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Tinkering with Title I The debate continues about how to reauthorize Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the federal program that provides $8 billion to K-12 schools with high proportions of economically disadvantaged students. The discussion has examined how well the 1994 amendments have been implemented and how they should be refined.
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Teaching Teachers to Work with Families: A new study by the Harvard Family Research Project recommends substantial changes in how teachers are trained and certified At the heart of any successful parent-involvement program are teachers who are not only committed to building family and school relationships, but who also have the skills and knowledge to do it well. To succeed, a teacher must be able to make good use of families' expertise and resources, at the same time reaching out to families to support them. All the while, the teacher must also meet the day-to-day challenges of the classroom.
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Can All the Children Really Be Above Average? George Larson, principal of Lake Wobegon High School, winced as he paused outside the band room on his daily morning stroll around the building. The wind ensemble was rehearsing. Something was very wrong, he knew, and it wasn't just the intonation of the saxophone section. Every term, more than 90 percent of the music grades were A or B. All the children in Lake Wobegon might be above average, but George knew in his gut that this wind ensemble was a lot closer to mediocrity than to excellence. "Are these kids really being challenged to do their best?" he asked himself.
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How to Change Our Schools in Just One Day For several years now I've been working on the idea of using portfolios—collections of students' work documenting their progress and development over time—as an alternative way of assessing children's learning in school. I meet regularly with groups of high school teachers to show them how it works. Quite often I get this reaction: "Very nice—but it could never happen in my school. The kids and their parents are too worried about getting into college, and they know that the colleges don't look at portfolios. If I used portfolios instead of tests, I'd get clobbered."
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Letting Talent Flow A psychologist studying Head Start classrooms in the late 1960s noticed that the use of rewards by teachers seemed to have a perplexing, contradictory effect. In some classrooms, children were given treats to encourage them to play with learning games. The strategy worked. But when the treats were no longer available, the kids lost interest in the games. In other classrooms where no rewards were used, the children showed no such loss of interest in the very same games.
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The Case Against Rewards and Praise: A Conversation with Alfie Kohn Alfie Kohn's newest book, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Starts, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes, details the destructive effects of rewards and questions many of the most common assumptions of teachers, parents, and employers about motivation. Kohn has also written No Contest: The Case Against Competition and The Brighter Side of Human Nature: Altruism and Empathy in Everyday Life. He writes frequently on human behavior and education and gives lectures and workshops for teachers. He was interviewed for the Harvard Education Letter by Sara-Ellen Amster.
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Forty Years after Brown, Cities and Suburbs Face a Rising Tide of Racial Isolation Forty years after a unanimous Supreme Court declared segregated schools "inherently unequal" 93 percent of the public school students in Hartford, Connecticut, are either African-American or Latino, and two-thirds are poor. Just four or five miles outside the city—six minutes down the highway—tare small suburban school districts where nearly all the students are non-Hispanic whites and few, if any, are poor.
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