Opinion: A nation being left behind

In the race for global competitiveness, 'America is in danger of falling behind,' President Obama said in a Dec. 6 speech.

Default Lines column, January 2011 edition of eSchool NewsOn the morning of Oct. 5, 1957, readers of the New York Times woke up to a jarring three-line headline that spanned the width of the newspaper’s front page in all-capital letters: “SOVIET FIRES EARTH SATELLITE INTO SPACE; IT IS CIRCLING THE GLOBE AT 18,000 M.P.H.; SPHERE TRACKED IN 4 CROSSINGS OVER U.S.”

And so began the panicked reaction to the Soviet satellite Sputnik, which shocked U.S. policy makers into realizing they no longer led the world in technological development. Sputnik’s launch spurred passage of the National Defense Education Act, a four-year program that poured billions of dollars into education funding. In 1953, the federal government spent $153 million on education funding; by 1960, this amount had grown nearly sixfold.

Other recent columns by Editor Dennis Pierce:…Read More

Report: ‘Top-third’ teachers essential to U.S. success

Research has revealed that skilled teachers are essential to student success.
Skilled teachers are essential to student success.

Improving teacher effectiveness has risen to the top of national education priorities, but the key to attracting, training, and retaining truly effective teachers might lie in the “top-third” concept, which seeks to recruit students who perform in the top third of their academic discipline into the teaching profession.

Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching,” by Byron Auguste, Paul Kihn, and Matt Miller of McKinsey and Co., examines teaching programs and strategies in some of the world’s best-performing nations and seeks to outline how adapting those strategies for practice in the United States might reap enormous benefits for the U.S. economy.

While the world’s top school systems have dedicated approaches to attracting, retaining, and supporting teachers, “the U.S. does not take a strategic or systematic approach to nurturing teacher talent,” the authors state. “We have failed to attract, develop, reward, or retain outstanding professional teaching talent on a consistent basis.”…Read More

Every child needed to boost economy

Having a guest speaker who works in STEM come into the classroom is a great way to inspire students, say experts. (Copyright Elemental Imaging)
Having STEM guest speakers in the classroom is a great way to inspire students, experts say. (Copyright Elemental Imaging)

At a time when the global workforce demands more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals, education stakeholders worry that today’s students aren’t answering the call. To ensure that the United States remains a leader in the global economy, experts say the nation must engage and motivate more students in the STEM subjects, focusing on girls and minorities in particular to help fill future job quotas.

Continuing the national conversation about STEM education in the United States, education and industry experts gathered in Washington, D.C., earlier this month for Intel’s Visionary Conference 2010, with the theme “Technology @ the Intersection of Educational Change.”

The conference began by quoting statistics from the 2009 McKinsey Report, “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools,” which shows that if students from the U.S. were performing as well as just the average student in the best-performing nation, the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008 would have been $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion higher.…Read More

AASA keynote: Focus on children, or risk nation’s status

We need to rethink our priorities as a nation, Canada said.
We need to rethink our priorities as a nation, Canada said.

Referring to the significant challenges facing public education today as a crisis that threatens the nation’s status as a global leader, educational trailblazer Geoffrey Canada urged school leaders to push for more funding and do “whatever it takes” to make sure all students succeed.

“I am convinced that if our country continues to treat its children the way it has, we will no longer remain a world superpower,” Canada said in a Feb. 12 keynote speech at the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education in Phoenix. “In fact, we won’t even be in the top 10.”

Canada is president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a project that the New York Times described as “one of the most ambitious social-service experiments of our time.”…Read More

eSN Special Report: Convergent Education

eSNSpecialReportConvergentEducation_CoverFew would argue with the idea that education–not only the business of education, but also the way educators teach and students learn–is undergoing great change, and it could be on the cusp of an even greater transformation. Technology has changed the way the world works, and inevitably, it’s changing the nature of learning as well.

Today’s students are wired 24 hours a day and seven days a week with laptop computers and mobile devices. Content is available from a variety of sources and content experts online, and much of it is available free of charge. Students of today, growing up in the Information Age, have a vast world of knowledge available at their fingertips: If they learn something of interest in school, they know they can find out more about the topic in just a few clicks. Sometimes, what they learn online differs from what they were taught, and they are learning to question the veracity of information.

In short, students no longer are limited to learning only in classrooms under the tutelage of certified instructors during designated school hours–and this change has profound implications for educators.…Read More

Duncan: Schools ‘need to be more creative’

Education Secretary Arne Duncan took questions from students.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan took questions from students.

Education leaders in the United States must work to close the digital divide and ensure that all students have access to top-notch technology, while at the same time using technology not just for technology’s sake, but as a game-changing learning tool, said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a national town hall meeting for students on Dec. 15.

During the town hall, which was a special edition of the Education Department’s (ED’s) television news program for parents, Duncan said that using technology the way today’s students use it is key to making an impact.

“We need to be much more creative and innovative in how we do things,” Duncan said. For instance, students today use cell phones and PDAs on a regular basis, he said, so coming up with creative ways to deliver content and curriculum involving technologies that students like to use is one way to grab students’ attention.…Read More