For years, students at White Center Heights Elementary logged some of the lowest test scores in King County. Then teachers tried something new, and the numbers soared by double-digits after just one year. So what happened, and could it be replicated elsewhere?
There are endless schemes for improving education, from testing to vouchers to charter schools to standards and back to testing again. There's one simple step, though, that isn't on the list of de rigeur reforms that would decrease education costs and increase the relevance and breadth of the curriculum. That step is letting copyrights lapse.
Early learners in Bensalem schools are growing as students alongside adventurers like Oswald, Alf and Fritz. The common thread among these and other characters is the ability to help students in kindergarten- through second-grades transform words in a catchy song -- and later on a page -- to reading comprehension, spelling, vocabulary, writing and more. "It's a balanced literary program," Benjamin Rush Elementary School Principal William Gretzula said of Super Kids, a new district curriculum addition among the six elementary schools.
If you are a parent of a school-age child, you may have heard of the "Common Core," an ambitious set of learning standards adopted by 45 states, including Illinois. The standards, created in 2010 and drawing intense attention now as teachers across the nation try them out in reading and math, have become a lightning rod, prompting critics on both the left and the right to demand that states dump them. Debating how to bring these learning guidelines alive in classrooms across America makes sense.
A growing number of school districts across America are trying to weave tablet computers, like the iPad, into the classroom fabric, especially as a tool to help implement the new for math and reading. One of California's poorest school districts, the Coachella Valley Unified southeast of Los Angeles, is currently rolling out iPads to every student, pre-kindergarten through high school. It's an ambitious effort that administrators and parents hope will transform how kids learn, boost achievement and narrow the digital divide with wealthier districts.
Charlotte Deutsch, who will be 2 years old next month, has a look of pure delight as she swipes the screen of her mother's old iPhone, and finds a picture of herself. "Baby Chacha!" she crows, swiping again to encounter another treasure. "Dada!" On the new iPhone -- the one her mother actually uses -- her big sister, Izzy, 4, is utterly intent on "Dora's Ballet Adventure," her tiny thumb tapping away at the stars and arrows. The iPhones, loaded with 20 children's apps and some 1,200 photographs, are among the girls' favorite playthings.
Actors complain a lot about being typecast. Someone always plays the scheming villain ... or the girl next door. But imagine a career that featured roles as the most famous blind space explorer and one of the country's biggest advocates for reading. That's the story of LeVar Burton. He played Geordi La Forge on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and hosted the 1980s public television show "Reading Rainbow" to encourage kids to read. His television show is now a mobile app.
With nearly 100,000 apps in the education category of the iTunes app store, and television still a huge part of children's daily lives, the questions about how technology affects learning are more pertinent than ever. At the New America Foundation last week, the Early Education Initiative sought answers to these questions at a first-of-its-kind roundtable discussion with dozens of media and early childhood researchers from across the country.