Why one principal thinks the Common Core is part of an equitable education

Florida schools have just one more academic year to phase in a new set of education standards under the Common Core—and Principal Angela Maxey is ready, StateImpact Florida reports. “I’m truly a proponent for standards-based Common Core education. I’m passionate,” says Maxey, who works at Sallye B. Mathis Elementary School in Duval County. Her school is a math, science and pre-engineering and math (STEM curriculum) magnet school where 90 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. For Maxey, the Common Core is about more than new benchmarks…

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Can you pass this 101-year-old test for 8th graders?

Back by popular demand (well, I like it) here’s a 1912 eighth-grade exam that was used in schools in Bullitt County, Ky., The Washington Post reports. This test, which I first published more than a year ago, is now in the Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society. If you like this one, you can try this one too, an exam from 1931 by the West Virginia education department for students seeking graduation from eighth grade. That test was sent to me a few years ago by John N. Beall of Wilmington, N.C., who received it from his father, the teacher who administered the exam in a one-room school in Gilmer County…

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How 21st century thinking is just different

In an era dominated by constant information and the desire to be social, should the tone of thinking for students be different? This is the world of Google, TeachThought reports. In this world full of information abundance, our minds are constantly challenged to react to data, and often in a way that doesn’t just observe, but interprets. Subsequently, we unknowingly “spin” everything to avoid cognitive dissonance. As a result, the tone of thinking can end up uncertain or whimsical, timid or arrogant, sycophant or idolizing–and so, devoid of connections and interdependence. The internet and social media are designed to connect, and with brilliant efficiency they do indeed connect—words and phrases, images and video, color and light, but not always to the net effect they might…

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E-ducation: A long-overdue technological revolution is at last under way

“It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture,” observed Thomas Edison in 1913, predicting that books would soon be obsolete in the classroom, The Economist reports. In fact the motion picture has had little effect on education. The same, until recently, was true of computers. Ever since the 1970s Silicon Valley’s visionaries have been claiming that their industry would change the schoolroom as radically as the office—and they have sold a lot of technology to schools on the back of that. Children use computers to do research, type essays and cheat. But the core of the system has changed little since the Middle Ages: a “sage on a stage” teacher spouting “lessons” to rows of students. Tom Brown and Huckleberry Finn would recognise it in an instant—and shudder…

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Another challenge for the competency-based classroom: Explaining it

School may be out for the kiddos, but Iowa educators were studying hard this past week, The Gazette reports. The lesson? Competency-based education. The idea is simple: Unchain learning from instruction time, placing students by proficiency, not age; allowing them to advance when they master their coursework, not according to calendar year.  Competency-based education should make intuitive sense to any parent who has watched his or her child struggle to keep up with lessons, or listened to them complain about how bored they are, waiting for other kids to get up to speed. Competency-based education puts the focus on learning, not just showing up. It removes much of what disengaged students, rightly, see as arbitrary and unfair…

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Md. classes blend Chinese and STEM to give students global perspectives

Local students have been thinking globally in Maryland this summer, reports The Washington Post. Starting next week, students in Montgomery County will be the next group of Maryland children learning Chinese while getting lessons in science, technology, engineering and math. The free program is part of the larger mission of the STARTALK program, designed to teach American students foreign languages to better connect to the global economy. For two weeks, students will engage in cultural activities, such as calligraphy and martial arts, while also learning about the physics and properties of water. All the while, they get Chinese language lessons…

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Eight ways kindergarten holds the key to 21st-century instruction

Here are eight important pillars of a 21st-century education that can be found in most kindergarten classrooms every day.

I was recently giving a workshop at a local elementary school. While walking around and speaking to teachers and children, it suddenly dawned on me that several of the “revolutionary” educational changes we’ve been calling for have actually been around for quite a while—just talk a stroll down to the kindergarten classes.

If only the rest of school looked a little more like those classrooms. In fact, eight important pillars of a 21st-century education can be found in most kindergarten classrooms every day of the week:

1. Play

The first rule of kindergarten is to have fun. Our youngest students love coming to school, and if any child doesn’t seem happy, then we make it a high priority to find and remedy the problem. Play is a highly effective method of informal learning that requires imagination and creativity. Happy, playful children are not daydreaming and clock watching—they are engaged and absorbed in their activities.

As children get older, however, play starts taking a back seat to “academics” … which are usually priorities determined by people in offices far away from the students’ actual classroom environment.

2. Create

Creativity is becoming lost in the shuffle of the current “back to basics” school movement. While certainly required in any artistic endeavor, creativity is also a highly essential coping skill for our rapidly changing lives in the 21st century—not to mention a highly coveted skill among 21st-century employers.

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