of Education set numerical values for each letter grade, so that an A, B, C, etc., would be the same at every school in the state," according to Linda Leary, an administrator in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Under the new state grading scale, which goes into effect in September, an A is 93 to 100, a B is 85 to 92, a C is 77 to 84, a D is 70 to 76, and anything below 69 is an F."

Lyn McCarty, a program specialist in central California, reported that in her district, "grading policy is pretty much up to the discretion of the teachers" and that factors such as class attendance, class participation, and special projects, can change the numerical grade regardless of student achievement. "What we do have," McCarty noted, "is a policy, district wide and site specific, about how many classes must be passed in order to matriculate to the next grade level. That, of course, is bogus criteria if the guidelines for what could result in a failing grade are not consistent among teachers or sites."

At Parker High School in Janesville, Wisconsin, "each teacher sets his or her own grading standard, although most seem to adhere to the 90 to 100 range for an A," technology teacher Dave Figi told Education World. "Each teacher also has his or her own algorithm for computing grades, although tradition has been that final exams do not count for more than 20 percent of the semester grade." According to Figi, his grading standards are also based on the traditional 90 to 100 range for an A. "To determine the final grade," Figi noted, "I combine academic, attendance, and attitude points, then give academic points four times the weight of attendance and attitude points."

In general, our poll revealed that in most school systems -- even in those systems with specific grading scales -- a student's final grade is only rarely a result of objective criteria. Most frequently, the grade is up to the discretion of the individual teacher, and it often reflects a number of criteria unrelated to academic achievement. Although benchmarks in core subjects can help determine a passing grade, determining standards for D's, C's, B's, and A's is much more difficult.

Simsbury administrators, however, are going to spend the summer trying to do just that. "Our most important objective," Superintendent Townsley told Education World, "is to make sure we're fair to the kids. They have a right to know how to get a specific grade. There is, however, the question of academic integrity. We are not a college placement school. We're preparing kids for life."

Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2000 Education World