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Movie Trailer: “Won’t Back Down”

The above film, “Won’t Back Down,” comes out on September 23 and stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Holly Hunter and Ving Rhames, among others. It’s directed by Daniel Barnz, perhaps best known for “Phoebe in Wonderland.”

The film deals with “parent trigger laws;” a good description of the film, and how it got made, can be found here. The controversial enactment of the “parent trigger” law in Adelanto, CA is currently in the hands of a judge.

“Won’t Back Down” does have similar backers — Walden Media, Participant Media, and the Gates Foundation — to “Waiting for Superman.” Another film, “Detachment,” by “American History X” director Tony Kaye and starring Adrien Brody and Marcia Gay Harden, has also opened recently.

Obviously, it remains to be seen how audiences will react to “Won’t Back Down.” Will they view it as propaganda in favor of one viewpoint, or a legitimate film that presents both sides of an issue?

What do you think? Would you see it? Would you expect a nuanced treatment of the topics?

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Around-the-web Wednesdays: Duncan on Colbert, and more

Here are some stories worth sharing this week:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Arne Duncan
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Michael Moore

Will it take Comedy Central’s coverage for the US to take education reform seriously? Or is everyone just infatuated with the idea of playing basketball with President Obama? If you missed it, click above to watch Arne Duncan on Colbert Nation. [Colbert Report, 10/5/09]

Race to the Top was formally announced this week and Secretary Duncan put the call out for applicants to “show us their best evidence that their programs will boost student learning.” With $650 million to spend, the administration is literally banking on innovation. [NY Times, 10/6/09]

Secretary Duncan’s attention was temporarily diverted back to his old hometown, Chicago, where he and Attorney General Eric Holder appeared in solidarity with a community outraged by the recent death of a high school student by a group of youths outside a community center. [NPR, 10/7/09]

In higher ed news, the Senate is holding hearings on a measure to increase the maximum Pell grant amount – currently $5,350. The House recently passed the measure. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/6/09]

In Washington, D.C., recent layoffs of over 220 teachers — including one ‘exceptional’ teacher from Anacostia, a high school we’ve been covering for the past two years– has the community up in arms and Chancellor Michelle Rhee defending her tough choices. [Washington Post, 10/6/09]

Rhee and the D.C. teachers union have yet to sign a contract after two years of negotiations – a fascinating dance you can listen to here. [LMTV, 9/21/09]

A new U.S. Census Bureau shows how Latina moms are changing the perception of the nation’s stay-at-home mothers. [NPR, 10/6/09]

And in commentary this week, John Merrow asks: How does geography determine one’s digital destiny? Should schools be doing more? [Taking Note, 10/6/09]

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Around the Web Wednesdays: It’s making us hungry!

[Above: Joachim de Posada on marshmallows. Can you wait until the end of the post to learn more?]

We’ve been following the school food movement and mobilization to increase the federal contribution to school lunches on EdBeat for awhile now. School nutrition got some front-burner coverage today, with the Washington Post’s inside look at a KIPP school budgeting for healthier food and the NY Timesprofile of an inventive school chef armed with garam masala, cooking food that “makes [students] feel comforted and cared for” in a less than ideal Brooklyn school kitchen.

For a glimpse at some other ambitious professionals, NPR looks at career changers and alternative certification for teachers and also asks what exactly should go into a teaching degree. Online we’re following an interesting (if snarky) discussion about home-schooling (which does not require a teaching degree, for the record) and its effect on socialization. [Salon, Jezebel]

Speaking of social skills, in the School Issue of the NY Times Magazine last weekend, Paul Tough wrote a great article on ‘Tools of the Mind,’ a program that aims to teach pre-schoolers about self-control through make-believe, which got us thinking about Joachim de Posada’s short and sweet TED talk (video above!) about delayed gratification–in this case the gratification that comes from eating a marshmallow–a skill that can be a surprisingly good predictor of the future success of students. [TED, 5/09]

Mmmmm… marshmallows…

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Around the Web Wednesdays…

Autumn arrived this week, and the schoolyear is in full swing. Here are some stories that we’ve been following:

artsedweekPhoto credit: Charles Rex/ AP

Art schools suffer during recession
[Ed Week]
Harlem Children’s Zone to go national [This Week In Education]
Some evidence in favor of charter schools? Closing the ‘Harlem-Scarsdale’ gap[New York Times]
Arne Duncan to discuss education reform with the Dalai Lama [Mind and Life Institute]
Even though Michelle Rhee and the DC Teachers Union is still without a contract, we’ve got an inside look at the negotiations. Listen in on 2 years of conversations right here. [LMTV]
Extra Credit: Take a look at John Merrow’s reading list. What are you reading?

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Weekly Round-Up: Role Models And Innovation

It’s Wednesday afternoon and time to take a look at the stories we’re following this week.

Above: The Providence Effect screens tonight in NYC. For more info visit:

As celebrities fall short as roles models, opinion on what that means for our young people [Edutopia 9/16/09, NY Times 9/16/09 ]
Marion Brady, Deborah Meier and others weigh in when John Merrow asks ‘Where’s the Innovation in Education?’ [Taking Note, 9/15/09]
DC appeals to courts to get out of special education obligation [Washington Post, 9/16/09]
In a first, Teachers Union opens a pilot school in Boston [, 9/10/09]
Texas school district wins 2009 Broad Prize for Urban Education [Houston Chronicle, 9/16/09]

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Gray Matter: How to Teach (Safely) Your Kid to be a Hacker

Today’s youth are growing up learning and socializing online, as consumers and creators of digital media.  Because so many young people spend so much time online, they’re pretty savvy when it comes to navigating the technological landscape.  But that knowledge, if unguided, can pose potential problems.

