Teachers Speak Out
A recent survey from Public Agenda revealed many of the nation's teachers feel that the expectations placed on them for raising student achievement are not only unrealistic, but unjust. The report found that 59 percent of the 1,345 public school teachers polled believe "it's unfair to be held accountable when so many things that affect student learning are out of their control," with 76 percent saying they've become "scapegoats for all the problems facing education." That said, nearly 80 percent acknowledged that every school has a handful of hard-to-fire teachers who are "simply going through the motions."
The Geography of the Internet
Midwesterners turn to the Internet for news more than any other population, while an above-average proportion of Southerners log on for health information. These are some of the regional idiosyncrasies uncovered by the latest study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which identified New England as having the highest level of Internet use (66 percent, compared to 59 percent nationally); and California, the mountain states, and lower Midwest boasting the highest concentration of young users. For detailed demographic trends, plus your region's favorite Web sites, see www.pewinternet.org/reports.
Author and anticensorship crusader Diane Ravitch's call for a moratorium on state-adopted textbooks, covered in our August Trend Watch column, struck a chord with readers. Sixty-nine percent of participants in our online QuickPoll agreed that schools should have more freedom to choose their own materials. "For the past two years I haven't used a textbook in the classroom; I use the Internet, library, and peer resources," responded one educator. "It's so much easier to teach to the curriculum and make the lesson more interesting when you don't have a 'canned' program to follow."
"There's nothing wrong with the students or the teachers, and most (though not all) school systems already have enough money to do the job well. It's the management of school districts that needs to be changed." Those two sentences form the crux of Making Schools Work, a straight-talking tome from UCLA business professor William Ouchi that is part case study, part how-to guide. Drawing from his research of 223 schools in six cities, Ouchi distills seven key characteristics he observed in successful school districts; among them, entrepreneurial leadership, widespread delegation of authority, and localized budget control. Although at times overly laden with business-speak-schools attracting new students are referred to as "gaining market share"-the book makes a persuasive case for decentralized school management while at the same time recognizing there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Simon & Schuster
Could this be any timelier? In a little-known corner of the Associated Press Web site is Tough Times, Tough Choices, a simulation game that challenges players to balance a state budget facing a $30 million deficit. Manipulating an on-screen bar graph, users adjust which areas will get more or less funding, and what taxes will get raised or lowered. Then the virtual state legislature responds-which in almost all cases means going back to the drawing board to find the right combination of cuts that will appease the House and Senate. Along the way, news briefs provide hints on how to play politics with the various legislators. In a time of budget shortfalls, this is a clever exercise for helping students grasp the pressure state governments are facing, as well as the political nuances of budget making.
Read other articles from the November Issue