Graphic novels, eBooks on students’ summer reading list

The Manga comics, which are read back-to-front, are very popular with students.

Tom Miley, a media specialist for Baltimore County Public Schools, relayed something of an odd desire to a group of summer school reading students at Ridgely Middle School in Lutherville, Md., on July 25.

“My goal in two or three years is to be out of a job in the summers, because there are no more reading students in summer school,” he told one class.

And to accomplish that, Miley has spent the last couple of weeks introducing the nearly 1,600 summer school reading students at the county’s five summer school locations about alternative ways to pique their interest in reading — including graphic novels and eBooks.

“I just want the kids to read,” Miley said, who works at Deer Park Middle Magnet School in Randallstown during the school year. One way to accomplish that, he said, was to introduce them to mediums that wouldn’t feel like the assigned classroom reading that students are susceptible to buck against.

Last week, Miley explored the world of graphic novels with the students, explaining the variety of options available that can engage young readers without it feeling like a chore.

He encouraged them to check out the county library system’s collection of fiction, non-fiction, and Manga comic books from Japan.

Before he began the presentations, Miley said he rearranged each summer school library so that all of the graphic novels were in one spot. After his first presentation, students flocked to that shelf to check them out.

The Manga comics, which are read back-to-front, are very popular with students, he said, but students are also interested in the classics in graphic novel form.

On the shelf at Ridgely, lighter fare was flanked by Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Miley said that in their original form, students could get hung up in the language, but the graphic novels distilled it into modern, visual terms and still grasp the stories’ themes and meanings.

This week’s presentation centered around eBooks, which are readily available to all BCPS students both at home and at school.

“The wonderful things about the eBooks is they’re available to our students 24/7,” said Christine Beard, librarian at Ridgely Middle. “There’s no reason for a child to say they can’t have access to a book.”

As was the case with the graphic novels, which provide more than just words to help students grasp stories and concepts, Miley said the eBooks appeal to the variety of learning types in any Baltimore County classroom.

Students who are more skilled with a mouse or tablet in their hands than a book can access literature that way, while some eBooks have functions that allow students to plug in headphones and listen to audio versions of the books.

Miley got the students’ attention in one demonstration by showing them the eBook of Catching Fire, second in the wildly popular Hunger Games series.


Watch: Teen author discusses problems with America’s schools

Fox Business interviewed 17-year-old Nikhil Goyal to get the teen author’s thoughts on how to go about reforming the nation’s school system, the Huffington Post reports. Goyal recently wrote a book about the problems with American schools titled “One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School,” due out in September. Included in Goyal’s recommendations for how to fix schools is repealing No Child Left Behind, abolishing Race to the Top and “reinventing the teaching profession.” He also takes issue with testing, referring to it as “harmful and inappropriate.” Goyal spoke to the importance of changing the model of the school system, which he claims still resembles the industrial model of the early 20th century, making it the one American institution that hasn’t changed…

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GOP Gov: High schools should pay for graduates’ remedial classes

Maine Gov. Paul LePage thinks school districts should be responsible for their graduates’ remedial courses in college, the Huffington Post reports. So in a plan to improve education for students in the state, the Republican governor has laid forth a remedial plan that he will propose in the next legislative session, noting the high number of students who need remedial classes when entering college as proof that Maine’s public education is failing taxpayers and students. And the state’s reputation is suffering for it.

“I don’t care where you go in this country — if you come from Maine, you’re looked down upon now,” LePage said, according to the Portland Press Herald. A report published last week by Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance placed Maine 40th out of 41 states for improvements in student test scores between 1992 and 2011 for fourth- and eighth-graders in math, reading and science…

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Some scary training for teachers

On July 5, T he Answer S heet published a post I wrote about the Relay Graduate School of Education. That began a lively discussion about the Relay School, and the teaching techniques demonstrated in a video entitled “Rigorous Classroom Discussion” (Relay subsequently renamed the video “A Culture of Support”), says Carol Corbett Burris, principal of South Side High School in New York, for the Washington Post.  The discussion moved to Diane Ravitch’s blog with readers weighing in on whether charter school teacher training programs should be authorized to grant graduate degrees. During the course of that discussion, I learned that the Relay Graduate School of Education is not the only charter school-based graduate program. This past spring, a similar degree-granting program opened in Boston, which Diane Ravitch wrote about here . Its name is Match and it awards a master’s degree through the newly formed Sposato Graduate School of Education. Like Relay, it is a two-year program subsidized by charter schools and venture philanthropies. Its faculty members are not researchers or scholars but rather charter school teachers or leaders. Similar to Relay, many of its courses are online. Match looks to Relay and Teach for America as models and has a collaborative relationship with Harvard’s “Ed Labs.”

