The most, least literate big U.S. cities

Washington, D.C., is the most literate big city in the United States, and Bakersfield, Calif., the least, in the newest annual rankings that consider factors including the population’s education level and the number of bookstores, the Washington Post reports. The rankings have been done annually for six years by Central Connecticut State University, which also factors in a city’s newspaper, magazine and journal circulation, and library and Internet resources. The study looked at data in cities with populations of 250,000 and larger. The nation’s capital topped the list for the second straight year, with these right behind it in the top five: Seattle (2), Minneapolis (3), Atlanta (4) and Boston (5). Rounding out the top 10: Pittsburgh (6), Cincinnati (7), St. Louis (8), San Francisco (9) and Denver (10)…

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Inquiry-based approach to science a hit with students

John Scali's honors chemistry class has students solve problems like real scientists.

John Scali’s class at Concord High School in Wilmington, Del., doesn’t look like your typical honors chemistry class.

Sure, the periodic table is prominently displayed in the room and lab tables dominate the space, but there’s something different going on here. You know it because there are students all over the room and they’re feverishly working together in small groups to complete their work.

They aren’t just learning science, they’re engaging in it. And they’re doing so in innovative ways.

Science education in the U.S. is on the brink of change in an effort to make Americans more competitive in science, technology, engineering, and math (known as STEM) and to meet the demands of these growing fields.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Georgetown University reported that jobs in STEM fields have lower rates of unemployment and higher pay and are growing faster than overall job growth. STEM jobs include engineers, college biology professors, and even skilled workers and technicians in fields like mining and transportation.

The change is centered around the development of new K-12 science standards. The National Research Council of the National Academies released a framework for these standards in July and invited all states to help in their development. Delaware is one of 26 states that have stepped up to the challenge so far.

For more news about STEM education, see:

Climate change skepticism seeps into classrooms

Meet six of the country’s best STEM schools

New framework aims to shape K-12 science

Scali, who recently received his doctorate in education from the University of Delaware, is at the forefront of developing and implementing these standards, which include integrating engineering and other real-life principles.

For example, one unit centers on balancing chemical equations. Students are asked to figure out how much chemical starting material they need to produce a specific quantity of final product, much like a researcher in industry must do when creating a pharmaceutical drug or household cleaning item. By the end of the unit, they will have to produce that final product during an in-class experiment.

The lesson “makes things more relevant for the students,” Scali said. “It’s what goes on in the real world. I place a lot more priority on the process of science itself—the process is a lot more important.”

Scali’s honors chemistry class is broken up into units built upon a central theme. Students are given essential questions they must answer to achieve understanding of each unit’s principles, by asking questions and solving problems like scientists do. They have the duration of the unit to answer the questions, and the tools they use to do so—worksheets, labs, experiments—are up to them. Time management is a skill they cultivate quickly, the value of which many students appreciate as they look ahead to college.

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Microsoft Imagine Cup grants awarded to students to help stimulate global change

Microsoft Corp. announced the winners of the inaugural year of the Imagine Cup Grants program, a three-year, $3 million competitive grant program for student technology and social entrepreneurs.

Grant recipients include Team Apptenders from Croatia, Team Falcon Dev from Ecuador, Team OaSys from Jordan and Team Lifelens from the United States. The teams invented solutions that address issues, such as accessibility, health and education, and use technologies that include Kinect for Xbox 360, Windows Phone, Bing Maps and more. The grant packages include $75,000 (U.S.) for each team, as well as software, cloud computing services, solution provider support, premium Microsoft BizSpark account benefits and access to local resources such as the Microsoft Innovation Centers. Microsoft will also connect grant recipients with its network of investors, nongovernmental organization partners and business partners.

For details on the winners, visit http://www.imaginecup.com.

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Teradata names Commitment to Caring award winners

Teradata, an analytic data solutions company, has named three individual associates, one team, and one office as 2011 Teradata Cares Celebration of Caring recipients for exemplary dedication to volunteer service. To honor these winners, Teradata issued financial grants to the nonprofit organizations where they have volunteered, and each winner received a crystal award. Entrants were nominated by their peers and winners were selected by a panel of Teradata associates who reviewed anonymous detailed submissions.

For a list of winners, visit http://www.teradata.com/News-Releases/2012/Teradata-Names-Commitment-to-Caring-Award-Winners/.

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DemandTec crowns Retail Challenge winners

DemandTec, Inc., the collaborative analytics cloud for retailers and consumer products companies, announced that Kunal Sangani and Elliot Tan from Fayetteville-Manlius High School in Fayetteville, NY have won the Grand Championship round in the sixth annual DemandTec Retail Challenge, a nationwide math and science college scholarship competition for high school seniors.

