The Obama Administration is implementing a new proposal for education reform, the RESPECT (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching) Project. The program is an effort to help schools “keep good teachers and reward the best ones,” which President Obama spoke about in his State of the Union Address. It proposes a $5 billion competitive grant to encourage states to revitalize their regulations in hiring and rewarding teachers.
Much like the Race to the Top program, states will draft their own plan for reforming education and compete for federal funding to implement these plans. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated, “Our goal is to work with teachers in rebuilding their profession and to elevate the teacher voice in federal, state and local education policy.” The proposal will be officially announced on Wednesday, February 22.
As educators across the country begin to recognize the importance of technology in education, East Mooresville Intermediate School is emerging as the model for successfully introducing technology into the classroom. Twenty miles north of Charlotte, Mooresville has taken the nation by surprise with its innovative approach to education. For three years, Mooresville has issued laptops to 4,400 students across the five schools throughout the district. Through an arrangement with Apple, the district spends $1 million per year to lease MacBook Airs ($215 per computer) and $100,000 on software.
The investment has already proven to be worth it. Mooresville's graduation rate has risen to 91 percent, up from 80 percent in 2008, and 88 percent of students are performing to satisfactory standards on standardized tests (it was 73 percent in 2008). Dropouts and truancy rates are down, and of 115 North Carolina School districts, Mooresville ranks third in test scores and second in graduation rate. Karen Cator, Director of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education, notes that, "Other districts are doing things, but what we see in Mooresville is the whole package: using the budget, innovating, using data, involvement with the community and leadership. There are lessons to be learned.”
At age 14, Moshe Kai Cavalin is about to graduate from UCLA with a Bachelor's in Mathematics. Cavalin, who started college at age 8 at East Los Angeles Community College, holds two associate's degrees, and plans on pursuing graduate studies. While it might amaze most to meet such a gifted young person, Cavalin remains very humble about his achievements. "People need to know you don't really need to be a genius. You just have to work hard and you can accomplish anything."
Cavalin has just published the English translation of his first book, We Can Do. His guide to achieving your dreams through hard work and commitment has already sold well in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, and is already receiving buzz on the UCLA campus, where he will soon be holding a book-signing.
Florida Senator Don Gaetz has introduced a bill in the State Senate that could be the beginning of massive efforts to reinforce the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics) education with primary and secondary school students across the state. The bill offers incentives to educators who place particular emphasis on the STEM fields. Under the legislation, it is required for employment rates and salary data in various careers to be made available for students' and parents' reference, essentially to demonstrate more favorable trends in STEM-related industries.
The bill offers extra funding to schools for each student enrolled in an industry certification class. Senator Gaetz says it is a "mild first step" in the state's promotion of STEM education. While there is no denying the importance of STEM education, opponents argue that this may discredit or delegitimize academic subjects in the humanities or social sciences.
On Wednesday, February 15, the Hackensack School District held their first career fair for special education students. The career fair addressed important issues, such as the college application process, choosing a vocational technical school and learning about state resources for adult life skills programs. Parents and students were thrilled by the opportunity to learn more about what options are available, and many parents said they had spent so much time trying to help their children through school that they had given little thought to what happens after graduation.
The career fair came in response to new efforts in New Jersey to collect data on the post-graduation lives of special-needs students to share with parents and educators. New Jersey school districts Teaneck, Clifton, Dumonv and Bergenfield are all working on similar programs.