About this blog Subscribe to this blog

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. 

Add to Technorati Favorites

Weekly Web Finds -- March 5, 2009

Education & the Economy

According to the Idaho Statesman, Stimulus may not keep Idaho school budget intact.  The

state’s schools superintendent has indicated that he plans to use some of the stimulus money

to replenish the schools’ “rainy day fund”.  This would mean that some cuts still would need

to be made.  But they might not be quite as severe as initially thought.  In Arkansas,

education officials are looking at the recently jobless as potential teachers.  State seeks

teachers among newly jobless (Arkansas Democrat Gazette) reports that “staff members are

working to tap into the pool of displaced workers who have degrees and experience in

engineering, computer programming, graphic design and other fields to fill teaching jobs -

particularly teaching jobs in the high-demand subjects of mathematics, life sciences,

physical sciences, foreign languages, speech, art and music.”

The Education Department has created a page on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

It provides a fact sheet, state allocation info and more specifics on where the money from

the stimulus package will go. 

History Stuff

1989 was a pivotal year.  It was the year the Berlin Wall came down, signaling the end of the

Communist era.  The Center for History and New Media has posted Making the History of 1989

Dozens of primary sources, including documents, images and videos are available.  There are

interviews with scholars, suggested lesson plans and case studies.

And while we’re talking about the Center for History and New Media, we also want to point out

another site they have called World History Matters.  It’s a portal to all kinds of sources

on world history designed for the high school student.  Again, you’ll find a wealth of

information including primary source materials.


This Week’s Reports

The Census has issued the most recent School Enrollment tables.  Data is current to October

2007.  There are eight tables in all, breaking enrollment down in a variety of ways.  Tables

are available in Excel and CSV formats.  The Census has also released the tables for the 2006

A Child’s Day: Selected Indicators of Child Well-Being.  Tables include fun time, reading

time, mealtime, television rules, and other indicators of a child’s life.  Again, tables are

available in Excel and CSV formats.

Achievement Effects of Four Early Elementary School Math Curricula: Findings from First

Graders in 39 Schools is a new report from the Department of Education’s Institute of

Education Sciences.  “The four curricula are Investigations in Number, Data, and Space; Math

Expressions; Saxon Math; and Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics. First-grade math

achievement was significantly higher in schools randomly assigned to Math Expressions or

Saxon Math than in those schools assigned to Investigations in Number, Data, and Space or to

Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics.”   Education Week reported on the findings in

Study finds edge for certain early-math programs.  Subscription may be required to access the fulltext.


Newsworthy

Study says most 1st grade classes not high quality, a story in Ed Week, reports on the

findings of the education school at the University of Virginia.  Schools were judged on

multiple criteria including instruction and social and emotional climate.  “Only 23 percent

of classrooms could be judged to be of “high quality” in both their instructional practices

and social and emotional climate,” researchers found.  The study, written up in the

Elementary School Journal, is available online for $10.00.

The Graphic Novel Reporter conducted a roundtable on the subject of Graphic Novels in Today’s

Libraries.  When asked about how graphic novels are perceived, one librarian responded, “Kids

who had previously only used the library as a drop-in babysitting/computer service are now

relaxing on the couches reading. Girls are devouring manga that is age-appropriate and

mothers are discovering that comics actually improve reading skills.”

The results of another study were discussed in Hand gestures help math skills, study

concludes (School Library Journal).  This study, from the University of Chicago, found that

“we may be able to lay the foundation for new knowledge just by telling learners how to move

their hands.”

There has been a lot of discussion of 21st-century skills in the press and even here in the

Weekly Web Finds.  Now “a group of researchers, historians, and policymakers from across the

political spectrum are raising a red flag about the agenda as embodied by the Tucson,

Ariz.-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills, or P21, the leading advocacy group for

21st-century skills,” according to Backers of 21st-century skills take flak from Education

Week.  It’s an interesting read.  USA Today also covered this story in What to learn: core knowledge or

21st century skills?


Tech Stuff

The West Virginia Gazette reported on the use of handheld devices in math classes (Count on

it: handheld device ‘inspires’ math students at Hoover).  Teachers are using “the Nspire,

which looks like a thick calculator, [but] is more like a computer. It easily bests

calculators, or graphing calculators for that matter.”


Friendly Baby

No animals this week.  Just a cute baby singing about friendship.  YouTube alert!  Enjoy! 



Weekly Web Finds -- Feb. 19, 2009

Education & the Economy

We’re going to move away from the Bad News/Good News format for this section.  Going forward,

we’ll continue to identify some interesting articles about the impact of the economy on

education and we’ll also look closely at the implementation of the American Recovery and

Reinvestment Act.

The On Education blog from U.S. News & World Report discusses How to spend $100 billion on

education.  “Several education observers have warned about the dangers of getting so much

money out to schools in a hurry. Duncan and Obama have promised to distribute the money in a

timely and transparent fashion.”  And Ed Week explored the difficulties of managing the funds

in Stimulus aid to schools a management challenge.  But this challenge isn’t just for the

states, but also for Ed chief, Arne Duncan.  And Duncan wants stimulus to transform schools

(eSchool News Online) looks at how he plans to do that.  “’It's also an opportunity to

redefine the federal role in education, something we're thinking a whole lot about,’ Duncan

said recently. ‘How can we move from being [about] compliance with bureaucracy to really the

engine of innovation and change?’"

