Teaching About History
Philadelphia is hardly the first school district to highlight cultural diversity in history education. What sets Philadelphia apart is that the district is the largest—and likely the first—to single out an ethnic group, carve out a one-year course, and make the class a graduation requirement for all students.
Teaching About Sexuality
Few curriculum topics have the ability to incite, embarrass, confuse, or confound as much as human sexuality. Creating or making changes to your district’s sex education program practically guarantees packed board meetings, as well as a barrage of phone calls, e-mails, and letters to the editor.
Teaching About Origins
One of the most confrontational issues before American school boards and administrators is the effort by some Christian fundamentalists to have their views on life and its origins taught in science classes as a scientifically valid alternative to biological evolution. A scientist explains why intelligent design isn’t science.
The Real Business of Boards
How did the issue of achievement get taken away from school boards? There are at least four reasons: failing to focus on results; fear or aversion about comparing our district’s results to others; not accepting responsibility for poor results; and a loss of focus about our mission.
A Place Apart
Throughout America, rural communities—and rural schools—are hurting. While much of the nation's attention is focused on urban schools (and their problems are certainly profound), by many measures poverty is actually worse in rural areas. Yet advocates for rural schools say their districts are often ignored when it comes to setting education goals and allocating the resources to meet them.
Title I at 40
It is the largest, most far-reaching federal K-12 program, with $13 billion sent annually to school districts to help educate children living in poverty. It has been the source of debate for more than four decades, raising questions about local control, federal spending on schools, and the labeling and achievement of low-income students. Title I at 40: A landmark anti-poverty program enters middle age with a new focus on achievement and accountability.
Choosing to Make a Difference
No decision you make as a school board member is more important than the decision you make about the effects of poverty and social problems on your students. There are some things, of course, about which you don’t have much choice—including the fact that, in many districts, a significant number of children arrive at your doors behind. If we just give these students education of exactly the same quality as other students, chances are they will leave behind as well.
The Challenge of Teacher Quality
High standards and expectations must apply to teachers as well as to students. With research confirming a direct link between teacher competency and student achievement, teacher quality is moving to the top of the education agenda. Just as the public is insisting on higher standards and performance for students, it is expecting no less from the nation’s teachers. The new challenge is to craft long-term strategies for finding and keeping high-performing teachers.
Math That Adds Up
Few educated people in the United States would say they have trouble reading, but many don’t hesitate to admit to a weakness in mathematics. This lack of knowledge about math and how to teach it is part of a growing body of evidence that today’s students are not getting the math education they need in a world increasingly dependent on technology and science. Can we reverse the tide? If so, how?
What Do You Teach?
School boards once made curriculum decisions simply by conferring with the administrators and content specialists in their districts. Those days, as you probably already know, are gone. Now, parents and community members increasingly want—and expect—a say in what and how schools are teaching their children.