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Saved by teachers, a former runaway now helps kids in crisis

When Carissa Phelps was only 12 years old, her mother dropped her off at the juvenile hall in Fresno, California, Take Part reports. She had been skipping school and running with a wild crowd, and her mother, who had ten other children to deal with in a broken home, had had enough. “I can’t control her,” she simply said before walking out. Phelps sat in the lobby for three days waiting for a group home to take her. When one finally did, it wasn’t long before she ran away. She lived on the streets, scrounging for food and a place to sleep, and was kidnapped by a pimp who brutally raped her and sold her to countless johns. At one point after being forced to smoke crack, she called her mother for help; her mother refused.  When Phelps eventually made her way home (after the pimp was arrested), her family did not know how to help her, nor did they particularly show any concern for her wellbeing. She was a girl traumatically marked by her experiences, physically and emotionally as well as socially. “I felt like an oddball because everyone knew my story,” she says. “At times it felt like it was very dangerous, girls who wanted to fight me or make fun of me. It was that general feeling of not belonging.”

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Pennsylvania ready to put scholarship program for failing schools to test

Families and students throughout Pennsylvania got their first glimpse of the news list of failing schools in the Keystone State, Yahoo! News reports. The Pennsylvania Department of Education published the list of the bottom 15 percent of schools based on combined scores in reading and math from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) test. This year’s list is significant because an additional $50 million will be available to students that reside in a failing school’s geographical boundary for a scholarship to another public school or a private school, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Where are the majority of the failing schools and how many are on the list? This year’s list includes 414 schools throughout 74 Pennsylvania school districts, and according to the Associated Press, nearly 40 percent of the schools were in the Philadelphia City School District, which is the largest district in Pennsylvania. However, schools from several counties populate the list…

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Readers: Seven ways to make the iPad better for education

“I want to monitor students’ reading comprehension, math skills, and problem solving progress,” said one reader.

iPad adoption in schools is growing at a phenomenal rate, as we reported last year, and some educators call the devices a game-changer.

But besides its sleek style, portability, and access to apps and the internet, is the iPad efficient for teacher and student work—more so, say, than other tablets or mobile devices? At the current cost of the iPad, one would hope so.

We recently asked readers: “If there was one feature/app/design spec you’d like to see on the iPad (or any other mobile device) to help you teach in the classroom or make your job more efficient, what would it be and why?”

And though there are many mobile devices on the market, our readers were like the coach who picks on the star player to make him or her even better: Most commented on how the iPad could be better for education. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most readers focused on functionality and compatibility with other software and hardware already within the classroom environment.

Do you agree with these suggestions? Have any of your own? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section.

(Some comments edited for brevity.)

1. Show some Flash.

“It would be great if iPads were compatible with Flash! We are rolling out a [one-to-one computing program] in August with our sixth grade. It has been so difficult to try to work around the inability to play Flash content. Many software companies are creating their resources in HTML 5 format, but there is still so much out there that won’t work on the iPad.” —Angela Woolsey, technology integration specialist, MSD of Mt. Vernon


The Math Problem – and What We Can Do About It

The large number of K-12 students in the United States falling short of math proficiency benchmarks raises serious concerns about the nation’s ability to compete. Research suggests the problem can be traced to students’ preparation in the core number skills, which is not strong enough to give them an adequate foundation as they tackle more challenging concepts.Download Whitepaper


Duncan: Cuts to education would ‘jeopardize’ nation’s ability to compete

Sequestration would “jeopardize our nation’s ability to develop and support an educated, skilled workforce that can compete in the global economy,” Duncan told a Senate panel. (Albert H. Teich/

Services would have to be slashed for more than 1.8 million disadvantaged students and thousands of teachers and aides would lose their jobs if automatic, across-the-board cuts to the federal budget kick in as a result of lawmakers’ failure to agree on deficit-reduction measures, Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned July 25.

He urged Congress to find an alternative deficit-reduction plan that won’t undermine the Education Department’s ability to serve students in high-poverty schools and improve schools with high dropout rates.

Duncan said the automatic cuts, referred to by many in Washington as sequestration, also would adversely affect financial aid programs for college students.

Sequestration would “jeopardize our nation’s ability to develop and support an educated, skilled workforce that can compete in the global economy,” Duncan told a Senate appropriations panel.

The automatic cuts are scheduled to take place after a bipartisan congressional panel last year failed to outline a plan to cut $1.2 trillion of deficit over 10 years. The panel was created in the budget law implemented last summer that reduced government spending and raised the country’s borrowing authority.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Congress needs to prevent the automatic cuts, but he said the Education Department also must reduce its spending budget.

For more news about education funding, see:

Venture capital funding for ed tech at ‘unprecedented levels, expected to rise

District ‘Race to the Top’ rules spur mixed reaction

Cyber school funding formulas draw ire

Shelby said the Education Department requested a $1.7 billion increase in its discretionary budget for 2013. “Our nation cannot continue to spend money we don’t have,” Shelby said.

Duncan countered that the Education Department has cut more than $1.2 billion from the department’s budget for programs that were not performing efficiently.

Duncan said education should be seen as an investment, not an expense, and that solid education funding is necessary to compete with countries that are proactively investing on education.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said that around $2.7 billion could be lost in federal funding for at least three educational programs: Title I, special-education state grants, and Head Start.