The Education Commission of the States has a nice summary of the American Recovery and

Reinvestment Act as it pertains to education spending.  Early Care & Education Provisions of the

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from Zero to Three provides some good detail on

funding and possible uses of the funding for early childhood education.  There’s a very nice

table of how the funding breaks out and its availability.  The Center for Law & Public Policy

has posted Child Care and Development Block Grant Funding data.  The numbers are broken down

by state.   And if you’re really ambitious, you can read the entire conference report and

text of the Act

And the Obama administration has set up a web site, Recovery.gov, that citizens can search to

find out where the money is going.  The Wall Street Journal created a really nice, single

page breakdown of the entire stimulus package.


The Value of the Library

We almost never see a negative story about libraries, unless they’re being closed because of

budget cuts.  We do frequently see articles about how great libraries are.  Case in point is

In web age, library job gets update.  This is a wonderful look at the evolving world of “a

growing cadre of 21st-century multimedia specialists who help guide students through the

digital ocean of information that confronts them on a daily basis. These new librarians

believe that literacy includes, but also exceeds, books.”   


Kids Stuff

Zero to Three, a national nonprofit organization devoted to improving the lives of children,

has posted its Infant-Toddler Policy Agenda.  “Ensuring that babies have good health, strong

families, and positive early learning experiences will lay the foundation for success

throughout their lives.”  Policy priorities include child chare, developmental screening,

early head start, and physical health. 

Programs for Educators is a new site from Common Sense Media.  It’s designed to help schools

help parents.  There are videos, advice, and resources to help parents manage their kids’

exposure to media.  Teachers can register their schools and special kits are available.

5 Things you should know about kids & the Internet (HispanicAd.com) is a story about a survey

conducted by Mediamark Research & Intelligence.  The survey found, “For American kids ages

6-11, the Internet is much more of an entertainment platform than it is a venue for

communicating, with most of the entertainment occurring within the home.”


This Week’s Reports

The Department of Education released State and Local Implementation of the No Child Left

Behind Act, Volume VI – Targeting and Uses of Federal Education Funds.  “This report

describes how well federal funds are targeted to economically disadvantaged students, how

Title I targeting has changed over the past seven years, how districts have spent federal

funds, and the base of state and local resources to which federal funds are added.”

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has just released The Accountability Illusion, a report that

looks at “whether schools [that] make AYP is as much a product of inconsistent and arcane

rules set by state education officials as of actual pupil achievement.”  The site provides

access to the parts of the report, including state reports and press materials.  For a

summary of the report’s findings, check out School success under “No Child Left Behind”

depends on location.


Newsworthy

Virtual field trips open doors for multimedia lessons, from Ed Week, looks at the growing

number of online excursions teachers and students can take.  Ball State University in Indiana

has created over 60 such field trips.   And each trip averages about 20,000 students.

The New York Times reports Industry makes pitch that Smartphones belong in classroom.  The CTIA, a

wireless industry trade group believes that Smartphones can be used in the classroom to enhance math

education.  Needless to say, there are many who dispute that idea.  And Ed Week reports Students turn

their cellphones on for classroom lessons.  “A growing number of teachers, carefully navigating district

policies and addressing their own concerns, are having students use their personal cellphones to make

podcasts, take field notes, and organize their schedules and homework.”


The Cat and the Printer

Cats don’t like technology.  Watch as this cat battles his own personal windmill, with as

little luck as Don Quixote.

Weekly Web Finds -- Feb. 5, 2009


Education & the Economy

Bad news – On one of the Wall Street Journal’s blogs, author Sara Murray posted

For many schools, education stimulus already too late.  “To be sure, the stimulus could prove

effective over the long term and may prevent, or at least lessen, future cuts. But as for the

present, there’s no question that education will be on the chopping block with or without it.

In fact, it already is,” she writes.  The Florence, AL, Times Daily carried this sobering

story, Economy casts dark shadow over Legislature.   The upshot is stark, “Thousands of

teachers and staff members will lose their jobs in Alabama public schools. Classroom sizes

will increase and there will be fewer course offerings.”


Good news – In Indianapolis, Bill gives schools $180 million more in ‘10.  The Indiana

legislature looked for a different way to ensure education funding.  Issues still need to be

worked out, of course, before this is finalized.  (Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette)

The New America Foundation has posted a side-by-side comparison of the House and Senate

stimulus bills in relation to education spending as of January 30.  Obviously, things will

change.



Google Stuff

We had our Wikipedia Alert last week.  This week we look at an outage at Google, Google error

sends warning worldwide (New York Times).  An internal glitch that sent error messages in

response to search queries.  A similar outage took place earlier this week.  Remember that

there are many other decent search engines out there.  As good as Google is, there are others

that are just as able to help you find what you are looking for.  A couple to consider are: 

Yahoo! (of course), Exalead and Hakia.  

