Education

  • Next Bunch of Obama Education Reforms to Offer More Carrots

    When the Obama administration first proposed having states duke it out for a share of a $4 billion education-reform fund, critics expected the whole enterprise to either be largely ignored or dissolve into political infighting. But instead, the Race to the Top competition has proved so successful in motivating states to accelerate their education-reform efforts that the administration has new plans to offer such competitions on an annual basis. President Obama will also announce tonight that the Department of Education will be offering a new competition to push states to create more and better preschool programs. During a briefing Tuesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the country doesn’t “need any more studies” to prove that high-quality preschool education can significantly close the achievement gap between rich and poor. Instead, he said, the country just needs to offer such programs to more kids. The president “wants to dramatically increase access and give kids a...
  • Why Bush’s Abstinence-Only Policies Are (Probably) Not to Blame for the Teen-Pregnancy Increase

    The first increase in teen pregnancy in more than a decade has, unsurprisingly, led many to place blame on Bush’s heavy funding of abstinence-only education. The Guttmacher Institute report that identified the teen-pregnancy increase suggests that it has to do with "the growth of abstinence-only sex education programs at the expense of comprehensive programs." Katie Couric made a similar link on last night’s CBS News, and, over at Feminste, one of the most-read feminist blogs, they're putting it even more bluntly: ...
  • How Obama Will Keep Pushing Education

    President Obama’s aggressive push for education reform has been one of his few domestic success stories, so it’s not surprising that he’s decided to build on that with a 6.2 percent increase in federal education spending next year. During his State of the Union speech tonight, Obama will specify that the new money will be targeted to expand college access, adult education, K–12 reform, and early learning, administration officials said. Part of the money will be used to encourage states to work together to develop higher national standards, which in turn will be used to encourage states and local school districts to develop more ambitious expectations and curricula for students and more meaningful tests. The money is also expected to help revamp former president George W. Bush’s hallmark education program, No Child Left Behind, which has come under considerable criticism since its introduction because of its emphasis on testing and its unfunded mandates. Obama is expected to maintain...
  • The Real Issue Behind the Rhee Flap: Why Can't Schools Fire Bad Teachers?

    Michelle Rhee, the tough-talking D.C. schools chancellor, is used to taking her lumps from the press, the teachers' unions, and city politicians as she tries to overhaul one of the nation's worst public-school systems. But this week she's been under siege after a controversial quote about teachers molesting students made it into print. Rhee is fighting back, arguing the quote was taken out of context, but the whole episode highlights a bigger problem in districts all over the country: why can't a school system fire teachers who abuse kids or don't bother showing up for work? In D.C., as in many other cities with "progressive" employee discipline procedures, school officials can suspend such teachers but can't terminate them.      The latest uproar began with the publication of a short "update" item in the Feb. 1 issue of Fast Company, in which Rhee seemed to say that the 266 teachers laid off last fall during the system's budget...
  • Class Origins Predict French Integration Success

    With financial hard times whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment across Europe, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has bowed to the angry wind by launching a national debate on what it means to be French. The touchstone of this discussion remains the widespread rioting of 2005, which seemed to prove that France is a land of increasingly marginalized and restive migrants. Into the center of this fray comes a new book, which shows that integration à la française works better than most French imagine.In The Destiny of Immigrants' Children, authors Claudine Attias-Donfut and François-Charles Wolff offer a landmark survey of 6,000 migrants and 19,000 of their offspring. It is the first time that a study on immigration in France focuses on migrants from all continents. The authors' deliberate intent is to counter the common fiction of French political debates, which tend to define "les immigrés" as African and Arab newcomers, and to use immigration as a pretext to talk about ethnicity, an...
  • College Presidents’ Bow to Bad Publicity: Pay Hikes Slow as Tuitions Continue to Soar

    Public-university presidents have been getting a lot of bad press recently: endowments are dwindling, state support is shrinking and tuitions, which have been rising faster than inflation for years, are jumping even more to close the gap. College and university presidents, who enjoy generous six-figure salaries and ample expenses and benefits, are being targeted for abuse by student protesters as a result. ...
  • Meacham: Why Liberal Arts Matter

    At noon last Wednesday in Sewanee, Tenn., in a 19th-century Gothic hall dominated by a sandstone fireplace and decorated with portraits of somber bishops, the University of the South—my alma mater—elected a new leader, John M. McCardell Jr., the former president of Middlebury College. (We refer to our president as vice chancellor, in the English tradition. If the fates had ever brought Anthony Trollope and Tennessee Williams together to collaborate, Sewanee might have been the result.) Those of you who share an affinity for small institutions know the power of sentiment at such moments—how the old rooftops remind us of when we were young, and all of that. Arguing the interests of Dartmouth before the Supreme Court, Daniel Webster captured this feeling well: "It is, sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it."I love Sewanee, an Episcopal university tucked away on 13,000 rural acres of the Cumberland Plateau. It is a place where students and faculty wear...
  • Obama's Smart Sex Education Funding

