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Interesting education articles we saw this week

One of the most difficult parts to putting together our weekly internal newsletter is narrowing down what to include.  We see so many interesting items.  But we want to keep the newsletter to a manageable length.  So sometimes we have to be really selective.  These are the articles that made the cut this week.  And check out our fun site at the bottom of the post.

The Obama administration is proposing an increase of $1.3 billion in education spending.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that ed-tech funding will be cut by 63% (Obama proposes $1.3B increase in ed funding – eSchool News Online).

Classrooms benefit directly from donors is an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune.  It looks at DonorsChoose.org, an online philanthropy site that allows people to choose where their donated money will go.  “’The trend over time is that donors want to be able to direct their giving. They don't want to give it to an intermediary and then have the intermediary decide where it goes,’ said James Ferris, director of the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California.”  Over 130,000 donors have used the site.

The Denver Post reported on Rap boosting kids’ academics.  Rap to Roots is a program that uses rap to help kids learn everything from Shakespeare to math.  It’s been successfully used in Chicago and Cleveland and the article described its debut in the Denver school system.  Does it work?  According to Michael Schenkelberg, the developer of the program, “Organizers tracked students' progress over four years and discovered those in the program "’did significantly better in standardized testing, attention spans in the classroom, and some improved their writing skills.’”

What’s big in science education?  Forensics, according to A Hit in school, maggots and all (New York Times).  Teachers are finding that kids are excited by the classes being offered and are learning science, sometimes without even realizing it, including biology, chemistry and physics.  “Forensic science also emphasizes what scientists complain is too often lacking in standard science education: hands-on lab work.”

Last week we finished with computer equipment playing Bohemian Rhapsody.  This week we end with an organist’s rendition of the Overture to Star Wars.  It’s kind of boring to actually watch.  But close your eyes and it sounds just like the movies.  Thanks to Nick in Trade marketing for sending this to us.  Enjoy. 

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Stimulus funding news and teacher appreciation

All kinds of issues and questions are fielded here at the Scholastic Library.  A lot of questions have been asked about the federal economic stimulus plan and its impact on education, and subsequently on Scholastic.  So it's a topic we follow closely.  Here are a few of the items we shared with the staff this week.

The stimulus funds have begun flowing to the states.  With that, the states are faced with some issues.  States vexed by stimulus challenges from Stateline.org looks at how states are preparing to comply with the data gathering requirements among other challenges.  The story includes several charts as well as links to related articles.

Alabama legislature wraps up education budget from the Charleston Daily Mail is an example of several articles we saw this week on how the states are finishing their education budgets, taking into account the stimulus funding.  “Senate budget committee Chairman Hank Sanders, D-Selma, said federal stimulus funds made the difference in having drastic cuts and layoffs because of the recession or saving jobs and programs.”  Another example is Schools budget drops for the first time from the Idaho Statesman.  For Idaho, stimulus funds helped but cutbacks were still necessary.  “The total allocation is $48.7 million, 3.2 percent less than the public schools received last year. It is the first time since the state began keeping detailed records that the public schools will receive less money than they did the year before.”  And in Arkansas, School districts eyeing ways to spend federal stimulus funds (Northwest Arkansas Times).  Technology, after-school programs and professional development are just a few of the ideas being considered.  Legislature spares Florida public schools from the worst, from the Miami Herald, reports on how the stimulus funding helped the state maintain education budgets.  “Credit for the reprieve goes to more than $2 billion in stimulus money, which lawmakers infused into the pre-K-12 budget (though, technically the application is pending).”

And while many states are using the funding to prevent layoffs and cutbacks, a large chunk of the funding is earmarked for technology improvements.  Stimulus aims to help close digital divide from eSchool News Online reports that some $7 billion dollars will be devoted to help schools and communities “expand broadband services to underserved areas, improve broadband access for public safety agencies, stimulate the economy, and create jobs.”

School Library Journal has scheduled a webcast for May 19 at 3:30 to discuss stimulus funding for libraries.  Stimulate this Library! Accessing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Funding will provide school librarians with suggestions on how to bring funding to their libraries.  And Capstone Publishers, a library market publisher, held a similar webcast according to Capstone teaches how to get stimulus funding (Publishers Weekly).  “Librarians were encouraged to ‘gather the facts’ and were directed to studies documenting a connection between library investment and improved test scores.”

