Category Archives: Uncategorized

“21st Century School” Presentations

There were a lot of similarities among the presentations given in class last week, mainly on the topics of curriculum and funding.  Most groups relied on taxes as the primary source of funding for each of our “21st century” schools.  However, our group decided to seek out grants and awards, in addition to the standard means of funding.  While we were brainstorming as a group, I suggested considering grants for schools based on my prior experience working with grants as an undergraduate at UMW.  I had taken the “Economics of Philanthropy” class, funded by Doris Buffett, which focused my train of thought when it came to funding issues.  As a member on the board, I was able to help sort through different grants, choosing which ones were funded.  As a class, we decided how much to award each organization, dividing up the yearly grant of $10,000.  Grants, such as these, could buy computers for the classroom, or popular literature, to further engage students in the classroom.

Another common theme among the presentations was technology in the classroom.  As my group’s “21st century” school’s theme was progressive education, we maintained a focus on technology in the classroom and ways to apply the curriculum in an experiential manner.  Other presentations also focused on technology in the classroom, including the use of SMART boards and computers.  The use of modern-day technology in the classroom is very important, as it maintains students’ interests in the curriculum.  Throughout the Foundations of Education, we have stressed that we cannot teach our students in the same manner that we were taught; we need to branch out and meet the needs of TODAY’S students.  It is essential to teach in an engaging manner, whether it is through new technology or by using cooperative groups, such as jigsaw.  Many of the presentations did an excellent job of stressing these two main themes that were repeated throughout our class discussions this semester.


Longwood Central School District (2012). Middle School Smartboard Lessons. Retrieved from:

Three New Curriculum Trends

Students online

Students need a curriculum that will help them prepare for the 21st century work environment.  If each teacher decided to teach the curriculum in the same manner that you were taught, teachers would be doing a huge disservice to students.  There are three new major trends in the K-12 curriculum that will help students prepare for the “real world” upon graduation: digital delivery, interest-driven and 21st century skills (Barseghian, 2011).

1. Digital delivery:

When I was in elementary school, we used encyclopedias for the most up-to-date source of information for our class projects.  Now, classrooms are using online sources, as well as e-books and e-readers, in the classroom to ensure that the information is up-to-date.  YouTube posts videos everyday that teaches subjects such as the French Revolution to Calculus; there is even a specific website like YouTube called TeacherTube dedicated to educational talks.  TED talks inspire students in different subject areas and museum exhibits are made interactive online.  Learning through these interactive sources can promote a progressive style of education where you learn through experience (Dewey!).

2. Interest-driven subjects:

Research has already shown that students’ interests directly correlate with their achievement level.  When substituting, I have seen how teachers integrate student interests into the curriculum.  For example, some math teachers taught the concept of an x- and y- plot by having the students pick the x- and y- factors (ex. one student chose to graph cell phone minutes used by money spent toward the cell phone bill).  There are several schools that use this concept of interest-driven subjects as the driving force for their whole school.  One such school is in Southern California—Forest Lake Elementary School—which uses “personalized learning” for its students.

3. “21st Century Skills”

Collaboration, innovation, critical thinking, and communication are all considered “21st century skills,” or skills that are important practical skills that can be used outside the school environment (Barseghian, 2011). Students need to also be able to search effectively and efficiently online, as well as understand the content that they take from these online sources.  This skill is increasingly important as students now have multiple ways to access the internet: smart phones, TVs, e-readers, iPads, and computers.

These three trends in integrating technology into the curriculum are crucial for students to be successful in an increasingly online environment.  To be able to search, as well as understand and sift through multitudes of information online, is an important skill teachers can teach their students to prepare them for the “real-world” outside the classroom environment.


Barseghian, T. (2011). Three Trends That Will Shape the Future of Curriculum.  Mind/Shift. Retrieved from:

Addressing Students’ Needs and Interests

It is essential for teachers to be able to address the needs of their students.  As long as teachers continue to meet these needs, as well as meet local, state and national standards, schools have the capacity to remain relevant in the 21st century.  In order to gain students’ attention, teachers can survey student interests at the beginning of the year.  Therefore, teachers can incorporate appropriate and interesting material into the curriculum for their students.  For example, if you allow students to take control of the content with a progressive, experiential approach, they will have invested interest in the curriculum, as well as feel a sense of responsibility in their academic achievement.