    Although health care has dominated the policy sphere as of late, I wanted to call attention to the sex-education funding in the 2010 Appropriations Bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies. The 146-page bill is, to be fair, not a Twilight-caliber page turner, but it does tackle sex education, a hugely contentious issue during the Bush administration, when $1.8 billion was appropriated for abstinence-only education.Here’s the Obama approach to the issue:$100,000,000 shall be for making contracts and competitive grants to public and private entities to fund medically accurate and age-appropriate programs that reduce teen pregnancy; and for the federal costs associated with administering and evaluating such contracts and grants, of which not less than $75,000,000 shall be for replicating programs that have been proven through rigorous evaluation to delay sexual activity, increase contraceptive use (without increasing sexual...
  • Can You Never Tell a Child She’s Smart?

    Ultimately, we want kids to believe they can get good at skills and talents if they practice and try hard. We want them to be persistent in the face of early difficulty. The work by psychologist Carol Dweck and others suggests that this adaptive mindset is dramatically a function of the praise kids hear. If you’ve heard this research, you know the new rules: praise the process, not the person. Avoiding suggesting that success is due to innate qualities. Instead, steer the child’s attention to strategies they can do again to repeat their success.A question I often get is “Does this mean I can never tell my kid she’s smart?” We’re not perfect, we’re enthusiastic, and the old “you’re so smart!” just flies off the tongue. Where's the line? Is there a margin for error here?In everyday life, kids hear a wide mix of praise types from parents, teachers, and other children. Even a kid who gets praised correctly by his parents (“you studied really hard, so you did well on the test”) will...
  • This is Your Brain on a Test

      This is a picture of a Quick-Cap, which measures electrical activity on the surface of the scalp. While it looks like something out of a futuristic movie about thought control, it’s actually quite comfortable and unobtrusive. While it’s not nearly as precise as a fMRI, electroencephalography (EEG) is much easier to use and drastically cheaper; the cap does a decent job of registering which regions of the brain are firing moment to moment. Carol Dweck and Jennifer Mangels had Columbia undergraduates wear the cap while taking a computerized trivia test. The students worked through over 200 questions, covering topics from geography, religion, world and US history, math and science, literature, and art history. These questions were chosen because they’d ring a bell of familiarity – students felt like they should know the answer, but often weren’t quite able to recall it. Example: In what country is Kathmandu? The computer adjusted the level of difficulty just slightly, so that most...
  • Is the Brain Like a Muscle, Really?

    Back in 2007, Ashley and I reported on the science of praise for New York magazine, highlighting in particular the body of work by Dr. Carol Dweck. Dweck had done studies for over a decade – and we covered them all – including a brand new semester-long intervention that had been conducted with Lisa Blackwell at Life Sciences Secondary School in East Harlem. Life Sciences is a health-science magnet school with high aspirations but 700 students whose main attributes are being predominantly minority and low achieving. The scholars split the kids into two groups for an eight-session workshop. The control group was taught study skills, and the others got study skills and a special module on how intelligence is not innate. These students took turns reading aloud an essay on how the brain grows new neurons when challenged. They saw slides of the brain and acted out skits. After the module was concluded, Blackwell tracked her students’ grades to see if it had any effect.It didn’t take long....
  • Should States Think Twice About Forcing All Eighth Graders Into Algebra?

    Twenty years ago, most middle-school kids spent most of their day in tracked classes. Even if they had bland names like English A, B, or C, every kid knew if they were in the smart or the dumb class, and research indicated that the kids most hurt by tracking were the kids at the bottom. ...
  • Do Your Kids Know How to Fight?

    My kids get stressed out from social conflict. Each has a distinctly different style of coping. Our son’s a retreater. “We’re not friends anymore,” my son says about one of his best friends, whenever his feelings get hurt. Even with me, when he’s upset, he runs from the house and down the block for awhile.Our daughter’s a threatener. When she’s mad or embarrassed, she threatens. She’s not looking for a solution; she’s hoping we’ll back down if she makes her threat big enough.One of the most important set of skills kids need as they mature is the ability to work out conflict without destroying relationships. When arguments happen, some kids simply want to win – they’ll attempt to dominate. Other kids are quick to cave, doing anything to make their friend happy just to save the relationship. Ideally, kids will learn eventually to neither dominate nor cave; they’ll learn to stand up for themselves and yet not put the relationship at risk. An amazing long-term study by Dr. Joe Allen...
  • Barbara Bush: Go See 'Precious'

    Recently George and I hosted a special sneak preview of Precious in our hometown, Houston. The audience of 200 included young people and old, teachers and corporate executives, parents and grandparents, and folks of just about every ethnic and economic background. I planned to say a few words when the movie was over—but I was speechless. (My husband would tell you that is highly unusual.) ...
  • Bloomberg Announces New Round of Aggressive School Reforms

