No jeans, flip-flops or tattoos: Teachers get a new dress code

Teachers may need to rethink their wardrobe choices this fall. Due to complaints about teachers dressing inappropriately, school districts across the country are pushing for stricter dress codes, TakePart reports. Most schools uphold a dress code for students — in fact, 56 percent of public schools enforce one, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. However, appropriate apparel for teachers has yet to be defined. In June, Litchfield Elementary School District in Arizona introduced a policy that would “prohibit rubber-sole flip-flops, visible undergarments, any visible cleavage, bare midriffs, clothes that are deemed too tight, too loose or transparent, bare shoulders, short skirts and exercise pants.” The board also suggested guidelines for hair color, piercings, and tattoos—all of which can allegedly come across as unprofessional. Elsewhere in the state, Peoria Unified School District proposed collared shirts for men and thicker tank-top straps for women. Jeans are restricted to only once a week, since they appear too casual…

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Letter: White students can’t transfer out of failing school

Rayville Elementary School in Louisiana received a failing grade this year, based on the state’s School Performance Scores. Under the state’s Public School Choice policy, eligible students in schools flagged as failing and in need of certain levels of improvement can transfer to an “academically acceptable school,” the Huffington Post reports. But an interesting and controversial issue has arisen that may actually challenge equal opportunity intended by the law. In a letter to parents dated July 25, Rayville Elementary school officials inform families of the school’s “F” grade and list two other institutions — with letter grades C- and B — that the parents can choose to transfer their children to. But there’s a disclaimer:

“Please note that white students at Rayville Elementary School will not be allowed to transfer to the listed schools due to the present provisions issued in the federal Richland Parish School desegregation case.”

The case in question refers to a 1968 court decision that, in an effort to maintain desegregated schools, prohibits white students from leaving schools if their departure could cause the school to be considered “all-Negro.”

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Teacher union boss bends to school reform winds

In the maelstrom of criticism surrounding America’s unionized public teachers, the woman running the second-largest educator union says time has come to collaborate on public school reform rather than resist, Reuters reports. Randi Weingarten, re-elected this week for a third term as president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) with 98 percent of the vote, wants her 1.5 million members to be open to changes that might improve public schools. That willingness to engage, she says, could win over parents, taxpayers, voters, well-funded pressure groups and cash-strapped cities that have blamed unionized teachers for high costs and poor performing schools.

“We have to unite those we serve and those we represent,” Weingarten said in an interview with Reuters at the AFT convention in Detroit. “And we have to think … what’s good for kids and what’s fair for teachers?”

Weingarten rebuffed her critics in the union for mistaking collaboration with surrender and said her overwhelming victory in the election showed rank-and-file members supported the move…

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College admissions season begins with launch of 2012-13 Common Application

Rising high school seniors who want to get a jump on their college applications should know that the Common Application used by more than 450 colleges and universities has just gone live for the 2012-13 admissions season, the Washington Post reports. That means students can start to officially fill out their applications, getting the tedious work of filling out names and dates and other details done so they can work on their essays. For the record, the Common App was launched on Tuesday night, four hours ahead of schedule, and within 30 minutes, 300 individuals had registered an account, the Web site reported. “The first registration came from Plano, TX, less than one minute after the site went live,” it said. The Common Application is a not-for-profit organization that provides an admission application — online and in print — that students may submit to any of the member schools that accept it. The Common Application was developed in 1975 as a way to cut down on the number of separate applications and essays a student applying to numerous colleges and universities would have to complete. As it turns out, even with the Common App, many schools ask for additional information, including extra essays…

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J.K. Rowling webcast will promote new Harry Potter Reading Club

J.K. Rowling’s next book is for adults, but she will be on hand this fall to help promote a new reading club for kids, the Harry Potter Reading Club.

Scholastic Inc. announced July 31 that Rowling will participate in a live webcast at noon on Thursday, Oct. 11 from her hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland, taking pre-submitted questions from her young fans. The discussion will take place on the website of the new Harry Potter Reading Club, which Scholastic also launched July 31.

The club is designed for schools, libraries, and parents. It includes discussion guides about the books, a glossary, interactive features, and information about community events. Rowling will contribute original commentary as well. She has a novel for grown-ups out in September called “The Casual Vacancy.”

The Harry Potter Reading Club website gives educators, librarians, after-school program coordinators, and parents the tools they need to host a Harry Potter Reading Club and celebrate the joy of reading among students. The first 10,000 registrants for the club will receive a welcome kit including bookmarks, stickers, and nametags, Scholastic said.

