Instructional Strategies

Where education is concerned, these long, languid days of summer – with apologies to Charles Dickens – can be the “best of times” and “the worst of times.” Many schoolchildren anticipate the next summer vacation almost as soon as a new school year has begun. Summer means pools, amusement parks and family holidays, as opposed to school time, which they associate with books, exams and homework.

However, for educators, summer vacation can have a vastly different meaning. They often view a traditional 10-week-long summer break as a time when the knowledge and competencies students have absorbed during the previous school year are often lost – resulting in days and weeks teaching remedial skills at the start the new school year. Academic research has pointed to a connection between summer vacations and so-called “learning loss,” particularly among low-income and at-risk students.

It has been a widely held belief for many years that the number of students in a class can impact student learning through the amount of individualized instruction students receive and the level of disruptive behavior, which can be worse in classrooms with too many students. However, despite those popularly held views, empirical evidence does not show a clear-cut connection between class size and student achievement, particularly at the secondary school level. This lack of evidence showing favorable outcomes associated with reduced class size, combined with restrictive state budgets, has resulted in bigger class sizes in recent years. This article examines conflicting research regarding class size and student learning, as well as state policies governing the number of students per class.

I suspect my memories from my years spent as a high school social studies teacher are not that atypical. Particularly during the three years I taught 9th graders, each year it seemed I invariably began the school year with a handful of students who were so far behind their peers I was compelled to scratch my head in disbelief that they had been promoted from the middle school ranks with reading and writing skills that were probably more on par with 5th and 6th graders.

Finally, one day amidst the chatter in the teacher’s lounge I heard the explanation. The students were beneficiaries – or victims, depending how you view it – of ‘social promotion.’

In one California high school, frog dissection – which often tests students' queasiness as much as their knowledge about biology – has become as outdated as the abacus. From now on, when it comes to dissection, the frog will be replaced with the mouse – the computer mouse, that is.

Conventional wisdom would seem to indicate that smaller class sizes are superior to larger classes. After all, they would appear to provide opportunities for more individualized instruction, fewer discipline problems and, ultimately, increased student achievement. However, research has provided contradictory results on the relationship between class size and student achievement. This brief looks at the value of reduced class size in the light of shrinking or stagnant education budgets.

This Act requires the commissioner of education to adopt a list of electronic textbooks and instructional material, including tools, models, and investigative materials designed for use in the foundation curriculum for science in kindergarten through grade five, and it authorizes a school district to select a textbook or material on that list to be funded by the state textbook fund.

A majority of students in America’s public schools fail to meet national reading standards. The lack of strong literacy skills is a factor in the nation’s high dropout rate. It’s also a barrier to preparing students for a rigorous college curriculum or a career. Education experts say policymakers should take actions to ensure middle and high school students are taught reading skills in every subject and every grade.

State eNews Issue #43 | March 31, 2010

Ensuring our nation’s youth are prepared for college or a career is one of the top concerns of state policymakers. The Council of State Governments is taking the lead in educating key state policymakers about a new state-led education movement—the Common Core State Standards Initiative—that may help states reach that goal.

Virtual schools offer the promise of equalizing access to quality curriculum and  improving student oucomes.

Early college high schools provide low-income, minority and other at-risk youth the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and as much as two years’ postsecondary credit within five years of high school entry. While many programs are still relatively new, emerging research suggests that students in early college programs perform better than their peers, as measured by attendance rates, enrollment in college-track mathematics courses, state assessment scores and other indicators. A small but growing number of states have enacted state-level policies to provide the unique funding mechanisms and supports that maximize student success in early college high schools.