An annotated list of current events & issues related to the middle level
Be sure to check back each week for a new article of interest.
This week's featured article is:
8th-graders build science, leadership skills teaching younger students
Mark Twain Junior High School students work with younger kids on science, and one day those fifth- and sixth-graders may be helping the little guys, through a program that pairs lab lessons with leadership.
Junior scientists in the AVID college-bound program at Mark Twain got a refresher on water science Friday before walking a half-mile down Emerald Avenue in west Modesto to Franklin Elementary School. There they donned lab gear and leaned over fifth-graders studying water. Next month they alternate, tackling a lesson with Franklin sixth-graders.
The Modesto Bee 11/9/14
Exponential Outbreaks: The Mathematics of Epidemics
What mathematical principles describe the spread of disease? How can we mathematically model an epidemic? In this lesson, students explore the fundamental mathematical concepts underlying the spread of contagious diseases. Using a simple exponential model, students compare and contrast the effects of different transmission rates on a population and develop an understanding of the nature and characteristics of exponential growth. Students can then compare their projections with actual Ebola data from West Africa, to create context for analyzing the strengths and limitations of this simplified model.
NY Times Learning Blog 11/5/14
What makes a good Common Core math question?
Both the math and English Common Core standards have their share of critics but it's math that gets special condemnation, as the new problem worksheets land on kitchen tables across the country. Parents are taking to the Internet to air their frustrations by posting puzzling problems from the new standards. And even writers of the Common Core – a set of standards in math and English adopted by over 40 states – have agreed some of the questions were a bit bizarre and say teachers should also send home traditional problems.
Hechinger Report 10/14/14
Students Break the System of Bullying in English Class
In November 2012, a crying student burst into my classroom during lunch. Through sniffles, she talked about how her group of girlfriends suddenly excommunicated her, and were going to great lengths to make it known during their lunch period. It was a story I knew too well, both from watching students experience it year after year, and from my own experiences in middle school. I promised myself when I became a teacher that I would do more to stop bullying, but I had not figured out how.
Teachers Better at Using Tech than Digital Native Students
It's time to give up the notion that "digital natives" are more tech savvy than their teachers. According to a recent study of middle school science students and teachers, the teachers tended to have greater technology use.
According to lead investigator Shiang-Kwei Wang, an associate professor in instructional technology at the New York Institute of Technology, the purpose of the study was simply to investigate technology experiences inside and outside of school for both groups and to uncover barriers preventing them from using technology in school. The primary questions were threefold: Do school-age students fit the digital native profile? Do school-age students surpass their teachers in terms of technology use? What roles do teachers play in shaping students' technology experiences inside the classroom?
The Journal 10/22/14
A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned
I have made a terrible mistake.
I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!
Grant Wiggins blog 10/10/14
Why A Miami Middle School Is Teaching Debate To Conquer Common Core
Bridget McKinney, principal at Miami's Allapattah Middle School, says her students struggle to pass the state's reading and writing tests.
So when McKinney first read the Common Core math and language arts standards used in Florida schools this year, what jumped out was the emphasis on answering questions and making arguments using examples and evidence from what students are reading.
NPR StateImpact Project 10/6/14
Westport schools earn praise, high marks in MCAS and SATs
Despite issues with the teacher contract negotiations, there have been many successes lately within the school district, many of which were reported at last week's School Committee meeting.
The highlights included higher Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System and SAT scores, as well as a positive New England League of Middle Schools' report.
Five Fun Ways to Spark Self-Discovery in Youth
In 3rd grade, I had my first experience with what research calls “sparks.” Ms. Colleen gave me the assignment of writing a story AND creating chalk illustrations. I was thrilled. The act of creating and then seeing both my artwork and my story on the walls of the hallway was phenomenal. My “spark” had been ignited.
How to Teach Beyond Ferguson
Middle-grades teacher Jose Vilson gives advice in this blog post on discussing and teaching controversial topics, such as the recent events in Ferguson, Mo. He shares three tips for facilitating such a discussion -- such as laying ground rules before it begins -- and offers links to blog posts and a Twitter discussion that relay what other educators are doing.
7 Questions to Ask Parents at the Beginning of the Year
As a beginning teacher I knew that it was important to connect with parents and to build a positive relationship with them, but at times I wasn't sure how to do this. Within the first week of school I'd call all my student's parents or guardians, introduce myself, and share a little about what they could expect for their kids in my class that year.
"If We Were Going to Have a Safe, Happy and Fun Classroom..."
