Saturday, May 12, 2007

What should students know before they enter college?

This question is up to debate...what should students know before they enter college? College professors and school educators have different thoughts about this issue. College professors believe that the state content standards focus on the wrong things while the school educators indicate that the standards help them and the students on what needs to be covered. Every state except for Iowa has a set of state standards in the various core subjects. Why doesn't Iowa have a set of state standards?? I could not find an answer to this question.

High school teachers are working very, very hard at following and teaching their state standards. However college faculty feel it was more important for students to learn a fewer number of fundamental but essential skills. In terms of science, high school teachers consistently rated factual knowledge more important than process and inquiry skills, such as understanding a hypothesis. This is where the high school teacher and college faculty can agree on. College faculty generally ranked evaluating the similarities and differences, or strengths and weaknesses, of scientific viewpoints important. Whereas, high school teachers were more likely to cite understanding the physics principles involved in collisions.

What is the correct way to teach physics??

Interactive Engagement or Traditional style?? "Traditional” teacher-centered methods such as lecture and questioning remain the default for many instructors. Also implies structural barriers, such as classroom organization and limited instructional time can make the use of more constructivist methodologies difficult. Whereas, interactive engagement style implies the use of strategies that seek to let students work together on content-related activities, such as through “think-pair-share”. This is very tough to decide which is better. Sometimes it is necessary to give a lecture on the new information but that can only go so far in terms of the students' engagement. The interactive engagement style can help students acquire information from each other, not just the teacher. Sometimes, a student would more about a topic than another student.

Harry Potter and love for reading

Several years ago when the Harry Potter came out, a good number of parents wanted to be banned due to its spiritual nature. I would tell the parent to be happy that their child found something interesting to read. It is very difficult to find a book that would get a reluctant reader engaged. Harry Potter books are not small books and they have a large amount of words that the student is learning while they read the book.

This coming July, the last of the series will be published. There is nothing after this book for Harry Potter fans to look forward to. Harry's effect on many young people – and their love of reading – may be magical enough to last a lifetime. More than half of Harry Potter readers said they hadn't read books for fun before the series, and 65 percent said they have done better in school since reading the books. The study also found that the reading habits of boys – who consistently have lower literacy test scores than girls – changed the most as a result of reading the books.

Text Messaging

This is one of the minor distractions that can bug is very difficult to catch a student text messaging in the classroom. It is amazing on how many text messages teenagers do on a daily basis, a whooping 62 messages a day. Don't their thumbs ever get tired and sore? Also, this much activity can break the buttons on the phone. It can also give the user carpal tunnel syndrome -- the painful swelling and inflammation of the fingers and wrists associated with excessive typing that increasingly affects excessive users of mobile phones. When I was a kid, I usually develop this pain after playing video games. But now, teenagers have it on a daily even hourly basis. Ouch!!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Comics in public schools?

Can comics be used appropriately in public schools? According to an educator in Maryland, the answer is yes. Since I was a student, one can always see comic books somewhere near the student's desk. Now, it is potential that using comic books can meet the needs of struggling readers in elementary and secondary schools. However, there are several things that need to be taken into consideration. One, is that the comic books were not too violent. Two, they did not contain inappropriate language. So, it is important for the teacher to scan the various comic and graphic novels in order to determine which ones can be used in a classroom setting. Also, it is important to note that using comic books should not replace the traditional forms of reading instruction. Students can have opportunities to design their own comic books from what they read rather than doing traditional book reports. In this way, the students can be creative in their classes.

New graduation requirements in Oregon

Starting this year, seniors in Oregon high schools are required to submit a career-related project in order to graduate. This project can be a wide variety of forms of media such as doing job shadows, a community project and a research paper that must pass inspection by a judging panel of community members. The purpose of this requirement is to the students to demonstrate what they have learned in their high school classes. Also, they must complete at least one career-related learning experience, from attending a job fair to interning in a workplace. And they must do something called an extended application, the senior project. This is suppose to allow the students to learn more about careers that interested them. I feel that is a beneficial way for students to learn more about themselves before they leave high school. For the most part, the majority of high school seniors have no clue on what they want to major in college. This graduation requirement is a good step to allow them investigate careers that meet their passions.

