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White House Looking to Make Science and Math Fun

The White House is continuing to promote science and math in education with some extra help, mainly coming from Sesame Street characters, former astronaut Sally Ride, video game programmers, and other technological organizations.

The program, called Educate to Innovate, is supposed to bring awareness the importance of math and science in schools. There’s more about the campaign in the New York Times article here.

Though there were people who felt the promotion that went on wasn’t showing the real issue, the event did catch the attention of big companies, including Discovery, which plans on airing a two-hour block of programming on their Science Channel that focuses on science and airs when children come home from school. Game programmers want to create video games that deal with math, which I think is a great idea. There used to be a mix of educational games along with other fun ones when I was younger, but I don’t really see it too much anymore. Most games have to do with promoting a new animated movie  of some sort or pretending to be in a rock band or be a model.

So while it doesn’t seem like much, it’s important to spread the word out there, even if it’s through big companies, because it catches people’s attention. The inclusion of games and having a block of programming for kids in the afternoon makes math and science not just a boring subject in school, but something fun. While I wish I had more math shows or cartoons that made it more fun for me, the science programs I watched in elementary school, like Bill Nye the Science Guy and the Magic School Bus,  always made the subject interesting to me.

Also, I like what Obama said at the White House during a science fair that was being held there:

Scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models, and here at the White House, we’re going to lead by example. We’re going to show young people how cool science can be.

I agree, there aren’t really a lot of scientists and engineers that kids readily admire and what the White House is doing is great, I just hope they keep with it and don’t lose sight of it and it ends up on the back burner again.

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Massachusetts Senate Passes Education Reform Bill

Today the  Senate in Massachusetts voted 28-11 for the Education Reform Bill that plans on boosting underperforming schools, as well as allowing more charter schools to develop. You can read more about it here.

Though it passed, it seems a lot of members aren’t too fond of the bill and were trying to push their other colleagues not to support the new bill, which includes requiring charter schools to recruit and retain students of low-income families, English language learners, and those at risk of dropping out.

I’d say if they’re making charter schools recruit these students, then they need to have the necessary programs for these other students so that it doesn’t mess up the school as a whole. Some schools that have taken in students from different financial and education areas have suffered because of the new batch of students and their reputation was knocked down because of this. I say this because this happened to my elementary school when they started accepting students that had a hard time learning or were in-between the cracks and were outside of the district. Many of the older and better teachers left, and so the school had almost all new faculty with teachers that were just starting out. Now I’m not saying all schools suffer a similar fate, but I do think if they plan on doing something like that, that they need to be prepared for it and make sure their faculty is up to the task.

Now, since Senate passed the bill, it’s up to the House to pass the bill, which some reporters are thinking they won’t pass in time, which will be around the new year in January in order to qualify for federal funds.

I’m curious to see what House will decide to do once the bill heads in their direction, from what it sounded like, members of House may be just as split on the idea as some of their colleagues in the Senate.

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Board of Education President in Chicago dies

I just found out a few minutes ago that the board of education president, Michael Scott apparently killed himself near the Chicago River Monday 

Michael Scott

 morning. As far as I know of, there wasn’t anything suspicious about him, as far as any sort of outward  problem. The one thing I did read about in a Bloomberg article was that he was being subpoenaed by a federal grand jury about having preferences over some students verses others for admission into elite public schools. Though the case hadn’t been proven, and Scott himself stated that he didn’t do it, some people were angry over him being president of the school board, but I doubt it was enough to make him that upset.

The article did mention though, that he was upset over Chicago mayor Richard Daley’s control over the city’s education establishment. Still, it’s a loss to the board of education and my condolences go out to his family.

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Education Pros and Cons

I know this is coming late, but I just ran into this article towards the end of the week myself. Anyway, my school has a weekly newspaper that it puts out called the Maroon Weekly and this week, they had a little article done by two separate writers over the pros and cons of a public education. One points out the benefits of the government having control of the education system, while the other article argues against the government’s involvement in education. You can view the Pros article here and the Cons of a public education here.

While I agree with the pro article that the government should take responsibility for the education system, I also agree with Tony Listi’s con argument that parents should have the right to choose what school their children go to.  Simply because many children don’t have access to schools that offer a more substantial education mostly because of location. However, what if a parent cannot make the trip out to the school, especially in this economy where money is tight and gas prices are starting to rise again. Or what if there isn’t a bus that goes to the other school? Some bus stops only extend to certain areas and past that the student has to find their own transportation to and from school. In the case of this, I’d say the government needs to step in and improve schools in all areas and not just certain ones.

