Why our nation needs common standards

Shane Cockrell’s father was in the military, and the family moved a lot when he was growing up, reports The Hechinger Report. Cockrell specifically recalls starting middle school in Connecticut, and then enrolling in a middle school in South Carolina when the family moved. The decline in standards was shocking. “My mom was so appalled by the difference that she ended up pulling me out of public school,” Cockrell recalls. Now, Cockrell is himself a former member of the military with a family, and he can understand his mother’s frustration. His son was in an excellent accelerated program in Springfield, Mo., but when the family moved to Oklahoma, the “accelerated program” Cockrell had researched turned out to consist of occasional library visits…

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Online game helps students understand how democracy works

Created for the National Conference of State Legislators by D’Vinci, a developer of websites and eLearning experiences, “American Democracy” is an online role-playing game to help students in grades 6-8 better understand the workings of democracy in a fun, immersive environment.

Users take on the role of an elected official, receiving their own office and staff. They must listen closely to their constituents, learn the particulars of each issue, and interact and compromise with their fellow legislators.

There are three levels of adventure. Each level covers a different issue and concentrates on different elements of the democratic process. Users can weigh in and display how they’re “leaning” on the issues, and they can interact with their constituency through a simulated social network called RepBook. Eventually, the issue comes to a vote—and users see an outcome based on their decisions in the level. Feedback is given at the end of every level showing users how effective they were serving as a representative.

The site includes a teacher’s page for implementation help, as well as teacher aids and collateral materials to help teachers review their students’ progress.

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Six districts get creative to find the principals of their dreams

At a time when the job of principal has become more demanding and less attractive to some aspiring leaders, a new report details how six urban districts are training and retaining school leadership talent.

“The importance of principals to lead education reform, such as the Common Core State Standards and teacher evaluation, has been documented in research and demonstrated in these six districts,” said Jody Spiro, The Wallace Foundation’s director of education leadership. “There is much that they can and should do to support principals, including setting high performance standards, ensuring that leaders are well prepared and supported.”

The report, “Building a Stronger Principalship: Six Districts Begin the Principal Pipeline Initiative,” is the first of several reports that are part of a multi-year evaluation conducted by Policy Studies Associates and the RAND Corporation.

Over time, the researchers will measure the effects on schools and student achievement of principals who have emerged from these pipelines.

(Next page: Why districts are changing tactics)

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Poll: Parents don’t support many education policy changes

Most parents with children in public schools do not support recent changes in education policy, from closing low-performing schools to shifting public dollars to charter schools to private school vouchers, according to a new poll by the American Federation of Teachers, The Washington Post reports. The poll, conducted by Democratic polling firm Hart Research Associates, surveyed 1,000 parents this month and found that most would rather see their neighborhood schools strengthened and given more resources than have options to enroll their children elsewhere…

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From the moon to your face: one rocket scientist’s thoughts on Glass

I picked up my Glass on Thursday, and as I was taking the train back to my parents’ house in Boston I noticed the Moon out the window, LivingThruGlass.com reports. Being a space geek it struck me that 44 years ago the Apollo 11 crew was midway in their journey from the Earth to the Moon using computers that run like a snail compared to Google Glass (The Apollo Guidance Computer ran at 1.024 MHz). The Apollo computers were primitive by today’s standards and yet we got to the surface of the Moon and back safely six times. Now as I wear my Glass for the past 48 hours I marvel at how far we have come. Gone are the days of imputing nouns and verbs on a keyboard, now we have voice, swipe and tap…

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Tucson-area districts increasingly move to convert schools to charters

Arizona has seen an unprecedented surge in school districts wanting to convert some of their schools to charters, raising concerns over whether districts are unfairly using the law just to generate more money, the Arizona Daily Star reports. Charter school officials wonder if district-run charters can provide the same type of education as their schools, which usually offer specialized curricula and school choice tailored to parents and students. By the end of last month, districts throughout the state had submitted 60 applications to convert traditional schools or build new charters, including five in the Tucson area, according to the Arizona Department of Education. That’s a drastic increase from 2012-13, when only four schools, all in the Cave Creek Unified School District, were converted to charters. The year before, only two schools in the Vail School District were converted…

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Surviving middle school–again

About a year ago, I sat in the auditorium at South Orange Middle School in suburban New Jersey and listened to the cheerful principal prepare the incoming sixth-grade parents for what would lie ahead, CNN reports. The big, bad dreaded middle school years were upon us. After the principal posted his Twitter handle so we could get his feed on our digital devices, he then tried to assure the jittery crowd that middle school isn’t as awful as it used to be. Leave your own baggage behind folks; we’re in a gentler, more tolerant era. Not only has social media and modern communication like Twitter and e-mail opened access to teachers and staff, but a trickle-down effect of our progressive age apparently inoculates kids from some of the horrors of those hormonally charged and awkward adolescent years…

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These iPad apps help students turn the page on book publishing

Many parents fear that iPads and other touchscreen devices will discourage kids from picking up, reading, and enjoying actual books, the Huffington Post reports. While this is a legitimate concern, there are many chapters to this story. In fact, there are a number of apps that actually teach students of all ages how to create their own books, periodicals and stories…

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App of the week: Math Ref

Name: Math Ref

What is it? An award winning education app that lets users browse over 1,400 formulas, figures, and examples to help you with math, physics, chemistry and more. Use an expanding list of helpful tools such as a unit converter, quadratic solver, and triangle solver to perform common calculations.

Best for: Students, teacher, and anyone else who works with math and needs to do a lot of calculations.

Price: $1.99

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 5.1 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.

Rated: 4+

Features:

  • New Tools – Ranging from Algebra to Physics
  • Favorites – Easily save equations in groups
  • Search – Easily find what you’re looking for
  • Print Support – Print equations or groups
  • Editable Notes – Write what will help you best
  • Zoomable Equations
  • App Orientation Locking
  • UI – A better UI

Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/math-ref/id301384057?mt=8

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