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    The Opening Bell

    Prepared exclusively for
    members of

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    Today's News for the National Education Association from Newspapers, TV, Radio and the Journals

    October 10, 2008

    Leading the News
    In the Classroom

    On the Job
    School Finance

    Also in the News

    Leading the News U.S. failing to develop math skills equally for boys, girls, report indicates.

    The New York Times (10/10, A15, Rimer) reports, "The United States is failing to develop the math skills of both girls and boys, especially among those who could excel at the highest levels," according to a study "published Friday in Notices of the American Mathematical Society." The report also indicates that "girls who do succeed in [math] are almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries where mathematics is more highly valued." Lead author Janet E. Mertz, an oncology professor at the University of Wisconsin, and colleagues, examined "data from the most difficult math competitions for young people, including the USA and International Mathematical Olympiads for high school students, and the Putnam Mathematical Competition for college undergraduates" for the study. Among other findings, the researchers noted that all members of the U.S. team at the International Olympiad, "considered to be the world's toughest math competition for high school students," were boys from 1974 to 1998.

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    In the Classroom Schools in inner suburbs of Washington, D.C. see increase in enrollment.

    The Washington Post (10/10, B1, Chandler, de Vise) reports on the front page of its Metro section, "Schools in Washington's inner suburbs have put more seats in classrooms this fall as economic and demographic shifts bring a windfall of new students." In Virginia's Fairfax County, "officials drew a connection between declining home sales and the decreasing number of students who leave the county," while officials in Maryland's Montgomery County "cited an unusually large influx of students from private schools and said fewer students are moving out of the county." Officials from Arlington County and Alexandria "suggested that fewer families are trading in townhouses or condominiums for single-family homes in outer suburbs." Fairfax saw its school system expand "more than two percent, reaching about 169,000 students in a preliminary count of fall enrollment. Montgomery's enrollment climbed more than one percent, to 139,400, the first significant increase in six years for the region's second-largest school system. In Alexandria, enrollment grew six percent to about 11,200; in Arlington, it grew 4.5 percent, to about 19,500." And, "Prince George's County schools held comparatively steady, with about 129,500 students after several years of notable decline."

    Wisconsin district grades kindergarten through second-graders on character.

    The AP (10/9) reports, "Besides math, science and other basics, young students in" Wisconsin's Kaukauna Public Schools "are being graded on their character." Teachers of kindergarten through second grade students "are looking at multiple character features such as whether students use good manners, talk at appropriate times, work independently and are trustworthy," according to Wisconsin's Post-Crescent (10/9, Espino). Assistant Superintendent Deb Hunt said that "Kaukauna is following a growing number of school districts to put focus on the pillars of character." She added, "I want the students to feel good about themselves...[and] have trust in their peers so that they are comfortable learning." A second-grade teacher, Jessica Ullmer, added that the new system, which is intended "to resolve or prevent bullying incidents by reviewing character traits," also "gives parents a detailed look at what is expected" of their children. Although the "system for now is being used at three grade levels...the intent is to have it in place from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade by next year."

    Expert lists benefits, drawbacks of having teachers administer standardized tests to their students.

    In an opinion piece for Missouri's Columbia Daily Tribune (10/9), Joycelin Brown Hulett, an educational consultant, responded to the question, "Is it a conflict of interest for classroom teachers to administer standardized tests to their own students?" Hulett pointed out that it may be beneficial for "someone other than the teacher to give the test" because then, "no one would accuse teachers of giving answers; teachers could not be accused of lengthening the time the students are tested; [and] teachers could attend in-service training while someone else was doing the testing." Hulett also noted that if teachers gave the test, "young children would likely test better...because they would be more comfortable," and "the school district would not have to pay other people to administer the tests." But, she concluded, "no matter who gives the test, way too much emphasis is placed on them. A portfolio for each child will tell us so much more about the child's progress."

    Pennsylvania district implements team leader concept in elementary, high schools.

    Pennsylvania's Tribune-Review (10/10, Basinger) reports, "Southmoreland School District administration is hoping to implement a 'team leader concept' at the elementary and high school levels in order to improve" Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores. "The team leader concept is implemented through a Professional Learning Committee (PLC) format," according to Dr. Tim Scott, the district's curriculum coordinator, and a primary school principal. "Team leaders meet with their teams nearly every day and discuss with other teachers how they're teaching and what seems to be working. They encourage teachers who aren't involved in the math or language arts, which are a part of the PSSA testing, to implement some aspect from the subjects into their teaching," the Tribune-Review explains. Dr. Scott said that "team meetings are being held at the elementary school and high school to begin to implement the PLC format."

Last Modified on October 15, 2008