Instructional Strategies

CSG Midwest
This year, Nebraska Sen. Julie Slama took a lead role in updating her state’s 70-year-old law on civics education. She had some experience from the not-so-distant past to guide that work — the time she spent as a student herself. The 23-year-old senator (one of the youngest people ever to serve in the Unicameral Legislature) still fondly recalls those civics classes and how her teachers approached lessons on government and citizenship.
“It wasn’t about memorization of dates and [historical] figures,” Slama says. “It was about the role of being a citizen, about discussing the issues of the day. From that, you learn that people can come to different conclusions about those issues, that disagreement is part of the process. And you learn to engage respectfully.”
But are most young people being exposed to a rich, meaningful civics curriculum?
Slama worries that many are not, based on her more recent experiences working with students as a track coach and as a counselor for the American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls State. Too many young people, she says, don’t know basic facts, such as the three branches of government, and aren’t equipped with the skills to be informed, active citizens.
She’s hoping this year’s passage of LB 399 will strengthen the curriculum offered in Nebraska schools. Her work on the bill reflects a national trend; across the country, state legislators have been exploring ways to put a greater emphasis on civics in schools, and to perhaps teach it in a different way.

A brand new research study from Columbia University finds that parents who receive text message alerts regarding their child’s missed assignments, grades, and class absences saw significant reductions in course failures and increased class attendance.

While the definition of giftedness varies from state to state, federal legislation is quite clear about the definition of a gifted student. According to the No Child Left Behind Act, “gifted and talented” refers to students “who give evidence of high achievement capabilities in such areas as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.”

Experts say an education in science, technology, engineering, arts and math—or STEAM—is essential to building an innovative workforce in the United States, and the sooner students delve into STEAM education, the better.

State officials and policymakers have been focused on college- and career-readiness for several years yet challenges still exist to graduate students with the skills and competencies necessary to obtain sustainable employment. 2015 promises to be another busy year concentrated on implementing best practices and enacting innovative policies that prepare America's youngest students for entry into school, create environments for all students including those at-risk, and offer a variety of experiences so students participate in work-based opportunities. In order to ensure a world-class education for all students, leaders will likely address these top 5 issues facing states this year.

During a national briefing call on June 3, Texas Sen. John Whitmire noted that, in his state, 84% of African American boys had received one or more suspensions in their educational career.  This was a startling wake-up call for policymakers and is now a priority as they work to create welcoming school cultures and effective learning conditions to keep students in the classroom.

According to a 2014 Annie E. Casey  Foundation report, large disparities exist related to fourth-grade student reading assessment results.  National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores show 80% of lower income students read below proficient levels.  In order to graduate high school with the skills, knowledge and dispositions needed to find and maintain a job a student must not only learn to read but use reading to learn other subjects.

With the mounting snow days in New Jersey the Pascack Valley Regional High School District took a new approach to learning.  Instead of adding another day with no instruction Superintendent Erik Gundersen made the bold decision to utilize students' district-issued laptops as the vehicle to provide lessons. 

Think about the skills students must have to succeed in postsecondary education or to earn a decent living. They should be good problem solvers, be able to share their knowledge with others and listen to others’ ideas, and be able to take a problem assigned by a professor or work supervisor, analyze it, and develop a solution or propose a range of options for solving the problem. Without question, those are the skills we want to see in our workforce and in our higher education institutions. In March 2012, The Council of State Governments appointed a Deeper Learning Focus Group comprised of state legislators, leaders of state boards and departments of education, educators and other experts in the field of education policy. Their charge was simple: Advise which policies and practices need to be in place to support the kind of deeper learning outcomes just described. During multiple meetings, the members provided a policy and practice framework that provides legislators and other state policymakers a menu of options to create schools where deeper learning takes place. The attached framework is the product of their work.

Across the nation, an increasing number of students are being required to enroll in remedial courses when they arrive on college campuses. These additional courses add to the time spent obtaining a college degree and increase an already growing student debt problem. By implementing college- and career-readiness standards, states can better prepare students for the challenges of college or the workforce. 

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