Some fear Google’s power in digital books, also from the New York Times, looks at the

concerns many are raising about Google’s attempt to digitize all the books in major libraries

(with or without worrying about copyright).  The issue, according to critics, isn’t just

copyright.  It’s about monopoly, “’a monopoly of a new kind, not of railroads or steel but of

access to information,” Mr. Darnton [head of the Harvard library system in the latest issue

of The New York Review of Books] writes. ‘Google has no serious competitors.’”  Others

believe that Google’s actions will be a boon to researchers and libraries alike.


Tracking Legislation

The National Conference of State Legislatures has updated its Early Care and Education

Legislative Action page.   The current year is searchable.  And earlier years are also

available. 


This Week’s Reports

K-12 Online Learning is a report from the Sloan Consortium.  This is a follow-up report to

the survey of school administrators done in 2007.  Some of their conclusions include:  “Three

quarters of the responding public school districts are offering online or blended courses:

75% had one or more students enrolled in a fully online or blended course; 70% had one or

more students enrolled in a fully online course; 41% had one or more students enrolled in a

blended course; these percentages represent an increase of approximately 10% since

2005-2006.”  Read the Executive Summary.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop has issued Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile

Technologies to Promote Children’s Learning.  The report “includes an inventory of more than

25 projects in which hand-held devices are being used for learning or are the subject of

research in the United States and other nations.”  (Mobile devices seen as key to

21st-century learning, EdWeek)



Newsworthy

Houston is beginning an innovative project to get kids, especially boys, to read.  Wanted:

real men to inspire reading describes “Real Men Read,” based on a project developed in

Chicago.  “Volunteers will read to and lead book discussions with second-, fifth- and

seventh-grade students in 31 schools.”

Internet generation leaves parents behind comes from the U.K., the Manchester Guardian to be

exact.  It looks like some problems are universal, like how much time kids are spending

online, not doing homework, but socializing with friends or playing games.

Technology empowers differentiated instruction, a story in eSchool News Online, looks at a

webinar presented by the International Society for Technology in Education.  The hosts of the

webinar, Grace Smith and Stephanie Throne, “cited research that shows students are more

successful in school and find it more satisfying when they are taught in ways that are

responsive to their readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles.”  And they identified

strategies for teachers on making this work.

Another story from the U.K. reports on Frank Cottrell Boyce’s fear that British Schools

becoming ‘anti-reading’ zones (The Telegraph).  Boyce’s contention is that books and

libraries are being replaced by technology to the detriment of students.



Library Stuff

The American Library Association has created Add It Up, a site designed to “make the case for

libraries at every stage of youth development and education.”  The site provides statements

of fact on the benefits of library usage by children of all ages with citations to the

relevant sources.  There’s a list of resources and quick facts are available.  It’s a useful

tool to make the case for the value of the school/public library.

Unfortunately, the new ALA site may have come too late for some libraries, according to the

USA Today story, U.S. libraries on borrowed time?  It is a sad listing of libraries around

the country facing serious cutbacks or even closure despite the increase in use by their

communities.

But in the meantime, and in the hopes that money can be found to support this valuable

community service, enjoy these pictures of lovely library spaces from Slate.com.


Darwin & Lincoln

February 12 is the 200th anniversary of two of the most important figures in modern human

history, Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln.  Learn more about Darwin at AboutDarwin.com and

Lincoln at Lincoln: 200 Years, from C-Span.  And then read the article How Lincoln and Darwin

shaped the modern world in the current issue of Smithsonian.  


Cool Inaugural Photo

David Bergman took this very cool photo of the Inauguration of Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009.

 You’ll need to scroll down to see the photo.  You can move around the photo, up and down and

zoom in to all parts.  It’s very cool.   Don’t forget to click on the full screen link to see

the immensity of the image.  Thanks to Kathy in Classroom Magazines for sending it our way.  

Weekly Web Finds -- Jan. 15, 2009

Education & the Economy

Bad news – There’s so much of it.  Here are just a few.  George Skelton wrote in the Los

Angeles Times Gains in school achievement are at risk from budget ax.  “A decade of academic

advancement due to class-size reduction, tougher curriculum, higher standards, testing,

accountability and other reforms could be stalled -- even reversed -- by the necessity to cut

spending.”  And virtual schools may be taking a hit as well, according to Hard times cut

state cyber school enrollments (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review).  “Facing the threat of layoffs or

mortgage foreclosures, some parents are sending their children back to brick-and-mortar

public schools because a stay-at-home spouse had to get a job.”  Economics sore subject for

public schools is from Stateline.org.  It looks at how until recently, education was

“politically sacrosanct” during economic hard times.  But not anymore.

Good news – well, actually maybe not.  But it’s not bad news unless the answer is no.   

School officials want a cut of federal bailout from USA Today looks at various school

districts around the country that want to share in the bailout dollars.  “Most are counting

on Congress' stimulus plan to include as much as $25 billion for school construction, teacher

training and other chronically underfunded line items. Educators say they need the cash as

they face budget cuts in the next two years.”   The state of Georgia is trying to stay

upbeat.  Governor Sonny Purdue said in his State of the State speech, “Education means

opportunity.  We spend more than half of our state budget on education because we know that

opportunity is discovered in Georgia’s classrooms.” (State of state looks to future,

Hinesville Coastal-Courier)


History Stuff

As the economy is on everyone’s mind nowadays, we thought we’d present a few sites about the

Great Depression, in the hopes that we’re not about to experience a replay.  New Deal Network

is a really good site with a lot of great information on many aspects of the New Deal. 