This is teacher appreciation week.  And you can nominate your favorite teacher to attend the 2010 National Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy.  The Scholastic Library does not provide endorsements.  But we heard about this and thought some of our readers might want to check it out.

And just for fun.  Back in the olden days, computers made a lot of noise.  And some clever computer geek has put together this rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody using old computer equipment.  Too young to have heard of Queen?  You’ll never know what you missed.  Enjoy. 

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Interesting education articles this week

As we review many web sites, newspapers and magazines, we often select web sites or articles for the newsletter that we think may be relevant to Scholastic's businesses.  These are the ones we chose for this week.

In the U.K., the Telegraph reports Revealed: new teaching methods that are producing

dramatic results.  New techniques such as “spaced learning” are showing signs of real

success.  The school day consists of “short sharp lessons … interspersed with an entirely

different activity and repeated at regular intervals.” 

The Newark Star-Ledger had an interesting story online, In recession, more parents ‘slowly’

spend quality time with their kids.  “Slow parenting,” a movement that began about five

years ago aims to slow “the pace of family life and scal[e] back on material items.”  A lot

more parents are adopting this concept even though many of them have never heard of it.

Christopher Dawson writes an interesting blog for ZDNet.   He

recently posted Summer reading…the data don’t lie.  Dawson, a teacher in Massachusetts, looked

at the numbers and saw that many students suffered from the “summer slide.” “Summer

break…can be disastrous without reading exposure, especially for the younger kids.” He

offers a couple of suggestions for alleviating the problem.

For some students, raising self-esteem can mean increases in achievement, according to Task

to aid self-esteem lifts grades for some (New York Times).  “Some seventh graders who were

struggling in class did significantly better after performing a series of brief

confidence-building writing exercises, and the improvements continued through eighth grade,”

according to a study from Columbia and Yale Universities.

At the same time, and possibly connected in some way, “More challenging middle-school math

classes and increased access to advanced courses in predominantly black urban high schools

may be the key to closing the racial academic achievement gap,” according to a study from

the University of Illinois (Middle-school math classes are key to closing racial academic

achievement gap – Science Daily).  “Being in a classroom where the expectations are higher,

the course work is more rigorous, and the climate is more academic has huge effects on

student effort.”

And just for fun -- there are several very cool short videos with slow motion images on Vimeo.  The link we’ve provided is to our favorite.   After the dart hitting the dartboard and the pom pom hitting the ground, there’s a spectacular video of a cube of jello.  It’s like a jellyfish.  And you can see every move because the picture is so clear.  Enjoy!  

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Tracking the stimulus plan

As the stimulus funds are distributed to the states, we've found it interesting here at the Scholastic Library to watch the local press coverage of the issues school districts are facing.  These are some of the more interesting items we noticed this week.

U.S. News’ On Education blog explores Will stimulus money lead to actual education reform? 

It discusses Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s demand for verifiable reform as opposed to

many states reluctance to provide what could be embarrassing numbers.

And the Boston Globe reports As money for teachers flows, some states have other ideas

Loopholes in the law might allow governors to use the money for other projects.  Duncan

insists “he can come down hard on states that don't comply because he is releasing the money

in installments, and because he will award billions of dollars in competitive grants later

this year.”

In Education stimulus funds about to flow; school officials told to spend wisely, the

Arkansas News reports on the $570 million the state’s 245 school districts will receive over

the next six months.  The state’s Education Commissioner provided guidance to the districts

for applying for funding.

The Daily Journal in Mississippi discussed the stimulus funding as well in Superintendents

watch for stimulus money.  Because the Mississippi legislature has failed to pass a budget,

teacher layoffs were on hold.  The stimulus money will allow many schools to maintain their

teaching staffs.

Schools’ ‘money is falling off the truck’, an article in the Washington Post, looks at how

some state and local governments are slashing school budgets, to be replaced by the stimulus

funds.  Several articles over the last few weeks have discussed this possibility as well. 

“Education Secretary Arne Duncan has warned states against playing ‘shell games’ with money

aimed at schools. The stimulus law and regulations have strings to protect against big drops

in education funding but allow the most cash-strapped states to seek some flexibility.”