I've been working with my students to craft a set of classroom promises designed to make sure that our classroom is a safe, happy and fun place this year.
The experience was inspired by a process described in Pernille Ripp's newest book, Passionate Learners. Pernille's argument is that a healthy classroom depends on giving students genuine input in developing the expectations that govern a classroom. Students will only invest in their learning spaces, she believes, once they realize that they truly have ownership over what happens once they walk through the classroom door.
Center for Teaching Quality 8/5/14
Des Moines drops most middle-school advanced classes
Advanced English and science classes will no longer be offered in Des Moines middle schools this year, a move that has some parents concerned that top performers won't be challenged.
Instead, students will have the option to complete honors-level assignments in all subjects within general education classrooms.
The shift coincides with the rollout of a new grading system that requires students to master specific concepts. Those who do so then move on to higher-level work, educators have said.
Des Moines Register 7/30/14
Study: Sexual Harassment Frequent Among Middle School Students
At least 1 in 4 middle school students say they've experienced unwanted verbal or physical sexual harassment on school grounds, often in the hallway or even in the classroom, according to new research published Sunday.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign surveyed nearly 1,400 students from four Midwestern middle schools on whether they had experienced unwanted sexual harassment. Overall, 27 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys reported they had experienced verbal or physical sexual harassment or violence.
US News 4/6/14
To Boost Attendance, Milwaukee Schools Revive Art, Music And Gym
In the stuffy, little gymnasium at Richard Kluge Elementary in Milwaukee, 16 boys and girls are stretching, jumping and marching to music. Two years ago, the school had no gym, art or music classes due to budget cuts. But now, Kluge students get a so-called "special" class three days a week. Milwaukee Public Schools is one of several school systems across the country — including Los Angeles, San Diego and Nashville, Tenn. — that are re-investing in subjects like art and physical education. The Milwaukee school district is hiring new specialty teachers with the hope of attracting more families and boosting academic achievement.
In Kentucky, Moving Beyond Dependence On Tests
The white, split-rail fences of horse farms line the two-lane road that takes you southwest from Lexington. It's a beautiful half-hour drive to Danville, Ky.
Settled in 1783, the town is proud of its history. In Constitution Square, across Main Street from Burke's Bakery, sits a tiny log cabin that was once the first post office west of the Allegheny Mountains.
A few minutes away, Bate Middle School is a more mundane '70s-era, red-brick building. But what's happening inside is anything but mundane. I've driven the 37 miles from Lexington to see one of the most closely watched efforts in the country to change the way schools assess student learning. Principal Amy Swann and the district's superintendent, Carmen Coleman, have completely overhauled their school's educational philosophy, moving away from standardized tests toward an approach called performance-based assessment.
Teachers Hit The Common Core Wall
This time next year, millions of schoolkids in the U.S. will sit down for their first Common Core test. In some places, the stakes will be high — for kids, their teachers and their communities. The goal of the Core benchmarks in reading and math is to better prepare students for college, career and the global economy. But the challenges are huge.
The 3 Questions To Ask In Any Classroom
It's a frequent complaint in education journalism: Reporters should spend less time at school board meetings and get into a classroom to find out what's really going on.
For reporters, though, that's a challenge and a risk, because lots of good journalists don't know what to look for in a busy classroom. How do you know if what you're seeing is "good" or not? After all, reporters aren't professional educators. And they're often under deadline.
Vermont Reads, 'Wonder': The Middle School Brain
The first year of middle school is the subject of the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and it's this year's choice for the Vermont Reads community literature program. The book follows Auggie Pullman, a 10 year old born with genetic conditions that have left him looking very different from his peers.
'A' For Effort: The Philosophy Of Grading
Most of us remember that dreaded moment when the teacher hands back your test and you see the red mark across the top. If you get a C, does that mean you're an average student? Or does it mean you're just barely getting by? The same grade can mean different things in different classes, and teachers have different philosophies about what grades mean and how they should be assigned. What do you think the purpose of a grade is?
Vermont School Districts Consider Consolidation
Tucked into valleys and isolated by mountains and rural expanse, many of Vermont's 273 school districts serve just a smattering of children. It is an old system, borne of the state's agrarian history and knotty geography, and many Vermonters like it that way. Among those who do are many residents here in Rochester, a town of close to 1,100 in the center of the state. Its district has one school for about 150 pupils in kindergarten through 12th grade, some of whom come from nearby towns with even smaller districts. But some in Vermont see little future in the tiny districts, and a move is on for consolidation. It will not be easy.