You’ll find primary documents here as well as lesson plans and activities.  Riding the Rails

is a PBS site, an online companion to an American Experience broadcast.  The entire episode

can be viewed and there’s a timeline and a teacher’s guide.  According to the show, over

250,000 teens were “living on the road” during the Great Depression.  Another American

Experience broadcast is Surviving the Dustbowl.  Like Riding the Rails, the full episode is

available online and includes a timeline and teacher’s guide. 

Shmoop

Shmoop is an odd name for a literature review web site.  But the site is actually pretty

good.  It’s kind of like Cliff Notes.  The difference is that the entries are written in a

much more entertaining fashion.  Click on a title and you’ll see several selections,

character lists, plot analysis, etc.  There are suggestions on how to get started writing

that book review or paper.  There’s a history component as well.  Shmoop’s mission is “To

make learning and writing more fun and relevant for students in the digital age.”   

This Week’s Reports

The National High School Center has released High School Literacy: A Quick Stats Fact Sheet

There’s a lot of information presented here in bullet point fashion with data on

demographics, instruction issues, and achievement gap issues.  It also includes an extensive

bibliography.

Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel concludes that

preschool children who are taught the alphabet and letter sounds have a greater chance at

reading success later on.  Education Week, in an article entitled Early-literacy findings

unveiled, reported that “while the report of the National Early Literacy Panel is earning

praise for providing a needed tool for improving early-literacy instruction, it is also

stirring concerns that skills-driven instruction could become a dominant focus for 3- and

4-year-olds, much as it has for the early-elementary grades.”  Don’t have time to read the

entire report?  Check out the Executive Summary.

Newsworthy

Virtual learning is the new buzz word in education in the U.S.  In the United Kingdom,

however, they’re taking a slower approach.  No escape from turning up for class from the

Guardian reports that “the take up of online classrooms was currently more of a ‘cottage

industry than a national technological revolution’.”

The Future of Children has gathered together a series of short papers on Children and

Electronic Media.  These short articles cover such topics as Marketing and Media, Teens and

the Internet, and Toddlers and Television. 

Folks are flocking to the library, a cozy place to look for a job, in the Wall Street Journal

covers ground we’ve discussed before, the importance of public libraries.  “A few years ago,

public libraries were being written off as goners. The Internet had made them irrelevant, the

argument went. But libraries across the country are reporting jumps in attendance of as much

as 65% over the past year, as newly unemployed people flock to branches to fill out résumés

and scan ads for job listings.”  So much for being obsolete.

EdWeek offers a free article of interest this week, Students found to pick up science outside

school.  A study from the National Academies found “informal science activities, such as

trips to museums and zoos, viewing of television shows, and even discussions between parents

and children, have the power to improve students’ learning in that subject and their

appreciation for it.” 


Education Stuff

CIRCLE, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, conducts

research on young people from 15-25.  It concentrates on civics instruction and civic

engagement.  It issues several working papers and fact sheets, looking at the “civic

achievement gap” among other issues.

The National High School Center site includes a map for Navigating the National High School

Improvement Landscape.  “Each state profile accessed through this map contains the statewide

high school graduation requirements and the minimum state college and/or university admission

requirements.”

“A free and open learning community for sharing newer and emerging tools to teach science” is

how LearningScience.org describes itself.  Learning tools for teachers and students are

available on various aspects of the sciences.  The group uses the 1996 National Science

Education Standards as their framework.

The Education Division of the Special Libraries Association publishes Education Libraries, a

semi-annual peer-reviewed journal on information literacy and school libraries.  It is now

freely available on the site.

Let Me In!

If you’ve ever had a cat, you will totally identify with this charming little cartoon, Let me

in!  Enjoy.

Weekly Web Finds -- Dec. 18, 2008

Education & the Economy

Bad newsAfter-school cuts stir fears of kids home alone is a story in the Waco Tribune. 

“Directors of after-school programs around the nation fear the deepening recession will force

more children to spend afternoons home alone or on the street as cash-strapped governments

slash funding and donations shrink.”  The impact on school achievement could be severe.   Ed

Week ran a story this week called States eye solutions as budget ax hits schools

(Subscription may be required.)  “Funding for public schools continues to come under the ax in states

hit hard by the financial crisis, forcing lawmakers and education officials to look for alternative sources

of revenue to make up for some of the funds lost.”

Good news – (kind of, depending on where you live) Recruiters zero in on teachers in ailing

states, from the Seattle Times, looks at how teachers in states with economic difficulties

are being recruited away to states where the economy is not impacting education so

dramatically.  “One state's misfortune is an opportunity for others, like Nevada, which is

also struggling with its budget but relies heavily on recruiting out-of-state teachers to

fill its classrooms.”

Library Stuff

Librarians are constantly looking for new ways to entice people, particularly young people,

through the door.  Now, librarians from several upstate New York libraries have created Get

Graphic: The World in Words and Pictures.  Its purpose is “a community-wide two year project

designed to introduce teens, parents, librarians and teachers to the exciting and extremely

popular literary format of graphic novels.”  It explains to skeptical parents and teachers

why graphic novels are acceptable reads.  And it gives lists of graphic novel titles with

appropriate age ranges and descriptions. 