The Pittsburgh school district will receive about $43 million in stimulus money over the

next two years and it is looking at creating a reading intervention program for middle

school students to help prepare them for high school, according to City schools to use

stimulus funds for literacy programs from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

For more information on the stimulus plan, check out Scholastic's The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act page.

And just for fun, they’re dancing in a train station in London in this fun commercial for

T-Mobile.  And not to be outdone, enjoy the dancing at the Antwerp train station as well.  

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Education News

Every week we review hundreds of articles that come in through online newsletters.  We select those that we think are either most relevant to our business or would have some interest for Scholastic staff.  It's often a difficult decision as there are so many relevant and interesting articles in newspapers, magazines and on the blogs.

Ed Week recently ran a story as part of its special issue, Technology Counts 2009, Research shows evolving picture of e-education.  “Research shows that virtual schooling can be as good as, or better than, classes taught in person in brick-and-mortar schools,” according to the article.  But virtual schooling also has specific issues to deal with, one of which is that “the courses tend to draw students at the extremes of the academic spectrum—advanced, highly motivated students looking for academic acceleration, and students who are struggling in regular classrooms.”

A new study out of the University of Pennsylvania has found that Visual learners convert words to pictures in the brain and vice versa (Science Daily).  The authors of the study believe these results may help in tailoring reading instruction for students.

A survey of teachers in Britain found that three quarters of teachers believed children should be at least five before starting school.  (Call to start school at age six – BBC)  The teachers had several other thoughts as well, including a lack of playtime and too much emphasis on testing.

Publishers Weekly profiled Gary Shapiro, a teacher in Salinas, CA, who uses comic books to teach reading (Superman, super teacher: using comics to teach reading).  As a kid, Shapiro had trouble learning to read and found comics helped him.  He applies his experience to his students. 

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Interesting education reports released this week

We can't include every report we see in our weekly newsletter at the Scholastic Library.  So we select 2 or 3, or sometimes 4, that we think are the most interesting or relevant to what we do here at Scholastic.  These are the ones we picked this week.

The Education Trust has published Education Watch: National Report.  It provides a general

overview of achievement, attainment and other factors normalized for the U.S.  There are also

individual state reports.  “This national report and every individual ‘Education Watch State

Report’ show how well schools are serving different groups of young people.”

The National Institute for Early Education Research has released The State of Preschool 2008.

 It finds that the recession has either stalled pre-kindergarten funding or reversed it in

some states.  Despite an increase in state spending over the past few years, federal spending

for public programs like Head Start had decreased.  But now many states are cutting funding

as well.  The good news is the money in the stimulus plan that’s designated for pre-k

programs.  For a review of the study’s findings, see Recession stalls state-financed

pre-kindergarten, but federal money may help from the New York Times.

Learning Teams: Creating What’s Next is a report from the National Commission on Teaching and

America’s Future.  The report warns that “more than half the nation's teachers are Baby

Boomers ages 50 and older and eligible for retirement over the next decade.”  It encourages

retention efforts and mentoring of new teachers.  For more on the report, including a map

with statistics on where the retirement issue could be a real problem, see USA Today’s

article A ’tsunami’ of Boomer teacher retirements is on the horizon.  

And the State Educational Technology Directors Association has released its sixth annual

Enhancing Education through Technology report called Focus on Technology Integration in

America's Schools.  It “identifies programs that effectively integrate technology to create

robust subject-matter content, innovative curricula, ongoing professional development, and

diagnostic assessments to facilitate individualized instruction.”  Report profiles states'

ed-tech successes from eSchool News Online reviews the findings.

And just for fun, the video on this is a bit grainy.  But you’ll still enjoy this dancing dog

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Recent stories on education and the stimulus plan

There were several interesting stories on the economic stimulus and the education funds it will provide to the states this week.  These are the ones we identified at the Scholastic Library for inclusion in our weekly newsletter.

