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Gleanings

The Young and the Wired

A surprising percentage of kids use e-mail as early as kindergarten, according to NetDay. The nonprofit, which recently released the results of its Speak Up Day 2003 study, found 29 percent of grade K-3 students have their own e-mail accounts, compared to 45 percent for grades 4-6 and 79 percent for grades 7-12. In addition to e-mail, top technology apps for the K-3 set include learning games, creating pictures, and practicing spelling and reading.

Pay for Performance?

T&L QuickPoll Results
Do you think teacher pay should be linked to increased student performance?In favor: 31%
Opposed: 69%

The outcome of our recent QuickPoll asking if teachers should be compensated for increased student achievement was 31 percent in favor, 69 percent opposed. Here's a sampling of comments we received from readers:

"Would this give teachers an incentive to help students cheat? What about the wonderful teacher who gets low-performing students? What about special education teachers?"

"[This] would ensure teachers are advocates for their students...the teacher should have more of a vested interest in the student achieving and ensuring the school system complies with the laws."

"Teachers dedicate their lives to teaching because it's the right thing to do. Extrinsic rewards are only necessary when one is asked to do things that are not intrinsically rewarding."

"Sometimes our very best efforts can't motivate a student who arrives at school with home issues we can't easily resolve. How are we to motivate and be accountable for students who have no zest for learning?"

Pilot Program

Taking a page from MTV's book, a new initiative called Rock 'n' Write uses pop music as the hook for getting students revved up about reading and writing. Tested out this spring by upper elementary and middle school students in Florida, the program provided schools with a music video of "What-If" by the band Natural, an interview with the group about the song, and footage of students talking about what it means to them. Students used the video and what-if context to explore issues such as war, racism, and the environment, and took part in a songwriting contest based on ideas and feelings inspired by the tune. By far the coolest aspect of the project, however, is that it culminated this month with a live concert at the University of Central Florida, with Natural as the headline act. Expect the program to go national in the fall with an expanded roster of up-and-coming musical artists. http://www.rocknwrite.com

Issue

Political issues around outsourcing have been a favorite subject in the news lately, but discussion about them has typically focused on the dilemmas and responsibilities of U.S. businesses, not schools. But the educational angle is being recognized in some corners. A recent article from Wired News, "Outsourcing Report Blames Schools," analyzes the American Electronics Association's claim that subpar math and science education is possibly "the single biggest competitive challenge" when it comes to keeping jobs inside our borders. It's a view echoed by New York Times Op-Ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, who favors free trade but sees outsourcing as a wake-up call for American schools. "I'm hoping the loss of jobs in medicine and computers to India and elsewhere will again jolt us into improving our own teaching of math and science," he wrote. http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,62780,00; http://www.iht.com/articles/129134.html

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