Tag Archives: curriculum

Obama Pushes Longer Day, Longer School Year



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Local High School Students Gather to Discuss Civics

Tuesday, September 15, 2009
By Vivian Nereim, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette
Marjorie Rendell, left, first lady of Pennsylvania, speaks to high school students in the music hall at the Carnegie Library of Homestead yesterday. At right is Gerald Zahorchak, state secretary of education.
Airing grievances about the public school system to resounding cheers, about 1,000 high school students from across Western Pennsylvania gathered yesterday to discuss civics with Pennsylvania’s first lady, Judge Marjorie Rendell, and Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak.

As microphones were passed around the crowded auditorium in the Carnegie Library of Homestead, some students said high school taught them to be submissive, while others argued that ineffective student governments were poor models for democracy.

The town hall-style meeting was attended by students from 34 school districts. Hosted by the Consortium for Public Education and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, it was held as part of a bus tour Judge Rendell is making to promote civics education in the public schools.

Students took Judge Rendell’s opening question — “How does what you learn in school prepare you to be an active participant in your democracy?” — in several directions.

“It teaches us how to individually voice our opinions, and to vote,” said a student from Fox Chapel Area High School.

“You have to get up in the morning and go to school. This teaches you responsibility,” said a student from West Mifflin Area High School.

But the energy shifted as the room began to fill with complaints.

“I feel like there is much needed change that can be done,” said a student from Pittsburgh Peabody High School.

“We don’t have enough debate,” said a student from Baldwin High School. “We’re spoonfed what people want us to believe.”

A student from Bethel Park High School questioned how standardized tests taught active citizenship.

Some students suggested civics classes should be mandatory and taught in lower grades.

“I just started my first modern government class like two weeks ago,” said one student, a senior at South Allegheny High School.

“I believe we should start in kindergarten,” Judge Rendell answered.

Other students raised more serious concerns.

A student from McKeesport High School suggested schools would not improve until crime rates did.

“I just had a cousin die,” she said. “Half the time, we’re in the house because of fear.”

Willette Walker, a 10th-grade world history teacher at Pittsburgh Brashear High School, said she was glad students were able to participate fully in the discussion.

“It’s not what I expected,” she said. “I thought it was going to be more like a panel.”

Ms. Walker said that many of the students’ criticisms arose from the difficulty of balancing order with personal freedom.

“I think some of them are legitimate concerns. I certainly have heard them before,” she said, “especially when you talk about student government.”

Cassie Vensel, an 18-year-old senior at Franklin Regional High School, said she thought some of the complaints, like one about school lunches, were “kind of pointless.”

“You’ve got to be able to deal with what you have,” she said. “You have people who are less fortunate.”

Near the end of the discussion, a student from Moon Area High School stood up and said: “It was actually today, hearing other students, that I realized my opinion matters.”

Vivian Nereim can be reached at vnereim@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1601.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09258/998104-298.stm#ixzz0RCGfIELW

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Black-White Achievement Gap is Closing on NAEP!

GOOD NEWS!  Thanks to the hard work of all you educational leaders and your staffs! 🙂


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Florida School Jetisons Textbooks and Realizes Significant Gains on Annual State Tests


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Do you work in a “high functioning school/district”?


Take a look at this “best practice” framework and see how your school/district is doing.

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New SNAP Academy Changing Teens’ Lives at Pottsgrove High School

Pottstown, PA – Pottsgrove High School has developed a student-centered, hybrid leadership class for credit that applies the High Tech, High Touch paradigm, employing current technologies (blogs, wikis, imovies, websites, etc.), when applicable, to enhance the value of our message – encouraging students to lead a healthy, drug and alcohol-free lifestyle. The newly formed SNAP Academy consists of 40 students all representing the diversity of social groups within the school community, while its parallel, an on-line elective, also anticipates 40 members.

The course curriculum, developed by Thom Stecher and Associates, has been modified to meet the self-assessed needs of students in the high school. Lessons are designed to educate students on topics such as healthy relationships, mental and physical health and substance abuse and to provide students with resources to share with peers who may need assistance. The students’ commitment to serving their community is evidenced through the implementation of the following programs: mediation, mentoring, programming and activities, and technology. The mission “statement”, devised by the student members, adopts the acronym RESPECT, wherein each letter represents topics of concern to our students at Pottsgrove High School.

Further information about our program as well as student-created resources on healthy, drug and alcohol-free living can be found on the developing SNAP Academy website at www.FalconSNAP.org

Contacts: Christopher L. Shaffer and Krista L. Rundell

Office: 610.326.5015

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Students Benefit From Depth, Rather Than Breadth, In High School Science Courses

ScienceDaily (Mar. 5, 2009) — A recent study reports that high school students who study fewer science topics, but study them in greater depth, have an advantage in college science classes over their peers who study more topics and spend less time on each.

Robert Tai, associate professor at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, worked with Marc S. Schwartz of the University of Texas at Arlington and Philip M. Sadler and Gerhard Sonnert of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to conduct the study and produce the report.

The study relates the amount of content covered on a particular topic in high school classes with students’ performance in college-level science classes.

“As a former high school teacher, I always worried about whether it was better to teach less in greater depth or more with no real depth. This study offers evidence that teaching fewer topics in greater depth is a better way to prepare students for success in college science,” Tai said. “These results are based on the performance of thousands of college science students from across the United States.”

The 8,310 students in the study were enrolled in introductory biology, chemistry or physics in randomly selected four-year colleges and universities. Those who spent one month or more studying one major topic in-depth in high school earned higher grades in college science than their peers who studied more topics in the same period of time.

The study revealed that students in courses that focused on mastering a particular topic were impacted twice as much as those in courses that touched on every major topic.

The study explored differences between science disciplines, teacher decisions about classroom activities, and out-of-class projects and homework. The researchers carefully controlled for differences in student backgrounds.

The study also points out that standardized testing, which seeks to measure overall knowledge in an entire discipline, may not capture a student’s high level of mastery in a few key science topics. Teachers who “teach to the test” may not be optimizing their students’ chance of success in college science courses, Tai noted.

“President Obama has challenged the nation to become the most educated in the world by having the largest proportion of college graduates among its citizens in the coming decade,” Tai said. “To meet this challenge, it is imperative that we use the research to inform our educational practice.”

The study was part of the Factors Influencing College Science Success study, funded by the National Science Foundation.

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