Teaching & Learning
Rutgers Opens Center To Study School Libraries
A new research center at Rutgers University intends to build on evidence that well-equipped school library media centers can boost student achievement.
The Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries, launched at the New Brunswick, N.J., campus this month, will promote further study of the potential for school libraries to support instruction, the dynamics of effective programs, and the training and resources that library staff members need to best serve students.
"On the one hand, we inherently believe that school libraries are important, but what we don't really understand is how school libraries actually enable students to learn," said Ross J. Todd, the center's research director. "Saying that school libraries are good is not enough. We have got to come up with rich evidence that school libraries make a difference."
The center will also provide professional development to help practitioners, and conduct workshops on libraries and learning to be offered within school districts and at professional meetings nationwide. The center will disseminate research findings to school librarians and teachers through its Web site to help them put the findings into practice quickly, Mr. Todd said.
The Web site is www.cissl.scils.rutgers.edu.
Research on the impact that a new compensation system for Denver teachers has on the academic lives of their students will continue, as expected, as a result of a recent grant.
The Boston-based Community Training and Assistance Center received $750,000 from seven foundations and one private donor to complete the final year of the four- year study. The pooled funding came from the Broad Foundation, the Daniels Fund, the Denver Foundation, the Donnell-Kay Foundation, the Piton Foundation, the Rose Community Foundation, the Sturm Family Foundation, and an anonymous donor. All but the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation are located in Denver.
Researchers, educators, and policymakers have been following the compensation experiment, which pays educators in 16 schools up to $1,500 bonuses annually for improving student achievement, since it began in fall 1999. They hope to find out if performance pay improves the quality of teaching and student learning, as advocates say it will.
Initial findings published halfway into the study showed no dramatic raises in student performance. ("Denver Pay Plan Offers Lessons, Review Says," Dec. 12, 2001.)
Geography Into History
Geography can be a vital ingredient in any K- 12 history course, but teachers need to do more than point to places on maps where historical events occurred, say geography education advocates.
Teachers must be ready to explain how historical events were shaped by the terrain, natural resources, climate, and other geographic features of regions, according to researchers at the Gilbert M. Grosvenor Center of Geographic Education, based at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos.
"Despite the fact that teachers of history and geography pay lip service to the doctrine that 'you can't teach one subject without the other,' ... little high-quality interdisciplinary (history/geography) teaching takes place," asserts a booklet written by center associates.
The booklet says, for example, that lessons about World War II should point out that it sparked the migration of Americans, particularly racial minorities, to boomtowns where factories produced arms for the military. And in teaching about the postwar era, teachers can point out that mobility continued in those years as Americans moved to the Sun Belt and away from the industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest.
That recent publication, along with another, give examples of how to integrate geography into U.S. history courses: "Time and Space Convergence: A Joint History-Geography Curriculum" and "The Best of Both Worlds: Blending History and Geography in the K-12 Curriculum." Both were underwritten by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in Washington.
See the foundation's Web site, www.edexcellence.net, for more information.
No Resting on Laurels
Even though Singapore's students have aced recent international exams in mathematics and science, the nation's government is underwriting an effort to improve teaching and learning.
The Singapore Ministry of Education and the National Institute of Education—which is part of Nanyang Technological University—will devote the next five years to trying to improve teachers' practice in math, science, and literacy. The literacy research will cover the learning of English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil—the four official languages of the nation, which is made up of an island and nearby islets in Southeast Asia.
The new research center will be evaluating curriculum, particularly in light of changes that came after 1997 that focused more on real-life situations and hands-on learning. Research from the project will lead to recommendations for the nation's curriculum. Singapore is cooperating with the United States to exchange information about each other's curricula. ("U.S., Singapore Agree to Cooperate on Math and Science," Sept. 18, 2002.)
The Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice is budgeted to spend $49 million Singapore dollars (about $28 million in U.S. dollars), and plans to have 50 researchers contributing.
Brian Crosby first proposed paying top teachers as much as $100,000 in an article that appeared on the op-ed page of the Los Angeles Times. The response to that 1998 piece, which was a call to revamp the way teachers are paid, inspired the high school English instructor to flesh out his ideas in a book.
Using weekends for research, and getting up at 4:30 a.m. to write before starting class at Herbert Hoover High School in Glendale, Calif., Mr. Crosby completed a manuscript for The $100,000 Teacher: A Teacher's Solution to America's Declining Public School System during the next two years. He found a small publisher willing to bring the book out.
And then the hard part began.
"There are 3 million public school teachers," said Mr. Crosby, who is 45 and the father of a 4-year-old boy. "I don't think they are aware [my book is] out there."
So almost since the book's spring 2002 release, he's waged his own publicity campaign, with modest success. He's had media appearances and a recent profile in the Los AngelesTimes. But the book has sold only about 2,200 copies.
It appears to be one of few published views of school reform written by a working K-12 teacher.
In it, Mr. Crosby cuts a wide swath through the world of U.S. education policy, with something to please and something to disgruntle just about every "establishment" group, including those that criticize the education establishment. He faults teachers' unions for opposing most attempts to pay teachers according to how well they perform in the classroom, but calls for greater government regulation of teacher credentialing. He also says most education courses in universities are "Mickey Mouse."
"I thought it was time for somebody in the profession to stand up and say, 'We have some problems in education,'" Mr. Crosby said in an interview.
More information is available at www.100000teacher.com.
Let There Be Music
The nation's largest advocacy group for music education has teamed up with professional music organizations to launch a Web-based program that helps parents and educators preserve or expand school music programs.
The Reston, Va.-based National Association for Music Education, or MENC, helped kick off the Support Music program last month. The initiative is intended to give music education champions information and strategies for building support for programs among community members and policymakers.
The Web site, Supportmusic.com, was developed in response to expected cuts in school music budgets. MENC predicts that program cuts will affect some 30 million students nationwide, or about 60 percent of K-12 students, by reducing or eliminating their choices for music study.
"While today's difficult economic climate is a reality for school districts nationally," MENC President Willie Hill said in announcing the program, "we do not believe the power of music should automatically be quieted by tight margins."
—Julie Blair, David J. Hoff, Bess Keller, & Kathleen Kennedy Manzo [email protected]
Vol. 22, Issue 32, Page 11Published in Print: April 23, 2003, as Teaching & Learning