The overarching mission for the DemandTec Retail Challenge is to inspire high school students to embrace applied mathematics and to consider a career leveraging science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines (STEM). The competition gives students a taste for how retailers and consumer products companies make important pricing, promotion, and inventory decisions. Throughout the competition, all teams were responsible for maximizing profits by analyzing products and categories for a fictional retailer using a modified version of DemandTec retail analytic software and presenting their findings to a panel of judges. The DemandTec Retail Challenge has awarded more than $100,000 in college scholarships this year and more than $400,000 since its inception in 2005.

For more details, visit http://www.demandtecretailchallenge.com.

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Kellogg’s and Action for Healthy Kids announce Share Your Breakfast grant recipients

Kellogg’s and Action for Healthy Kids announced winners of nearly 100 Share Your Breakfast grants to schools across the country. Awarded for the 2011-2012 school year, the grants provide recipient schools with the funds necessary to manage and support innovative breakfast programs, which are especially important at a time when many schools are struggling with budget cuts.

Share Your Breakfast grants provide funding directly to schools through Action for Healthy Kids, the nation’s leading nonprofit and largest volunteer network fighting childhood obesity and undernourishment.

For a list of winners, visit http://www.kellogs.com/ShareYourBreakfast.

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Five practices of effective principals

The report notes that support from district and state officials is essential if school-level leadership is to be successful.

Strong leadership is essential to a positive school culture and student success, and effective principals use five key practices to ensure that their schools are successful, according to a new report from the nonprofit Wallace Foundation.

The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning,” a Wallace Foundation Perspective, distills lessons from school leadership projects and major research studies supported by the foundation since 2000.

“After more than a decade of investment in school leadership, we can confirm the empirical link between school leadership and improved student achievement,” said Will Miller, president of The Wallace Foundation. “No longer seen as glorified managers of buildings and bus schedules, today’s principals must be their schools’ chief improvement officers, strengthening instruction, building a culture of high achievement, and marshaling the skills of other educators to boost student performance.”

The report gleans lessons from Wallace-supported scholarship by leading researchers at institutions including the RAND Corporation, Stanford, Vanderbilt, the University of Washington, and the Universities of Minnesota and Toronto, as well as Wallace-funded projects in 24 states and numerous districts. It concludes that five practices are central to effective principal leadership:

1. Shaping a vision of academic success for all students.

The literature evinces a broad consensus that setting clear, rigorous learning expectations for all students is crucial to closing the achievement gap between advantaged and less-advantaged students, and for raising achievement overall.

An effective principal makes sure that the notion of academic success for all gets picked up by the faculty and underpins what researchers at the University of Washington describe as a school-wide learning improvement agenda that focuses on goals for student progress.

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John Kline’s No Child Left Behind bills strike at values of Brown v. Board, coalition writes

A broad coalition of 38 civil rights, education reform and business groups sent House education chairman John Kline a scathing letter Wednesday, describing his No Child Left Behind legislation as potentially racist, the Huffington Post reports.

“It undermines the core American value of equal opportunity in education embodied in Brown v. Board of Education,” the groups wrote.

Their letter calls Rep. Kline’s bills a rollback of federal accountability, a return to an era that ignored achievement gaps. The bills would “thrust us back to an earlier time when states could choose to ignore disparities for children of color, low-income students, ELLs [English language learners], and students with disabilities. The results, for these groups of students and for our nation as a whole, were devastating.”

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Youth unlikely to pursue science, technology, engineering jobs, survey finds

Though President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address stressed the need for a competitive workforce, especially in more technical fields such as energy, young Americans see massive barriers to entering such professions, according to survey results released Wednesday, the Huffington Post reports. Sixty percent of respondents ages 16 to 25 to the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, which seeks to gauge innovation aptitude among young adults, named at least one factor that prevented them from pursuing further education or work in science, technology, engineering and math fields (known as STEM). Thirty-four percent said they “don’t know much about these fields,” while a third said “these fields are too challenging.” Twenty-eight percent said they weren’t “well-prepared in school to seek out a career or further … [their] education in these fields.”

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Watch: Parents demand school teach about ex-gay therapy

A group of conservative Christian parents are demanding Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District teach “ex-homosexual” therapy and “gay-related-immune deficiency” (or “GRID”), the Twin Cities Daily Planet reports. The demands come as the school district is in the middle of changing their “sexual orientation curriculum policy,” which students claim produces a “hostile school environment” by banning the discussion of LGBT issues. Zack Ford of Think Progress writes that the parent’s mention of GRID makes the proposal “particularly offensive,” since the the term hasn’t been used by the medical community to describe HIV/AIDS for over 25 years, making it outdated and inaccurate. But the conservative parents, members of the Parents Action League, want the district to keep the policy in place and double down on anti-gay policies…

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