U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is expected to sit down with some of the country's most powerful CEOs today at the Business Roundtable's quarterly meeting. On the agenda: the new Common Core education standards. Adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, the standards are expected to be in place by next school year. But with the Common Core under attack by some conservatives, businesses are launching a public relations campaign in defense of the academic guidelines.
This month is labeled the first-ever "Attendance Awareness Month" by the advocacy group Attendance Works, and there is plenty to which we ought to be paying attention. A 2008 study by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) estimated that one out of every 10 children nationally is chronically absent (meaning he misses at least 10 percent of scheduled days) in his first two years of school. On the state and local level, things can be even grimmer: almost 20 percent of students in Hawaii are chronically absent.
The D.C. Public Charter School Board has approved a revised evaluation tool for preschools that is one of the first efforts in the country to tie the success of early learning programs to the academic performance of their students. The original proposal prompted an outcry from parents who were concerned that the emphasis on academic testing could lead to a narrowing of what children learn in preschool.
Field trips are becoming a less and less common part of the school year in the United States. A study from the University of Arkansas documents the decline the American field trip... Furthermore, the field trips that are happening are shifting away from "enrichment" trips, like visits to museums and historical sites, to "reward" trips, such as trips to movie theaters, sporting events, and amusement parks. But the study also finds that cultural field trips offer students, and in particular, disadvantaged students, an important opportunity to add measurable depth to their education.
Thousands of years ago, the ancient Greeks recited epic poems aloud. Actors have breathed life into Shakespeare's soliloquies since the 16th century. Now, a pair of poet-educators are working to bring the rich art of spoken-word poetry to students from kindergarten to graduate school. "The powerful and important thing about spoken word is, it doesn't matter what the words look like on paper," said Sarah Kay, a poet and the founder of a nonprofit organization that brings spoken-word poetry to schools. "It's about what it sounds like when you say it out loud."
The National Institute for Literacy research indicates that early childhood development and learning is a pivotal time in a child's life to build the proper foundation for good reading and writing skills. To provide educators with practical methods to help improve literacy skills, Nathan Clemens, assistant professor of school psychology and principal research investigator at Texas A&M University, is working with a team of professors in the College of Education and Human Development to monitor assessments for kindergarten students at risk for reading disabilities.
An all-digital school means no more books, no more heavy backpacks full of textbooks, and no more lockers to store those books. It also means saying goodbye to a lot high school accoutrements like highlighters, pens, and notebooks. And it's already becoming a reality at an all-boys Catholic school in New York.
What's missing in the current debate over economic inequality is enough serious discussion about investing in effective early childhood development from birth to age 5. This is not a big government boondoggle policy that would require a huge redistribution of wealth. Acting on it would, however, require us to rethink long-held notions of how we develop productive people and promote shared prosperity.