Education reform advocate John White: We’re in danger of becoming the enemy

Advocates for charter schools, teacher evaluations and other changes to public education that have become mainstream in recent years are at risk of turning into the establishment they once railed against, warned the man at the center of Louisiana’s schools upheaval, the Washington Post reports. Louisiana State Education Superintendent John White told a crowd Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute that he and others pushing for new ways of educating children have grown in stature and impact. “We went from small-time advocacy to seeing our ideas through the halls of Congress,” White said. “We now oversee not just classrooms but entire state education systems. Charitable foundations back our efforts. Federal programs bear our slogans.”

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EC unveils plans to make “every classroom digital” by 2020

The European Commission (EC) has unveiled plans to reinvigorate the use of ICT in European schools, including providing more free and open digital learning platforms to educational institutions across the European Union, V3 reports. According to EC-conducted research, up to 80 percent of students never use digital resources such as e-textbooks, learning games and podcasts, which the Commission says is “hampering” efforts to create a digitally literate set of future workers. It also says that 70 percent of EU teachers are looking for better ICT training. Vice president of the European Commission Neelie Kroes, who is responsible for the the EC’s Digital Agenda, said it was her “dream” to make every classroom digital by 2020. She said: “Education must be connected to real life; it cannot be a parallel universe. Young people want to use digital technology in every aspect of life. They need digital skills to get jobs. All of our schools and universities, not just some of them, must reflect that reality.”

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Should businesses run schools?

New guide on schools says businesses should oversee teacher evaluations, curriculum, school boards

business-schools-runIt’s a question that has come up recently thanks to a national movement towards school reform: “Should schools be run like a business?” According to a new guide released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF), it’s time for local businesses to do more than fund “backpacks and pencils”: It’s time to manage the school board.

The “School Governance Guide,” released as part of USCCF’s Education Reform Summit, urges businesses to “financially support school board candidates,” and “monitor board activity,” among other recommendations.

According to the guide, businesses can help in:…Read More

Magic Johnson launches initiative for at-risk kids

Earvin “Magic” Johnson is getting a little help from Chicago rapper Common for his newest off-court endeavor, the Associated Press reports. The former NBA star launched his “Friends of Magic” initiative Wednesday. The idea is to help at-risk students, including dropouts, graduate from high school. Johnson, Common and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn attended the event at Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy, another education facility backed in part by Johnson’s business enterprises. An emotional Johnson spoke after listening to one of the students who has had successful in the academy’s education programs…

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Expecting the best yields results in Massachusetts

Conventional wisdom and popular perception hold that American students are falling further and further behind in science and math achievement. The statistics from this state tell a different story, The New York Times reports.  If Massachusetts were a country, its eighth graders would rank second in the world in science, behind only Singapore, according to Timss — the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, which surveys knowledge and skills of fourth and eighth graders around the world. (The most recent version, in 2011, tested more than 600,000 students in 63 nations.)

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Loud voice fighting tide of new trend in education

Diane Ravitch made her name in the 1970s as a historian chronicling the role of public schools in American social mobility, The New York Times reports. In the 1990s, she went to work in the Bush administration’s Education Department, where she pushed for a rejection of 1960s relativism and a return to basics and standards. After leaving government, she called for the removal of incompetent teachers, for tying school performance to student scores, and for closing failing schools. Now Ms. Ravitch, 75, is in the full flower of yet another stage in her career: folk hero to the left and passionate scourge of pro-business reformers. She has come to doubt the whole project of school reform, saying it will solve little without addressing poverty and segregation…

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Every student deserves the opportunity to succeed this school year

Nearly 50 million U.S. elementary and secondary students have headed back to school this week for the start of a new school year, the Huffington Post reports. These children and young people will head to class carrying backpacks and an immeasurable, invisible weight — their parents’ hopes that they will acquire valuable skills and knowledge and, armed with a good education, move upward on the ladder of economic mobility. But not all of these students will get a fair shot. Low-income children born today in Canada and a dozen European countries stand a better chance of improving their lot in life than low-income children born in the United States. Mounting evidence shows that the American Dream is increasingly out of reach, and that geography too often determines one’s destiny. Studies show that neighborhoods and schools with higher concentrations of poverty provide fewer opportunities for their residents and students…

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This guy left Google to put the power of big data into small classrooms

Forbes reports that Prasad Ram (aka Pram) is founder, creator, and CEO of Gooru, “an open and collaborative online community where the best free materials for learning can be found, created, remixed and shared.” Gooru harnesses the power of data to enable personalized learning. Pram used to be a big research scientist: head of R&D for Google India and CTO for Yahoo YHOO India. He also contributed to the development of Google Maps, News, and Translate. Now, he’s dedicated to Gooru, a platform that describes itself as “a non-profit education technology start-up in Silicon Valley with a mission to honor the human right to education.”

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How to succeed in a startup and still pass middle school

In elementary school, my friends and I would re-sell snacks that we purchased from Costco at a lower price than what the vending machines and lunch lady charged, edSurge reports. Profit margins were low, but hey, making any money at that age was quite exciting. Unfortunately, the school didn’t appreciate such “disruptive” activity. We were (partially) shut down and left with a bitter after taste of the school system. The Incubator School, set to open its doors in Los Angeles on August 13, promises to look more kindly on such enterprising antics. Backed by a Next Generation Learning Challenges grant, the school will kick off with a class of about 50 sixth and seventh graders and three teachers. The plan is to add one additional grade level every year until it serves students in grades 6 to 12…

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Longer school days for struggling students, or everyone

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is a big fan of extending time in school, National Journal reports. He pushed for it when he headed up the Chicago Public Schools and included it as one of the pluses for states applying for waivers under No Child Left Behind. But extended schools hours can’t just be done willy nilly. As Education Sector analyst Elena Silva noted in a report last year, the best outcomes of extended learning time come from schools that increase the time that a student is “on task”—i.e., actively engaged. That requires lesson planning, up-to-date technology, and dependable funding…

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