“Scholastic has been in conversation with educators, librarians, and other book lovers about ideas for bringing the Harry Potter books to new readers in exciting and different ways,” said Ellie Berger, president of Scholastic Trade. “The Harry Potter Reading Club is a direct response to that feedback and provides an entry point through which the thrill of these books can be shared with new generations of Harry Potter fans both within and beyond the classroom.”


How one California school uses iPads to support its PE programs

The iPads fill a gap where traditional PE instruction leaves off by ensuring the most accurate assessment of student skills and abilities.

The pressures of being a physical education teacher in today’s public school environment are mounting. We’re being asked to strike a balance between government physical fitness mandates for America’s children and extreme budget cuts. Like many other public schools, we at Eastlake Middle School in Chula Vista, Calif., are struggling to walk that tightrope with fewer and fewer supports and are continuously searching for tools that help us achieve that goal.

I’ve been teaching for 14 years. During that time I’ve seen a lot of changes in the average public school’s physical education (PE) department. Some schools have kept their programs in place, some have whittled them back significantly, while others have done away with PE programs altogether. At our school, we decided that physical education needs to be supported—and we decided to embrace new technology tools to help us instill solid physical education and exercise values in our students.

Last year, we rolled out a new iPad-based PE program called SPARK. The funding came from a Carol M. White Physical Education Program federal grant, which covered the cost of 40 iPads and a number of program training sessions for 50 instructors from across the district. We centered our grant project around obesity prevention and highlighted the fact that our students’ body mass index (BMI), aerobic capacity, and fitness scores were lagging behind national levels.

We started using the iPads in our department in the 2011-12 school year. The  SPARK program includes digital lesson plans, activity videos for students, interactive assessment tools, and online grading (which replaces traditional “roll call”), all stored on the lightweight, portable devices. They are easy to carry around and effectively replace all of the paper, pencils, and grade books that our PE teachers previously had to carry around with them.

The iPads also fill a gap where traditional PE instruction leaves off by ensuring the most accurate assessment of student skills and abilities. Whereas a math teacher can quickly pinpoint where an error was made on a test, there aren’t always definitive “rights” and “wrongs” when it comes to physical movement. By using the SPARK program and our iPads, we can record the students in action and then use the playback for video analysis. This ensures that we have a thorough, tangible assessment of the students’ abilities. An eighth grader who is practicing a tennis serve, for example, can see what she’s doing right and wrong on the playback, clearly visualize her actions, and then make the necessary adjustments. This is a lot more effective than a PE teacher telling her that she’s “not following through properly,” or “not holding the racquet the right way.”


New nationwide online community opens for educators

There will be coordinated opportunities for educators to participate in live events and activities in dozens of online locations.

“Improvement requires connection” with peers, colleagues, and new ideas, said Karen Cator, director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Education Department (ED), at a recent ed-tech conference—and that’s the idea behind the first-ever Connected Educator Month, which kicks off Aug. 1.

To celebrate the occasion, which encourages educators to join online “communities of practice” to improve their craft, ED and its partners in the project are hosting a series of online forums and events.

“As we ramp up for the 2012-13 school year, teachers and leaders … have the opportunity to work toward a more connected and collaborative profession,” Cator said during the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in late June.

Building on these principles, ED has created the Connected Online Communities of Practice projects to “expose the broader audience of educators and administrators to the benefits of peer professional development.”

Connected Educator Month will begin with a two-day online conference featuring senior ED officials and education thought leaders. It will continue with…

  • Month-long forums on topics such as personalizing learning and the future of the teaching profession, which will be moderated by noted education leaders and consist of online discussions, interviews, webinars, chats, and more.
  • Guided tours and real-time open houses, which will connect educators with online communities of practice, answering questions such as: “Who can help me solve challenges I’m facing in my classroom, and how do I best connect with them?” and “How can I help change my profession for the better?”
  • Contests for addressing community challenges, developing innovative ideas, and creating compelling video demonstrations.
  • Inauguration of a new series of open badges for connected educators as well as online communities.

All events and activities will be archived and synthesized into multimedia “proceedings” that will serve as a permanent resource to educators and community sponsors.

The full official calendar of events can be found here. To make sure your computer is configured correctly to participate, visit the support and configuration page. The Twitter hashtag for Connected Educator Month is #ce12.

For a glimpse at what the conference will entail, here’s the lineup for the Aug. 1 “Opening Day” events: