Tag Archives: Education Reform

Ask Your 4th Grader!

In fourth grade children really get to apply the skills they have learned in the first few years of school.  If you think about kindergarten through 3rd grade as the time in which children are taught how to read; how to add, subtract and multiply; and how to begin to write paragraphs, then 4th grade becomes the time when they really get to apply those skills in order to expand their overall knowledge.

In light of this, what can you do to help your child acquire additional knowledge through the application of these basic skills, while making sure he or she is developing appropriately in this grade?

Math:

1.  Division- work with your child to solidify his or her skills in division. Ask your child to complete long division problems.  For example:  137 divided by 7.  Solving this problem will require your child to multiply, divide, and subtract in order to find the right answer, thus applying several skills in one activity.  You can ask the teacher for worksheets in this area or simply work with your child in this area when he or she is doing homework problems that require long division.

2.  Place Value- work with your child to make sure he or she understands place values. This concept is very important in future math subjects and it is therefore good for children to get off to a good start in understanding this topic.  For example:

The number 34.76

3 is in the tens place, 4 is in the ones place, 7 is in the tenths place, and 6 is in the hundreths place.

3.  Fractions- work with your child to make sure he or she understands how to add and subtract fractions with like denominators. For example:

1/3 + 1/3 = 2/3

Reading:

1.  Reading on a 4th grade level.  Make sure your child can read on a 4th grade level or higher.  Many books have the age ranges and/or reading level for which the book is appropriate right on the back of the book, near the bottom.  Select books within your child’s grade/age range and determine if your child understands the content and can follow story.

2.  Unfamiliar words. Ask your child to read with you and observe whether or not your child tries to figure out words he or she doesn’t know by looking at the entire meaning of the sentence or by taking clues from the content in the material.  Finally look up words with your child; if they are new or difficult to understand.

Writing:

1.  Writing a multi-paragraph report. Many children will be asked to do some type of assignment in the 4th grade that requires them to write a multi-paragraph composition.  Look out for such an assignment and work with your child to make sure she or he understands the rubric (i.e. the criteria the teacher has laid out that explains how the paper will be scored).  Usually the teacher will want an opening paragraph which states the topic of the report; a couple of paragraphs that explain the main ideas of the report; and a concluding paragraph that sums up everything.

These are a few things you can do to support your child in fourth grade.

Back to School: What Are You Doing to Get Ready?

As we prepare our children for school, we typically focus on getting them the necessary school supplies, new clothes, encouraging them to practice important skills like math and reading, getting them ready to start going to bed earlier, etc…  But what are WE (parents) doing to prepare for school?

If it is important for our children to get ready for school, it is equally as important for us to get ready. If we are prepared, then we are more likely to witness success this year and our children will have a much better chance of getting off to a good start in school.

A few things to think about:

1.  Get an idea of what your child will learn when it comes to English (reading and writing) and math this year. If you know a little bit about what your child will learn, you can find ways to support his or her learning at home.

a) Go to the website for your child’s school or school system and look up the curriculum for your child’s grade.  Find a few key areas of development for this school year.

b) Ask your child’s teacher what your child will learn in math, reading (literature), and writing (composition) this year.  Ask about activities you can do at home to support these areas.

c) Ten Things Your Child Should Know may be able to help during the elementary school years.  Activities to support pre-k through 5th grade are already listed in this book, as well as sections where you can ask specific questions of teachers and capture notes from parent-teacher conferences.

2.  Prepare your home.  Establish a good educational environment. If your child knows that education is a priority in your house, then he or she will come to expect certain things and will probably develop good habits that will help in school.

a) Set aside a work area for your child…a kitchen table, a desk,… whatever works for your child.  Many of us already do this, but sometimes these areas become cluttered during the summer and we “forget” about the importance of having this space cleared and ready-to-go before school starts.  Ask your child what he or she wants in their workspace and make it something that you and your child do together.

b) Establish or re-establish rules for watching television and going to bed on time, before school starts.  If you limit your child’s use of media devices (i.e. television, computers, game consoles, iPods, etc..) during school, you will want discuss this again, before school begins.  For instance, no t.v. or games during the week or until after homework is completed and checked.

Even though children get older and feel as if they can stay up later and later, everyone needs a good night’s sleep if they want to function well on a job or in school or wherever…  Older children should be encouraged to go to bed on time, on their own, and to get up and be prepared for school on time- with some help from parents, but with increasing amounts of independence as they get older.

If a child is not able to do this by the time they leave high school, how will they be able to function in a work environment or in college?

Younger children should be encouraged to maintain a bedtime routine (e.g. bedtime stories, etc…) in order to facilitate getting into bed, on time, and getting a good night’s rest.

3. Prepare for interactions with school officials (i.e. teachers, the principal, counselors, etc…). If you have an understanding of the types questions you may have or the information you would like to know, ahead of time, it will help you manage your child’s school year.

Questions to consider:

a) Will the school or my child’s teacher conduct an assessment of my child’s skills early in the year and will I see the results? Some schools and/or teachers will test children early in the school year to see where they are relative to certain skills.  This will tell the teacher, or the school, if that child is in the right class, needs extra help, or just give them a baseline from which to work.

