Five things students say they want from education

“Most often heard from students: ‘Why do I need to know this?’” says an eSN reader.

With so many education stakeholders debating the needs of today’s schools, student voices aren’t always heard when it comes to what they want from their education.

And while it’s important to note what businesses would like to see in their future employees, at the end of the day it really comes down to the students themselves.

We recently asked eSchool News readers: “What’s the one thing you hear most often from students about what they want in school?”

Though the responses were numerous, readers repeated these five things students want the most (responses edited for brevity). What do you think of this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

5. Interactive technology

“My fourth grade students want more interactive technology. I have four computers in my classroom, one provided by the school and three provided by me. My students use them for math, writing, researching, and interactive math and word games. They also want more time to reflect on what they learn. They especially want more hands-on science where they can experiment, discuss, and reflect on what they observed, and then redo the activity. Too often, because we have so much to cover in the curriculum, deeper understanding is lost in the milieu.” —Mike Larzelere

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Principal: Why I’m marching to ‘save our schools’

We are awash in market-based school reform, says Carol Corbett Burris, principal of South Side High School, NY, and the School Administrators Association of New York State’s 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator, for the Washington Post. From virtual schools and profit-generating charters to sort and select evaluation policies for teachers, so-called reformers gleefully push business solutions down onto our schools. The cheerleaders of market-based change believe that only the fierce competition of capitalism can create great teachers and smart kids. Test scores are the bottom line profits. Don’t fix a school; shut it down instead…

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This is your brain on summer

The American ideal of lazy summers filled with fun has an unintended consequence: If students are not engaged in learning over the summer, they lose skills in math and reading, says Jeff Smink, vice president for policy for the National Summer Learning Association, for the New York Times. Summers off are one of the most important, yet least acknowledged, causes of underachievement in our schools.  Decades of research confirm that summer learning loss is real. According to a report released last month by the RAND Corporation, the average summer learning loss in math and reading for American students amounts to one month per year…

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High school students get learning experience on college campus

There’s a new experiment to get Prince George’s County high school students ready for higher education: sending them straight to college, the Washington Post reports. This fall, 100 ninth-graders will attend classes on the campus of Prince George’s Community College in Largo through a public school initiative called the Academy of Health Sciences. They’ll start with typical classes from high school teachers in such subjects as English, biology, math and Chinese…

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Replace ‘seat time’ with competency, report says

Experts say it shouldn't matter how fast students cross the finish line, but that they actually cross it.

A new report says that competency-based learning is becoming more attainable for schools, and with some actionable policy steps, state education leaders can help schools personalize learning and focus on competency rather than how long students are in school.

The report, titled “Cracking the Code: Synchronizing Policy and Practice for Performance-Based Learning,” comes from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), with help from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). It calls into question the logic of “seat time” and current accountability standards.

“We are proposing what amounts to a vital change in current methods of instruction and measurement so that students can move ahead when they demonstrate knowledge,” said Susan Patrick, co-author of the report and president of iNACOL. “Unfortunately, many states and school districts are still handcuffed by rigid regulations that prevent them from moving toward the student-centered, performance-based approach.”

The report, says Patrick, offers guidance and practical recommendations for state education policy makers. The recommendations are based on discussions by education stakeholders during the 2011 Competency-Based Learning Summit from iNACOL and the CCSSO earlier this year.

The report says a comprehensive policy redesign will require competency-based credits, personalized learning plans, information technology, professional development (PD), and quality control in support of individual student growth for accountability “while aligning higher education with K-12 competency-based efforts.”

A starting point

The report begins by defining what is meant by competency-based, or performance-based, learning—as well as why it needs support.

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NYC awards tenure to fewer teachers under overhaul

New York City has slashed the number of public-school instructors receiving tenure this year–part of an effort to link teacher advancement to student performance, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. Of the more than 5,200 teachers who received decisions this year, 58 percent were granted tenure, down from 89 percent last year and 94 percent the year before that…

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Sen. Shelby questions education grant competition

The “Race to the Top” program extends the reach of the federal government too far into states’ public schools operations, a leading Republican senator said on Wednesday, Reuters reports. The Obama administration also risks neglecting poorer states by moving toward competitive education funding, Sen. Richard Shelby, the most powerful Republican on the Banking Committee, said at a hearing on education spending.

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