New year brings new attacks on evolution in schools

The new year is bringing new controversy over teaching evolution in public schools, with two bills in New Hampshire seeking to require teachers to teach the theory more as philosophy than science, LiveScience reports. Meanwhile, an Indiana state senator has introduced a bill that would allow school boards to require the teaching of creationism. New Hampshire House Bill 1148 would “require evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.”

The second proposal in the New Hampshire House, HB 1457, does not mention evolution specifically but would “require science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.”

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Calif. educators look to better English learning

Roberto Bautista was lost when he entered kindergarten speaking only Spanish, the Associated Press reports.

“I said, ‘What are they saying?’ I just pretend I understand,” said the 9-year-old Los Angeles fifth grader. “My best friend knew how to speak English. He helped me.”

Roberto’s experience is typical for Spanish-speakers entering California schools. They usually get assigned to a program where the teacher must speak English almost exclusively even though kids don’t understand. Roberto has since moved on to a special bilingual program that teaches him in both Spanish and English, but the vast majority of pupils stay in an English-only program, often falling behind in academics as they learn the language then struggle to catch up. Many don’t. California has the largest Hispanic student population in the nation but ranks at the bottom for Hispanic reading and math achievement. Only 11 percent of the state’s 1.6 million English learners—the vast majority of them Spanish speakers—reached proficiency levels in English in the last school year. About a third drop out of school…

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Our readers’ top ed-tech picks for 2012

Here are our readers' top picks for educational technology products and services in 2012.

Here are the results of our 2012 Readers’ Choice Awards, which recognize the educational technology products and services our readers have enjoyed the most success with.

Last fall, we asked readers to give us their top picks for school hardware, software, websites, and services. Nearly 1,400 readers responded via one of our three websites:,, and

In nominating their favorite products, we asked readers to tell us how they’re using these products to improve teaching, learning, or school administration—and to what effect. We then chose the 50 best responses, which appear alphabetically by product name and grouped into two categories: K-12 and higher education.

The result is a list of ed-tech products and services that have proven to be effective, as vouchsafed by our readers—your colleagues—in schools and colleges nationwide. We hope you’ll find this information useful as you consider how technology can help transform education in your own schools.

Click here to access a PDF of the full report from Page 2.

K-12 winners

Acuity (CTB/McGraw-Hill)

CTB’s Acuity InFormative Assessment software helps educators diagnose, predict, and report on student progress toward state or Common Core standards, so they can deliver targeted instruction to help students meet those standards. Solutions are available for grades 3-8 (aligned with either state or Common Core standards) and high school (aligned with Common Core standards only).

Missouri’s University Academy uses Acuity to diagnose students’ algebra deficiencies, which then become the starting point for instruction and remediation. “Over the last two years, Acuity has enabled us to raise the percentage of our students scoring Advanced and Proficient in the Missouri end-of-course exams for Algebra I—from 42 percent to 74 percent,” said Principal Clem Ukaoma.

Ascend Math (Ascend Education)

Ascend Math is a web-based program that identifies students’ learning gaps and then guides students through differentiated instruction, interactive activities, and practice in order to fill in these skill gaps and bring students back to grade level.

“Ascend Math has helped our students be successful in Algebra 1 as freshmen in high school,” said Jeremy Hendrix, a math intervention specialist at Moon Valley High School in Glendale, Ariz. “In Algebra 1 alone, we went from a 30-percent failure rate down to about 4 percent for the entire year. … With the use of Ascend Math interwoven throughout our instruction, our students have produced results beyond our expectations.”

Bookshare (Benetech)

An initiative of the nonprofit organization Benetech, Bookshare is an online library of digital books for people with print disabilities. It operates under an exception to U.S. copyright law that allows copyrighted digital books to be made available to people with disabilities. Bookshare members can download books, textbooks, and newspapers in a compressed, encrypted file, then read the material using adaptive technology. Through an award from the federal Education Department, Bookshare offers free memberships to U.S. schools and qualifying U.S. students.

“I am a teacher for the blind and visually impaired, and quite often my students do not have access to new novels or chapter books,” said Karen Meyers of Spotsylvania, Va. “The lending libraries in our area (and even the Library of Congress) have limited, outdated novels and ones that just aren’t interesting to today’s youth. With Bookshare, I can download just about any title I am looking for and emboss [it] for my students’ reading pleasure. This is an incredible service, and the vision community is lucky to have [it]!”