New School: Twitter Style

August 10, 2010

Name of School: Alta Vista

Created By: Abdur Chowdhury, scientist at Twitter

For: Chowdhury’s daughter, who likes science

School’s Twitter Account: twitter.com/altavistaschool

Focus: Math, science and art

Location: San Francisco

Size: 2 classrooms, K and 1st grade, of 10-12 students

Opening Date: September 7, 2010

Price Tag: $20,000 a year

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A-levels or IB?

August 4, 2010

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Even in public schools, students around the world have to decide between educational systems. For instance, state institutions in the UK (and the US) are now offering the International Baccalaureate (IB); in fact, over 63% of the IB schools in the UK are state funded schools. Well, which one is better? At School Choice International, we believe each system has its benefits and it really depends on the particular student.

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Listen to a student and experts discuss the pros and cons, as well as the type of pupil best suited to each program.

~ Woman’s Hour on BBC looks at this important issue ~

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Here are some of the topics:

A-Levels

  • Standard: Most students in the UK take the A-Levels
  • Specialized Study: A-level students narrow their academic focus quite early
  • UK Focused: Like most state programs, the A-Levels tends to be focused on British topics, for instance British literature and economics
  • Curriculum 2000: The current A-levels have changed to 4 modules, so it is not the same program the parents took

International Baccalaureate

  • A Liberal Arts Approach: IB students must take a broad range of subjects, allowing students to keep options open
  • World Perspective: Students must study world literature, foreign languages, global economics
  • Strong Work Ethic: In order complete this challenging program, students have to develop strong study skills
  • Privileged and Academic Elite: The IB program is no longer only for the financially privileged or the academically elite

Summer: A Time for Fun Learning

July 19, 2010

Summer is here… and the school year is around the corner!

Parents with young children are thinking about ways to entertain their little bundles of energy. Readers of this blog already know the importance of summer learning; kids who are not engaged during the summer fall behind academically. We also know that, while technology plays an important part in education today, unsupervised use of the computer at home negatively affects test scores at school.

The kids have to be engaged, but not on the computer (unless it’s supervised and timed), and we all know, the TV is out! What do parents do???

Here are some helpful suggestions  from Kid Source Online

Make a HISTORY TIME LINE — Record history at home. Stretch a roll of shelf paper along the floor. Use a ruler to make a line about three feet long. (Use a separate sheet for each child.) Ask your children to fill in the important dates in their own lives, starting with their birth. Those familiar with U.S. history can fill in major dates since the founding of our country. Display these finished time lines in a special place for all to see.

Create PICTURE STORIES — Develop imagination and creativity. Have your children select four or five pictures from magazines and newspapers, and put them together to tell a story. Ask your children to number the pictures — 1,2,3, etc. First, ask them to tell the story with the pictures in numerical order. For variety, have your children rearrange the pictures and tell a new story using this different arrangement.

More ideas from Suite 101

  • Plant a garden or start a compost – Learn about planning, measuring, botany and about the environment.
  • Bake and cook together – Learn about fractions and nutrition.
  • Build something out of wood (table, butterfly house or sculpture) – Teaches planning, designing, measuring and building.
  • Child planned trip – Make a trip or outing educational by having the child plan the itinerary, budget and route.
  • Make a scrapbook or journal of an outing (whether it is a day or week) – Teaches observation and record keeping in different mediums.
  • Educational websites – Limit computer time, and encourage sites that engage the mind.

Enjoy your summer!


New York City ~ Testing 3 Year Olds?

June 30, 2010

What

City education officials are searching for a new gifted admissions test for kindergarteners.

Why

  • To correct for low minority representation in gifted programs and
  • To address concerns that professional test preparation services allow wealthier kids to outperform other students.

Also

Test could work for children as young as 3 years old, in order to speed up admissions as well as simplify admission process for parents.

School Choice International Asks

How does testing affect a 3 year old?