One middle school English teacher I have substituted for has actually incorporated the popular teen series “The Hunger Games” into his reading curriculum.  His students seem excited to come to class and participate in the discussions.  Not only is he reaching his students through the book series, most of the students have seen the movie, which was recently released as well.  It would be great to be able to take a field trip as a class to the movies to see “The Hunger Games.”  At the middle school level (and really, at any school level), it is a powerful and effective tool to be able to link students’ social interests to their academic interests.  They are still learning the SOLs through this new material (the teacher made various connections), but in a way that engages them in a whole new learning atmosphere.

In Chapter 13, we discussed several needs of youth that should be addressed by teachers.  It is essential not only to address the SOLs, but also the long-term social and career skills that need to be achieved by students in order for your students to be successful in life.

Ten Imperative Needs of Youth (Ornstein et al., 2011):

If teachers develop students’ skills and/or attitudes, they help their students enhance the following:

  1. Success in your career
  2. Maintained health and physical fitness
  3. Knowledge of the rights and duties of an American citizen
  4. Success in family life
  5. Knowledgeable consumer behavior
  6. Knowledge of science and humankind
  7. Appreciation of the arts
  8. Appropriate use of leisure time
  9. Developed respect for ethical values
  10. Ability to think rationally and communicate effectively


Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., Gutek, G. L., & Vocke, D. E. (2011). Foundations   of Education. (11 ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub Co.

Gifted Education

Gifted Ed

Research has been conducted on the education of gifted and talented students, especially on effective approaches to curriculum and instruction.  Overall, teachers have tended to accelerate through the regular curriculum or enrichment that challenges to a greater depth (Ornstein et al., 2011).  There have also been widespread program trends, including (Ornstein et al., 2011):

  • Special mentoring assistance
  • Use of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)
  • Great acceleration of learning opportunities for gifted and talented students
  • Given opportunities to participate in advanced-level projects
  • Delivery of instruction according to students’ learning styles
  • Special schools
  • Saturday programs and summer schools
  • Increased community resource use
  • Varied instructional approaches to match student interests and abilities
  • Condensing curriculum to replace known content with more challenging material

In general, researchers have found that open-ended, problem-solving approaches should be emphasized within the classroom (Ornstein et al., 2004); which is not unlike our familiar Dewey, progressive form of instruction! There are three main models of instruction for gifted education (Ornstein et al., 2004):

  1. A “content” model emphasizing accelerated study
  2. A “process-product” model emphasizing enrichment through independent study and investigation
  3. An “epistemological” model emphasizing understanding and appreciation of systems of knowledge

A major concern within gifted education is the under-representation of minority students, as well as economically disadvantaged students (Ornstein et al., 2004).  Criteria chosen to select gifted students tend to fail to identify disadvantaged students who otherwise might benefit from participation (Ornstein et al., 2004).  Recent efforts have broadened the definition of giftedness to include other forms of talent: strong problem-solving skills, high creativity, high verbal or nonverbal fluency, and unusual artistic accomplishments and abilities (Ornstein et al., 2004).  For example, the middle school at which I substitute frequently, there are students who are identified as “musically gifted” and “artistically gifted.”


Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., Gutek, G. L., & Vocke, D. E. (2011). Foundations   of Education. (11 ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub Co.

Magnet Schools and Desegregation Debate: Pro

Please click on the audio icons in the PowerPoint to hear us present our side of the debate.  Feel free to comment on my blog in response to the presentation. Thanks!

Magnet Schools and Desegregation Debate_with recordings


School Stratification

Tracking, or placing students into different classes or strands (i.e., college prep, vocational, remedial, gifted) is not an effective strategy for enhancing student performance.  When studied, tracking was actually found to increase the gap between high and low achievers by lowering the achievement of low-track students and boost the achievement of high-track students (Gamoran, 1987; Kerckhoff, 1986). Gamoran (1987) also found that the gap of achievement between low- and high-track students is greater than the gap between students who drop out of school and those students who graduate.  According to Oakes (1990), low-income students and minority students are overrepresented in the lower tracks, and therefore, have suffered the most from tracking.

There is also the problem of a self-fulfilling prophecy: if teachers know that their students are labeled lower level, they will treat them this way and are less likely to provide challenging materials, ask probing questions, and encourage responses in the classroom.

