Chicago teachers get notice of school closings

Chicago teachers, students and parents began learning Thursday whether their schools are among those the city plans to close as part of a cost-cutting plan that opponents say will disproportionately affect minority children, the Associated Press reports. Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, hasn’t said how many schools or students will be affected. Administrators identified up to 129 schools that could be shuttered, although the total number is expected to fall short of that number. The district says many of those schools don’t serve enough students to justify remaining open, and that the closures will help it deal with a $1 billion budget shortfall and better allocate its resources to students. The pending closures have been the subject of highly charged community meetings all over the city. Critics say that, among other things, the closures will threaten the safety of students who may have to cross gang boundaries if their schools are closed and that they will cause major inconveniences for families. Chicago is among several major U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, Washington and Detroit, among others, to use mass school closures to reduce costs and offset declining enrollment…

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AP good for high school, bad for college?

I complained recently that college professors too often wrongly dismiss high school teachers as being unsuited to teach college-level classes such as the Advanced Placement courses so popular in the Washington region, says Jay Matthews for the Washington Post. Two scholars from distinguished universities gently chided me for being too hard on their academic colleagues. They might be right. After an e-mail exchange with John T. Fourkas, Millard Alexander Professor of Chemistry at the University of Maryland, and Bryan McCann, associate professor of history at Georgetown University, I concede that professors’ concerns about AP often show no disrespect for high schools but instead stem from discomfort with the ill effects of colleges competing for AP students. Fourkas and McCann like AP and similar college-level programs such as International Baccalaureate. They recognize that those classes have made high school more challenging and gotten students ready for long college reading lists and long exams…

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Sequestration guts program for low-income children

Citing budget cuts caused by sequestration, a Head Start program near Fayetteville, Ark., has decided to take the dramatic step of closing its classrooms for the summer 13 days earlier than planned, the Huffington Post reports. The closure will help the Washington County Head Start program cut a required $150,000 from its operating budget by the end of September. But the ripple effects of taking 30,000 hours of educational and family development services and 10,000 meals from 381 families who rely on the program will result in a major economic blow for the neediest in the area, officials warn.

“This is going to severely impact their daily lives because for 13 days they won’t have a place to go,” said Brenda Zedlitz, Washington County Head Start’s program director. “We serve the working poor. Where are their children going to go when they are at work? Does this mean that they will leave their children with caregivers who might not be appropriate? Mostly, what does this mean to the well being of that child?”

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Survey reveals surprising facts about LGBT students

The state of New York may have a comparatively liberal attitude towards its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) residents. But a new poll suggests that generally tolerant mindset may not extend to the state’s school system, the Huffington Post reports. The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released its “School Climate in New York” report, which aims to provide a “snapshot” of the educational environment for LGBT students in New York state’s middle and high schools. The report, which looked at 2011 statistics, found that about nine out of 10 LGBT students polled said they regularly heard classmates make negative remarks about how someone expressed their gender, such as comments about someone not acting “feminine” or “masculine” enough. Meanwhile, one out of every five LGBT students said they were physically harassed, and about one in 10 said they had been physically assaulted, based on their sexual orientation…

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How the Common Core is redefining math instruction

Besides content-area knowledge, the Common Core math standards include a list of eight skills that math teachers should integrate across the curriculum.

What does teaching math look like under the Common Core standards? Lots of classroom interaction and more inquiry-based approaches to learning, according to experts who are helping schools integrate the standards into instruction.

As schools prepare for Common Core assessments beginning in the 2014-15 school year, curriculum directors are working with math teachers to make sure their practices encompass the standards’ core concepts.

The standards build on knowledge and skills from prior grade levels as they deal with increasingly complex topics such as fractions and negative numbers. They stress conceptual understanding to ensure that students truly absorb what they are learning, instead of merely memorizing for a test, then forgetting much of what they learn.