From New York Times article, “New Gifted Testing in New York May Begin at Age 3”

Interested in the debate? Read more in The New York Times.


The School of One: Education of the Future

June 11, 2010

From The New York Times

The Problem

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American model of education is “fundamentally the same as it was a 100 years ago,” according to Joel I. Klein, New York’s chancellor of public schools.

High student-teacher ratio of about 25:1 makes effective teaching difficult.

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The Solution

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Supported by Cisco Systems, Google and Michael Dell, the New York City Department of Education is running a pilot program called School of One focuses on middle school math (due to the variety of computer programs available). The program allows teachers to effectively measure mastery of content, skill and achievement and individualize learning plans for each student.

The program features:

Playlists

In the morning every student receives an individualized schedule (or “playlist”) with lessons for the day. Overhead monitors display these playlists much like flight schedules in airports.

“Multiple Instructional Modalities”

Students benefit from several teaching styles including:

  • Teacher led instruction (traditional instruction with one teacher to several students),
  • One on one tutoring (with an adult),
  • Independent learning (which may take place on a computer or in small groups), and
  • Virtual tutors.

Daily Quiz

Students take a quiz at the end of the day, allowing a computer program to measure “mastery” and whether the child will move onto a new subject the next day.

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The Future

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Students who participated in a trial run last year scored 42% to 70% higher on math tests.

While the program is still in pilot mode, if it continues to be successful in educating students effectively, the model can be easily expanded as “all the analytics can be done centrally with cloud computing,” says Joel Rose, who runs the experiment


Think College Now

June 4, 2010

From Forbes Magazine, July 7, 2010

Have you hear about Think College Now?

Maybe you should… Here are the facts!

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Think College Now is a public elementary school of 300 students in Oakland, California. The goal is to have all the students attend college.

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THE BEST PART – Thinking College

  • Hallways, notebooks and t-shirts bear emblems of various colleges
  • Classes divided into groups named after Ivy League schools
  • Signs that say “Am I making college-bound choices today?”

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Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

  • 95% qualify for subsidized lunches
  • 60% speak English as a second language
  • In the city of Oakland, only 68% of students graduate from high school

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The Proof

  • In 2009, 66% of the students speak English at grade level, versus 10% in 2003.
  • In 2009, 81% of the students are math proficient at grade level, versus 23% in 2003.

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The Academics

  • Clear standards and ways to meet them
  • Frequent testing, transparent results and quick intervention
  • Active parents’ organization to support children

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Boycotting Standardized Tests

May 13, 2010

Recently about 1,900 schools in England

boycotted the Sats.

What are the Sats?

They are NOT the American college admission exams called SATS.

The Sats are national assessments taken by 7, 11 and 14 year olds. Basically they test reading, writing and math in 4 exams that last less than an hour each.

The exams are sent to external markers who grade the papers. The results also form School League Tables, which allow schools to be compared.

What is the controversy?

The Pros

Parents like the Sats because it allows them to compare schools and as well as keep tabs on their child’s performance.

The government likes the “factual statistics,” which allows some transparency on schools’ effectiveness.

The Cons

Teachers and staff feel they have to “teach to the test,” rather than creating the best curriculum for their child.

Pupils face immense pressure to perform well on test day.

There are also concerns about the fairness of the marking.

How does School Choice International weigh in?

It is hard to ignore the multitude of studies on the (extreme!) inefficacy of standardized tests in predicting future academic performance. Standardized tests have also long been criticized for gender, culture and class bias.

“Longstanding gaps in scores between males and females of all races show that females on average score 35-40 points lower than males on the SAT I, but receive better high school and college grades.” www.fairtest.org

Regardless, at School Choice International, we believe strongly in best fit when we place a child in a school. Some students might thrive in a highly competitive environment, while others may find it stifling and have high levels of intrinsic motivation. Tests like the Sats tend to create excitement around schools that score well, but not excellent schools that cultivate well-rounded students.

How do YOU weigh in?

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Read the full BBC article.