On a personal level, there was a form of tracking in my own high school.  I found the system to be extremely ineffective.  Every year, you had to have your teacher recommend you to stay in that track (it was either honors, regular, or low).  The low-level students barely tried to do anything in class since they were already thought of as “low”: why would they even try? (I actually heard students say this before.) Also, the teacher recommendation system was flawed.  There were no multiple levels of evaluation for which track you should be placed; there was only your teacher’s evaluation form and your grades in their class, in case the parents complained.  Also, rarely would you hear about anyone switching tracks, which meant the low-level students were not advancing. Overall, I found the tracking system to be extremely ineffective.


Gamoran, A. (1987). The stratification of high school learning opportunities. Sociology of Education, 60, 135-155.

Kerckhoff, A.C. (1986). Effects of ability grouping in British secondary schools. American Sociological Review, 51, 842-858.

Inquiry-Based Learning

Progressive Learning

“Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.”

-Chinese Proverb

This proverb evokes a Deweyan, progressive form of education.  Passively learning through a lecture leads to students forgetting, while going out and having students EXPERIENCE for themselves promotes a greater learning environment.  Culture helps to shape these experiences, and in the assigned case of a 4th grade classroom with many Asian-American children, the family-centered culture that permeates their homes would shape how they approach assignments in the classroom.  For example, I have taught several English classes that begin with a warm-up writing prompt, “What would you do with a million dollars?” If you come from a family-centered household, your answer might revolve around bettering your circumstances for your entire family.  On the other hand, if your household promotes individuality, the answer might be more egocentric (i.e., I will buy a mansion and a sports car).  Neither answer is right or wrong, but each answer is based upon the student’s cultural experiences.

Inquiry-based learning is another progressive form of education that strives to make learning more interactive and memorable (Exline, 2004).  Inquiry-based learning involves experience that leads to greater understanding: students seek resolutions to questions and issues as they construct new knowledge (Exline, 2004).  This type of learning is especially important for learning the scientific method. Edelson, Gordin & Pea (1999) argued that inquiry experiences can provide valuable interactive experiences for students to improve their understanding of the scientific method.  They composed a list of five significant challenges to implementing inquiry-base learning, as well as proposed strategies for addressing these challenges through carefully incorporating technology into the curriculum (Edelson, Gordin & Pea, 1999).


Edelson, D., Gordin, D. & Pea, R. (1999). Addressing the Challenges of Inquiry-Based Learning Through Technology and Curriculum Design. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 8(3&4), 391-450.

Exline, J. (2004). Inquiry-based Learning. Educational Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved from:

The Tebow Bill

Tim Tebow

The Tebow Bill advocated for home-schooled students to play sports at public high schools in Virginia (Davis, 2012). The bill was named after Tim Tebow, the current starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (Davis, 2012).  Tebow was home-schooled in Florida, where some argued he handpicked which local school he played for in football (Davis, 2012).

This past Friday, the bill was turned down in an 8-7 vote at the Senate Education and Health Committee (Davis, 2012). The bill would have allowed home-schoolers to try out not only for sports, but also for debate teams, forensics, among other extra-curricular activities sponsored by the Virginia High School League (Davis, 2012).  Currently, the VHSL does not allow home-schooled students compete at the high school level (Davis, 2012).

The major advantage of the Tebow Bill for home-schooled high school students would be that they would have greater exposure to college scouts to attain college scholarships, like Tim Tebow had done (Davis, 2012).  Proponents added that parents of home-schooled students pay the same taxes that support local schools and that these students should not be shut out of these activities (Davis, 2012).

Opponents, however, were concerned about where the line was drawn if home-schooled students were allowed to play public school sports. Opponents were worried that parents would start “cherry-picking” what they wanted from public schools (i.e., access to science labs, orchestra equipment, etc.), (Davis, 2012).

Since the current law is state-based, it has affected home-schooled students who move from state to state.  One girl testified at the hearing that she was devastated that all of a sudden she was unable to play high school sports when she moved from Florida to Virginia (Davis, 2012).

If this bill had more specific restrictions, I believe it is more likely that it would have been passed in the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee.  We had discussed in class how a lot of cases build upon other major cases before they are able to be passed.  The governing system also cannot provide the solution (i.e., the possible restrictions of the Tebow Bill), but rather rule whether the bill is passed or not.

