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The Cleveland Schools Plan

Came across this article on Huffington Post recently, which details the bipartisan efforts to reform Cleveland schools. The sticking point on the plan — which has been in the works since February — seemed to be how much control Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson would have over charter school implementation in the city. Under the enacted plan, a newly-formed Cleveland Transformation Alliance will review sponsors of new schools and ultimately make recommendations to the Ohio Department of Education regarding which should be green-lit.

Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio wrote this post pointing out the fact that Cleveland now has the potential for nine different agencies to approve charters in the city; in contrast, cities like Baltimore (33 charters), Chicago (38) and Philadelphia (north of 80) had all their schools approved through the district alone. Additionally, the Transformation Alliance doesn’t seem to be accountable for electronic schools, which are a majorly emergent component of the Ohio education system.

Obviously, something needed to be done in Cleveland schools: in 2009, for example, they ranked near the bottom of 17 urban school districts as relates to STEM. In 2011, they were the district No. 13 (out of 15) among Ohio’s urban districts — despite being the district that serves the most students. As one member of the editorial board for The Cleveland Plain-Dealer laments, the gap between rich and poor in Cleveland is as stark as it was in Charles Dickens’ London.

What do you think: Is Cleveland onto something? Can this be a successful urban model? Or is the sheer amount of organizations involved in charter production going to be a problem?

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‘Flipping’ For The Classroom Of The Future: A Look At Innovation Middle School

Innovation Middle School, outside of San Diego, recently won the 2012 Innovate Award from the Classroom of the Future Foundation.

One of the notable elements of Innovation Middle School’s approach is a technique called “flipping,” in which students watch a video lesson from home — on laptops provided by the school — then take a short assessment. When they arrive at school, instead of listening to a class lecture, they are placed in differentiated learning groups.

Teacher Michael Salamanca explains it this way:

So instead of that 30 minutes lecturing, it’s 30 minutes of I’m going to sit with this table or I’m going to sit with that table over there and we’re working on their specific issues instead of a more generic ‘this is where people tend to make mistakes.’ Because, as we all know, a lot of these kids learn differently.

Another teacher, Julie Garcia, explains the process this way:

It’s a lot more work, because I’m constantly circulating the room, checking work, talking with students. But I feel like I really know my students now because I can tell you after a 50 minute period I’ve probably talked to every single student at least three or four times and that kind of personal attention for students you don’t necessarily get with direct instruction.

This year, Innovation Middle also created their first-ever STEM Film Festival. The winners are listed here, where you can also watch their videos.

The school’s motto is “Where Technology And Character Come Together,” and all the focus on STEM education is underscored by developing the 7th and 8th graders as people. Principal Harlan Klein is a major proponent of character development.

Here’s our query: Does this seem like a common approach for schools now, or is something innovative developing outside of San Diego? Do you think the technique of ‘flipping’ might allow for greater student-teacher interaction?

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Curriculum To Watch: Letters Alive

Letters Alive is the first curriculum based on augmented reality. You can watch the video clip above; essentially, the program aims to teach young children to read and write through interaction with virtual, 3D animals. Cynthia Kaye, the CEO of Logical Choice Technologies (which developed the curriculum), explains it more here; in that video she’s surrounded by some of the animals that students are interacting with.

You can learn more about the program in this article from NPR, as well as this article.

Audobon Park Elementary in Orlando was the first school in the nation to adopt the curriculum, and it’s being beta-tested in several other elementary schools in California and Florida.

What do you think: Is this the future of teaching reading, or a technological fad?

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