N.Y. Times 5/4/14
Vision, Reality Collide in Common-Core Tests
In states across the country, field-testing of the exams that will measure students' mastery of the Common Core State Standards is well underway. Much attention is focusing on the questions that this "testing of the test" will inevitably raise about bandwidth, access for special populations, and standard-setting.
The Dangers Of Defaulting On Student Loans
One of the most daunting parts of that maze is deciding whether to take on massive student loans to pay for college. Americans reportedly owe $1 trillion in student loans. But looking down the road, what happens when somebody can't pay or won't pay? To find out, I spoke earlier with Sandy Baum. She's a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. And I started by asking her how big this problem really is.
Obama Announces Grants to Schools to Integrate Work Experiences
President Obama traveled to a high school in the Washington suburbs on Monday to announce the winners of $107 million in grants intended to update curriculums to better integrate work experiences and real-world learning opportunities.
“We want to invest in your future,” Mr. Obama told students at Bladensburg High School in Maryland, one of the winners. “Your potential for success is so high as long as you stay focused,” he added. “As long as you’re clear about your goals, you’re going to succeed.”
NY Times 4/7/14
Technology is no substitute for a well-trained teacher
While technology may be useful to monitor students with special needs, it cannot replace the effectiveness of a skilled educator in the classroom.
With the reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act in 2004 (IDEIA 2004), Congress introduced the Response to Intervention and Instruction (RtII) framework as a way to address the diversity of students and learning issues in U.S. schools.
eSchool News 3/27/14
Q&A: A Crash Course On Common Core
Confused about the Common Core State Standards? Join the club. That's not to say the new benchmarks in reading and math are good or bad, working smoothly or kicking up sparks as the wheels come off. It is simply an acknowledgement that, when the vast majority of U.S. states adopt a single set of educational standards all at roughly the same time, a little confusion is inevitable.
Below is a handy FAQ about Common Core. We'll continue answering your questions in the coming months. You can post them in the comments section, or on Twitter and Facebook using #commonq.
The truth about ADHD: Over-diagnosis linked to cause championed by Michelle Rhee
There has been a lot of public agonizing lately about the steep rise in diagnoses of ADHD over the last two decades. There is growing, and justifiable, worry that a lot of kids are being put on stimulant medications who don't need them.
What there hasn't been is a plausible theory about what's driving this explosion of diagnoses — 40 percent over the last decade and more than 50 percent over 25 years. The CDC now estimates that 12 percent of school age kids, and as many as 20 percent of teenage boys have been diagnosed with ADHD.
Common Core Curriculum Now Has Critics on the Left
The Common Core has been applauded by education leaders and promoted by the Obama administration as a way to replace a hodgepodge of state standards with one set of rigorous learning goals. Though 45 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to them since 2010, resistance came quickly, mostly from right-leaning states, where some leaders and political action groups have protested what they see as a federal takeover of local classrooms.
NY Times 2/16/14
Most Teens Aren't Active Enough, And It's Not Always Their Fault
Sure, you think, my kid's on a football team. That takes care of his exercise needs, right? Probably not. "There are these bursts of activity," says , a professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego. "But if you think about it, one hour of playing football out on the field means that the vast majority of that time is spent standing around waiting for the next play." And that's a problem, federal health officials say, because children need at least every day.
Are E-Books Killing Reading For Fun?
…Americans are reading differently than they used to - more e-books, more audiobooks and more young people choosing not to read. Joining me now to talk about America's reading habits are Kathryn Zickuhr. She's a research associate at the Pew Research Center's Internet Project. And Elissa Malespina, school librarian at South Orange Middle School in New Jersey. Welcome to both of you..
In Age of School Shootings, Lockdown Is the New Fire Drill
For students across the country, lockdowns have become a fixture of the school day, the duck-and-cover drills for a generation growing up in the shadow of Columbine High School in Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Kindergartners learn to hide quietly behind bookshelves. Teachers warn high school students that the glow of their cellphones could make them targets. And parents get regular text messages from school officials alerting them to lockdowns.
NY Times 1/16/14
Critics Say Schools' Common Core Standards Rollout Is Rushed
A growing number of educators and parents say they're worried about the tests being developed and tied to new, more rigorous standards in reading and math. The test results will be used to gauge students' progress and also evaluate teachers, rate schools and rank states.
School Testing Systems Should Be Examined In 2014
Our series on the future continues with a discussion about education. Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep talks to Linda Darling-Hammond, a former adviser to President Obama, who is dismayed to see his administration build on the high-stakes testing requirements introduced by the Bush administration.