An article in the Montgomery Advertiser looks at some issues with the stimulus funding.  School leaders disappointed by stimulus numbers reports that local school administrators had hoped the stimulus money would help save teacher jobs.  “Some aren't even certain that they will be able to rehire as many teachers as planned based on preliminary numbers showing their school districts' share of the $596.36 million in stimulus funds.”  And in some states, governors are looking for ways to use the funds targeted for education for other purposes.  States eye education stimulus to fill budget gaps, an article in Education Week, reported that “a growing number of states are filling in their budget gaps with stimulus money or, in another strategy, cutting the state share of education funding—thereby freeing up state dollars for other expenses—and filling in education budgets with stimulus aid.”  Education Secretary Arne Duncan promised to keep an eye on the situation.

The Associated Press reported that Stimulus dollars to be released to schools this week.  And a great deal of that funding is going to early childhood education, according to Stimulus providing big funding boost for early childhood (Education Week).  “While other education officials are weighing the risks of starting new programs with federal money that may dry up in two years, early-childhood programs are ramping up for expansion after years of being underfunded.”

The Washington Post posted both the video and the transcript of its interview with Arne Duncan, Duncan does the math on education budget.  “We're going to work very, very closely with those states, and we will give out over the next couple weeks billions of dollars. But we're going to keep billions of dollars here to really watch and monitor how states do in terms of implementing these reforms,” Duncan said.

And just for fun, we thought we'd include this cute video from JibJab, Talking Easter Eggs.

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Educating through music

At the Scholastic Library, we see so many articles and web sites on all kinds of tools and techniques to help kids learn.  We recently saw two items (one a web site, the other a study) about using music to educate.  We thought we'd share them.

One of our favorite sites is Exploratorium.  And they’ve added another great page.  This one is the Science of Music.  Through online exhibits, videos and other activities, kids can learn about music and its scientific basis.  One of the best exhibitions is the explanation of singing in the shower

And a study in the journal Psychology in Music contends that Music education can help children improve reading skills.   The study’s authors, from Long Island University, found that “the music-learning group had significantly better vocabulary and verbal sequencing scores than did the non-music-learning control group.”

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Recent education reports

Each week, the Scholastic Library chooses a few interesting reports to include in our internal email  newsletter.  We can't include every report we see.  So we pick two or three that we think will be of value to our staff.  The following reports made the cut this week.

Education Week has posted the 2009 edition of Technology Counts, focusing on virtual learning.  (Note: you may not be able to access all sections of this report without a subscription.  You'll need to register for the free content as well.)  According to the overview article, Research shows evolving picture of e-education, “Online classes may be a relatively young instructional practice for K-12 schools, but experts already generally agree on one point: Research shows that virtual schooling can be as good as, or better than, classes taught in person in brick-and-mortar schools.”

Comparative Indicators of Education in the United States and Other G-8 Countries: 2009 is a report from the NCES (National Center for Education Statistics).  “Twenty-seven indicators are organized in five sections: (1) population and school enrollment; (2) academic performance (including subsections for reading, mathematics, and science); (3) context for learning; (4) expenditure for education; and (5) education returns: educational attainment and income.”

The Horizon Report: 2009 K-12 Edition is a study from the New Media Consortium.  It “identifies and describes six emerging technologies that will have a huge impact on K-12 education within the next one to five years.”  These include:  “collaborative environments and online communication tools, mobile devices and cloud computing, smart objects and the personal web.”

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A look at some recent education-related issues

At the Scholastic Library, we're always looking at news and sites related to education, from curriculum issues to recess.  Here are a few we saw this past week that we thought might be of interest to the education community.

The Professional Development page on the Florida Center for Reading Research site offers educators assistance on providing differentiated instruction through reading centers.  Research material is offered as well as how to use assessment to drive instruction.

The NCES has improved the State Education Reforms site.  The data here is collected from non-NCES sources and covers five areas of school reform: accountability, assessment and standards, staff qualifications and development, state support for school choice and other options, and student readiness and progress through school.  School finance issues are included in the accountability section.

The Educational Needs Index is a map of the U.S. color-coded to indicate the criticality of educational needs based on “educational, economic, and population pressures.”  Click on each individual state for more detail.  There are separate tabs for each factor.

Dean Kamen, the guy who invented the Segue, founded FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, 20 years ago.  It’s “is a series of competitions intended to inspire youth to pursue careers as scientists, engineers and big thinkers by making math and science cool,” according to Robots and beyond (Forbes.com).  It started small.  But now with the push for STEM education, Kamen thinks the competitions will get even bigger.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Weekly Web Finds are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.