And to prove librarianship is still relevant in this era of Wikipedia, U.S. News & World

Report has again ranked the librarian as a “Best Career 2009.”  Cynics may laugh.  But

librarians are “high-tech information sleuths, helping patrons plumb the oceans of

information available in books and digital records, often starting with a clever Google

search but frequently going well beyond.”   

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Judgeby.com is kind of a silly site, part game, part guesswork.  It’s a series of book covers

and you have to guess how many stars each book has gotten just by looking at the cover.  Give

it a shot.  Thanks to Cindy in Research for suggesting the site.   [URLs: 

This Week’s Reports

The Pew/Internet & American Life Project has released The Future of the Internet III.  The

survey of analysts and Internet leaders made these predictions: “major tech advances as the

phone becomes a primary device for online access, voice-recognition improves, artificial and

virtual reality become more embedded in everyday life, and the architecture of the internet

itself improves.”  They could not agree on whether these changes would actually improve our

lives.

The Education Commission of the States has released 3 new policy briefs on transitioning to

high school.  Ensuring Successful Student Transitions from the Middle Grades to High School

looks at how critical the 9th grade is to high school success.  Strengthening Parents’

Ability to Provide the Guidance and Support that Matter Most in High School encourages

policymakers to adopt a set of policies to increase parental involvement.  And Improving the

Skills and Knowledge of the High School Teachers We Already Have examines strengthening

professional development and makes suggestions on how to accomplish it.

The NEA has just (and we mean just) issued their Ranking of the States 2008 and Estimates of

School Statistics 2009.  Enrollment, salaries, expenditure per student and other data are

presented.

Newsworthy

The Big Read is a page-turner is a heartening story from the Los Angeles Times.  The author

of the article discusses both the public and private sides of reading.

Kindergarten ain’t what it used to be.  That’s the conclusion of All work, no Play-Doh in new

kindergarten (Birmingham News).  “Today, Alabama's 56,205 kindergartners go to school all day

and are taught reading, writing, math, science and social studies. With increased standards

and accountability under the No Child Left Behind law, play must have a purpose, recess is

not required and nap time has gotten shorter and is disappearing from many schools.”  Another

editorial opportunity we will forego.

Florida’s North Port High School has gone high tech to help students read.  NPHS reading

students use iPod technology at library from the Charlotte Sun describes how “the use of iPod

Shuffles has become the technological way for students to not just jam to the latest hits

outside of school, but use one of the most popular MP3 devices to improve their reading

skills while in school.”

Dig It!

Dirt.  It’s everywhere.  Did you know it’s full of life?  The Smithsonian’s National Museum

of Natural History is currently running an exhibition called Dig It! The  Secrets of Soil.   

According to Smithsonian Magazine, “a single teaspoon of soil hosts more creatures than all

the humans on Earth.”  So here’s an opportunity to learn all about how soil breathes and

other exciting facts.   

Holiday Stuff

We end today with a few fun holiday sites.  These are Christmas specific.  But the Scholastic

Library staff wishes all our friends and readers Happy Holidays, whether you celebrate

Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, or you’re just looking forward to a long

weekend.  To make sure that every kid knows exactly where Santa Claus is, NORAD has posted

its NORAD Tracks Santa site.  On Christmas Eve, the tracking will go live and kids of all

ages can watch Santa’s progress around the world.   There are other activities for kids on

the site now.  We’ve seen Maxine before.  She’s sassy and brassy and very opinionated.  Here

she gives her own renditions of a couple of holiday songs.  Watch Jingle Bells sung in one note pieces.

And finally, enjoy this wonderful light show with music from Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Weekly Web Finds -- Dec. 11, 2008

Education & the Economy

Bad news -- Belt-tightening puts state chiefs on spot, an article from Ed Week, is one of

several reviewing the difficulties faced by the states during these troubled economic times.

Cutbacks are being felt not only at the school level but also within state education

departments.  And Ed Week also looked at specific state proposals to trim education budgets

in Budget woes could mean school cutbacks.   [Note: you can read up to 2 articles for free

each week on Education Week’s site.]  Stateline had two articles addressing the economic woes

generally, State budget gaps balloon to $97 billion, which lists many of the problems states

are facing and Slumping economy hits prosperous states, which looks at states thought to be

less impacted by the subprime mortgage crisis. 

The New America Foundation has posted a posting to its Ed Money Watch blog, Education and

the Economy: State Strategies.  This posting reviews the issues states are facing.  Other

postings are scheduled to update the rapidly changing situation.

Good news – Vermont is projecting a healthy education budget, according to Experts:

education fund stable despite budget woes (Rutland Herald).  “Although the state budget is

facing a deficit of $60 million due to lagging revenues and a weakening state economy

labeled by state officials as ‘grim,’ the Education Fund's multimillion-dollar hit isn't

worrying education finance experts.”