    Education reformers are buzzing today about New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s ambitious new education goals for New York City schools that will not only up the ante for all states vying for a piece of the federal $4.35 billion Race to the Top school-reform fund, but is likely to spur sharp resistance from teachers' unions. While participating in a panel discussion about the future of education reform sponsored by the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress, Bloomberg announced that he and his school Chancellor Joel Klein are aiming to push through a platform of new reform proposals that include:Overhauling teacher evaluation systems to include student performance data.Boosting salaries for high-performing teachers in hard-to-staff specialties (math, science, special education) in low-income schools. Ignoring seniority (and prioritizing merit) when making layoff decisions.Making it easier to get low-performing teachers out of the classroom and off the payroll.Raising...
  • How Not to Helicopter

    I’ve never bought macrobiotic cupcakes or hypoallergenic socks. Nor have I hired a tutor for pencil-holding deficiency, or put covers on the stove knobs, or used a leash on a toddler to be safe in a busy airport. At the grocery store, my kids are often in other aisles, but they’ve never felt lost. When they were babies, we weren’t scared to leave them with babysitters. Their preschool didn’t teach Mandarin, nor even worry about teaching them to read. Nor have I ever questioned a teacher about one of my children’s grades. ...
  • Is Homeland Security Gun Shy About Confronting Far Right?

    The Obama administration didn't hesitate recently to pick a fight with Fox News, but its Department of Homeland Security now appears to have backpedaled on a report expressing concern about what its analysts earlier this year described as "right-wing extremists." Back in April, Homeland Security's intelligence analysis division produced a nine-page "assessment" describing how the nation's economic problems and the ascent of the first African-American president "could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists" and might even lead to violence between such groups and the government. Although the paper was stamped "for official use only" and bits of it were labeled "law enforcement sensitive." the document quickly made its way onto the Internet. Its contents provoked howls of rage from conservative activists (some of which was reflected in reports from ... Fox News). The report's critics...
  • Senate Bill Restores Abstinence-Only Funding

    While the Senate toned down the House's language on abortion restrictions, it may have ratcheted things up with another controversial reproductive-health issue: abstinence-only education. Sec. 2954 of the Senate health-reform bill, released Wednesday evening, restores funding for abstinence education. As of this summer, abstinence-only education seemed en route to becoming a thing of the past. As I wrote for Newsweek this past month: ...
  • At What Age Do You No Longer Have to Check your Children’s Homework?

    Every Tuesday, my 3rd grader has a spelling test for twenty new vocabulary words. Driving him to school, I usually check in – “do you need any review for your test today?” There’s time on the drive to have him spell them out, if necessary. The relevant question is, can I trust his answer? In NurtureShock, we wrote: “Kids who are doing well in school know it; when they write down their answer, they know whether or not their answer is correct. They have a subtle sense, a recognition of whether they’ve gotten in right. Children who are struggling are genuinely unsure; they might get the right answer, but lack such awareness.”While that’s broadly true, let’s get into this in a little more detail. This field is considered the science of metacognition. It’s important because on a day to day basis, kids can be vastly more efficient in their studying if they focus on what they need to learn, and don’t waste time repeatedly practicing things they already know. The better they are at this...
  • What If Colleges Had Lower Standards for Boys to Achieve Gender Balance?

    Earlier this week, NPR’s Claudio Sanchez reported that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is taking a year to investigate college admissions, to find out if admissions departments are discriminating in favor of boys to achieve gender balance. This investigation will start with a subpoena for admissions records from a dozen (unnamed) public and private universities. They’re unlikely to find any overt discriminatory policies; the question is, will they be able to find a pattern that is itself evidence of discrimination against female applicants. It’s quite clear that in the current educational system, girls are outpacing boys when it comes to higher education. Boys are now only 46% of the total college enrollment, and it gets worse the higher the level of attainment – female students now earn 60% of the bachelor’s degrees. (Interestingly, this gender split is not there yet for Hispanics, where the boys in college still outnumber the girls. The imbalance is worst among Blacks, and it...
  • A Cure for ADHD?

    One out of four cases of ADHD eliminated. It almost sounds too good to be true. Nevertheless, a report in the preeminent journal Pediatrics suggests it's possible.What needs to happen for this to occur? Some new miracle drug or radical kind of psychotherapy?Nope. All it could take is treatment of children's snoring.ADHD is defined by a list of symptoms, so if a kid has those symptoms, then he likely has the disorder. But what causes those symptoms may vary from child to child. And sleep disorders could be one of those causes.University of Michigan professor Ronald M. Chervin is one of the world's leaders in investigating sleep's role in ADHD. According to Dr. Chervin, unlike adults who suffer from sleep problems, sleep-disordered children are hyperactive. The version of this we're all familiar with is the crabby toddler who skipped his nap. When it gets more serious, as in the case of the kids Chervin sees in his lab, they are "bouncing off the walls....

Pages