Besides content-area knowledge, the Common Core math standards include a list of eight skills—called the Standards for Mathematical Practice—that math teachers should integrate across the curriculum. These skills are:

  • Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  • Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  • Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  • Model with mathematics.
  • Use appropriate tools strategically.
  • Attend to precision.
  • Look for and make use of structure.
  • Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

The K-5 math standards aim to give students a “solid foundation in whole numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and decimals—which help young students build the foundation to successfully apply more demanding math concepts and procedures, and move into applications.”

Middle school math standards help prepare students for higher-level math in high school, and high school math focuses on mathematical modeling and using math to analyze situations, understand them, and inform decision-making.

The standards are written so that multiple math domains work together at the same time—and educators aren’t teaching algebra in isolation of statistics, for instance.

What does this mean for schools? EngageNY, a site maintained by the New York State Department of Education, outlines six “instructional shifts” that are necessary for implementing the Common Core math standards:

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The best tweets of the week for education

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Magical thinking about technology in education

To hear some people talk, you’d think technology is going to save public education. Really? Asks the Washington Post. Here’s a caution post from Larry Cuban, a high school social studies teacher for 14 years, a district superintendent (seven years in Arlington, Va.), and professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, where he has taught for more than 20 years. His latest book is “As Good As It Gets: What School Reform Brought to Austin.” This appeared on his School Reform and Classroom Practice blog…

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Math careers just don’t add up for women

Having skills suited for a variety of careers helps explain why few women pursue math and science jobs, new research finds, LiveScience.com reports. A study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan revealed that women may be less likely to want careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) because they have more career choices, not because they have less ability.

“Our study shows that it’s not lack of ability or differences in ability that orients females to pursue non-STEM careers, it’s the greater likelihood that females with high math ability also have high verbal ability,” said Ming-Te Wang, one of the study’s co-authors and developmental psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh. “Because they’re good at both, they can consider a wide range of occupations.”

As part of the study, researchers examined data from 1,490 college-bound U.S. students that were surveyed in both their senior year of high school and then again at age 33. The two surveys combined to question participants on SAT scores, various aspects of their motivational beliefs, and values and their occupations…

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‘Google Keep’ keeps your phone and web notes synced

Watch out Evernote, OneNote and all you other to-do lists apps out there, Google’s coming after you with its new Google Keep service, ABC News reports. The app, announced by Google this afternoon, allows you to sync your notes and to-do lists across your computer, phone and tablet using your Google account.

“With Keep you can quickly jot ideas down when you think of them and even include checklists and photos to keep track of what’s important to you,” Google’s Katharine Kuan detailed on Google’s blog today. Google then uses its Google Drive service and servers to sync your content so you can get those important thoughts or notes anywhere.

The app works very similarly to the other note apps, like Evernote and OneNote. You download the app, which is avilable for only Android 4.0 phones right now, take your notes and then you can access them via the app on the web, which is located in your Google Drive or at https://drive.google.com/keep. You are able to upload voice notes, which can be transcribed, and even photos. You can also color code notes and turn some notes into checklists by adding check boxes…

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Pheed: The social network that’s winning over teens from Facebook and Twitter

As Facebook slowly rolls out its updated News Feed design, featuring content-sorted feeds dedicated to photos and music, a popular social networking alternative has emerged, ABC News reports. Pheed, a small start-up out of Los Angeles, is not only capitalizing on dedicated photo and audio streams, but it also offers feeds for text, video and live broadcasts, not to mention an in-your-face homepage … tattooed hands interlaced behind a young man’s head boldly announce this is not your grandma’s social network. In February, Pheed became the No. 1 free social networking app in Apple’s App Store, ruling the charts ahead of competitors like Twitter and Facebook for more than a week. The audience driving Pheed’s spike in downloads? Young adults in their late teens, a demographic often said to be losing interest in Facebook. Eighty-four percent of Pheed’s users are ranking in at between the ages of 15 and 24. Pheed’s self-funded website and iOS app launched in late 2012, claiming a few notable celebrities as early adopters…

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