Tech Stuff

The most recent issue of the Journal of Online Education includes an interesting article

called The Time Factor: leveraging intelligent agents and directed narratives in online

learning environments.  It looks at the use of online instructional games, how they need to

be structured and how they impact teachers.  “These agents, which provide reteaching, drive

student activity in digital spaces, and provide feedback on student work within the game,

promise to allow teachers to spend increased time with the students who need the most help

while facilitating additional interactions that fit within the demanding classroom

schedule.”

Google, who else?, has announced that magazines, both old and now, are now searchable using

Google Book Search.  According to the Official Google Blog, “we're announcing an initiative

to help bring more magazine archives and current magazines online, partnering with

publishers to begin digitizing millions of articles from titles as diverse as New York

Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and Ebony.” 

And a new tool has been devised to help students determine the quality of online

information, according to Matrix helps students weigh Internet research in eSchool News

Online.  Two professors have devised a series of questions for students to ask themselves as

they look at information.  The article provides a link to the guidelines recommended.


This Week’s Reports

U.S. News & World Report has issued its yearly America’s Best High Schools for 2008. 

Schools are ranked by achievement as well as top charter and magnet schools, largest and

smallest enrollment.  There are also several articles on specific schools and issues.

TIMSS, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, results for 2007 have been

published by the NCES.  The site includes a link to the full 2007 report as well as to

sections.  It also provides links to earlier reports.  And there’s a link to test yourself

called Dare to Compare.  Test results indicated that American students made major gains in

math, Math gains reported for U.S. students (New York Times) while science scores seem to

have plateaued, Scores on science test causing concern in U.S. (Washington Post).  In both

areas, students in Asian countries dominated.

The International Reading Association has posted for free on its site chapter 1 of a new

book called Bright Beginning for Boys: Engaging Young Boys in Active Literacy.  Chapter 1,

Nurturing young male readers, examines why boys have reading issues and what can be done

about it.  The Library has ordered the book for our collection.

Newsworthy

With all the bad news out there, this story really warms your heart.  Applicants flock to

teacher corps for needy areas is a story in the Washington Post about the huge number of

applicants for 5,000 Teach for America spots.  “In part because of the dearth of other job

prospects in the sagging economy but mostly because the program has captured the imagination

of a generation of student leaders bent on doing good, some graduates of the nation's elite

universities are fighting for low-paying teaching positions the way they once sought jobs on

Wall Street.” 



Peace Corps Challenge

The Peace Corps has created the Peace Corps Challenge.  It’s an online game for kids to

learn about helping people and solving problems.  There’s a page for teachers that includes

lesson plans and other information.   

Mythic Creatures

The Field Museum in Chicago recently had an exhibition on dragons and unicorns and mermaids,

among others.  Mythic Creatures is the online companion.  There are explanations of

different types of creatures based on their location.  There are wonderful images.   The

exhibit is split up by water, land and air creatures as well as dragons, which seem to

populate multiple worlds.  It’s a lot of fun.  Check it out.


Gingerbread Houses

As we approach the holidays, we thought you’d enjoy these fun images of gingerbread houses

from Flickr.  Some of them are quite spectacular.  Enjoy.

Weekly Web Finds -- Dec. 4, 2008

Education & the Economy

Bad news – the new head of Miami-Dade’s school system, Alberto Carvalho, is calling on the

Federal government to “consider a bailout for the nation’s public schools.”  The Miami

Herald reported on his comments in Miami-Dade’s school chief Alberto Carvalho: schools

deserve bailout, too.   He said, “I cannot think of a more strategic investment than

safeguarding the quality of public education.”  Economists are not convinced.  And a school

district in Ohio is trying to get some of the bailout money according to eSchool News

Online, Suburban Ohio school district wants a bailout, too.  “Olmsted Falls Superintendent

Todd Hoadley said Tuesday that if automakers and big U.S. cities can ask for federal bailout

money, schools should be able to follow suit.”  The Des Moines Register is reporting that

some ambitious plans for education spending may be trimmed in Schools sweat over state cash.

“Gov. Chet Culver says he stands by the investments in education despite his order to cut

$40 million from state department budgets over the next seven months.”  But many legislators

aren’t optimistic.

Good news – the rest of the states may be reeling from the economic downturn, but Texas is

looking at a surplus, according to Texas should invest surplus in our future (San Antonio

Express-News).  One of the first bills proposed in the current legislative session is

expanded funding for pre-kindergarten.  Oregon’s governor, Ted Kulongoski, is looking for

budget cuts, but not in education spending.  Governor’s budget proposal gives, takes from

the Mail Tribune reviews the budget proposals.  And despite the economic woes, New preschool

program is a go according to the West Milford Messenger.  “In spite of the state budget

crunch, Gov. Jon Corzine is adamant about a mandate for full-day pre-school in every

district in the state.”

History Stuff

The National History Education Clearinghouse is a terrific site full of great information

and guidance for teachers of history and social studies.  There are images and lesson plans,

as well as professional development materials and best practice examples.  There’s also an

Issues and Research section that includes an annual report on the state of history teaching.

Google keeps doing cool things.  They’ve just introduced Ancient Rome in 3D as part of the

Google Earth project.  You will need to download Google Earth 4.3.  But then you’ll be able

to fly over the city, explore buildings and learn about the history of the city.  The site

offers a quick video tour before you start the download.