The one argument that Listi makes is that children are taught to embrace lies, atheism, socialism, and sexual perversity. Now I don’t know about all schools in the U.S. but I don’t look at it as schools teaching children all of these negative things. I see it as teachers giving their students an objective overview of events so that they can choose whether they think something is right or wrong. I never felt pushed to embrace atheism or socialism, my own views were my own, and the same could be said with my other classmates and friends. Some of us had our own opinions that differed from our parents/guardians, and some of us didn’t drift far from what our parents taught us. It all depends on the individual and I think that’s how it should be.

At least toward the end of Listi’s argument, he does say that parents can have the right to take their children to a private institution, whether it’s affiliated with a church denomination or not, and that’s fine. Parents have the right to do whatever they think would benefit the child or make them happy. But when it comes down to public education, you can’t always have your cake and eat it too. You can’t include everything in education because somewhere along the way someone will get offended by something. The system would have to constantly change their curriculum just to make it politically correct, and yet have it be balanced, which is where the system currently is now. Until there is a new solution for public schools and the curriculum being taught, it will more than likely stay the way that it is.

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American Education Week

I don’t think I ever remember celebrating Education week while in public school, but I did run across an article on the Grand Forks Herald Site mentioning it.

The celebration isn’t just limited to Grand Forks, North Dakota, however, as all schools across the nation are getting into the act as well. Starting November 15th and ending the 21st, schools will hold such events as open houses,  parents’ day, honoring the support professionals (such as cafeteria workers and bus drivers) that keep the school running, and other various events. Sounds like it will be a fun week for the students and those that work in the school. I also really like the fact that they have a day for the support workers, seeing as they work just as hard (if not more so) than the educators, administrative staff and others. I especially like how they have a day dedicated to those that substitute teach classes. There’s more information on the variety of events taking place next week, along with posters and schedules that parents and others interested can print out on National Education Association’s website.

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New Haven’s reforms are more lackluster then praiseworthy

Today the Washington Post reported on Arne Duncan and President Obama praising New Haven, Connecticut for their new ratified teacher contract for the education system. Even though it’s been touted as innovative, in reality it’s nothing  new and doesn’t really improve the system.

Looking at the list of improvements, I’d have to agree that there is not anything new here. Some of them are not worth  praising either, such as the one that prevents good teachers from receiving a higher pay then bad teachers. Teachers do not make much money as it is, and it is hard to come by a good teacher, especially in primary and secondary education, where students are starting to learn important skills that play a role in the future. It also makes no commitments to close bad schools, which is strange. I would think the system would be willing to close down schools that were not doing well or at the very least, figure out what was wrong and try to fix it. It just makes me wonder, if these are the improvements to the schools, what were the provisions before the new rules took place?

Besides that, it feels as if Obama and Duncan are just patting the head of some of these states instead of really praising states that are looking to make a change outside of the provisions that are already common.

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Obama’s education speech & Wisconsin upping their chances for stimulus money

I meant to post this over the weekend, but got caught up in things. Either way, I thought I’d post Obama’s speech that he gave this week in Madison, Wisconsin at the James C. Wright Middle School.

Speaking of Wisconsin, the governor, Jim Doyle recently passed a list of reform bills in order to be able to compete with other states for stimulus money. The whole story can be viewed here.

There were a couple of bills that were signed that caught my attention. One being the one where teachers can be evaluated for their performance, but not be disciplined or dismissed for a poor performance. Now I know teachers are not totally to blame for a student’s performance; some students don’t take the time to study when they get home, or if they don’t understand the material, the parents have a hard time helping them with it. I also understand teachers are harder to come by, but there are teachers that have the knowledge of the material their teaching, but don’t necessarily know how to teach it to kids.  I know I had teachers, especially in math and english that knew the material really well, but weren’t great at teaching it.

Another one I’m not too sure about is the bill that requires that Wisconsin universities and the Technical School System have access to student data from back in preschool. If it’s referring to what I think it is, it sounds strange. They’re going to judge whether you’ll be accepted to a university or tech school based on how you did from back to preschool?

Require the University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Technical College System and the Department of Public Instruction to establish a system to track student data from preschool programs through postsecondary education.

Talk about added pressure to kids!

As far as them passing the bills to be eligible to compete with other states, I understand states are in need of money, but I hope Doyle is doing this not just to get stimulus money but to benefit the school system as a whole. He does plan on holding a special session with legislature to pass two other bills so they have more of a chance to win money, so we’ll see if they approve of the bills or not.

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