One restriction that could have been developed for the Tebow Bill counters the opponents’ main argument: a home-schooled student would be restricted to play sports only in their assigned school district, rather than “cherry-pick” their preferred school.  If a family pays the same taxes in that school district, why would their student not be eligible to play sports at their designated school?

Another argument opponents gave is that home-schooled students did not have as rigorous a schedule as public school students.  This should not have even been considered as an argument against the bill.  If students fail to show up for practice on time, or fail to attend games, the punishment can easily be dismissal from the team, just as it would be for any student.


Davis, C. (2012, March 2). ‘Tebow Bill’ Dies in Senate. The Free Lance-Star, pp. 1-2.

School Budget Disparities

Rich/Poor Schools

“The U.S. Constitution leaves the responsibility for public K–12 education with the states,” (U.S. Department of Education, 2005).

Since the U.S. constitution leaves the funding for public education up to each individual state, there is a lot of variability in funds made available to each school.  We discussed in class how some schools had enough money to host extravagant events and hire the “best” teachers, while other schools cannot even afford textbooks for their students.  Why are there such disparities in levels of  funding for our public schools?

The Supreme Court came to the decision during the case of McInnis v. Shaprio that the Fourteenth Amendment “does not require that public school expenditures be made only on the basis of pupils’ educational needs,and the lack of judicially manageable standards makes this controversy nonjusticiable,” (1968).

Therefore, even if students need textbooks, school supplies, among other crucial materials to succeed in school, public schools are not required to supply them even if deemed that they are needed, as reinforced through the Fourteenth Amendment.  Several court cases—which we looked at in class—are building case upon case to improve this interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

One improvement to close this financial gap includes switching from an annual budget, which expires at the end of each year, to a rollover budget.  Several students in class knew teachers who felt like they had to spend every penny in their annual budget in case there were future budget cuts.  If there was a rollover budget, perhaps this extra money would not be senselessly spent.

A rollover budget might increase efficiency within an affluent school district’s budget, but what about a poverty-stricken school district?  Would a rollover budget really create that big of a difference from year to year if they lack the proper funding in the first place?  Our class discussion last Tuesday hinted at finding a way to distribute extra funds to those school districts that need it most.  How would we be able to determine which school districts need the money the most? What if one more affluent school was surrounded by several poverty-stricken schools?  How would you be able to decide which schools deserve the extra funding?  This lack of regulation for distribution of funds among localities would create chaos.  A clear set of regulations regarding leveling of the budget would need to be created in order to ensure fairness among all area schools.


McInnis v. Shapiro. (1968). 293 F. Supp. 327 – Dist. Court, ND Illinois.

U.S. Department of Education. (2005). 10 Facts about K-12 Education Funding. Washington, D.C.: Education Publication Center.


This past year at U.Va., I was trained to help support students in special education programs.  The Individual with Disabilities Act (IDEA) of 1990 was mandated by law that special education students’ needs were met by teachers, counselors, speech-language pathologists, among other specialists (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011).  Individual Education Programs (IEPs) were created as a result of IDEA to regularly address goals set by the team members (i.e., parents, teachers, psychologists, etc.) and team leader (Ornstein et al., 2011).  Some improvements have been made to IDEA to create the Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) in 2004, which improved IDEA by making five major revisions (Ornstein et al., 2011):

  1. Students cannot be placed in special education as a result of a single criterion (i.e., IQ score).
  2. If a student is identified as having special needs, school officials must conduct a full assessment and develop intervention strategies (usually there is a strict and specific time limit that dictates how long from when the student enters the school or special education program that the plan is developed and enacted).
  3. Parents/guardians must have full access to diagnostic information and have the right to protest any school official action (usually this is enacted during the IEP meetings).
  4. Individualized education programs (IEPs) must include short and long-term goals.  This document is a lawful document, meaning that parents can bring teachers/school officials to court if the needs of their child are not met.
  5. Educational services must be implemented in the “least restrictive environment” possible.  The growing trend in order to enact this is to create inclusion classes which restrict the student from feeling singled out from their peers.


Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., Gutek, G. L., & Vocke, D. E. (2011). Foundations   of Education. (11 ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub Co.