This Week’s Reports

The National Literacy Trust in the United Kingdom has released Literacy Changes Lives: the

Role of Literacy in Offending Behaviour.   It’s a brief look at the research done on the

relationship between the prison population and poor educational opportunities.

Another short report comes from the NCES’ Institute of Education Sciences.  Expectations and

Reports of Homework for Public School Students in the First, Third, and Fifth Grades examines “the

amount of time that students’ public school teachers expected them to spend on

reading/language arts and mathematics homework in first, third, and fifth grades; and

reports from parents of public school children of how often their children did homework at

home in the first, third, and fifth grades.”

Newsworthy

Teens are a constant bafflement to their parents.  New studies indicate that the teen brain

is in constant flux.  U.S. News & World Report reported on the newest research in How to

deploy the amazing power of the teen brain.  “Their unfinished brains appear to be uniquely

vulnerable to substance abuse and addiction. But they also are capable of feats of learning

and daring marvelous enough to make a grown-up weep with jealousy. How they exercise these

capabilities, it now appears, helps shape the brain wiring they'll have as adults.”

And the Washington Post carried a story about teens as well, although this one is less

heartening.  Survey finds growing deceit among teens actually may reinforce the findings in

the U.S. News article.  Over 29,000 students were surveyed and more than half admitted to

cheating in school and about a third admitted to stealing.

Then, there are these young people, Why some students prefer virtual schooling from eSchool

News Online.  These students seem focused and motivated.  “Working so independently

encourages the same type of time-management skills that college students need to be

successful,” according to one student.

Education Stuff

The BBC reported ‘Good results’ for reading scheme.  Every Child a Reader is a program in

its third year of testing.  And some of the results have been very good.  “On average pupils

boosted their reading age by nearly two years in four or five months.”

Plans advance to link NAEP to college, work readiness is a story from Education Week.  “In

theory, incorporating preparedness on NAEP would allow the public to look at 12th graders’

average reading or math scores, which are currently presented on a scale of 0 to 500, and

judge how well equipped they are to handle the demands of college and of certain

occupations.”

“The National Academy of Education has undertaken an initiative to connect policymakers in a

new administration and Congress with the best available evidence on selected education

policy issues. The project is designed to help policymakers better understand key education

issues and to strengthen their ability to formulate effective policies by providing them

with independent, research-based information.”  The NAEd Education Policy White Papers

Initiative covers 6 key areas of education policy including: reading and literacy, teacher

quality, and standards, assessments and accountability.

National Economic Overview

The Federal Reserve publishes the Beige Book eight times a year.  The most recent report

provides an overview of economic conditions in the 12 separate Federal Reserve districts,

looking at various indicators like tourism, retail, construction, banking, real estate and

others.  This can be a useful tool when looking at new business possibilities.  We mentioned

this source in our first year.  But thought we should include it again given the current

economic situation.   

Dancing Squirrels

As the leaves fall and winter approaches, squirrels are gathering food and taking some time

to do a little dance to a Michael Jackson tune.  Enjoy! 

Weekly Web Finds -- Nov. 13, 2008

Education & the Economy

We haven’t seen any good news, unfortunately.  Free Library of Philadelphia closing 11 of 54

branches from Library Journal discusses the impact the economic crisis is having on public

libraries.  Both Philadelphia and New York are making deep cuts in funding for these vital

services.

According to USA Today, Parents pull kids from day care as money tightens.  “Parents

nationwide are telling day care providers they must scale back or abandon their services.

Instead, they keep kids at home with grandparents or upend their work-life balance because

gas and food prices have become prohibitive and average child care costs outpace rent and

mortgage payments — even for those drawing salaries.”

Also from USA Today is School districts caught in a squeeze.  The article looks at the

results of a survey done by the American Association of School Administrators.  “School

superintendents nationwide say the struggling economy threatens to reverse progress they

have made in closing historic achievement gaps as schools face trimmed budgets now — and

possibly worse ones next fall.”

State budget chills send shivers through K-12 circles is from Education Week.  It reviews

the outlook for several states including New York, California and Pennsylvania.

Reference Stuff

The Encyclopedia of Educational Technology is a useful tool.  Designed by San Diego State

University, the encyclopedia provides entries on everything from Active Learning to Zoom. 

It’s searchable or browseable through the table of contents. 

Definr.com identifies itself as an “incredibly fast dictionary.”  And it is.  Start typing

in a word and suggested words will appear.  So if you’re not absolutely sure of a spelling,

this might help you identify the correct word.  It’s clever.  But it’s missing a few words. 

We noticed that antidisestablishmentarianism is not in Definr.  Such a common word, too!

Producing Math Teachers

In the current issue of Inside Higher Ed you’ll find an interesting article on a program by

some 80 institutions to develop math and science teachers.  New push on producing science

and math teachers describes their efforts.  “The institutions — from over 30 states — will

commit faculty and staff, supply data to the association and work with state agencies to

formulate specific targets for the number and kinds of teachers needed.”  To learn more

about the program, see the Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative site.   

This Week’s Reports

Child Trends has put out a brief called Assessing School Engagement: a Guide for

Out-of-School Time Program Practitioners.  It looks at the issue of children, especially

boys, being disengaged from school and how after-school programs can help change their

attitudes and improve their achievement.

