From tech’s impact on teaching and snow days to our more-than-ever traumatized children…

  1. Some Wake County, NC families have been trying to get their school district to drop its use of the Mathematics Vision Project curriculum, now in its third year. The most vocal among them, parent Blain Dillard, is now being sued by MVP for “libel, slander, and torturous interference with business relations,” because of his online criticism of the program, what it called a “crusade against MVP.”

    Truth be told, all along parents have said the lessons are confusing and poorly structured and that their kids aren’t receiving enough direct instruction but instead were encouraged to rely on classmates for help. Oh, and their grades have been sliding.

    Education researcher Tom Loveless says that if the company wins, it “would certainly cast a shadow on the idea that parents have a right to participate in their own children’s education, to criticize schools for buying particular textbooks, to voice their concerns about instruction and curriculum.”

  2. It appears that in some states, school snow days may be a thing of the past. For example, Pennsylvania’s Governor Wolf has instituted Flexible Instruction Days using “nontraditional methods to provide at-home instruction” so that education is not interrupted. It allows districts to apply to use up to 5 such flexible instruction days per year. That’s a whole week of some sort of online assignments replacing 5 full days in classrooms.
  3. The International Literacy Association has called for “systematic and explicit” phonics instruction in all early reading instruction, saying, “English is an alphabetic language. We have 26 letters. These letters, in various combination, represent the 44 sounds in our language. Teaching students the basic letter-sound combinations gives them access to sounding out approximately 84% of the words in English print.” And that begs the question as to why we ever stopped.
  4. Finland, which always comes out at or near the top on the international assessment PISA differs from America in that rankings and standardized test scores are not priorities. Instead of accountability and performance-based pay, Finland relies on collaboration, trust, and collegiality in and between schools.

    It also focuses on whole-child development and well-being, and includes the arts, music, drama, and physical education as mainstays in the curriculum—not scores! Plus, teachers are highly regarded professionals, and school leaders must have advanced degrees, a strong working knowledge, and continuous on-the-job training—unlike the U.S.

  5. Writes Katrina Schwartz, “Ask almost any teacher about their daily frustration in the classroom, and it won’t be long until you hear about students and their phones. Not only do teachers worry that their students aren’t learning because they’re distracted, but many also complain that constantly policing phone use damages their relationships with students. The issue has gotten to the point where some schools are banning phones during the school day, forcing students to lock them up in little pouches every morning and unlocking them when the day is over..”

    Afterward, one student said that a number of students noticed a number of benefits, such as being more engaged both in class and socially. Said assistant principal Adam Gelb who visited the school where the ban has been in effect for three years: “It was a different sound on campus; it sounded alive. There were students interacting with one another. There were students playing cards, engaged in rap battles, dance battles.”

    And said San Mateo High School Spanish teacher Arienne Adamcikova, “It was immediately beneficial. I no longer had to be this warden going around saying you need to turn that in either to my desk or the office.

    But it’s not without controversy, with many saying kids should have the freedom to choose if they want their phone. Others say they feel anxious when “unattached” from their phones and worried that they’re missing out on conversations, and so on… And, of course, some kids have quickly found ways around the bans with “dummy” phones that are set aside…

  1. Lawsuits are pending in California, New York, and Arizona arguing that schools have “a responsibility to consider and mitigate the effects of trauma on learning,” writes Education Week’s Sarah D. Sparks. She adds: “The outcomes of these lawsuits could have ramifications for schools nationwide as evidence grows on the negative effects that traumatic events have on children’s learning and well-being.”

    Moreover, “Under Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act, students are entitled to accommodations for a disability that ‘impairs a major life function.’ Likewise, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires schools to plan supports and monitor progress of students whose disabilities impede their learning.”

With my thanks, Carol