The recent sentencing of a $675,000 fine to a graduate student, Joel Tenenbaum, for downloading and sharing 30 songs may indeed heed a warning to parents and young people about the repercussions of breaking the law on the internet. On the other hand, experts such as Stanford University Law Professor Lawrence Lessig have argued that fair use of copyrighted material must be allowed, in part to encourage curiosity and creativity (watch Lessig’s TED talk below).bluebox

So what to make of this ‘gray matter,’ the space between breaking the law and pushing creative boundaries? What if kids and parents explored hacking techniques together?  That’s what Wired Magazine’s “5 Hacks You Can Explore With Your Kids,” suggests.  The article offers advice on ways to “encourage exploration and discourage criminal records.” After all, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs started out ‘hacking’ Blue Boxes to prank call the Vatican, and went on to revolutionize personal computing with a little company called Apple.

It definitely puts a new spin on an old adage:  the family that hacks together …?

5 Hacks You Can Explore With Your Kids [Wired, 8/13/09]
Edupunks and the Future of American Education [Fast Company, 8/09]
Challenging Federal Copyright Law, and Losing [NY Times, 8/10/09]
BONUS VIDEO: Larry Lessig on Laws & Creativity [TED, 3/07]

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Environmentaland — Nobody Rides for Free

Forget the Hershey and Disney parks of yesteryear. For today’s youth, the summer destination is Environmentaland, an interactive environmental theme park located outside of Los Angeles, that offers an Energy Playground, a Mini-Bin Exhibit and Designing Station, a Planetarium, Desert Mini Golf Course, Recycled Paper Plane Takeoff station, and Alternative Energy Golf Carts.

The theme park was created by the nonprofit Global Inheritance Foundation as a way to communicate and push for progressive social change.  Formed in 2002, GIF works “to empower individuals worldwide to think and act creatively in solving global imbalances.”  And they try to do it as creatively as possible.

They’ve pioneered dozens of interesting and unique initiatives including TRASHed, a store where people bring in recylcables in exchange for merchandise, and they held a recycled paper plane contest at the popular music festival Coachella.  Global Inheritance initiatives are aimed at young people and hopes that through technology, the arts and interactivity, a new generation will be able to make a difference in their communities and beyond.

Environmentaland on Facebook
Global Inheritance Foundation

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Laboring for Lunch

The Child Nutrition Act is a federal law that governs the National School Lunch Program, and it’s up for reauthorization this September.  In an attempt to change the bill (arguably for the better), school food activists have declared September 7th (Labor Day) National Day of Action to get Real Food in SchoolsTime for Lunch A consortium of school advocates are calling for petition-signings and organizing eat-ins. Author Robyn O’Brien summarizes the issue, saying:

Today, 1 in 3 American children has allergies, ADHD, autism or asthma, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reporting stunning increases in the number of children expected to be insulin dependent by the time they reach adulthood. With 17.6% of our GDP being consumed by health costs, there is an urgent need to address the health of our children and the impact that this generation of children is having on our country, our families and our health care system.

The Time for Lunch campaign is proposing, among other things, that the federal government increase the amount of money they re-imburse schools by $1 per day per child, and that the money go toward local and ‘real’ food. Advocates are hoping that the Obama administration will come out in support of their cause. When First Lady Michelle Obama planted a garden at the White House this spring, she took the opportunity to speak out about healthy eating:

Time for Lunch Campaign / Slow Food USA
Center for Disease Control
Educating the Whole Child- At Any Size [Ed Beat, 7/17/09]

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Wednesday: A Weekly Look at Some Big Stories

Arne DuncanIt’s Wednesday!  Here’s a look at some stories we’re following:

Federal investigators looking into Chicago’s elite public schools with allegations that parents use their clout to get their kids into certain schools. [NPR, 8/4/09]
Does a cool economy make teaching a hot job? [Joanne Jacobs, 8/04/09]
In recession, alumni of all ages look to alma mater for career help [NY Times, 7/31/09]
The interview: John Merrow and Diane Ravitch [Taking Note, 8/3/09]
How to achieve Duncan’s proposed transformation when there is such a lack of expert advice on school turnarounds? [EdWeek, 8/4/09]
More success in pay for grades programs? Rewarding Achievement works for A.P. exams in NYC [NY Times, 8/4/09]
Ineffective Uses of Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title II Funds [Center for American Progress, 8/4/09]

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Classrooms of the Future

Every two years Architecture for Humanity issues a global “Open Architecture Challenge” and invites anyone to solve it. This year’s competition was “Classroom of the Future” and it partnered architecture firms with school districts and students (see one students drawing below) to address specific community needs.


They recently announced the eight finalists (from over 500 entries) from this year’s competition.   The grand prize provides the winner with $5,000 and the school with $50,000 to realize the design.

One of the finalist in the United States is The Teton Valley Community School (TVCS), a non-profit independent school located in Victor, Idaho at the base of the Teton Mountain range. TVCS currently serves 70 students from preschool through 6th grade and hopes to expand to include 7th and 8th grade by the year 2011.

TVCS is currently located within two existing houses and the the challenge Section Eight Design had was to create a school that can accommodate the exponential growth that is taking place in towns like Victor.

Watch the video below to see more about their proposal and their process.

2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom [See all the finalists here]

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