Measuring Skills for the 21st Century is a report from Education Sector.  “Skills that

really matter for the 21st century – the ability to think creatively and to evaluate and

analyze information – can be measured accurately and in a common and comparable way.”  It

identifies the skills needed and suggests how they can be taught.  You can also read the

release issued by Education Sector.

A new report has been issued by Children Now, Educationally/Insufficient? An Analysis of the

Availability & Educational Quality of Children’s E/I Programming.  The report has two goals:

“to identify the nature and amount of E/I programming on commercial television and to

evaluate the educational quality of the most widely viewed shows.” 

Newsworthy

We saw this article in the Los Angeles Times and thought it summarized the ongoing

controversy over reading on the Internet and the future of the book well.  The Internet vs.

books: peaceful coexistence makes the case that, for now, at least, both formats are viable.

Our favorite quote from the article comes from author Diane Ackerman, “The Internet is a

volume in our library, a colorful, miscellaneous, and serendipitous one -- but not a

replacement for books, and certainly not an alternative to spending time in the world and

just paying attention to things." 

An addition to the classroom is a story from the Washington Post.  “Many elementary schools

are turning to math specialists or coaches to add expertise to a teaching workforce

dominated by generalists who, studies show, are vastly under-prepared in math.”  The

National Mathematics Advisory Panel suggested the use of math specialists because the task

of bringing teachers up to speed is a “problem of huge scale.”

Florida is forging ahead with its implementation of virtual schools, according to the

Orlando Sentinel.   In Florida, virtual school could make classrooms history reports on a

new law taking effect next fall that “requires every district in the state to set up an

online school for kindergarten through eighth-grade students.” 

Recycling Day!

November 15 is America Recycles Day.  Find local events in your state.  Or take the

Recycling 101 course online to learn the importance of recycling everything you can.  The

Conversionator helps you figure out the impact of your recycling efforts. 

Non-allergenic Dogs

We end today with a series of pictures from the Vancouver Sun of dogs for President-elect

Barack Obama to consider for his family.  The first 3 are of the Peruvian hairless dog

that’s been in the news.  Cute in an ugly sort of way.  Our favorite is the shepherd wearing

goggles.   

Weekly Web Finds - Sept. 18, 2008

We're exploring some interesting territory this week.  A few items on the elections; some interesting reports, including one on teens and videogaming, and our favorite topic, libraries.  Don't forget to check out our fun site, Sticky Notes.

  • Election 2008

This will probably be our last group of election-related sites as Nov. 4 is less than 2 months away.  Public Agenda has a Voter’s Survival Kit that looks at the candidates and the issues.  It offers “key facts, differing points of view, and some potential tradeoffs - because every plan has both pros and cons.”  

Presidential Debate History and Resources is a lengthy list of links to information about debates, including web sites and print materials.   Transcripts and some video are available for recent primary debates as well as general election debates going back to 1960.  Another good source is the Presidential Debates page on the American Presidency Project web site.  You will find complete transcripts of presidential and vice presidential (starting in 1976) debates going back to 1960.  Some years are missing, including 1964, 1968 and 1972 for both sites.

  • This Week’s Reports

The Education Department has released the Projections of Education Statistics to 2017.   For the Nation, the tables, figures, and text contain data on enrollment, teachers, graduates, and expenditures for the past 14 years and projections to the year 2017. For the 50 States and the District of Columbia, the tables, figures, and text contain data on projections of public elementary and secondary enrollment and public high school graduates to the year 2017.”

And while the Ed Department looks ahead, the Census Bureau looks back with School Enrollment in the United States: 2006.  It found that compared to 2000, there were more students in high school and college and fewer in nursery, kindergarten and elementary school.  It also found that “high school dropouts constituted 11 percent of the population aged 18 to 24.”  There’s also a discussion of the diversity of the school population.

Teens, Video Games, and Civics is a just released report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.  The survey of 12-17 year olds found that game playing “is universal, with almost all teens playing games and at least half playing games on a given day.  It is a social activity “with most teens playing games with others at least some of the time and can incorporate many aspects of civic and political life.”  

  • Library Stuff

We take every opportunity to promote libraries.  So we have some interesting articles for you to take a look at.  Why libraries are back in style is an article in the Wall Street Journal.  It should be free to read.  The library is now replacing the den in many home designs.  Libraries are especially appealing during anxious times because they project coziness and comfort.”   That’s why librarians are always so nice and docile.

School Library Journal ran an article, Three Spokane moms save their school libraries.  Lisa, Susan, and Denette teamed up to save school libraries around Washingtonbecause they believed the libraries and librarians were important to their children’s education.  It’s a great story of what people who care can do and the power of community activism.

School libraries try to do more with less is a less uplifting story, from eSchool News Online.  Even as the American Association of School Libraries issues new standards calling for student learning to include “learning an inquiry-based process for seeking knowledge, organizing knowledge so that it's useful, evaluating resources for their validity and accuracy, and understanding material presented in a wide variety of multimedia formats,” many schools face serious cutbacks in staffing and programs.

  • Sticky Notes

Who knew you could do all this cool stuff with sticky notes.  Enjoy!

Recent Posts

Categories

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.