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New study suggests STEM education needs a rebrand

11 Alive – Jennifer Leslie

“A new study conducted by Atlanta-based Randstad US puts a new focus on STEM education and shows that students lose interest in science, technology, engineering and math as they get older. The study hits home for school districts across metro Atlanta, where schools can spend years working to become STEM-certified by the state. The study shows younger students are more interested in STEM studies and have more confidence in STEM skills than older students.”(more)

Lawmaker: Make recess mandatory for schools

WSB TV – Richard Elliot

“A state lawmaker wants to make recess mandatory for school children from kindergarten to 5th grade. State Rep. Demetrius Douglas, a Stockbridge Democrat, introduced a bill that would require school districts to allow children recess time. The bill would also prevent schools from keeping students out of recess as a punishment.”(more)

Are we stuck in the middle? Should districts ditch middle school and return to K-8?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – Maureen Downey

“For the past 13 years, City Schools of Decatur has operated a separate 4-5 academy — a school for fourth and fifth graders only. Recently, there have been renewed discussions about returning to a K-5 configuration in Decatur. Such debates aren’t unusual – in Decatur or in the rest of the country. While Decatur’s structure of three schools before high school is relatively rare, debates about the best grade span for elementary and middle school students have taken place in school districts around the country. Perhaps understandably, much of the discussion from parents centers on issues of convenience: which configuration decreases traffic? Will sibling groups be in the same school? Other important considerations include which configurations will ease school-crowding.”(more)

What matters more than class size and spending in student achievement? Intensive tutoring.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution – Maureen Downey

My AJC colleague Ty Tagami wrote today about a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper that examines the possible reasons for improved performance of students in sought-after charter schools. The research uncovered a key factor: The intensive and often mandatory tutoring required in many charter schools. “The authors of the paper — What Can We Learn from Charter School Lotteries? — compared the performance of students who won a spot at a charter school in an annual lottery and those who did not and had to stay in their traditional neighborhood school. The researchers explored several theories behind the higher achievement of some of those who got in — from the ‘no excuses’ policies prevalent in urban charter schools to differences in class size, spending and teacher certification. They concluded that three explanations rose to the top: the amount of teacher feedback, above-average suspension rates and intensive tutoring. Tutoring had the strongest correlation with accelerated performance,” wrote Tagami.”(more)

Is competency-based learning the next big thing in school reform?

E-School News – Ty Tagami

“In a typical Georgia school, kids like Sean Prisk would have to abide by a kind of classroom speed limit, forced to learn at the same pace as others his age. But no one stopped this Henry County seventh-grader when he stomped on the gas. He accelerated two years ahead of his classmates in math and is now doing freshman-level work. “Math comes naturally to me,” he said. Sean entered Locust Grove Middle School as it was implementing “competency-based” learning, which tailors schooling to each child’s ability. Students who excel move on. Those who are struggling slow down and try different methods, like exploring math or science concepts through art. The school’s computer-based approach could be replicated across the state if education reformers appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal get their way. There’s no conclusive evidence that it works better than traditional methods, but there is a growing group of proponents in other states. Many wonder whether it will prove too expensive, widening the gap between schools that can and cannot afford it, but advocates say it doesn’t have to be costly.”(more)

Honesty is best policy as Georgia learns fewer than 40 percent of kids on track in reading, math

The Atlanta Journal Constitution – Maureen Downey

“Michael J. Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio are president and vice president, respectively, of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and fathers of school-aged children. In this essay, they urge Georgia to stay the course with its higher standards despite new statewide test results showing the majority of students are not proficient. Reaction to the Georgia Milestones scores last week was muted as individual district, school and student scores were not provided; they will come in October. And so likely will a more vocal public response once people see how their own schools and kids fared.”(more)