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Volcanoes and Huesos: An Intelligent Museum in El Paso On a recent weekday afternoon, a purple bus filled with excited three- and four-year-olds pulls up outside the new Head Start IntelliZeum on El Paso’s sprawling North Side. With the help of teachers and parents, the youngsters clamber down the steps and are ushered in groups of eight inside the sparkling, 2754-square-foot facility to an interactive exhibit known as the Dinosaur Time Zone.
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Making the Case for Heroes What made Abraham Lincoln rise from poverty and obscurity to become a wise, cunning, and compassionate president? How did he carry on during the Civil War when his son died and his generals failed? After southerners offered $40,000 for Harriet Tubman's capture, why did she repeatedly return to Maryland to rescue slaves she did not know? Why did the villagers of Le Chambon risk their lives to hide Jews from the Germans? What made Sir Thomas More defy his friend Henry VIII and die for the Catholic Church?
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The Happy Meeting of Multiple Intelligences and the Arts Contrary to what you may have heard, there is no part of the mind/brain that is dedicated specifically to the arts. Indeed, I don't believe that our species evolved over thousands of years to be able to be able to participate in the arts, except for the obvious fact that most of us are able to carry a tune or draw a house or dance in time, more or less. However, we are the kind of species that can learn to carry on those activities that are valued by our culture. And so, when we find ourselves in an environment where certain activities are held in high regards, and where we are given the opportunity to engage in those activities, most of us will turn out to be pretty good.
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Facts, Not Fads in Title I Reform It requires hard work to foster and keep good schools in poor communities, and that work has never been so important. With the trend toward resegregation and with the virtual abolishment of affirmative action, Title I remains one of the few means to narrow the achievement gap between affluent and disadvantaged children.
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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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