This can be done initially with or without your knowledge.  You may want to see if anything is planned for your child and find out whether you will get the results and what will be done with the results.

b) How did your child’s school perform on the state’s standardized test last year? You may already have this information because schools are required to provide this information to parents, but did your child’s school do well or is there need for improvement? What will the school do in light of the results of the standardized tests?  How will it affect your child?

c) When are parent-teacher conferences going to be scheduled throughout the year?  How does your child’s teacher (or teachers) like to receive communications and questions from parents (i.e. via email, notes, etc…)?

d) Who is the president of the PTA or when will officers be chosen?

These are a few things you can consider as you prepare for the school year.

Race to the Top: What is it?

Just in case you have heard a lot about the “Race to the Top” initiative being implemented by the Obama Administration and are wondering what it is, here is a short summary of this program.

Race to the Top is simply a national competition among states to encourage them to accelerate specific reforms in education.  Over $4 billion has been set aside to support education reforms across the country in these four areas:

  • “Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;”
  • “Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;”
  • “Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most;”
  • “Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.”

1.  States can apply for money to support their planned reforms

2.  Finalists are chosen and are required to present their plans to a review committee

3.  The winners are ultimately selected.

Round 1 of this initiative saw 41 applications submitted and on March 29, 2010 Arne Duncan (Sec. of Education) announced the Round 1 winners: Delaware and Tennessee.

Round 2 of the competition is already off and running, with more than $3 billion still available for state and locally-based education reforms.   Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia (see your state’s application) submitted applications and today Sec. Arne Duncan will announce the finalists.

During round 1, Delaware was awarded about $100 million and Tennessee approximately $500 million for their planned reforms.  To see what Delaware and Tennessee plan to implement, see their presentations via the links below.

Delaware Race to the Top State Presentation

Tennessee Race to the Top State Presentation

Plan to Turnaround America’s Most Troubled Schools

12% of America’s schools produce 50% of America’s dropouts, according to President Obama and the Dept. of Education. So the administration has announced an initiative to help the nation’s “5,000” lowest-performing schools over the next 5 years.

The plan offers Title 1 grant money to states & school districts- that money can be implemented using one of four methods::

1. “Turnaround”- Replace and rehire new principals and teachers
2. “Restart”- Convert the school to a charter school or to one run by a management company
3. “Closure”- Close the school and send students to other schools
4. “Transform”- Replace principal, increase teacher effectiveness, increase learning time for students, etc…

One of these four models can be adopted by a school to help “turnaround” education at a failing school.  School districts can compete for the money, determine which schools they want to help, then choose which model best fits each school.

See the example below and let us know your thoughts.

America Should “Have the Best-Educated Citizenry in the World”

President Obama has laid out his plan for helping to turnaround America’s education system.  The efforts involve:

– Transforming lower performing schools

– Motivating students to learn

– Firing consistently under-performing principals and/or teachers

– Increasing the number of students ready for college

– Decreasing the dropout rate

– Being open to alternative schools, like charter schools and schools that are run by management companies

– Increasing America’s competitiveness in the 21st century

See this speech and gain an understanding of his current approach….

Are Detroit & New Orleans Models for Reforming Public Education?

Educators in Detroit recently announced a plan, the Excellent Schools Plan, to turn around the city’s education system.  Unfortunately Detroit has been plagued with low graduation rates and poor performance in the city’s public schools for years.  Thus, the plan to improve its school system is getting a lot of attention from those interested in education reform.

The plan would have:

– Detroit’s Mayor take over the city’s public schools

– Eliminate the elected school board

– Close underperforming schools

– Encourage parents to choose the best options for schools for their children

– Open new schools to replace the failing ones

– Create competition between charter schools, public schools, and private schools for students in the hope that the best schools will attract students

The plan is controversial as it would do away with the elected school board and would place a lot of authority in the hands of the mayor.

Is this the blueprint for the future?

There have been other examples, such as the efforts in New Orleans, post Katrina.

In New Orleans, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) school district ran the majority of the schools before Hurricane Katrina hit.  The school board now runs 4 public schools and 12 charter schools.  The Orleans Parish School Board is still an elected school board.

In addition to the OPSB, New Orleans has a Recovery School District (RSD) which was originally created in 2003 to take over schools that were underperforming.  After Katrina, the Recovery School District  took on a more active role and now runs about 24 public schools and 47 charter schools in New Orleans.  The New Orleans Recovery School District is managed by a superintendent who is appointed by the state.

What do you think?  Should control of underperforming schools be taken away from local school boards and given to other state or local authorities?  Should more charter and private schools be allowed to compete for students in many areas where student test scores are low?

Is this the way to reform our school systems?

What do you think?

Ask Your 3rd-Grader!

Ask Your 3rd-Grader:

To help you determine how your child is progressing in third grade, you may want to conduct a few exercises.

Ask your 3rd-grader:

1.  For the number 6,745, ask your child how many thousands, hundreds, tens, and ones are in this number (Answer:  There are 6 thousands, 7 hundreds, 4 tens, and 5 ones in this number).

2.  To add up the total amount, for a given number of dollars and cents, up to $10.  For example, give your child 2 one dollar bills, 1 five dollar bill, and 2 quarters and ask him or her to add up the total amount.  Answer: $7.50.

3.  To tell time to the nearest minute using a clock with “hands.”

4.  To write a paragraph about his or her favorite subject in school (or favorite thing to do, etc…) using a topic sentence, 2 or 3 supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence.

These are just a couple of exercises you can do to check how your child is progressing in third grade.  See our Paragraph Guide for help with writing paragraphs.

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