Bush defends NCLB

Recently, George W. Bush defended the No Child Left Behind Act, which was signed in 2001. He said the purpose of the act is to help schools rather than fail them. Schools tend to give more attention to kids who often struggle the most, which are the ones that are near the passing mark. However, the students that struggle are sometimes overlooked such as the TAG and lowest achieving students. This is truly unfortunate. I believe that students, teachers and schools need to be held accountable but not punished for their progress in school subjects. I feel that he needs to make the expectations alittle more realistic than getting every kid to at 100% by 2014. I know that every kid can learn but not at the same rate. If a student showed good progress in understanding subject material but did not perform very well on the standardized tests, does that mean that he/she is failure? I do not think so because there should be more an emphasis on how students are doing in the classroom than just the yearly standardized exams. It is not fair to compare two years of eighth graders because they are not the same students. Sometimes one year, the students perform very well on that state and the next year, they might not fare very well.

Science & NCLB in elementary/middle schools

In some states, science and social studies were taught separately but now, they must share their time in order to accommodate more time for mathematics and reading. For instance, in some middle schools that used to offer a full year of science and social studies give a semester of each. This means that the teacher and students do not get much time to be fully engaged with either subject. They only get a slice of the surface in either subject. Also, the teacher would have to be quick in terms of teaching a full year of either science or social studies curriculum. But this could also mean that science instruction would increase from 45 minutes to 60 minutes on a daily basis. Also, if the subject is not taught at an early age, the students would not pick it as an elective in middle and high schools. Elementary teachers feel that they do not have enough time to teach science in a meaningful way.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Crash course in AP

Another segment of the road of AP courses. In the last segment, the College Board, who administers annual AP courses required for potential AP teachers to send their syllabus for evaluation in order to determine if it meets college requirements. Now, the College Board offered teachers necessary workshops on how to develop AP courses and curriculum. However, there were mixed feelings after the workshops. Some of the indicated that they enjoyed the workshops and hoped that the lessons would give their students a good, all-purpose tool in education. But they were also worried that they could be setting up students to fail by moving so fast. In an AP course, the teacher and students have to move through the curriculum at a much rapid pace than what is demonstrated in a regular classroom because the annual exams are given during the month of May.

AP courses, tough and easily compared across jurisdictions, are often used as a measure of how much a school is challenging its students. The teachers in the class backed their expansion, saying it would allow talented students to take tough courses no matter where in the county they went to school. Some students take advantage of AP classes in order to determine if they are ready for college. I am one of those people. I took AP Biology during my senior year because I wanted a challenge plus I ran out of required science classes that were given at my local high school. I did well in the class even though it was challenging. However, I did not perform very well on the annual AP exam so I did not get any course credit for biology. But, I felt that I knew what I should expect from a college class in biology. The very first midterm, I received a low B, which in my mind is a job well done.

California & NCLB act

California oppose the deadline of NCLB which is 2014. It is important to meet the needs of each student that walks into the doors of a school building. However, California wants to do it without a definite time line. There must be another way of determining if educators are meeting the standards and needs of students than requiring mandated state examinations. The teachers want schools to be judged by criteria other than tests alone, such as graduation rates and attendance. And they want schools that improve to be seen as successful under the law; currently, even an improving school can be deemed a failure if it doesn't improve fast enough. Right now, in California, 24.4 percent of students are supposed to score at grade level in English this year, and 26.5 percent have to do as well in math. Next year, the percentages climb to more than 35 percent. As a result, the fate of the 2014 deadline remains unclear.

Washington and NCLB

Recently, the state of Washington has decided to delay requiring science and math for exit exams from high schools. They delayed the decision for 5 years in order to study the effects of exit exams and/or end-of-course examinations for high school students before they required it. Also, the governor removed part of the bill that would have set up regional appeals boards for students who fail the WASL and sections that exempted some English-language learners from taking the exams. Is this indicating that students cannot retake exams that they have previously failed? Also, it is not fair that English language learners cannot be exempt from taking some of the sections of the exams. The governor also indicated that high failure rates show that the system, not the students, is the problem. This is unfortunate for meeting the demands of NCLB Act.